Island Packet SP Cruiser

The SP Cruiser was launched to keep customers on the water longer.

Island Packet

Island Packet has made a clear attempt to get out ahead of its aging customer base with a bold yet almost inevitable move into the motorsailing market.

The boldness of the company's new SP Cruiser isn't reflected so much in the hull form, for true to Bob Johnson's core design concepts, it has the basic sheer lines, wide beam, shoal draft, and full foil keel of his sailing models. The boldness comes in honestly calling it what it is-a motorsailer. Get over it!

Ed Kurowski, president of Gratitude Yachting Center, Island Packet's oldest and largest distributor, assumes that many of his customers have much the same criteria as he does. "I still love being out on the water, but I'm not getting any younger. Our goal with the SP Cruiser was to offer year-round boating comfort, the livability of a trawler, motoring performance, and simple and versatile sailing."

Basically, this was accomplished in the SP by increasing the superstructure and horsepower and decreasing and simplifying the sail plan. Built into the design are generous headroom, voluminous stowage, open spaces, and ease of operation in a sheltered environment.

All talk of remote helm control aside, the success of any motorsailer rests on its raison d' etre-the pilothouse steering station. The SP Cruiser has a large, protected helm station that doubles as a commodious raised-deck saloon. The visibility from the helm is excellent, and three windshield wipers/washers will keep it that way. Engine and anchor controls are well laid out on a large console. Two cushy captains chairs serve either as twin helm seats or swivel around to face the leafed saloon table. Large deadlights to the sides and aft offer a panoramic view from the L-shaped saloon settees.

The aft cockpit is deep, and it's sheltered by the high cabin bulkhead and a hardtop bimini. A commendable 12-inch bridgedeck and large scuppers prevent downflooding.

The external boarding platform, a direct extension of the waterline, was wisely molded into the hull to assure its integrity. Adding buoyancy this far aft of the rudder can exaggerate yaw. To offset this, Island Packet added two small skegs on the aft underbody.

An emergency boarding ladder, deployable from the water, adds to the platform's practicality, but to optimize its safety, handholds and rails will need to be fitted. The camber of the transom has resulted in the offset entry door being hung on protruding gate hinges that present sharp edges in an area where one might be climbing aboard from a dinghy. That small design feature needs to be revisited.

Moving forward is made secure by high stainless-steel pipe rails (which I would like to see run farther aft) and old-fashioned bulwarks. The jib's clubfoot boom could hamper the foredeck workspace, but this can be swung out and left in any position.

Island Packet's emblematic bow platform, Sea-Safe captive roller, helm- or foredeck-controlled vertical windlass, and rode stowage makes anchoring effortless.

The SP's truly unique feature is the raised forward cockpit, designed for lounging away from all motor and sail controls. Sockets are molded into the sole for the legs of a removable table. This cockpit will quickly become party central.

The robust, one-piece hull is hand-laid, solid fiberglass. The decks, a Polycore sandwich, are well fastened to the wide hull flange mechanically and with urethane adhesive. Island Packet offers a 10-year deck, hull, and osmotic warranty. A practical rubrail runs from stem to stern. Eight opening ports, two hatches, and two dorade vents provide adequate ventilation. Even with the scarcity of lines run forward, I'd fit the dorades with protective cages.
Three steps below the saloon level lies a well-appointed galley to port with a centerline wet counter. The galley, deep and stable, isn't socially isolated from the saloon area.

The owner's cabin lies forward; a twin-berth guest cabin is aft to starboard. A single head, with an enormous shower stall, serves both.

An office space/vanity lies to starboard across from the galley and will prove a very useful space. Overall, the SP boasts more than 300 cubic feet of stowage, a large engine compartment, additional space for a genset, and headroom measuring between 6 feet 6 inches and 6 feet 10 inches.

Sailing operations are pared down to an in-mast furling main with no traveler and a small, self-tending headsail on a Hoyt boom. Thus, the few lines required are lead to a single electric winch on the starboard side of the aft cockpit. Because the cabin door lies offset to port, this means that steering and sheeting controls are located far from each other-never a good idea. Island Packet is presently experimenting with a prototype Lewmar winch that will allow all sail functions to be controlled from within the pilothouse.

Island Packet

With a SA/D of 15, that sailing will depend on ample wind from a favorable direction. Still, through a light Chesapeake chop, we had the boat sailing an honest 6.3 knots with a beam wind of 16 knots. To improve performance off the wind, I'd immediately add the optional reacher package, which creates a solent rig with a furling light-air headsail.

The SP wasn't designed to sail to windward, and it didn't perform well on this point of sail, as the 714 square feet of sail area couldn't compensate for the substantial weight and windage. The sail plan, however, does add stability, distance, and redundancy to the boat's motoring range.

Despite the high center of effort and a ballast ratio of only 24 percent, the hull stood well to that canvas. A stability index of 39 and a moment of capsize of 155 degrees should provide peace of mind if you find yourself caught out in serous conditions.

When the winds die, the turbocharged Yanmar 4JH3, coupled to a fixed three-bladed prop and fed by a 215-gallon diesel tank, takes charge to create a 6-knot cruising range of 1,000 miles. Broad and flat stern sections and minimal dead rise enhance performance under power. In forward, the boat speed, engine torque, and responsiveness of the helm were fine, but the vessel didn't back well and may require the optional upgrade of a bow thruster for tight quarters.

Through 27 years of production and 2,000 hulls, the IP engineers have refined their line of sailboats down to the smallest detail. The SP Cruiser could also benefit from such an approach to refinement.

Clearly, the SP Cruiser won't appeal to performance-driven sailors. But if an honest assessment of your future sailing criteria doesn't list "fast and furious" as a top priority, the SP Cruiser is a viable and reliable way to stay out on the water with considerably more comfort and less drama.

Island Packet SP Cruiser Specs

LOA: 41' 1" (12,52 m.)
LWL: 34' 9" (10.59 m.)
Beam: 12' 9" (3.89 m.)
Draft: 3' 8" (1.12 m.)
Sail Area (100%): 714 sq. ft. (66.3 sq. m.)
Ballast: 5,000 lb. (2,268 kg.)
Displacement: 21,000 lb. (9,526 kg.)
Ballast/D: .24
D/L: 223
SA/D: 15.0
Water: 130 gal. (492 l.)
Fuel: 215 gal. (814 l.)
Mast Height: 55' 00" (16.76 m.)
Engine: 110-hp. Yanmar 4JH4
Designer: Bob Johnson
Price: $349,950
Island Packet, (727) 535-6431, www.ipy.com

Alvah Simon, a CW contributing editor, was a 2007 Boat of the Year judge.