Northwind 50

The Northwind 50: a deck-saloon cruiser for ocean sailing.

"She’s a solidly built vessel, capable of sailing offshore," said CW technical editor and Boat of the Year judge Ralph Naranjo of the Northwind 50 after inspecting her at rest and under sail.

"Structurally, she’s a very traditional FRP boat. The hull/deck joint is mechanically fastened, then glassed, and the rudder structure is stainless steel. And there’s a great welder in the yard."

The 50 is the most recent model to come to the States from the Barcelona-based North Wind yard, whose line of semicustom deck-saloon cruisers runs from 43 feet to 68 feet. Their Sparkman & Stephens-designed 43 won CW’s 2001 award for Best Deck-Saloon Cruiser.

While North Wind’s building practices are fairly low-tech—the hulls and decks are hand-laid cored fiberglass, not resin-infused exotics—they’re implemented by a team of artisans who pay close attention to the details.

A look through the nooks and crannies reveals the care they’ve given. The core is Klegecell foam, and vinylester resin in the outer laminates, plus an epoxy barrier, retards osmosis. All deck gear is bolted through beefy, 316-stainless-steel plates.

Sailing in light air on a fall Chesapeake morning, the Northwind delivered between 2 and 3 knots of boat speed in about 5 knots of breeze. Her working sail area-to-displacement ratio of just over 18 suggests that she’s happiest with winds in the teens. Her twin-headsail rig features stays that are closely spaced, so that you’d likely sail with either the genoa or the yankee.

Under power, a 75-horsepower Yanmar at 2,300 rpm with a fixed three-blade prop pushed her along at 8 knots in flat conditions. At that rate, engine noise was 85 to 89 decibels in the cabin, placing her in the quieter half of the BOTY fleet. Some of the judges found engine access difficult, particularly for a center-cockpit boat. "To get to the filters, you have to take the port settee apart," said Skip Moyer.

He found other systems easier to reach. "Access to the steering system was superb."

The Northwind’s interior layout, furnished in warm Burmese teak, offers three private cabins, each with a double berth. And while the main saloon gets plenty of light thanks to the windows of 8-millimeter polycarbonate (like Lexan), the forward cabins are on the dark side.

With more than 500 large cruising boats to its credit, a new 38,000-square-foot building facility in the heart of Barcelona’s harbor, and several new Sparkman & Stephens designs (including a soon-to-be launched 58), North Wind Yachts looks poised to send many more worthy offshore cruisers down the ways.

Tim Murphy, CW executive editor, directs the magazine’s Boat of the Year program.