Roberto Labrador

Soundings - - Contents -

was look­ing for a sail­boat to carry him around the world. He found a ca­pa­ble cruiser, and his dream boat, in a ro­bust Tar­tan 37.

Roberto Labrador has sailed most of the Seven Seas. He knows the Caribbean, has dou­bled Cape Horn and sailed across the At­lantic, voy­aged from Cape Town, South Africa, to West­ern Aus­tralia and from China across the Pa­cific. He started his im­pres­sive sail­ing ca­reer about 15 years ago, when a friend was go­ing into the U.S. Army, leav­ing be­hind a truck, a dog and a boat.

“I took the boat,” the 50-year-old New Yorker says. “The only boat­ing I’d done was a few rides on the Staten Is­land ferry and a cou­ple of cruise ships. I ended up the owner of a Du­four 2800.”

Labrador got onto the boat and pro­ceeded to learn by do­ing. “I raised the main­sail with the reef­ing points tied in. I didn’t know what they were, so I cut them off,” he re­calls. Sail­ing around New York Har­bor, he fought the cur­rents, ran aground and dodged con­tainer ships. But there was some­thing about the sea that wouldn’t let him go.

Labrador joined the Hunt­ing­ton Yacht Club on Long Is­land. He took classes from the Amer­i­can Sail­ing As­so­ci­a­tion and found crew­ing op­por­tu­ni­ties via the in­ter­net. A 27-day pas­sage in the Caribbean was the clincher. “I got a taste for blue wa­ter,” Labrador says. “The fun be­gins for me when I lose sight of land.”

Along the way, Labrador out­grew the Du­four. “It’s a nice boat and I rec­om­mend it highly,” he says. “But I wanted a boat that I could take around the world. That’s some­thing I’d like to do at some point in my life.”

He chose a Tar­tan 37, a clas­sic sloop that Spark­man & Stephens de­signed in the 1970s.

“I was look­ing in the 37- to 40-foot range, not too big, and I had a friend who’d had a cou­ple Tar­tans, in­clud­ing a 37,” he says. A talk at the An­napo­lis boat show on re­fit­ting the Tar­tan 37 gave him the idea for re­do­ing a boat of his own. Labrador talked to more peo­ple about the Tar­tan brand. “It seems there’s one at just about ev­ery yacht club,” he says.

In 2015, Labrador found his boat, a 1981 Tar­tan 37 in St. Au­gus­tine, Flor­ida. The price was $42,000. The next step was to re­make it ac­cord­ing to Labrador’s needs. Dur­ing the past two and a half years, he and Project Man­ager Todd Brice of Yacht Ser­vice Ltd. in Ami­tyville, New York, have turned the cen­ter­board model (Hull 355) into “the ul­ti­mate Tar­tan 37 re­fit.”

“I took all the les­sons I had learned, picked the brains of dif­fer­ent skip­pers, looked at

what worked and what didn’t work, and put it all into this boat,” Labrador says.

The 35-plus-year-old boat was stripped to its bare hull. The project in­cluded fix­ing a hole in the hull and re­mov­ing, in­spect­ing and re­fas­ten­ing just about ev­ery fit­ting. Yacht Ser­vice Ltd. in­stalled a new en­gine with a cus­tom ac­cess hatch cut into the cock­pit sole; a gen­er­a­tor was in­stalled where a wa­ter heater once went; and a new propane locker was added. The rig­ging was re­done and new sails were or­dered. Wir­ing, plumb­ing, paint, var­nish, wood­work—it all got a go­ing-over.

“I helped strip the boat and then turned things over to them,” Labrador says. “We started with a list of ideas and prod­ucts and went from there. We got to know each other, and it seemed to go well. Along the way, I re­al­ized Todd was putting as much of his heart and soul into the project as I was.”

Brice says it was a chal­lenge fit­ting the elec­tron­ics and gad­gets into an older boat, “but it was a re­ally great project, and it’s some­thing we’ll look back on. Our peo­ple took pride in it, and it shows.”

The Tar­tan 37 re­launched this past July with a party.

“Am I happy with the re­sult? Ab­so­lutely,” Labrador says. “It has far ex­ceeded my ex­pec­ta­tions. It’s a lit­tle over­whelm­ing to know that such a great piece of sail­ing hard­ware ac­tu­ally be­longs to me.”

Now it’s time for some shake­down cruis­ing. And next year? “I plan to go south,” Labrador says. “Prob­a­bly the Caribbean.” Af­ter that, who knows?


The Tar­tan 37 is a high-as­pect mast­head sloop with 625 square feet of sail area; an op­tional “tall” rig added 20 inches to give it a 53-foot, 8-inch-high mast. The Tar­tan’s hull shape has a straight raked stem pro­file and cut­away fore­foot. The un­der­body is mod­ern, with a fin keel and cen­ter­board com­bined with a spade rud­der. (Tar­tan also of­fered a scheel keel with a 4-foot, 7-inch draft and a full-keel model with a 6-foot, 7-inch draft.) Equally ef­fi­cient as a cruis­ing or rac­ing boat, the sloop gar­nered a rep­u­ta­tion for per­for­mance up­wind as well as off the wind. Known for its well- pro­tected cock­pit, the boat is ide­ally suited to foul weather, with handrails and molded non­skid decks. Con­struc­tion is end-grain balsa cor­ing with solid fiber­glass in high- stress ar­eas. The Tar­tan 37’s cabin lay­out has space to sleep as many as six peo­ple: There’s a V-berth for­ward with an in­sert; set­tees in the main cabin that are con­vert­ible to berths; and a dou­ble berth aft. The cabin is fin­ished in teak ve­neer and trim with white Formica bulk­heads. The en­closed head com­part­ment has a wand-type shower. Aux­il­iary power op­tions in­cluded a 32-hp Uni­ver­sal 40 or a 44-hp Uni­ver­sal 50 model. Fuel ca­pac­ity is 47 gal­lons.

Roberto Labrador at the helm

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