Got Design Questions?

Martin King

Sustaining Member
Blogs Author

Ever wonder why the waterlines forward in the 38 are hollow?
Or why only 70 or so 31's were ever built?
I'm doing research on the history of Ericson and will be interviewing my
father about his 30 year relationship with that company. If you have
Ericson specific design questions, post them here, and I will do my
best to get the answers.



Member III

(1) Why no substantial mid cleats, we keep in a slip and worry that someday we may pull our small track mounted cleats off using as springs?

(2) Why the off-set mast sole plate over the grid, seems rather weak here?

(3) I have a stb water tank mid ships and a forward water tank under the v-berth. Filling the stb tank gives the boat a noticeable list and the forward tank drives the bow down. What was the original thought here regarding this balance? On the same thought, we have been hesitant on adding much anchor chain beyond 15 feet due to excessive bow weight.

(4) Why no anchor chain deck protection from the anchor roller to the locker?

(5) Any thoughts on the best all around head sail size for the 35-3?

(6) Drains under both iceboxes are rather impossible to repair with out substantial boat surgery.

(7) Did Mr. King design all of the boat including the interior, or was he limited to the hull shape and sail plan?

We love our boat, the above are curiosities, any ills are far out weighted by the pure grace and superior performance of this boat.

E35-3 #159 1984
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Frank Langer

1984 Ericson 30+, Nanaimo, BC

Questions to pose to Mr. King:

1) Why were some of the Ericsons designed as masthead rigs, and others like the E30+ designed as fractional rigs? What governs that decision?

2) Why is there so little storage space on the E30+ compared to other boats?

3) In retrospect, what major design feature would Mr. King re-do if he were designing these boats today?

4) What led to development of the delta keel, which was quite different from others at that time?

5) What modifications would Mr. King suggest as being highest priority on each of the E models now?

6) The TAFG (sp?) makes it difficult to access wiring, plumbing and other aspects in the hull. Any suggestions to remedy this? Would he design this the same way now?

I'll be very interested in the results of your interview.



Innocent Bystander
I imagine it will be difficult for laypeople to be able to distinguish decisions that your dad made in boat design from decisions the builder made in executing the design, but here's an attempt at a few questions the designer might be able to address:

* How did the Ericson cove stripe come to be agreed upon?
* What was the best idea the builder had for boats in the Ericson line that was not the designer's?
* What was the best idea the designer had that never made it into production?

NEW ADD: what happened to the Ericson 50 or 51 design, which was mentioned in some of the early marketing material but that never got built?
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I'd love to know more about the construction process of our hulls that were layed up in two sections, and if there are any issues to keep an eye on.

Thoughts about deck stepped versus keel stepped designs and intended boat use- were we deck stepped on the I31 as part of an offshore orientation so we could loose the rig and not have a hole in our cabin?

Also, I am looking (without success) for anyone who seems to have any input on tuning the cutter rig on the I31

How much did the bean counters alter the original designs?

Thoughts on long term service of fiberglass hull contruction as done in the Ericsons

His three favorite designs that Ericson built.

Thanks for the chance to throw some questions out on the table.


Martin King

Sustaining Member
Blogs Author
One thing I should mention is that Ericson had their own engineering
department. Things like water tanks, mast sole plates, cleats, sails, plumbing,
electrical, running rigging, were all handled in house by Ericson.
My dad was primarily responsible for hull lines, deck, accomodations, rig, etc.
So please, if it's hard to access (insert name of boat part here), or missing
(insert name of widget here), welcome to the world of small production
boats. They are full of compromises, not perfect, and never will be. That
said, I will do my best to get your Design related questions


Member III

Thanks for this opportunity! I have a 1988 E26 that I think the Practical Sailor quotation of "A maximum boat for a minimum length" definitly applies to. (From a review of the E25+)

1) On the face of it, there are lots of similarities between the E25, E25+, E26, and E27. How does a designer find ways of adding differentiatable functions/features when working in one foot increments?

2) The E26's appear to have had more model changes (I through IV) than any of the other Ericsons. What was the reason for this?

