New Boat Review: Island Packet 370

By Capt. Thom Burns

Following the Annapolis Boat Show this fall I had the unique opportunity to not only sail on the Island Packet 370, but to sail aboard all the way from Annapolis, Maryland to Rock Hall, Maryland on the Eastern Shore directly across the bay from Baltimore. Rock Hall is the beautiful home of Gratitude Yachting Center. Ed Kurowski owns Gratitude and graciously arranged for the 20 mile sail with Captain Michelle Martinage in about 15 to 20 knots of wind!

The Island Packet story is unique. In 26 short years, Island Packet has come on the scene and become one of the most respected names in cruising sailboats. Island Packet began with the start of one dream, and the end of another. The Bombay Trading Company had closed its doors, and naval architect Bob Johnson was looking to start his own company. Bob had worked on the design and production teams of both Endeavour and Irwin; he felt there was a place for a true cruising boat, not just another racer/cruiser compromise that so many builders were producing.

The availability of the barely used molds from the 26 foot Bombay Express gave Bob a way to economically get started. With borrowed cash, Bob set off on his own with some minor modifications, including a masthead rig with a staysail, a bit higher freeboard, and a new keel shape that ultimately would evolve into what today is known as the Full Foil Keel.

The Full Foil Keel was Bob's answer to a relatively new problem at the time. How to preserve the fine seakeeping and safety attributes of a traditional wine glass-shaped full keel while enhancing its performance and maneuverability like the newer fin keel shapes. Not wanting to give up on the benefits of a shoal draft, Bob took the modern 'U'-shaped performance underbody of the fin keel boats of the day and took its fin keel shape and essentially 'shortened and stretched it lengthwise,' giving it a longer cord length with less draft. The lateral surface area to maintain windward ability was still there, as was the tracking ability and the gentle ride of the more traditional full keel. Even better, with the balanced spade hung rudder protected by the keel, the maneuverability was improved over the traditional shapes, and the advantages of the protected propeller were gained.

Traditional Watercraft, Inc., Bob's fledgling company, introduced the first yacht simply as the “Island Packet,” an unassuming, cat-like, 26 foot pocket cruiser with a swing keel, a barn door rudder and a jaunty attitude. The year was 1979, not the best of economic periods to launch a new company, but a market for the “Island Packet” did exist, and Bob sold the yachts from the kitchen telephone, farming out the majority of construction to a local boat building contractor. The company built the 'Island Packet' to various stages of completion, from a simple hull and deck for those wishing a kit boat, to the completed yacht, ready for an afternoon sail. The boat sailed as well as expected and sold better than expected.

By renting some production space and hiring a few boat builders, the company known as Island Packet Yachts today began building their own yachts. The Island Packet 26 Mark II incorporated standing headroom, eliminated the swing keel, and brought the barn door style rudder under the boat with an Edson rack and pinion steering system. While sales were not exactly soaring in the early eighties for any boat builder, over 70 of the two versions of the 26 were built.

On a shoestring, and with the future of the company hanging in the balance, Island Packet “bet the farm” and developed a 31 footer with a clever aft cabin, loads of storage space, and what was becoming a readily identifiable cutter rig and anchor platform/bow sprit. The first Island Packet 31 made its debut at the Annapolis Boat Show in 1983, and was quickly an unqualified success.

The next project was the 27; a further evolution of the 26, but this time Bob designed and built it his way. The 27 found an instant following. An investment in property and a larger assembly building followed. As the first building erected on Wild Acres Road, Bob chose 1979, the year he founded the company for the street address.

The Island Packet 38 was added to the line-up in 1986 along with a second building. This building housed assembly of the 38 along with an expanded wood mill, producing virtually all of the pieces needed for interior and exterior cabinetry and trim.

The IP35 followed two years later in 1988. Sales were so brisk that additional property and another production building were added. The new Island Packet 35 was known as the first of the “next generation of Island Packets,” mainly due to the refined keel profile and the addition of several standard features that still help define the Island Packet line today: pre-tinned wiring, bronze flanged thru-bolted seacocks, and stainless steel ports, to name a few. The 'next generation' series also introduced the 29, 32, 37, 40, and 44 foot models.


LOA 37'10"
LWL 31'0"
Beam 13'1"
Draft 4'3"
Cabins / Berths 3/7
CE Stability Index (STIX) 43
Displacement (lbs) 21,000
Ballast (lbs) 8,400
Sail Area-Cutter Rig (sq ft) 814
Auxiliary Power (Diesel) 54 HP
Headroom 6'5"
Mast Above DWL 54’3”
Water Capacity (gal) 160
Fuel Capacity (gal) 75
Holding Capacity (gal) 55
Disp / Length Ratio 315
Sail Area / Disp Ratio 14.4
Ballast / Disp Ratio 40%
Storage Volume (Cu Ft) 300

Yet another evolution occurred with the introduction of the Island Packet 350 in 1996. The transom swim platform made its debut on this model, and every subsequent model since has had a version of it. The 380 followed in 1997 and evolved the Island Packet concept a bit further with the elimination of the 'dolphin-striker' that had historically tied the anchor platform and stem head fitting with the bow of the yacht at the waterline. The 380's bow had a finer entry and more of an angled bow, allowing the stem head fitting to attach directly to the bow. This feature, together with a refined keel shape with a finer trailing edge, a cleaner profile and cross section of the rudder, and other 'tweaks' to the underbody shape, improved both performance and seakeeping motion. Both the 420 and the new 485 carry these design elements forward.

The 370

According to designer, Bob Johnson, the biggest challenge in developing any new Island Packet is to create a yacht that will not only be the preferred choice compared to competitor's offerings, but even more importantly, the preferred choice compared to used Island Packet alternatives. This requires significant evolution with each of our new models.

