The Najad 355 is a modest-size sailboat ready for the long haul, and with its strong epoxy-composite structure and low center of gravity, the Judel/Vrolijk & Co. design has what it takes to turn coastal cruising into a jaunt to Bermuda and adventures that lie well beyond.
Stepping aboard, I found the kind of harmony that only comes from a designer and builder who are in sync with the purpose of a given project. The hull, deck, rig, and accommodations work together to deliver a sailboat to go places. The cockpit is snug and safe, with dry, comfortable seating behind a windshield-and-folding dodger arrangement that protects the companionway and the forward edge of the cockpit. The deck is easy to traverse, and the combination of the traditional teak deck and modern hardware with sensible sheet and running-rigging leads underscores the dual theme of aesthetics and functionality.
Under way, the racing pedigree of the 355’s designer was apparent in the featherlight feel of the helm, the tight tacking angles, and the efficient sail plan. In 10 to 14 knots of breeze, it sailed at 6 knots, marching along with a comfortable angle of heel. A nicely cut triradial mainsail and a deck-sweeping, nearly masthead jib provided plenty of power, and bearing off to a 120-degree apparent-wind angle still kept the boat going at more than 6 knots. If passagemaking were in the offing, a higher-cut foot for the furling headsail and a removable inner forestay to hank on a storm jib would be easy options to add.
With sails down, the 28-horsepower Volvo (a 40-horsepower option also is available) moved the vessel in flat seas at 7.1 knots at a cruising rpm of 2,200. Hull speed had been reached, and upping the rpm to 2,500 didn’t increase boat speed at all. The saildrive ran smoothly, but it was a little noisy below. The rudder remained responsive, and there was no vibration from prop thrust. In reverse, the boat maneuvered easily, turning with just a small amount of rudder deflection.
The hull shape is full aft and fine forward, with more dead rise than the raceboats designed by Judel/Vrolijk usually exhibit. Consequently, the boat has good form stability for a 35-footer yet lacks the bone-thumping ride of a raceboat. The external-ballast keel is an iron foil/lead bulb combo that leverages the stiff nature of a cast-iron foil and the density of lead. It’s attached to the hull with stainless-steel keel bolts. The rudder is made with a stainless-steel stock, with welded webs under the foam-and-fiberglass blade.
All the hull skin inside that could be seen showed signs of high-quality glasswork. The evident attention paid during the lamination process was impressive, and such details as the lap seam in the upper bulwark joint and core removal around hardware-attachment points also pointed to a well-made boat.
The Najad 355 is built with higher-cost materials such as epoxy resin and Divinycell core and is vacuum bagged, a sign of a high-tech rather than a run-of-the-mill approach to boatbuilding. This is the smallest boat in the Najad line, but it benefits from a builder accustomed to building highly stressed structures in much larger vessels.
The rig is a Seldén double-spreader, deck-stepped spar with hefty standing rigging. One of my favorite tests for any deck-stepped rig is to stand in the cabin by the compression post while the vessel is nosed into the wind and note the effect of a momentarily flogging mainsail. On well-built hulls, there’s no feeling of a wet terrier trying to shake its fur dry. And in this case, there was no movement at all: The hull and deck worked in conjunction with the chainplates and grid system to immobilize the spar-a welcome trait when a deck-stepped mast is used aboard an oceangoing vessel.
The cabin is light and airy, and the accommodations are spacious, with a European flair setting off well-crafted woodwork that avoids spartan minimalism. The wide beam is carried aft and provides room under the cockpit sole for a double berth, a bunk that’s just right in cooler regions but might be a little warm in the tropics. A roomy head with a shower stall lies just to starboard of the companionway ladder. The L-shaped galley, to port, features a two-burner stove, a twin centerline sink, and enough counter space to get the job done. It’s not a domain for the gourmet, but after all, this is a 35-footer, not a 40-footer.
The aft-facing chart table works in conjunction with the starboard settee, which, like its partner to port, can double as a decent sea berth. Between the berths stands a drop-leaf table. Forward of the main bulkhead is a conventional V-berth and locker space. The genius lies not in the amenities in the layout but in the way they work in the available space.
The Najad 355 won the 2008 CW Boat of the Year award for Best Small Cruiser because it stood out in a tough class thanks to attributes that range from user-friendly sailing characteristics to comfortable accommodations that work equally well in port or under way.
*Ralph Naranjo was a 2008 CW Boat of the Year judge. *
The BOTY judges found lots on which to agree as they proclaimed the Najad 355 to be the Best Small Cruiser of 2008: great sails, solid motion through the water, practical interior, well-laid-out deck. There was, however, one point of contention during the sea trials: Who should get to steer next? This boat was a hoot to sail.
In a 9- to 11-knot breeze, the Najad sailed closehauled at just less than 6 knots and tacked through 85 degrees. Cracked off to a beam reach, the speed over the ground on a pocket-size GPS read 7.
A conventional main and an overlapping genoa give the Najad a fairly traditional cruising-boat feel and considerable lift under way. The boat handled the small Chesapeake Bay chop just fine. Control lines led aft to the windshielded cockpit, where judge Stacey Collins noted that the mainsheet could be easily trimmed while standing at the helm. Sail-control lines running back from the mast were led through stainless-steel plates to prevent an inrush of water, should a wave come over the bow.
Belowdecks, the teak interior includes roomy double cabins fore and aft, an L-shaped galley to port at the foot of the companionway, a head and shower to starboard, and a midline table and two settees amidships. The galley is a no-nonsense work space for cooking under way and features double centerline sinks.
Judges deemed the structural quality of the boat quite good, with a Divinycell and epoxy hull and deck, a cast-iron fin with a lead bulb, and stainless-steel keel bolts. Carrying a price tag of $340,000 (delivered to the U.S. East Coast), the Najad was by far the most costly of the small cruisers, but as judge Steve Callahan concluded, “This was a boat that sailed really well. The wind was up a bit, and it was clearly a sailboat.”
LOA 35′ 9″ (10.9 m.)
LWL 30′ 5″ (9.27 m.)
Beam 11′ 0″ (3.4 m.)
Draft 6′ 3″ (1.9 m.)
Sail Area (100%) 709 sq. ft. (65.9 sq. m.)
Ballast 5,512 lb. (2,500 kg.)
Displacement 15,212 lb. (6,900 kg.)
Water 66 gal. (250 l.)
Fuel 40 gal. (150 l.)
Mast Height 54′ 2″ (16.46 m.)
Engine 28-hp. Volvo
Designer Judel/Vrolijk & Co.