Friday, May 6, 2011


Over the last several months I have had the opportunity to see a wide variety of boats that people are  cruising aboard and one of the nicest, to my eye is the J/130. I like it because it is a very good looking boat with excellent performance and pretty good accommodations. It also is well built, using technology that you would find in many racing yachts. Of course this type of boat is not every cruiser's dreamboat since it is rare to see a J/130 actually on a long distance cruise. There are a lot more Island Packets and boats of that type out cruising than truly high performance yachts like the J/130. I recommend you visit the J-Boats web site at  or for more detailed information, but here are some basic dimensions and ratios:

Length overall: 42.7'
Beam: 12.8'
Draft: 8.5' or 6.9'
Displacement: 15,000 pounds
Sail area: 955 sq ft
Disp/Length: 120
Sail area/disp: 25

Notice the two ratios, Disp/Length and Sail area/disp. The first indicates the displacement of the boat relative to its length and is useful for comparing different boats. The higher the number, the heavier the boat is relative to its length. The typical cruising boat we see here in Mexico has a D/L well over 200. By comparison, a D/L of 120 is a borderline Ultralight, or ULDB, and boats with this number are invariably high performance boats. The SA/D is an indicator of the size of the sailplan relative to the boat's displacement. The typical cruising boat has a SA/D in the range of 12 to 18. Racing yachts generally have an SA/D of 20 and up. So, clearly, the J/130 could be described as a lightweight sportscar with a big engine. That translates into good light air performance and high speeds in heavy air. The question is whether that makes it a good cruising boat.

The J/130's hull is clearly designed for speed. That's a good thing because nearly everyone wants to make fast passages. But cruisers also want comfort and heavier boats have a more comfortable motion than lighter weight boats both at anchor and under way. The rather low freeboard of this hull certainly looks sleek, and makes boarding a bit easier, but the trade-off is less room below and a bit more water on deck, especially headed upwind. The boat's deep keel will keep it on its feet, but will also limit access to areas where shallower draft boats can go. I think six to seven feet of draft is about the maximum that is convenient. I'm not saying that 8.5' is unacceptable, you'll just have to be more selective about where you go in a boat with that much draft.

I like boats with good light air performance and the J/130's rig has all the horsepower needed to make the boat go in the light stuff. Conditions here in Mexico are often light, and it's a nice feeling to be able to sail when the other cruising boats are wallowing.  Of course there is a downside to the J's powerful rig. The mainsail is quite big and would be a handful for a shorthanded crew. Also, you'll be shifting gears more with a light boat, reefing the main and changing jibs more frequently. People say you can partially roll up the jib if it's on a furler, but partially furled jibs don't set well. If I were cruising aboard this boat I'd set it up with a 110% jib on the furler and accept the compromise in light air performance.

Cruising is really about living aboard and while there are many 42 footers that have a lot more living space below, I think the J/130's accommodations are pretty good, if relatively Spartan, for a couple with an occasional one or two guests aboard. Notice in the accommodations plan that the area forward of the main bulkhead is devoted to a large owner's stateroom with plenty of storage space and a semi-private head. The head is accessible from the main cabin, but that access looks iffy to me, as you have to work your way around the large dropleaf table to get to it. The galley is smallish but adequate. I'd prefer not to have the stove up against the bulkhead as it makes cooking a bit more difficult. Aft of the galley is a small cabin which would be converted to a storage room by most who would cruise this boat. Opposite the galley is a nav station. The drawings show it with the seat facing forward but the photos I found on Yachtworld show it facing outboard. I'd prefer the forward facing arrangement but it looks like lack of space could have played a part in the decision to make the change. Aft of the nav station is a private quarter cabin with what looks like a good sized double berth.

Tankage and stowage space are issues that long term cruisers would have to come to terms with. A watermaker and an extra fuel bladder would make life aboard more pleasant. But I like that trade-off in exchange for better performance and the clean good looks of the boat.

Spartan but reasonable cruising accommodations

I think the deck layout of the J/130 is nearly ideal for a performance cruising boat. Side decks are wide, the cabin trunk is low and unobtrusive, and the cockpit is big enough for spending a lot of time in, which is what cruisers do. The lack of an anchor locker in the bow would be problematic and I'd put one in if I owned this boat. Another essential item is a swim platform aft. I like step-thru transoms but the arrangement here offers lots of space on the transom and still provides a good sized lazarette.

Overall, this boat has a lot to offer the cruising yachtsman who places high priority on performance. It would make a great boat for shorter term cruises, but I know of at least one J/130 whose owners  have been cruising aboard for quite a long time and are very happy with their boat.

J/130 anchored in Bahia de los Muertos

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