Sailboat Review: Tartan 365

During sea trials on Chesapeake Bay, the handsome, rugged, Tim Jackett-designed Tartan 365 shows the judges why its 2023's Best Midsize Cruiser.
Tartan 365 sailboat
In conditions befitting a bluewater cruiser, the Tartan 365 was the perfect ride to top off a week filled with memorable sailing and boats. Jon Whittle

Speaking on behalf of the 2023 Boat of the Year team, I can say none of us could have predicted a better grand finale to our multiple days of sea trials that immediately followed the United States Sailboat Show in Annapolis, Maryland, this past October. With 17 boats in the hunt for honors, we lucked out with two days of blue skies and honking northerlies, followed by a windshift to the south that picked up where the previous breezes left off. It was the first time I can remember when every entry enjoyed such generosity from the Chesapeake wind gods. And by the time we boarded our last vessel—the handsome and rugged Tartan 365—along with designer Tim Jackett, the whitecap-covered bay was the ideal venue for a performance cruiser to, well, perform.

I’ll let my colleague Herb McCormick, describe the scene: “On a sporty Chesapeake Bay day with choppy seas and gusty winds—the sort of conditions where prudence might’ve called for a reef or maybe two in the main—we instead opted for a full-hoist mainsail and were treated to one of the best test sails in our entire Boat of the Year sea trials. 

“With the efficient double-­headsail Cruise Control Rig, we dialed up the staysail, which provided plenty of grunt going to weather and ample horsepower off the breeze. At the wheel, the helm was light and exact; down below, out of the fray, all was tight and quiet. The 365 certainly wasn’t one of the larger boats in the contest, but the size and dimensions seem just about ideal for a cruising couple, and it was clear that the boat would happily take you just about anywhere you wished to go.”

Alrighty then. Once we’d all taken a turn at the wheel and confirmed the agility of the boat pounding to weather, we cracked off, furled the working jib, and rolled out the big reacher—a convenient way to shift gears using the Cruise Control Rig. With breeze abaft the beam, we headed for the United States Naval Academy and the mouth of the Severn River, the 365 trucking along as though riding on rails. And once we learned that it was Jackett’s first time aboard the boat under sail, we turned over the helm to its creator. We sat back and enjoyed what turned into a flat-water ride to remember through a long New England winter.

Tartan has been building boats in Ohio since 1960, and Jackett has been at the drawing board, initially in collaboration with Sparkman & Stephens and later with an in-house design team, since 1977. The decades-long ­collaboration has resulted in a long run of fine-sailing cruising sailboats, with deck layouts, equipment, and interior accommodations designed to meet the needs of owners who often sail shorthanded or with occasional family and guests aboard. Several models have won top honors in Cruising World’s Boat of the Year contests, including the 365, which was named 2023 Best Midsize Cruiser.

The company was purchased by Seattle Yachts in 2020, and during the pandemic, manufacturing was moved from Fairport Harbor to a new facility in Painesville, Ohio. Besides being chief designer, Jackett now also manages production.

The 365’s fiberglass hull is foam-cored and infused using epoxy vinylester resin; the deck is cored with balsa and infused with epoxy. Hull and deck penetrations are through solid-glass windows; aluminum plates are added to the laminate where hardware is mounted. The primary bulkheads are foam-cored too, with rich wood veneers on exposed surfaces. The boat we saw in Annapolis had a light-cherry interior and solid-wood furniture; teak and maple are also options. 

The layout and fit-and-finish of the interior are as upscale as they are practical. The owner’s berth is forward. In the salon, a centerline drop-leaf table sits just abaft the mast, with settees to either side. A galley is aft and to port; a full nav station sits opposite. There’s generous counter space for a boat of this size, and deep fiddles will keep dishes and ingredients where they belong underway. Abaft the companionway, there’s a double-berth guest stateroom to port and a head to ­starboard, with stowage behind. All told, there can be berths for six to seven crew.

I really liked the look of the cherry furniture and ­aqua-colored cushions set off against a white cabin top. The interior popped.

Tartan makes its own carbon-fiber masts and booms, both of which come as standard equipment. Jackett says that they add to the vessel’s inherent stability because they reduce weight aloft and the tendency for hobbyhorsing in a seaway. The 365 in Annapolis sported an optional Leisure Furl boom that worked flawlessly when we set sail. The single rudder has a carbon-fiber shaft, held in place by Jefa bearings, making the twin-helm Edson steering butter-smooth.

If I had a need to pick a nit, it would be the cam cleats used to secure the furling lines for the headsails. They are located along the lifelines, just outside the port cockpit coaming, where they can be inadvertently released, as we found out during one of our upwind tacks. A cleat or other positive locking mechanism would be an easy fix, I’d guess.

Otherwise, I thought that the topsides ergonomics worked quite well. Hardware and electronics from Harken, Raymarine and the like were top-notch, and sails were by Sobstad. There was plenty of room abaft the wheels to work, seating forward in the cockpit was comfortable, and the wide side decks going forward were easy to traverse. Overall, the feeling was snug, I noted, which it should be on a cruising boat, where the crew wants to sail safely and stay rested for the long haul.

Perhaps my fellow judge Ed Sherman summed up the Tartan 365 most succinctly: “First class all the way here.” 

Tartan 365 Specifications

DRAFT(deep/beavertail) 6’6″/4’11”
SAIL AREA703 sq. ft.
BALLAST4,250 lb.
WATER60 gal.
FUEL35 gal.
HOLDING30 gal.
ENGINE30 hp Volvo, ­saildrive

Boat of the Year judge and CW editor­-at-large Mark Pillsbury is a die-hard sailor who has owned a number of sailboats, including a Sabre 34, on which he lived for 15 years.