Malö Yachts is one of several boatbuilders on the Swedish island of Orust, where it’s not hard to imagine on the quay a gathering of gnarled old seafarers sucking on burl pipes and passing judgment on the seaworthiness of the vessels emerging from the sheds.
It’s apparent from the fit out of the Malö 37 that its builder feels the need for it to pass that test.
Those who believe that how a boat looks is a measure of how it will sail, will find the Malö 37 not only reassuring to gaze upon; on stepping aboard, they’ll also take comfort in the ease with which they can move about.
It’s not that the Malö 37 is old-fashioned; rather, its designers are simply selective. They’re equipped with the most up-to-date tools, but they don’t rush to incorporate every clever innovation that comes down the pike.
For example, Malö doesn’t favor an open transom, although it offers a choice of four transom styles to suit a variety of tastes and expectations. The one we sailed had what Malö calls the Classic configuration, which is essentially a traditional, aft-raked stern.
Malö does, though, include a currently fashionable feature, and that’s the Targa arch supporting the mainsheet traveler. The Malö version is solid fiberglass, set well forward in the cockpit, and raked forward. A spray hood fills the space between the standard solid windshield and the Targa, and the combination protects enough of the cockpit seats to function as a doghouse.
The sail-control lines lead to winches on the cockpit coamings, where the helmsman can reach them without leaving the wheel. On the day we tested the boat off Annapolis, we’d sailed with the bimini-type cockpit enclosure furled against the Targa. After sailing, when we set it up by sliding the struts that support it aft along their tracks on the cockpit coaming, it was clear that it was intended for harbor use; the struts interfered with the handles for the primary winches. According to Malö’s Ulf Mattson, a different bimini arrangement is offered that clears the winch handles.
As we prepared to get under way, Mattson-no doubt confident that the rubrails, molded into the hull and available as standard equipment, would make up for any shortcomings of mine-simply handed me the wheel and told me to get on with it. As it turned out, the boat behaved well and predictably enough that I was able to weave us backward out of tight quarters without incident. We found a maximum speed of 7.7 knots at 3,200 rpm and a comfortable 6.3 knots at 2,200 rpm. When I turned the wheel hard as we motored at cruising speed, the Malö 37 spun around its keel, in its own length.
Although we set out in very light air, the boat sailed well and maneuvered easily, the rod-driven steering was smooth and responsive, and the 130-percent genoa tacked cleanly through the foretriangle every time. As the breeze built, we sailed closehauled at 5 knots in 12 apparent-perhaps the boat would’ve been faster in these conditions with a traditional mainsail rather than the optional in-mast furling main.
Our destination was Galesville, about 15 miles by direct navigable route from Annapolis’ Back Creek, and the southeasterly wind had us beating, albeit gently, until we’d cleared Thomas Point. When we cracked off to a close reach, the GPS showed us doing 6.7 knots in 14 apparent. On both points of sail, once trimmed, the boat maintained a steady course with little assistance from the helmsman.
Malö delivers the 37 with an impressive selection of cherry-picked sailing hardware: Harken jib furling and mainsheet traveler, Seldén spars, Lewmar hatches, Andersen winches, and a Wichard adjuster on the removable inner forestay. Tackles on the genoa cars made adjusting the lead from beating to reaching simple, and doing so brought into focus the practice Malö makes of fastening most of the highly loaded hardware directly to fiberglass, even though elevating those areas proud of the standard-issue 12-millimeter-thick teak decking complicates both the mold and the layup process.
The Malö 37 we sailed had a unique anchoring arrangement: The windlass is inside the foredeck chain locker, and the anchor rode and shank, when not in use, are pulled into a hawse pipe on the bow. While this is a tidy solution, I saw no provision for securing the anchor other than with the windlass, and I wondered about water literally pumping into the space in heavy going to windward. I subsequently learned that a second bow roller is standard but hadn’t been set up on our test boat, so a chain snubber could easily be led to a foredeck cleat. Mattson also says that customers report that the flukes of a Bruce anchor minimize water entry and that any water that does get in drains quickly. Mattson assured me that if an owner requests it, Malö can provide a more conventional fitting on the stemhead.
Malö remains faithful to traditional concepts: Mahogany joinery, much of it solid wood, under a white, batten-trimmed overhead sets the tone for a warm, club-style ambience that the button-tufted upholstery picks up. The layout is simple and functional: head tucked aft, nav desk to starboard, galley to port, U-shaped dining area opposite a straight settee, a full-sized cabin at either end of the boat, and everywhere fiddles around work surfaces.
What’s not immediately obvious is that every part of the interior, with the exception of the main structural bulkhead, was brought in through the companionway opening. The hull and deck are molded separately, the main bulkhead is glassed in, then the two are joined and glassed together before any of the components-secondary bulkheads included-are installed. The result is a watertight monocoque whole-and the assurance that eventual replacement of the engine and other installations that won’t outlast the hull can be effected without resource to a Sawzall.
Smaller boatbuilders such as Malö can be less driven by the quantity of boats they must produce; instead, they can concentrate on including features that add value both to the boat and to the experience of owning it. Malö Yachts addresses this niche precisely, and the Malö 37 is a classic expression of the philosophy.
Jeremy McGeary is a Cruising World contributing editor.