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The Blackwatch Story

Additional background information on the Classic 37

Narrative by Martin Burs

(Photos copyright Tartan Yachts)

As with many great boats the Blackwatch 37 started on paper in the Little Harbor boatyard in Marblehead, Mass. in 1963 by Ted Hood. The boat then was only known as the "Hood 37". The design was highly influenced by the first of the "Robin" series in 1959, which won the outstanding racing boat of the year. Consequently the first "Hood 37" built by Little Harbor was appropriately named "Robin II". I'm not quite sure how many were built, I think 6, but I know a few are still around today. They apparently have wood decks instead of the fiberglass decks from the Tartan factory.

In 1960 a young man by the name of Charlie Britton left the Navy and set out, with two other men aboard a Rhodes designed sailboat to circum-navigate the world. Upon his return he secured a yard position with Douglass & McLeod plastics corporation at which time were producing the "Thistle" and "Highlander". Charlie soon realized that there was a large market for larger auxiliary racing yachts and wanted to produce the Sparkman & Stevens designed 27. D&M encouraged him to set out on his own. With a goal of building 50 of them, he set off and formed Tartan Yachts. With the immense success of the Tartan27 (hundreds were built), Charlie soon saw a future in an even larger sailing vessel. One that would surpass anything in its class in speed and elegance. Charlie was familiar with the success of Ted Hoods "Robin II" and purchased the rights to the design in 1965.

It's interesting to know that both the words Tartan and Blackwatch are from Scotland. Tartan I believe, is the clan patterns or colors if you will and Blackwatch is a tartan pattern, which can be shared by all clans.

Hull #1 rolled of the line in 1965 and 32 boats were built by 1970. A fire at the factory in late 1970 destroyed the molds for the boat and a replacement for the 37 was not found until 1977, at which time a lighter, beamier and thinner S&S design was employed.

Hulls 1 through 15 were called the "Blackwatch" and sported mahogany coach sides with a stepped roofline. In the middle of 1968, in an attempt to lighten up the boat, a straightened and fiberglass coach house was introduced with an interior layout change, moving the head from starboard midship to forward port side and spreading the galley across the companion area. These were hulls 16 through 32 and called the "Classic". The vessels had the options of a centerboard or fixed full keel and could be delivered as a sloop or yawl.

As standard equiptment the T-37's, as they were known, came from the factory with a Grey marine 35 h.p. However a deisel was offered as an option.

A telephone call with Bill Seifert, a company employee for Tartan in the early days, told me that the company really had no idea how strong fiberglass was. As a matter of fact, they called it "The Goo" and built the hulls on the side of "nothing too strong ever broke". I verified this claim when I hole sawed two holes just above the waterline (a good place for a hole) under the counter of the hull below the transom. On boats of the 80's and forth this section is normally a ½" thick of fiberglass. I was somewhat surprised when the hole saw bottomed out! I thought that I must have drilled into something like a beam or stringer only to find the pilot hole inside the boat. I back drilled it from inside only to behold a 1-½" plug. It's quite a conversation piece when one of my "racing" friends come over to brag of the stiffness of their boat. Also incorporated into the hull are steel reinforcements laminated into the fiber glass in the stem and chainplates running down to the keel and a 3/8"X2'X1' triangular plate in the stem re-enforcing the backstay. Another innovation the Tartan factory tried was to balsa core the forward sections of the port and starboard hull sides, in the V-berth area starting 6" above the waterline. This was to give the vessel additional buoyancy forward.

Another report from a Blackwatch owner states that during a delivery of a new boat to New York from the Tartan factory the transport driver somehow got lost in N.Y. city and while trying to maneuver the rig and boat on a bridge, lost the boat. That is to say, it fell off. The driver told the city that Tartan representatives were on the way to remove the boat in question. The city officials told him that they had their own way of dealing with a situation of this magnitude and proceeded to take a bulldozer and push it off the bridge to free the traffic. You can imagine the look on the representative's face when only cosmetic damages were done. The owner accepted the boat with the minor repairs.

Almost every T-37 owner I talk to has some amazing story on the incredible versatility of these amazing vessels. Whether it's the strength of the boat or her all round performance. A few of these boats have been around the world, (hull#15).

Purchase price of these boats tend to range quite a bit. This is usually due to their condition, since some of them are over 30 years old. Believe me a lot can happen to a boat in 30 years, if neglected. One reported purchase was as little as $10,000 but needed new mahogany cabin sides and had sat opened to the weather in a boat yard for some years. On the other end of the financial scale, another boat sold for $50,000 presumed to be in "Bristol" condition. Currently another one is on the market with an asking price of $65,000. Speaking in general terms I would say you could purchase a well-founded vessel with a diesel somewhere between $35,000 to $40,000. There seems to be a resurgence of older boats because of the general lack of integrity of newer built boats with their condominium style interiors. These interiors work well for the charter service or the owner who leaves his boat tied up in his slip for years on end with little use other than an entertainment facility. This and other short comings of newer high production boats seems to be pushing the price of "quality" older boats to an upward trend.

I am the husband of hull #3. She is a yawl. Charlie Britton built this boat for his father, Birgham "Boots" Britton in 1966. I am the 7th owner. She has been through 2 divorces and a bank repo. Needless to say the boat was somewhat derelict when I found her. Her previous owner did a lot of repairs but could not give the boat the attention she needed. We are very happy together and she is recovering quite well. I love my boat.

It's been a lot of fun finding some of the owners of T-37's. There is a real cross-section of people that own them. Lawyers, doctors, toolmakers, realtors, and boatyard owners to name a few. One thing I found that we all have in common is the great respect and love we have for these fine boats, built from an era when craftsmanship meant something and pride of ownership was the result.

Specifications: LOA 37; LWL 25'6"; DRAFT (KEEL) 5'1"; (C/B) 3'10",9'4"

BEAM 10'6"; DISPLACEMENT 15,700lbs.

BALLAST 4200lbs.; SAIL AREA (SLOOP) 618 (YAWL) 653

C.C.A. SLOOP 25.2, YAWL 28.5

Blackwatch vs. Little Harbor Controversy

From: Martin
Date: 2/25/99
Time: 9:35:18 AM
Remote Name:

In recent past, two of our members have been told by the Ted Hood Design Group that they did not own Blackwatch's or Tartan 37's, but instead have Little Harbor 37's. This created a lot of confusion while trying to order plans for there boats. One of the members was told that Ted Hood had a contract with Douglass & McLeod to call them Little Harbor 37's. I called Ray McLeod while vacationing in Florida. He told me no such agreement ever existed, that they were called Douglass & McLeod Blackwatch 37's until hull #15 and then called Tartan 37's to the final hull#32. The change was due to a company re-structure. I called and e-mailed the Ted Hood design group and recieved this e-mail back:

Martin, I apologize for the delay in responding to your question. Ted Hood had been down in the Caribbean sailing His LH 54' and just returned. There was nothing in our file about an agreement with Tartan, and Ted does not recall any agreement. He also said that he did not think there would have been an agreement because Tartan built the boats very differently than Little Harbor. He recalled that Tartan built a "Tartan 37" that was a simply finished boat. The "Blackwatch 37" was the same boat, except with more wood work and fancy trim. Our records show that there were 5 "Little Harbor 37's" built to the same design (#633) by Franz Maas in Holland. These are the only LH 37's. I hope this answers your question. Regards,

Matthew Smith
THDG (Ted Hood Design Group)