Common Issues With Tartan Yacht Sailboats

Common Issues With Tartan Yacht Sailboats | Life of Sailing

Last Updated by

Daniel Wade

October 4, 2022

Key Takeaways

  • Tartan Yachts have a great history with quality designs
  • Some older Tartans have issues that cannot be ignored in the deck, equipment, and galley
  • Pay attention to the condition of the hull and engine
  • A thorough inspection is needed before any purchase is made

Tartan Yachts has had many designs over the years that have received positive reception. However, there are some common issues with Tartan Yachts.

Common issues with Tartan Yachts include an aluminum steel plate subject to galvanic corrosion, dark and narrow galleys, the outer layer of the hull is aged, and the cored deck. In addition, there was a serious incident years ago involving a boat that nearly sank due to a crack in the hull.

According to experienced sailors that own a Tartan sailboat, they have to be treated just like every other boat. This means doing the research before anyone decides to buy and maintain it if owning one.


Table of contents

Tartan Yachts Issues

There are a handful of Tartan Yacht sailboats that are perfectly fine in design. The few that commonly have issues are the Tartan 3400, Tartan 3700, and the Tartan 4100.

Surprisingly, the older model Tartan’s were not the ones that had the issues compared to the slightly newer ones. The one’s designed in the 1990’s by Tim Jackett seem to be a recurring thing.

Age and Corrosion

For some boats, 20 years is just the beginning when it comes to life expectancy. However, some Tartan models have needed a little love when sailors are considering a boat with some nautical miles on it.

When looking at a Tartan, I would check the standing rigging, mast hardware, and the chainplates. Corrosion of the electrical system is another problem that needs to be addressed if inspected.

Furthermore, some have an aluminum plate that sped along production. There will likely be a lot of aluminum on the deck in some models.

This, along with dissimilar metals, causes galvanic corrosion. When this happens, it can cause the bolts to strip and make the hull-deck joint potentially fail.

Narrow Spaces and Galleys

Some Tartan’s have an issue of storage and tight galleys. The older models seemed to not focus on the space provided below deck or other areas on the boat.

For instance, there is not enough storage for a propane locker. Some even have low companionways that make it difficult to move around. This makes living aboard full time potentially an issue, including other issues at hand.

Reports have shown that they even used inexpensive materials to craft the galleys. Not only is the space limited, but it is not the best material.

Living full time on a sailboat is arguably more popular now than ever. Some boats’ designs did not have this as a priority, so the attention was simply not there.

Worn Out Hull

Sun damage to the hull is likely to happen to any boat that is older, so this process has to be taken care of over the years. For most casual sailors, this might be overlooked.

If considering a Tartan, I would definitely check the hull for cracks and imperfections. The gel coat previously used might have issues and visible hard spots could be apparent.

A manufacturer deficiency nearly caused a Tartan 3700 to sink in late 2006. Thankfully sailors acted quickly and called for help to be safely extracted.

The overlap between both of the molding sides did not meet lamination specs. This oversight in the construction process allowed a crack to form during normal use of the boat, causing it to take on water. It is important to check any hull, regardless of age.

Cored Deck

A lot of older Tartan models used a cored deck instead of full fiberglass. While cored decks are appealing to the eye, they potentially have issues.

If the core soaks enough water, it will delaminate the outer fiberglass layers. This causes it to lose strength and change how it responds to pressure when underway.

This will likely need a professional boat inspection to conclude whether or not it is in good condition. To a trained eye, they will be able to tell the condition.

Not as Comfortable or Convenient

During their time of being built, Tartan Yachts were the affordable version of the Nautor Swan sailboats. The demand for these boats was quite strong, with roughly 500 of the 37 models being built in 1987.

As time passed, they continued to design other models for speed and not pay attention to other areas of the boat. For example, the anchoring system is a bit of a hassle compared to other methods used on various boats.

Everyone will have their own way of making life easier on board. Tartan just happened to have some models that were not as convenient.

Not as Fast

Tartan Yachts are able to sail fast, but only when given the right conditions. Their older models are typically larger and slower than other competitors.

For those that want a Tartan for racing, they might be let down. Older Tartans are not equipped to be a racer like the newer ones are.

Tips on Buying a Tartan Yacht

When considering a Tartan Yacht for personal use, sailors have to be honest about a variety of factors. I would personally inspect the condition of the boat as well as if it fits my budget. Do not be afraid to walk away from a deal if it does not make sense.

There are plenty of boats on the market to choose from, so no impulse buys either. Furthermore, I would take it out on the water during quality wind to see how it performed.


A budget is likely the determining factor for many sailors considering a sailboat. Tartans have held their value over the years, with an average price of $50,000 for older models.

