Island Packet 350 Sailboat Review | Cruising World

Island Packet 350

The Island Packet 350 is designed with comfort, stability and performance in mind.

Island Packet

Well raise my rent! Who’da thunk these guys would take that big ol’ transom stern and turn it into one of them swimmer deals? Well, they did, and with the debut last fall of the new Island Packet 350, a company long steeped in building birds of a feather succeeded in breaking their own mold without compromising the integrity of a very established line. The 350 fulfills the time-honored Island Packet credo that a real cruising monohull be traditional in appearance, modern in concept and state-of-the-art in its construction and outfitting. Oh yes, and yellow.

The boat fills the design hiatus between the eight-year-old 32 and the popular 37. In addition to the transom platform, this one carries a pivoting self-tending staysail boom a’la Garry Hoyt, a pair of nifty pushpit seats at the hips, and an optional spinnaker package for the modern generation of cruising kites. The platform astern is created by extending the profile of the boat with a reverse counter of sorts, and it looks great.

Preserved is designer and naval architect Bob Johnson’s tried and true formula: moderate displacement, a versatile cutter rig, and a modified full keel with substantial cutaway forward and a sleek run aft to the rudder - Johnson’s so-called Full Foil Keel. Preserved also are comfortable accommodations and a carefully orchestrated layout.

The 350 is designed and built to ABS standards; it’s also CE certified Category A (unrestricted offshore use) for the European market. All of this points to a meticulous, stringent set of construction parameters. The hull is built of solid triaxial fiberglass using vinylester in the outer layers to curb water penetration, then polyester behind that. It is laminated by hand in conjunction with a pressure-fed resin impregnator, and stiffened with an integrated molded-in structural grid. Island Packet’s proprietary gel coating system (PolyClad) allows the company to offer an unprecedented 10-year limited warranty against blistering. The deck is cored with rot-resistant PolyCore foam to retard water penetration; fittings on deck sit atop raised platforms molded into the part and are backed by integral aluminum plates. Typically, attention to detail at the tooling stage is superb and that is why components such as this can be rendered so professionally.

One construction item is of special note. The stainless chain plates are welded to an L-shaped flange that sits beneath and interlocks with the in-turned fiberglass hull flange along the rail. Below this, the extension of each chain plate is secured further by long strands of unidirectional fiberglass that fan out and are glassed into the hull all the way down to well below the waterline. The result is a chain-plate assembly that successfully integrates rigging loads with the monococque structure of the hull and deck and ties virtually the entire boat together with stainless steel and uni glass. A very reassuring detail.

Newsworthy belowdecks is the berth treatment in the forward and after staterooms. Doubles in both locations have been pushed up against the sides of the hull "Pullman style" which makes for very creative use of space in what is essentially 35 feet of boat. The arrangement opens up dressing room and storage, and allows for snug sleeping underway with the deployment of lee cloths. The forward quarters feature fore-and-aft bedding, the after quarters athwartship bedding, though the mattress there is big enough to permit fore-and-aft use at sea.

The vessel’s single head is forward on the starboard side with doors both to the saloon and to the stateroom beyond. It is one of those great Island Packet heads, with a friendly wraparound counter that really keeps you on the seat, and a shower that can be curtained off. The main cabin with 6’4" headroom features a longitudinal settee on the port side that turns into a nav station at the after bulkhead, opposed by an L-shaped settee on the starboard side at the dinette. Both of these locations could be used for sleeping if necessary. The galley is tucked in to starboard; it’s a U-shaped element with double sinks and a rather large reefer. Island Packet has provided molded-in LPG storage for two 10-pound tanks beneath the deck just outboard, which allows for a short propane pipe run to the stove.

The mechanical and systems scenario is notable for its clean installation and careful organization. The engine is located beneath the companionway; flexible mounts are carried by a fiberglass grid within which are laminated two 4" by 1/2" by 24" steel bars. It is accessed forward by removing the stair element (an insulated box, really, that gains access to the entire forward two-thirds of the unit), and aft in the stateroom beneath the berth by way of a removable panel. You can get at the oil fill, Raycor filter, secondary filters, starter, stuffing box - virtually everything that needs your regular attention - without becoming uncivil, and the boat’s generous sump allows the bilge to remain flushed and clean. Thru-hulls are hefty bronze units fully flanged; they are labeled with big tags and are easy to find.

Fuel (50 gal.), water (100 gal.) and holding (30 gal.) tanks are thick-gauge welded aluminum, all installed below the cabin sole to keep the weight low. Boat Of The Year judges expressed concern over the idea that these tanks are virtually impossible to remove without seriously hacking up the interior, captured as they are by the cabin sole, but this consideration may well be moot given the notion that in 17 years of building boats and over 1,400 delivered, Island Packet has never had to address the issue. Judges also questioned the use of a single 100-gallon freshwater tank; better, they suggested, to divide this resource into at least two separate reservoirs run through a manifold so that, if a contaminant is ever introduced, the entire supply is not put at risk.

The topside scenario emphasizes practical cruising. The cockpit is safe and secure with good high coamings for ocean work, and the seating is long enough to stretch out on horizontally should you want to sleep there beneath the stars. Safety harness pad eyes are installed at the factory. Primaries are within reasonable reach of the helm, and line bins keep spaghetti under control. The bow with its sturdy sprit is dedicated to anchoring: The hook is simple to store and deploy, the locker is deep, and a prime spot for windlass installation is tooled into the deck. The cutter rig offers a wide range of easy to handle sail combinations, and when you factor in the optional spinnaker package you’re really equipped.

We sailed the boat in Annapolis last fall in an 8- to 10-knot breeze. The 350 was more weatherly than we expected and once in the groove she moved along nicely at four to five knots upwind in these conditions. Downwind, a chute most definitely would have helped, but by jibing from time to time and heating it up on the reaches we were able to keep enough power on to make steady progress. Arguably, the rack and pinion steering system that has become an Island Packet staple offers less sensitivity at the helm than does conventional cable-and-quadrant, but as of March 1997 the company has shifted to a new Whitlock Premier XL version designed to address these concerns.

What you end up with in the 350 is a solid, dependable cutter, put together with care and expertise and developed over time for mainstream cruisers keen on anything from local sailing to long-distance voyaging. There is plenty of storage - plus the payload-carrying ability to use it - and a performance profile that puts a premium on stability, ease of handling and comfort underway.

Island Packet 350 Specifications:

LOA: 36’10" (13.79 m.)
LOD: 34’8" (10.57 m.)
LWL: 29’4" (8.94 m.)
Beam: 12’0" (3.66 m.)
Draft: 4’3" (1.30 m.)
Ballast: 7,500 lbs. (3,402 kgs.)
Disp: 16,000 lbs. (7,258 kgs.)
Sail area: (100%) 725 sq.ft. (67.4 sq.m.)
Mast above water: 48’4" (14.73 m.)
Ballast/Disp: .47
Disp/Length: 283
SA/Disp: 18.3
Fuel: 50 gal. (189 ltr.)
Water: 100 gal. (379 ltr.)
Holding: 30 gal. (113 ltr.)
Auxiliary: Yanmar 38-hp 3JHE diesel
Cabin headroom: 6’4" (1.93 m.)
Designer: Bob Johnson, N.A.
Base price: $164,950 (projected 1998)

Island Packet Yachts
1979 Wild Acres Road
Largo, FL 34641
Phone: (813) 535-6431
Fax: (813) 530-5806