When my husband and I were searching for a cruising boat, a broker offered to show us a Dufour 35. I wasn’t interested, until he explained that this 1980s hull had little in common with its modern cousins. In fact, the 35 was exactly what we were looking for: a Bermudan-rigged sloop comfortable enough to live aboard but solid enough for blue water. Five years and 10,000 miles of cruising later, we couldn’t be happier with our choice. The Dufour 35, produced from 1972 to 1982 in La Rochelle, France, is a wonderful blend of classic features and innovation, another feather in the cap of the iconic French designer Michel Dufour.
At 6 tons, the Dufour 35 won’t bounce like a cork in an ocean swell, yet the boat remains quick on its feet. The skeg-hung rudder and encapsulated cast-iron keel lend a feeling of security against a brush with an unidentified floating object. And with its extra-long fin keel, the 35 is maneuverable, tracks well, and can easily be balanced or hove to under sail.
With the original setup, sail changes were handled using two winches and clutches at the mast. We fitted a mast pulpit for security when working there, but it’s also possible to lead the running rigging back to the cockpit. A removable baby stay allows a staysail to be set in a heavy blow.
The deep cockpit keeps the crew dry on all but the stiffest beats; for us, it also provides a secure perimeter for our young son. Roomy port and stern lockers accommodate sails and gear.
Below, the Dufour 35 can challenge even the beamiest modern yachts in terms of living space. In addition to a saloon and forepeak cabin, it has a quarter berth on the starboard side aft, behind a spacious navigation table. Headroom is 6 feet throughout. Pilot berths line both sides of the saloon, and a convertible table/settee area sleeps two more. Altogether, the 35 offers a whopping eight berths, but we find that four adults make a comfortable maximum on extended trips.
Interior decor varies, but the layout is standard. To port is an L-shaped galley with a gimbaled two-burner stove/oven and a cool box. Five large ports provide light, while overhead hatches allow for good ventilation on tropical nights. Handholds are plentiful throughout the interior, and the boat has a wet locker that lies to port of the companionway.
Excellent storage space is accessible under the settees and in the bilge. The 34-gallon stainless-steel water tank is to port, and a second can be fitted under the starboard settee. The 34-gallon diesel tank is tucked in beneath the quarter berth.
Be sure to examine the condition of the balsa-cored deck, as the slightest water intrusion will quickly lead to rot. The hull, on the other hand, is solid, finger-thick fiberglass. Osmosis wasn’t a problem with our boat. Bulkheads aren’t tabbed to the hull but attached directly to the inner liner, making the liner an integral part of the hull’s structure; as with most older fiberglass boats, look for signs of delamination in high-stress areas.
Engine access is excellent. The original Volvo Penta engine has likely been replaced on many boats.
The Dufour 35 is a liveaboard cruiser that can take sailors to the places of their dreams. Our Namani has crossed the Atlantic five times over her lifetime, and we’re presently heading for the Pacific. Well-maintained and outfitted examples list for $65,000 to $75,000; bargain boats can be found priced as low as $29,000 to $35,000.
LOA 35′ 3″ (10.74 m.)
LWL 28′ 3″ (8.61 m.)
Beam 11′ 5″ (3.48 m.)
Draft 6′ 0″ (1.83 m.)
Sail Area (100%) 518 sq. ft. (48.1 sq. m.)
Ballast 5,720 lb. (2,594 kg.)
Displacement 13,860 lb. (6,286 kg.)
Water 34 gal. (129 l.)
Fuel 34 gal. (129 l.)
Engine 36-hp. Volvo Penta diesel
Designer Michel Dufour
Nadine Slavinski, her husband, and their son are currently headed for Panama aboard their Dufour 35,_ Namani_. Nadine is the author of_ Lesson Plans Ahoy_, an educational resource for sailing families available through her website._