Marshall 18 SanderlingBy Jack Hornor
Revised by BoatUS editors in October 2012
As unusual as it may sound, there are very good, competitive sailors who have no interest in fiddling with a bunch of sheets, guys, halyards, outhauls, downhauls, cunninghams, barber-haulers, etc. in order to coax the best performance out of their boats. For these sailors, catboats offer one of the simplest of all sailing rigs to manage. And, while catboats may have some shortcomings, the advantages of this simple rig, shallow draft and high initial stability have kept these designs popular among a loyal group of sailors.
One of the more popular catboats, the Sanderling was first designed and built in 1962 by Breck Marshall who loosely based his design on a 1941 Pop Arnold design. Marshall&s design utilized a relatively lightweight aluminum mast, rather than solid wood, allowing him to make the bow sections considerably finer than those of Arnold's design. The tumblehome bow of the traditional Cape Cod Catboat was replaced by a plumb bow. The result was a boat that was able to sail faster and closer to the wind than earlier catboat designs. After more than 40 years in production, and 800+ boats, the Sanderling is not only a popular used model, but new boats are still available from Marshall Marine of South Dartmouth, MA. The Sanderling hull measures 18' 2"length overall, beam is 8' 6" and draft, with the centerboard up, is only 19'. With the centerboard down, draft increases to 4' 4 " and displacement is 2,200 lbs.
In another break from tradition, Marshall built his Sanderling of fiberglass rather than wood allowing for even more weight savings. Marshall's hulls are constructed of a solid lay-up of alternating layers of fiberglass mat and cloth set in polyester resin. The decks and cabin are likewise solid fiberglass. Battens glassed into the decks and cabin for stiffeners were originally wood but have been replaced with foam on newer models. The hull and deck is joined at an overlapping flange with sealant and bolts on 12-inch centers. The cockpit sole, seats and bulkheads are plywood secured with fiberglass cloth and resin. The Sanderling hulls are solidly constructed and even those 40 years old seldom show any signs of structural failures. It is not uncommon to find age-related maintenance repairs necessary, the most common of which is a need for renewal of finishes. Plywood bulkheads, seating and soles should be closely examined to ensure they remain in sound condition.
Beginning with the 2002 model year, Marshall began offering an open cockpit "Day Boat" version of the Sanderling but until that time all Sanderlings featured a small cuddy cabin, a deep comfortable cockpit, high cockpit combings, a small foredeck and narrow side decks. Deck hardware and fixed cabin ports are bronze and there are teak louvered doors leading to the cuddy cabin. The centerboard trunk separates the forward end of the cockpit, and inboard models have a raised motor box which further obstructs the cockpit. This obstruction alone is enough to lead me to prefer the outboard to the inboard version.
The cuddy cabin features a V-berth arrangement with cushions as standard equipment and a number of options to make things a little more comfortable down below. Popular options included a drop leaf table which folds down along each side of the centerboard trunk, shelves above the berths and a self-contained head aft of the port berth. There is no sink or galley facilities although I have seen owner-installed, single burner, swing stoves on some boats.
The Sanderling is not sold with standard auxiliary power although Marshall offers an optional inboard diesel or transom-mounted bracket for mounting an outboard motor. According to Marshall&s current owner John Garfield, at the owner's request, they have also built several boats with inboard DC electric motors. Although Garfield likes the electric motor idea, he admits that it is not a practical or cost effective solution for most owners. The initial cost of an inboard diesel engine (currently a $10,600 option) is at least five times the cost of a suitable outboard motor.
When comparing the sailing performance of this type of boat it seems only fair to compare the performance similar boats. When it comes to gaff-rigged catboats the Sanderling is among the fastest and most weatherly of this genre. She is typically the scratch boat in handicapped catboat races and there are a number of one design fleets for those who prefer head-to-head competition. The sail area to displacement ratio is a healthy 23.9, and although this may sound high for a 40+-year-old design, it is actually fairly typical of gaff-rigged catboats of this size. Light air performance is very good particularly reaching and running and boat speeds that approach the true wind speed are not unusual in these conditions. Typical of catboats, jibing the Sanderling can be a white-knuckle experience, particularly in heavy air.
With more than 800 boats built, finding a used Sanderling shouldn't be difficult. Prices vary widely depending on age, condition and auxiliary power, although they are among the highest found for boats of this size. Marshall’s price for a new, normally equipped Sanderling, without inboard engine or trailer, is over $38,900 (2011). While these are expensive boats they offer considerably more room that even a modern beamy sloop of this size. They are great fun to sail and perfectly suited for cruising out-of-the-way places and the shoal waters of the Barnegat Bay.
Naval architect Jack Hornor is the principal surveyor and designer for Marine Survey & Design, Co., based in Annapolis, MD. He is on the board of directors of the American Boat and Yacht Council, the National Association of Marine Surveyors, and the Society of Boat and Yacht Designers. He and his wife sail their 42-foot Catalina, Legacy, based on Maryland's Eastern Shore.