3) The original E26 was of Crealock design. What did he keep and what did he improve upon of the original boat?

4) In his opinion, did Ericson's Mexican production boats have any substantial quality differences from the California boats?

Thanks again,



Member III
First question, this may be production rather than design although he probably knows the answer. Was the Ericson 30-1 first laid up in two separate sections, or was it laid up in one piece?

Second question, and this is definitely design, can he comment on the evolution of the keel and rudder designs? Specifically, I note several different phases:

1. First phase, Ericson 30-1 (and Islander 37) the keel was shaped like a parallelogram with forward and aft edges raked and parallel, bottom line parallel to the water. Rudder somewhat large and rectangular with bottom edge parallel to water and positioned almost as deep as the bottom of the keel.

2. Second phase, 1970s Ericsons (29, 32-2, 35-2) keel more trapezoidal with forward edge still raked but aft edge more perpendicular to water. Keel not as long as Ericson 30-1. Rudder also somewhat trapezoidal and positioned much higher in the water, probably smaller than the Ericson 30-1 rudder.

3. Third phase, 1980 Ericsons, and in particular 34 and 38, keel still trapezoidal but aft edge now has a foward rake so that the keel in general resembles a Lapworth design although deeper and much shorter. Rudder positioned much deeper in the water than 1970s Ericsons almost as low as bottom edge of keel.

Can he comment on this evolution, assuming he agrees with my characterization of the broad groupings? What sailing characteristics were intended for each phase? Why were the changes made? Did the changes result in any unforeseen sailing characteristics?

Thanks Martin. Really looking forward to seeing an Ericson history.


Sustaining Partner
I think it would be nice to know which ericson models were original designs and which were expanded or shrunken versions of another design. I have heard that Ericson did this.

BTW, how was the rendezvous? We could not make it and have not been able to since '06 when we met you and your family. My wife, Kathy, bent your dad's ear pretty good that evening.

Lucky Dog

Member III
Art, science or cost

The ercisons are beautiful boats, I suspect that talent = art, science and cost are all responsible for the designs.

adding to;

What was the best idea the designer had that never made it into production?

Was there competition with the other designers for working with companies, or a gentleman's agreement that designs would not 'butt' in?

The 70's saw the first influence of test tanks for yachts. Britton Chance design for the America's Cup (the test tank company really) derailed the science for another of years. Did your father rely on his own wisdom and made small changes, were the changes due to marketing, corporate pressure.....? Did Mr. King get together with his peer and exchange ideas?

If a high school student wanted to follow in his steps, what would he suggest, schools, apprenticeships, .....?

Does he feel that todays designers rely more on science, art or marketing?

We all thanks him for him talents and putting so many smiles on so many of us as the wind catches the sails and dreams spring to life as the bow wave curls.


Guy Stevens

Interior design


I have been offshore on a lot of boats...

However I would give most of the interiors I have been offshore in failing marks. They simply don't work for passage making.

However the E-39 and the e-46 are beyond wonderful when you are out there sailing. Things are easy to get to, the galley is easy to cook out of, and there is a myrad of places to stow things. A lot of previous owners have tried to modify the boats, and every single one that I have been on that has "significant" modifications is a complete failure when actually using the boat instead of having a dock condo.

The only thing wrong in the e-39 and the e-46 are the table arrangement originally, and that is not a major fix, there are several options that fix that. Other than that it is amazing how easy these boats are to live on off shore.

Things are in the right place, things work as they are intended. It is really amazing..

So having drawn up several interiors myself, and even constructed them here and there out of various full size mock ups, I have to say that Bruce King is the best interior designer that I have ever been on a boat designed by. I have drawn heavy on his designs when advising clients on how to try and fix other designers interior mistakes.

How does he do it, what are the things that he thought of, thinks of, when he does an interior design. Even the little Ericsons designed by him have great interiors. Easy to move around in, yet incredibly safe in a seaway.

Basically I would like to know what makes his design of an interior so much better than other designers, which I will allow to be nameless. Can he put into words what goes on in his head?