I would also factor in maintenance costs per year for the boat, as well as any potential upgrades that it needs before it is able to sail. If some are not needed right away, this could be included in the equation.

When visiting any marina or checking online, it is important to determine what a good price is for a particular brand and model. In addition, sailors also need to examine current finances to see what is affordable.

A loan for a boat will take some time to put together. Being patient with the process is great to allow anyone the chance to inspect the boat.

Current Condition

If a Tartan has recently been through a “recent refit”, it is important to know that cosmetics are not everything when it comes to performance. While a boat is appealing to the eye when it is cleaned up, this should not be the main selling point.

Instead, I would look to see if new sails have been added, new lines, updates to the electrical system, or if the cored deck has been replaced. Paint often hides corrosion or imperfections, so I would check thoroughly if it has been repainted. These will save time and money down the road.

Depending on how old the boat is, it might be time for a new engine. I would consider what is already available and rebuild if possible.

Some Tartans might need new equipment such as electric winches or replacing an old compass. It is crucial to check the condition of items like these in order to ensure proper sailing.

Larger Galley

Depending on how sailors might use a Tartan, a larger galley could be beneficial. This might mean that a larger Tartan will be in the mix versus a smaller one to acquire a larger galley.

If I were living aboard a Tartan, I would need to accommodate my living space in addition to a crew. There will need to be plenty of room for supplies and essentials for traveling. Without enough room to properly store food or eat, this will make long distances almost impossible to travel.

Every sailor will have a different preference on size. Luckily, Tartan has a few models that do not differ that much in size.

Do Not Get Stuck on Perfect

Every boat is going to have an imperfection somewhere. It is important to understand this so that any potential buyer does not avoid boats that need a little work.

The perfect sailboat does not exist because everyone has different tastes. The best thing to do is find something that works for a specific sailing goal, while also keeping in mind that it could take a little maintenance to get going.

Being afraid of continuing maintenance is a recipe for disaster. Every boat will need love and attention at some point.

Purpose of Boat

What is the main purpose for purchasing a Tartan? Some sailors might want to cruise, live on them, or use it sparingly over a weekend. While they were popular in the 90’s, they are not considered a collector’s item.

Depending on sailing goals, Tartan has plenty to offer for any of those categories. If I were to sail long term, I would look for plenty of space for storage and how it handles offshore sailing. The point is to narrow down exact goals for long term use.

How it Handles Under Power

If taking a Tartan on a test sail, I would inspect how well it responds to the wind. A good 12 to 15 knots of wind is perfect for a boat this size to get a sense of what it is capable of doing. Anything less might make the boat difficult to sail.

I would also inspect the engine and determine how old it is. Check how it works in calmer waters or around the dock. Previous owners could potentially have harmed it with a lack of preventative maintenance.

Avoid Teak Decks

Some Tartans, if they have been restored, might have teak decks. Some even have teak seats, which are another expense to repair or replace.

While these are appealing to look at, it does not affect the performance of the boat. If purchasing a used one, it could make the price more expensive. It also makes the deck quite hot in warmer climates with a lot of sun.

After roughly 15 years, these have to be replaced and can cost a pretty penny. It is best to stick with original material or consider repairing what has already been used.

Type of Naval Architect

Tartan has had a handful of boat designers over the years. When narrowing down a specific boat model in a Tartan, it is important to see who made it.

The older models that had plenty of issues were built by Tim Jackett. However, it was typically during those few years and he has since made plenty of quality builds over the years.

Issues with Keel

One of the most crucial inspections on a boat is the keel. Sailors will need to check bilge area fore and aft outside of the keel.

Mishandling by grounding, incorrect hauling, or improper storage could affect the life of the keel. In addition, the bolts and flexibility of the hull could have been harmed by previous owners.

To check if the keel and hull have issues, look for the engine to see if it is out of line or if there is a gap in between the deadwood and ballast. Some sailors have chosen to reinforce the bilge area and the spots on the hull in which poppets take the brunt of the weight in dry storage. If purchasing from a previous owner, I would ask how they stored the boat.

Where to Find Quality Tartan Yachts

Tartan Yachts was founded in 1971 by Charlie Britton, with headquarters in Painesville, Ohio. They still continue to make quality builds that anyone can put to use in their sailing goals.

For buying new or used models, sailors can search online or at their local marina that sells boats. The most common places to find Tartan sailboats are in the US, mainly in California, New York, and Florida.

Common Issues With Tartan Yacht Sailboats
Daniel Wade

Daniel Wade

I've personally had thousands of questions about sailing and sailboats over the years. As I learn and experience sailing, and the community, I share the answers that work and make sense to me, here on Life of Sailing.

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