The 370 has a new look with a proportionately wider stern compared to prior Island Packet models. This allows for more sail carrying power, improved boat speed, more space for accommodations, equipment and stowage, as well as room for a larger stern platform.

A Galley with counter space.

The underbody of the 370 has integral fairings for the optional bow thruster, reducing drag underway and improving thruster response when docking. According to Ed, Gratitude Yachting Center, almost all new Island Packets are being sold with bow thrusters.

The Rig

The 370 has a taller, higher aspect configuration compared to earlier models. This takes advantage of the wider stern and its added sail carrying ability. Buyers may choose between a standard sloop configuration or, the double headsail Hoyt Boom® equipped cutter sailplan. The sloop can be upgraded to the cutter rig without too much grief because deck bearings and structural features for the cutter rig are built into all boats.

On Deck

On deck trademark IP features include integral bow platform with twin anchor rollers, recessed foredeck, and full length cabin top handrails, cockpit stern rail seats, are all standard on the 370. New features include side deck drains scuppered to a boot stripe outlet which keep the topsides streak-free, according to IP. Other additions include a foredeck hatch for improved access to the chain locker, wide cockpit coaming with two integrally molded stowage bins for active and spare LPG bottles each with a gasket lid, two covered loose gear bins, four open line stowage bins, a loose gear bin under a seat hatch, and two spacious sail lockers. Steps are molded into the transom, a telescoping swim ladder tucks away under a flush hatch.


I really like walking below in an Island Packet. Expect to be impressed. Just to your right is the open "U" configured galley. It has a generous amount of built-in stowage. The details from the counters, stove, and accessible holders are everywhere. The icebox features a new foaming construction process that should provide exceptional energy efficiency for refrigeration systems. A drawer-type AC/DC refrigerator is available as a factory option, replacing the larger of two dry storage drawers under the icebox. This is a roomy, comfortable galley.

Galley & Aft Cabin / Office

The aft stateroom is of particular interest because it has been designed as a potential multiple use center as a guest cabin, nav center and office. The large double berth is readily accessible from either side. A hinged lid under the berth covers a large blanket bin. The outboard locker is configured with removable shelves and a closet rod at the top so it can be used as either a bureau or hanging locker. At the forward end of the stateroom is a multi-use desk area for use as a vanity, office area or full nav station. Hinged mirror doors fold away to reveal a large nav panel area for owner installed instruments. A favorite is the swivel mounted seat which rotates under or out from the desk area at the touch of a switch. Finally, the bulkhead dividing this stateroom from the saloon has a removable hinged panel, opening and joining this aft area with the saloon when desired.

The main salon has full-length settees port and starboard with the port side convertible to a double. There is lots of stowage available underneath and outboard of both settees. The salon table folds out of the way against a bulkhead rack, opening the salon for entertaining or socializing. New on the 370 are port and starboard molded sole details for a drop-in tubular leg and table top. The "cocktail table" feature is an option which has proven very popular on the IP 485. The deep hanging locker at the forward end of the starboard settee has two closet rods; the outboard rod provides extra height for long garments. Finally, a chart drawer is fitted under the port settee.

The head compartment offers extra space by enclosing the mast within the area. A dedicated shower area with molded seat and sole detail features a folding acrylic door that, when stowed against the bulkhead, maximizes the useful space of the head compartment.

The forward stateroom has a centerline island berth with storage under and more width on top. Wide shelves, three lockers, a blanket bin under a hinged lid with a deep drawer under add up to lots of stowage. Room is available for an optional bow thruster installation under the forward berth area. The forepeak bulkhead is fully watertight from the accommodations with a bilge drain and shut-off valve accessible under the forward end of the berth.


The boat handles exceptionally well under power; particularly with the optional bow thrusters. Michelle Martinage, our Captain for the trip backed this big heavy boat into the slip without a hitch in an 18 knot crosswind.

The main saloon is an entertainment center you’ll be proud of. The amenities are too numerous and often owner driven.

Under sail the boat performed very well. We were mostly on a beam reach, close reach and close-hauled for a shorter distance. The boat gave us a very smooth ride in 15 - 20 knots of breeze. The potential buyer aboard initially did not want to reef. This put excessive heel on the boat at about 25 plus degrees. This boat is designed to sail flatter than 25 degrees of heel. The result was significant side slippage going upwind. The moment we reefed and set the boat back on its feet at ten to fifteen degrees of heel, the slippage went away although the speed did not seem to decrease at all. It should be noted that the mainsail reefed into the mast without a problem in the higher winds. The boat tracked well on all three points of sail except for the exception above. The helm was finger tip all the time. This boat is a totally easy sailing experience.


Ed Kurowski, at Gratitude Yachting Center, the oldest continuous dealer for Island Packets since 1982, said that Island Packet is there bread and butter boat. "We need to be looking for ways to make sailing easier, less stressful and more enjoyable especially for short-handed sailors." It is pretty clear to me that the manufacturer, the leading dealer and the customers are on the same page with their Island Packet boats. They have to be building a great product because it is not inexpensive at over $300,000 with everything on it. Yet, Island Packet enjoys the highest degree of customer satisfaction as measured nationally by the National Marine Manufacturers Association. Part of this has to come from a manufacturer warranty of three years stem to stern and ten years on the hull and deck. Don't take my word for the quality of these boats, go look at one and see if it fits in your budget.

The Island style berths fore and aft are a favorite of Island Packet

Capt. Thom Burns publishes Northern Breezes and Sailing Breezes Internet Magazine.

For more info: Sailor’s World,
Wayzata, MN 952-475-3443

Holland Yacht Sales
Holland, MI 616-335-3144

Toledo Beach Yacht Sales
LaSalle, MI 734-243-3830

Gratitude Yachting Center
Rock Hall, MD 410-639-7111