His hull designs are art, and are wonderful for the time that each of them were designed. That part I can see the art in.

With time and again great interiors that fit normal people well, I have to wonder what design considerations other than art go into them.


Junior Member
Bow Weight and Jib

I would like to expand upon something mentioned by Steve in post #2. In all the years I have been racing my 1983 E38, I have found that fore & aft weight distribution and jib selection & trim are the most critical design-induced challenges I face with this boat.

Regarding the fore & aft weight distribution, the forward water tank has the most significant effect. If it is any more than 1/4 full, the boat will teeter-totter in even the smallest waves, slowing the boat down considerably on any point of sail. Similarly, most races require we carry an anchor chain greater than or equal to our LOA. If we carry 40' of chain in the forward fo'csle, we get the same teeter-tottering effect; therefore, we have to secure our anchor, chain and rode in the cabin during races. I must also clear the aft locker of all but the lightest gear (usually, only life jackets are stored there). While I agree with Steve that a full starboard water tank will lead to a noticeable lean to the right, I have not been able to detect a measurable performance effect whether full or empty, even on port tack. Interestingly, while all the riggers and other sailing professionals have told me that I need to strip the boat and make it as light as possible (within the rules, of course), I have not been able to quantify a difference between the lightest possible configuration, to one where the boat is packed with heavy gear, as long as the heavy stuff is secured below decks and away from the fore and aft ends.

Performance-wise, then, I would like to know if Mr. King agrees with me that the fore & aft weight distribution is one of the primary "cons" of the hull design and if he can answer why the engineering team would put the forward water tank in that position knowing its potential effect on sailing performance.

Without getting into a long explanation of my second point regarding headsails, I'll simply mention that for peak performance, I find that we need to change headsails constantly through very narrow shifts in wind speed and relative direction, while other boats I have sailed on and against can fly their headsails through far broader weather windows. This has been a great disadvantage for me in shorthanded races, where I have to change headsails (or lead positions) every, say, +/- 5 mph, while the B25 I'm racing against can use the same headsail +/- 20 mph. Since my E38 did not even come with forward lead tracks for flying a #3 (perhaps it was an option, but I had to install them myself), it seems to me the boat was designed for a single, mid-sized, all-weather jib, like a yankee-cut 135%.

I would love to know from Mr. King more about the marriage between rig and hull design. Did the shape of the hull begat the rig or vice versa? Given what we now know about how the boat performs, together with advances in sail construction and equipment, is it possible that another rig configuration would improve the performance on this hull?


Alan Cheeks
Trojan Conquest
1983 E38
Redondo Beach, CA


Member II

Thanks for this opportunity, I know I would like to read a collected history about the Ericson designs.

My question:
Our regional PHRF has two Ericson 29s listed in the "standard" boat database.

One has a ballast of 3300 lbs and a displacement of 7300 lbs.
The other has a ballast of 3900 and a displacement of 8900 lbs.

Both have the same standard rig dimensions. Were there two designs, if so is there a hull number break or a way to tell?


Rob Hessenius

Inactive Member
I was wondering what Mr. King thought of Ericson building a couple of boats designed by Ron Holland after many years and successful boats designed by your father? Was that a snub to him? I also am very interested in your book about your Dad and it will be very interesting to read his thoughts of his association with Ericson Yachts.
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Martin King

Sustaining Member
Blogs Author
I was wondering what Mr. King thought of Ericson building a couple of boats designed by Ron Holland after many years and successful boats designed by your father?

I remember at the time he was not happy about it, to say the least. Can't
really blame him, he was there from the beginning and his work to that
date had really put the company on the map. It will be interesting
to get his take on it now, with some 30 years of hindsight.


