Spartan is a Niagara 35, built by Hinterhoeller Yachts in St.Catharines, Ontario in 1984. She is hull #185 – the first N35 hull with the company’s “Encore” interior design.
In the great lakes, and perhaps elsewhere, Niagara 35’s have a reputation as a very well built, blue-water cruiser. In our search for a boat, we sought recommendations from a variety of sources, including John Neal of Mahina Expeditions, Mike Gozzard of Gozzard Yachts, our cruising instructor Clive from Harbourfront Sailing School, and the book “Twenty Affordable Boats to Take You Anywhere” (which features an N35 on the cover). Each of these sources had their own list of favourite boats, but the one boat they all seemed to agree on was the Niagara 35.
Good for tall people – Of course, I wanted a boat I could stand up in. Surprisingly, being 6’2″ removed a number of boats from contention right away. I also insisted on a boat that I could lay down in. Both in the berth and the cockpit, I wanted to be able to sleep without scrunching up. The Niagara was one of the few designs we saw that included a U-shaped cockpit suitable for a good snooze.
Comfortable sailing – I haven’t sailed a lot of cruising boats, but I have sailed a number of very light, responsive boats like J24s, Thunderbirds and a few C&Cs. The Niagara is, of course, much, much heavier than any of these boats, but I don’t find myself frustrated with her sailing performance. With winds of 8kts or more, she points decently, responds readily and is easily brought to a balanced sail trim. In seas, her shear line and traditional transom make for a very dry sail. Like most cruising boats, her downwind performance in light airs is less than thrilling, but with the gennaker up, all is forgiven.
Easy Trimming – The Niagara sports a rarely seen main sheeting system. Some call it “German Sheeting” as it’s also found on Bavaria designs. It’s basically twin 4:1 blocking systems mounted on either side of the cabin top. No track! Although it lacks the precision that you can get from a track system, I find I’m always able to get a decently shaped main sail trim with this system. On some tacks, the lee sheet can be used as a bit of a preventer, which is handy. To me, the simplicity of the system, the space savings and fewer through-deck fittings to maintain are well worth it. I don’t know why more boats don’t feature this main sheeting system.
Getting sails down fast – It’s always good to be able able get sail down in a hurry, but particularly in the great lakes where squalls tend to come up fast and bite hard. That’s why we love the combination of our dutch flaking and our battcars. The combination enables us to get the main down without leaving the cockpit. We flake the halyard then open the clutch and the sail comes down instantly.
Bulwarks – This one may be purely irrational on my part, but I like a boat with meaty bulwarks instead of a toe rail. I feel a bit safer with them. And when a small bit of rigging has fallen from my hand and is now bouncing along the deck, I like the improved odds of it staying on board. When we first got the boat, I made the mistake of taking a battcar off the track, not realizing that the bearings would all drop out of the truck. I was able to recover 16 of the 18 bearings that fell out. Try that with a toe rail.
Boat Tour – If you’re still curious, check our our Boat Tour Video.