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Boat US - Boat Reviews by Jack Horner N.A.

Boat US - Boat Reviews by Jack Hornor N.A.

Tartan 3500

The Tartan 3500 is now into its 11th year of production and after all this time it continues to be a top choice for sailors looking for a performance oriented family cruiser. I have been a long time fan of Tartan boats and must admit I find the Tartan 3500 one of the more handsome of contemporary-styled designs.
Designing a boat that maximizes interior volume and waterline length without it looking like the box it came in, is not an easy task but, in this case, has been accomplished by Tartan’s in-house design team led by Tim Jackett. The 3500’s overall length is 35’ 2”, beam is 11’ 9” and displacement is 11,400 lbs. She is offered with a shoal draft keel drawing 4’ 10” or a deep draft drawing 6’ 6”.

The construction quality of the Tartan 3500 is as good as, or in some cases better than, other production boat manufacturers, but Tartan’s attention to detail is less than I’ve seen in past models.

Bottom line, the Tartan 3500 is a well built boat with a hull constructed of chop strand mat, unidirectional fiberglass cloth and balsa wood core for stiffness. There is no core used in areas of through-hull fittings, chain plate or keel attachments in order to mitigate the possibility of water intrusion. A layer of vinylester resin is used to improve blister resistance and Tartan backs up their hulls with a five-year warranty against osmotic blisters.

The decks and cabin are likewise constructed of fiberglass composites with balsa wood core. Deck hardware is soundly attached with stainless steel nuts, bolts and washers and either aluminum or fiberglass backing plates for distributing loads. Although Tartan eliminates coring in the area of deck hardware attachments, I found indications of elevated moisture of the deck composite around several fittings of a three-year-old model I inspected recently.

The deck and hull are joined in Tartan’s typical fashion of using stainless steel fasteners drilled and tapped into aluminum plates molded into the hull flange and bedded with 3M’s 5200 sealant. I have never been a fan of the use of stainless steel and aluminum in this way but Tartan has been doing it for more than 25 years.

The deck of the Tartan 3500 is well laid out and features a foredeck anchor locker, two-inch-high teak toe rails all around and good quality hardware. The T-shaped cockpit provides plenty of leg space and seats are not so far apart that you can’t brace to leeward if necessary. There are foot cleats for the helmsman and seatbacks are inclined for comfortable seating. At the transom there is a boarding ladder and molded swim step for easy entry and exit from the water.

Interior accommodations include two true double cabins separated by the main cabin and galley. The forward cabin has a hanging locker, four storage drawers and large V-berth with enough foot room forward that two people can actually sleep comfortably. The main saloon has settees to port and starboard with a drop-leaf table in between and easily seats four for meals, or six in a pinch. To starboard there is a good-sized galley and adequate navigation station. To the port side aft is the head and shower and a quarter berth cabin with large double berth.

Tartan offers new boat purchasers the option of teak or cherry interior finishes and although the cherry is attractive it doesn’t seem to hold up well to an occasional dousing of water that is inevitable aboard a boat. One other recent observation is that the fit and finish of interior joiner work doesn’t seem to live up to Tartan standards.

Auxiliary power is provided by Yanmar’s 27 hp 3GM diesel which is installed in an engine box below the companionway steps. Access to the engine for service is better than most boats of this type. When the engine box is removed, the entire forward part of the engine is exposed although access to the aft part of the engine requires removing quarter berth cushions and some panels.

With a sail area to displacement ratio of 19.4 and displacement to length ratio of 188, it’s pretty clear that Tartan took seriously the “performance” half of “performance cruiser” with this design and, in this regard, she does not disappoint. The Tartan 3500 is easily driven, responsive, well mannered and has had success in a number of PHRF fleets around the country. For best performance, the deep draft model is preferred although not very practical for shallower cruising grounds.

More than 140 Tartan 3500s have been built and there is usually a reasonable selection of boats offered on the used market. Current asking prices for used 3500s range from $134,000 to over $215,000. For comparison, asking prices of used Catalina 34s, for the same 10 years, range from $64,000 to $129,000 and Packet 35s range from $119,000 to $224,000 which places the Tartan at the higher end of the price range for this size production boat.


Jack Hornor, NA is the principal surveyor and senior designer for the Annapolis-based Marine Survey & Design Co.

Principal Dimensions & Specifications
Measurements should be considered approximate and the manufacturer’s specifications may be relied upon. Bow & stern appendages are generally excluded.

Length Overall

35’ 0"

Waterline Length

31’ 1"

Maximum Beam

12’ 6"

Maximum Draft

5’ 0"

Displacement/Weight

12,000 lbs

Fuel Capacity

24 Gallons

Water Capacity

100 Gallons

Sail Area 100% Fore triangle

526 Sq ft.





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