Member III

I'd like to hear Bruce's thoughts on several of this group's members modifications to his original design. There have been several modifications I've followed, ie, filling keel cavities, scupper drainage rerouting, Foss rudder mods, to name a few. The one that applies to me personally are the chainplate modifications I've made by going outboard. I contacted him early on in my process, and his response was don't alter them. I didn't follow his advice, not out of any disrespect to him, but more because the evidence of failure of glassed in plates was compelling, and I felt mine were destined for that same fate. Replacing them with the same design, and glassing them back in just seemed to be asking for the same problem down the line IMHO, and there was not any real alternative other than going outboard (short of ripping the decks/raceways up). I know he probably deals with everybody and their brother/sister asking his advice on these matters, and understand the safest answer, without knowing the capabilities of the owner, is to not muck with the design. But I believe some aspects do warrant modification based on real problems experienced by owners; I would be very interested in knowing his opinion on the best approach to the typical modifications owners are making. I've named a few of those mods. I'm sure there are more.

I submit this, with all due respect... (I followed Bruce's work since picking up an issue of Wooden Boat featuring 'Chanty', a cold-molded wishbone ketch of his design built by Zimmerman Marine in the mid-90's - beautiful!)
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Martin King

Sustaining Member
Blogs Author
(I followed Bruce's work since picking up an issue of Wooden Boat featuring 'Chanty', a cold-molded wishbone ketch of his design built by Zimmerman Marine in the mid-90's - beautiful!)

A photo of Chanty is my desktop wallpaper. She is incredibly beautiful,
as are most of his custom designs, and one of my faves.

Regarding your external chainplates, I won't speak for my dad, but
I can tell you that you might not like his answer. No Ericson that
I know of has them amidships, and certainly not any of his custom designs.

You must understand that he had built his first sailboat by himself
on his mom's driveway by the time he was 18. His last sailboat
commission at 154 feet, was the largest sailboat built in the USA
at the time of her construction. You might say he knows a thing
or two about boat building. If he specified glassed in chainplates,
then that's what it should be. Period, end of story.
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King questions

I bought a project Ericson and am still making repairs, so I've not yet sailed the 39 I purchased a few summers ago and I'm already enchanted by the boat's great lines, spacious interior layout, sailing capability, etc. It's interesting to me that this flush deck design (above the waterline) could still pass for contemporary. The raised cabin crowd may disagree however, I think this is a great looking boat. I wonder how many custom designs your father may have created whose origins began in the 39 or 46?

I admit that I know very little about his art so the following questions come from a curious spectator and not a professional critic by any means:

1) Forward Steel Floor: I have what appear to be the original bulkheads at the forward end of the salon area. The steel floor there was never bolted to the port side bulkhead (no holes ever bored in bulkhead) and the steel floor also stopped short of the starboard bulkhead. Is the cored hull stiff enough to take the loads imposed here without the steel floor?

Or is the area too stiff? The boat Maverick appeared to have a cored hull which fractured right in front of the steel floor. It looks like the forward end of the lead keel and the steel floor are in the same area, could this cause a hard spot? If so, what can or should be done to counteract this?

2) Galley bulkhead chainplates: What is the purpose of the chainplates that tie the bulkheads to the deck just forward of the galley? Is it to counter uplift from the inner headsail track loads or maybe the traveller?

3) Rudder tube: Would it be a good idea to reinforce the rudder tube on the 39?

Thanks for the opportunity!


Member III
More on glassed in chainplates

The glassed in models were the 30-1, 41, 29, and the earlier non-King boats? They started bolting chainplates to bulkheads beginning with the 32-2? What was the rationale for glassing in chainplates and why the change?

I always assumed the chainplates were glassed in because, in the first place place, it was a bulletproof way to secure the tangs. And, in the second place, because Ericson figured the chainplates would last as long as the functional life of the boat anyway, that getting them out to inspect would be unnecessary. Is any of this true?

Assuming this was discusssed, what did boatbuilers believe the functional lives of these boats to be back in the 1960s and 70s? I remember hearing a boat dealer tell my dad, back in 1961, that a fiberglass hull would last about 20 years. Is this what the engineers were thinking, or was this guy just making up numbers?


Junior Member
Ericson 30

I have an Ericson 30 (hull 123) and was wondering what the makeup or composition is of the beam in the cabin top under the mast step. Mine has flexed some and I am considering installing a support post.