Sailmaster 22 Used Boat Review

The origins of the Sailmaster 22 are European and date back to the early 1960s, but her connection to the Chesapeake Bay was immortalized in 1974 when writer/photographer Robert de Gast made a circumnavigation of the Delmarva peninsula in his Sailmaster 22, Slick Ca’m. In 1975 the Johns Hopkins University Press published the account of his trip Western Wind Eastern Shore, now a classic among Chesapeake Bay sailors. The book is out of print but is still treasured by Bay sailors. 

The Sailmaster 22, designed by Sparkman and Stephens, was built in Holland and imported into the United States by Sailmaster Inc. of Shelter Island, NY from the early 1960s until the mid 1970s.

The Sailmaster’s overall length is 22 feet, her waterline runs 16 feet, six inches, and her beam seven feet. Her centerboard design draws just two feet, four inches with the board raised and five feet with the board lowered. There were two factory versions of the Sailmaster, although over the years many 22s have been altered and customized. The Daysailer originally featured a longer cockpit, a shorter cabin house, and a two-berth arrangement below. The Weekender originally included a larger cabin, a complete galley with ice box, sink with fresh water system, and head. The Weekender also included four berths (two quarterberths under the cockpit seats).

The Sailmaster was built in the early days of fiberglass boat construction when weight was not nearly the concern that it is today, and the solid fiberglass lay-up of the hull is typically more substantial than found on more modern boats of the same size. Typical of older fiberglass boats, some deterioration, called hydrolyzing, of the fiberglass composite below the waterline is common. This is a gradual dissolving of the resins from years of being immersed in water. Severe cases are rare, and the condition seldom raises any serious concerns for the structural integrity of these boats. 

Prospective owners should keep in mind that these boats, if not already there, are rapidly approaching 40 years old and are likely to require a significant amount of work to restore or maintain their condition. Some of the more common necessary repairs to expect include removing years of build up of antifouling bottom finishes, restoring deteriorating topside finishes and repairing areas of the decks and cockpit that have been weakened by water penetration into the balsa wood core. Perhaps the biggest maintenance headache will be keeping the steel plate centerboard free of rust and corrosion and working properly.

On deck the Sailmaster 22 has a large cockpit that can easily accommodate a party of four for daysailing. The cabin trunk is low, and there is excellent visibility forward from the cockpit. The vast majority of Sailmasters carry a bow pulpit but not lifelines (although some S22s carry retrofitted lifelines). 

The low cabin house, minimum freeboard and attractive sheer that give Sailmaster 22 her handsome appearance also restrict the accommodation space, although the designers have made good use of the space below. 

Auxiliary power for the Sailmaster 22 is provided by an outboard motor mounted in a lazarette locker. This method of engine installation is advantageous, because it preserves the clean lines of the boat, although it may be necessary to raise the hatch while motoring in order to provide adequate ventilation for the engine to operate properly. Because valuable storage space is lost, a number of boats have converted the motor well to storage and added an outboard motor bracket to the transom. A five to eight hp motor is sufficient although the performance of any small outboard-powered sailboat depends greatly the on wind and sea condition. In gusty winds and choppy sea, performance under power will be frustrating and can be challenging if confined to a narrow channel. 

With a displacement/length ratio of 362 and a sail area/displacement ration of 15.9, the Sailmaster 22, as one would expect, needs a bit of a breeze (preferably better than six knots true) to get her going. The Sailmaster is always a balanced and responsive handler. However, with the full keel and attached rudder, the 22 will not respond or tack as quickly as a fin keel-spade rudder design. Performance improves noticeably as the wind picks up, and the 22 tracks well and is easily balanced. 

The Sailmaster 22 is not a boat for everyone, but Soundings’ Annapolis-based Senior Writer Jack Sherwood has actively sailed his for 18 years. Fawcetts’ staffer Joe Fernon lives aboard a 22 in Annapolis’s Weems Creek. She is best suited to sailors who have the time, talent and inclination necessary to maintain an older boat. Her price makes her a great bargain for sailors looking for a stout and handsome daysailer capable of an occasional overnight or weekend cruise.

Note from Sailmast aficinado, Jack Sherwood: Sailmaster 22 Daysailers and Weekenders

It’s my belief there were far more S-22 Daysailers built than S-22 Weekenders. The early Sailmasters had lots of teak or mahogany and overkill bronze hardware. 

As the years went on the Daysailers were built lighter and lighter-so much so that the cockpit seats have a trampoline effect when you put some body weight on them. When the builders trimmed away most of the wood, the S22 began to look more like a plastic bathtub (still good-looking however, thanks to S&S). The bronze hardware (cleats, etc.) was replaced with aluminum. 

The weekenders were built heavier, "like a tank," as Olin Stephens once told me. My boat has the heavy iron compression post with bolts galore stepped on the keel and the heavy-duty bronze wheel for raising the centerboard.

Visually, the Daysailer has a longer cockpit and a shorter cabin with a V-berth. My boat has a V-berth and quarter berths. I removed the port sink and cabinet and cabin steps, because they took up too much room. 

Therefore, my port area is one long bunk/settee. It was the best thing I ever did on the boat. I kept the head in place under the starboard tabletop.

Reviewed in the August 2002 issue of SpinSheet by Jack Hornor