Bayfield 32

Bayfield32250By Paul Howard

In the early 1970s, most boat builders were developing fin-keeled racer/cruiser lines of production sailboats. Bayfield Boat Yard, in southeastern Lake Huron, bucked this trend by producing a line of long-keeled cruising boats.

The distinctive shape of the Bayfield range of models designed by Ted Gozzard (with the exception of the Bayfiedl 36) was the clipper bow, wood trail boards with scroll works and, on some designs, additional wood trim and wood taff rails to give a traditional appearance.

Gozzard says he was influenced by the designs of L. Francis Herreshoff, the famed turn-of-the-century east coast U.S. boat builder. Gozzard claims to own all books written by or about Herreshoff. Though Herreshoff often used the clipper bow, it was not displayed on his designs of this length.

Gozzard readily admits his vessels have more freeboard and interior volume than any of Herreschoff’s equivalent-sized designs, but says he felt those modifications were important for success in the boat market.

I recall boat buyers in the ’70s telling me they bought a Bayfield because of their traditional appearance and “at least they have a few pieces of wood on their exterior.”

Ted Gozzard and partners developed the Bayfield 25 as the first of the Bayfield range of models. It had standing headroom, an inboard diesel engine and less than three feet of draught.

In 1973, the Bayfield 30 (as the 32 was originally known) was launched and about 300 more followed that first 30 down the ways.

“She was really a 30-foot boat,” said Gozzard. “But, after we exported a few to the U.S., the dealers there wanted to call her a 32-footer, measuring the overall length to include the clipper bow and the trail boards under the bowsprit.”

Bayfield experimented with this boat in many ways, though its basic dimensions stayed the same. With an overall beam of 10ft 6 in. and a 3ft 9in. draught, she was described as a commodious cruising boat with shoal draught by some and fat and shallow by others.

The first 30 or so were powered by a Sperry-Vickers hydraulic drive, claimed to be the first production boat in North America with a hydraulic drive unit. Gozzard says mechanics used to maladjust the 60 hp rated hydraulic units, and they would fail. Gozzard says he has provided many parts for these hydraulic systems free of charge and still has a few pumps and spare pieces at his present company, H.T. Gozzard and Associates in Goderich, Ont.

Other engine installations ranged from Mercedes diesels to single, and twin cylinder Yanmars with conventional shaft and propeller.

Ports and hatches were shifted about and sizes and styles changed, and hardware was modified as the builders saw fit. Most 32s were outfitted with teak trim on the interior, though two were fitted out with all black walnut interiors.

There were at least three different standard mast heights. I have seen published sail areas ranging from 525 sq ft to 662 sq ft for the cutter rig. Two boats were built as ketches with the standard cutter rig moved forward and the bowsprit lengthened. The Bayfield 25 mast was then mounted in the cockpit, with a stainless steel tube acting as the stay between the masts.

The tallest of the cutter rigs were built about 1983/84, inspired by a challenge issued to Don Heart, then the factory manager. A Douglas 32 owner wanted to race, and Gozzard wouldn’t have his boat beaten. He pushed the mast height up an additional seven feet beyond the standard rig to enlarge the sail area.

“She sailed beautifully in the light Lake Ontario air with that tall rig,” said Gozzard. “The Douglas 32 was easily beaten, so we built another four boats with the tall rig.”

Later, an owner of one of the tall-rigged 32s got a fright in a thunderstorm, caught with full sail up in a heavy gust.

Gozzard admitted that the tall rig was “the outer edge of the envelope of recommended sail area for a boat of this type.” The mast height was cut back three feet. Bob Lush sailed Freedom Joe, a Bayfield 32, in 1976 Observer Single-handed Trans-Atlantic Race (OSTAR). The race was sailed from Plymouth, England, to Newport, Rhode Island, by whatever course the skipper chose. Freedom Joe was ketchrigged, built in 1975 for Bob MacCorkindale.

MacCorkindale had planned to sail the race himself. Lush had hoped to get an appropriately racy boat to be competitive. MacCorkindale decided not to sail the race and Lush couldn’t get another boat. Lush sailed Freedom Joe to England single-handed for his qualifying sail, sailing from Miami, Fla., to Plymouth, non-stop a distance of 4,400 miles, sailed in 33 days.

“The trip over was great,” says Lush, “the boat really sparkled in the off-the-wind sailing conditions. I averaged more than 1,000 miles per week for three consecutive weeks, sailing 3,200 miles during the three-week trade wind segment.” The boat was comfortable, had good carrying capacity and performed beyond my expectations in the downwind conditions.”

My wife, Fiona, and I met Bob in Plymouth before the start of the race and went aboard Freedom Joe. Her outfitting and equipment was basic, with a less than-full cruising interior, but was not substantively different from the stock Bayfield 32s one sees around the Great Lakes.

Bob decided to sail the northern route back across the Atlantic during the race – a hard drive to windward. After many days of rough on-the-wind work the teak backing block for the bobstay fitting for the extended ketch rig bowsprit began to crush. The forestay sagged and seawater began spurting through the loosened bolt holes.

“The Bayfield 32 was the wrong boat to try to race to windward in North Atlantic conditions,” says Lush. “I had to bear away and sail southerly, off-the-wind route to Newport adding many miles.”

Bayfield Boats underwent changes in management and partnerships, with Ted Gozzard leaving the group in 1984 to establish his own company. Bayfield Boats continued to build the 32 until it closed operations in 1988.

Tom Sutherland of Neptune Marine in Whitby, Ont., a long-time dealer for the Bayfield line, brought together a group of investors to purchase the molds and to build the full range of models. Though they advertised the 32, and built a few other boats, they never built a 32. Neptune Marine has been dissolved, but the molds are still on the premises, now controlled by Sea Island Marine Services.

I have sailed on several Bayfield 32s over the years, and have found them to be well-managed cruising boats. The early standard rig is short, and many owners purchase a 180 per cent light genoa to improve light-air performance.

In heavy winds, one can sail with double reefed main and staysail. I recall sailing on Georgian Bay with the shortened rig in winds of 30 knots, making six knots on a reach, with little fuss and no water coming onboard.

Windward performance is not a strong point of this boat, given the long and shallow keel and blunt bow. Sailing her fast and free (keep her moving at a generous angle to the wind) will get her to your destination.

Interiors are spacious and comfortable, though many owners have made modifications, such as changing to a smaller, less restricting dinette table.

I saw one 32 with a semi-enclosed pilot house added on in conjunction with a complete refit nicely carried out by Gozzard’s present company. Most 32s sport dodgers and spray cloths, awnings and barbecues and all manner of cruising accessories, which look appropriate on the boat.

Many Bayfield 32s have made the trip down the Intracostal Waterway to the Caribbean and back, and a few have made ocean crossings, though they are best known for comfortable summers afloat on the Great Lakes. The Bayfield 32 is a pure cruising boat, one that has held up well over the years.

Originally published in Canadian Yachting’s December 1992 issue.


LOA 32 ft.

LWL 23 ft. 3in.

BEAM 10 ft. 6in.

Draft 3 ft. 9 in.

Displacement 9600 lbs.

Sail Area 662 sq ft sq. ft.

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