Classic Plastic: Cape Dory 27

The Cape Dory 27 is fun to sail and affordable to own.
Columbia 30
This sailor was looking for a boat that was fun to sail and affordable to own. The Cape Dory 27 fit the bill. Eben Horton

There comes a time in every sailor’s life when they are ready to purchase their first serious boat. A first boat should be able to teach you about boat ownership while you’re having fun, but won’t break the bank while doing it. Hopefully your first boat will hold its value until the time that you are ready to move up to a larger one.

When I was ready to find my first boat, I kept an eye out for something above 24 feet but under 28 feet. In my opinion, that length gives you a boat that is not a weekender, but allows you to go cruising for a week or longer. My search did not take long after doing some research that supported what I already suspected. The Cape Dory 27 was everything I wanted and a little more.

When Cape Dory Yachts was in business, they forged a great reputation for building sturdy vessels that are safe at sea, simple in layout and easy to handle thanks to the skill of legendary yacht designer Carl Alberg. The CD27 has a stellar reputation for being a no-nonsense, bluewater capable boat that was built without compromise. When I was trying to decide on a boat to purchase, many boats came up that fit most of my prerequisites with the exception of reputation. Cape Dory’s motto was “A Standard Of Value.” This holds true to this day.


You can find CD27s priced between $5,000 and $12,000, depending on what condition they are in. I had a budget of under $9,000, so I ignored the perfect specimens. A CD27 priced at $5,000 will probably need new sails or a re-power. A good starting place to find one listed for sale is

The CD27 has a basic 12-volt system with a house and a starting battery. A simple breaker board allows you to control the basics — cabin lights, running lights, anchor light and VHF. The engine that was most popular in the CD27 is the incredibly reliable, single-cylinder Yanmar YSM8. Clocking in at a whopping 8 horsepower, with an 8-gallon fuel tank, this gives you a steaming range of 100 miles at 1/3 gallon per hour. It’s plenty strong to do what you need to do.

The CD27 sacrifices some interior space to a large cockpit, but that cockpit is perfect for those daysails when you want to bring a few friends along. Accommodations include the large V-berth and two single port and starboard bunks amidships, with the portside doubling as a settee. I have found that even with space for four, overnighting with three people is more realistic because you can store everyone’s gear on the empty bunk. Due to the lack of a quarter berth, there is a ton of storage space under the cockpit for swim ladders, snorkeling gear, fenders, a grill, sails and dock lines.


Where the CD27 really shines is where it counts — under sail. It is such a simple boat that you might feel like you are sailing a very heavy dinghy at times. With incredible handling for a full-keel boat and very surprising speeds off the wind, especially in heavier air, the CD27 is sure to please the purist sailor. These boats came stock with Barlow size 16 non-tailing winches, so if you plan on singlehanding, I would recommend the addition of a pair of self-tailing winches and a roller furler for the genoa. When I bring friends sailing, they usually comment on how fast she is and also how nimble she behaves when we weave around moorings for the mandatory “harbor tour” after the more relaxing bay sail. She balances perfectly upwind with very little weather helm if you reef at the right time. Off the wind, the CD27 scoots right along, and is able to pass boats much larger and heavier. To say a CD27 is fun to sail is an understatement.

A native of Newport, Rhode Island, Eben Horton has now found his perfect second boat, Kaya, a Columbia 30.


LOA. 27’1”
L.W.L. 20’0”
Beam 8’6”
Draft 4’0”
Displacement 7,500 Lbs.
Ballast 3,000 Lbs.
Sail Area 365 Sq. Ft.
Designer Carl Alberg
Years Built 1976-1984
Number Built 277