Island Packet 380 Boat of the Year AwardTo win the "Best Value" prize, a sailboat doesn't have to be the fastest, have the most clever touches, or be the cheapest. It must, however, convince the judging panel that its builder has assembled at a fair, reasonable price a complete package of cruising requirements in a well-designed and well-built package that will deliver predictable and satisfactory performance for years to come. If the boat maintains a high resale value, that seals the deal. For 1999, the judges concluded that no vessel better met these stringent requirements than the Island Packet 380.

From the oil-change access panel with the filters mounted on the door to the hideaway sink in the aft cabin, the IP 380 is jam-packed with beautifully worked details. The galley is large, secure and well-equipped; through-hull fittings are accessible and clearly labeled; the locking pin for the bottom companionway drop board is held captive in the frame. It's details like these, and the undoubtedly robust construction, that will make it pleasant and secure to sail and live aboard and that contribute to the value of the boat. 

Island Packet 380 SpecificationsThe Island Packet 380 is handsome but not pretty; it sails adequately well for trade-wind work or for a New England sea breeze, but needs coaxing in light air; the interior will function well on arrival, but is a little harder to get around at sea, on deck and below, than you'd expect. And while iron ballast properly encapsulated won't suffer maintenance problems in the normal turn of events, it is a lot less efficient than externally bolted lead in terms of achieving the desired center of gravity and in the distribution of displaced volume. 

All these little niggles have to do with volume. Designers, willingly or not, cram a lot of volume into boats. Well-organized volume is useful, but when it it "pushes" the perimeter of the interior in such a way that handholds are out of reach, or when it makes the cabin trunk so high that getting about the deck becomes difficult, it can be counterproductive.

Volume placed low down, in the keel for example, works against form stability. But in this instance there's a trade-off. Island Packet fills the top of the voluminous keel with aluminum tanks for water and fuel. This keeps them both low, good for the center of gravity, and narrow, so the dip tubes stay immersed. The judges expressed concern that the tanks are covered by the structural internal pan that also provides footings for the furniture. The tanks appear to be immaculately made, but, inevitably, they have a shorter life than the boat. Replacing them, when the time comes, will be a headache.

Having said all this, the Island Packet 380 addresses most of the needs and many of the desires of the mainstream cruiser. Getting to the islands might require some adjustments, but once there, four people could share the voluminous accommodations for long periods.

The master stateroom is forward and features a huge, centerline island berth and direct access to the port-side head, which is smartly configured to seem bigger than it is (the vanity is angled for elbow room and the toilet is aft of it and outboard). A slatted teak seat folds down to cover the toilet, and an articulated door unstows from the aft bulkhead to partition off the shower area. A second access door connects with the saloon that is defined by a settee to starboard-a fine sea berth that-and an L-shaped settee to port that offers a seat to the aft-facing chart table and also converts to a double. The Island Packet dining table folds up to stow against the forward bulkhead.

The galley is snug enough to let the cook function safely at sea but large enough to foster serious catering when at rest. The standard ice-box is prewired for refrigeration, and there's a three-burner LPG stove with oven, deep double sinks, and more counter space than we saw in other boats of this size.

At rest, guests will be comfortable in the aft cabin to port with its hideaway sink and generous standing room. Under way they may be competing for that starboard settee, as for crashing purposes the thwartships double looks as though its favored point of sail is a starboard reach.

During sea trials, the boat moved well but lacked power. In light airs, when we needed sail area, the roller-furling main was less than helpful. A fully-battened mainsail is so easy to reef that it seems a shame not to put one on this boat to give it that extra oomph (it's available as an option). The IP has a full keel and so lacks agility. Tacking in light air is slow compared to fin keelers, and the boat takes a long time to respond to the skipper's intentions when backing under power. But the full keel does protect the rudder and propeller, contributes to directional stability, and provides a long, solid base for careening alongside a wall to dry out.

The cutter rig is flexible and definitely gives the boat needed power when cracked off the wind. Some judges thought that the staysail boom cluttered the foredeck, but it is not just any club boom. Island Packet uses Garry Hoyt's self-vanging boom, which not only serves the self-tacking purpose of a club boom but also preserves the staysail's shape when the sheet is eased, eliminating twist and the resulting loss of power and making the staysail useful along a wider range of sailing angles.

A 50-horsepower Yanmar diesel provides plenty of thrust for airless days or for punching into contrary weather. The installation is very neat, with generous access all around. The sound levels below are generally good, although there is a harmonic resonance in the aft berth that is probably a small noise amplified by an accidental coincidence of shapes.

Island Packet builds robust boats to a high standard. How do they do it for the price? Take the interior finish. Island Packet uses a rubbed-oil finish, less expensive in labor and production time than five coats of varnish. The value of their boats is reflected in their prices in the brokerage market. That value is due to their comfortable quarters, adequate sailing ability, and the effort the builder takes to make maintenance as straightforward as possible. The IP 380 delivers.

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This review/article originally appeared in Cruising World Magazine, March 1989. For more great sailboat reviews, visit their website at: www.cruisingworld.com