Pearson 30

By Jack Hornor

Revised by BoatUS editors in October 2012

Principal Dimensions & Specifications
Measurements should be considered approximate and the manufacturer's specifications may be relied upon. Bow & stern appendages are generally excluded.
Length Overall29’ 9 1/2"
Waterline Length25’ 0"
Maximum Beam9’ 6"
Maximum Draft5’ 0"
Displacement/Weight8,320 lbs
Sail Area 100%
Fore triangle
444 Sq ft.

If you’re looking for a boat to scoot around in on Saturdays, fun family racing, or just to find a good gunkhole for a quiet family outing, the Pearson 30 may be your boat. It seems clear this is what Pearson had in mind—a little family cruising boat or day sailing in a boat that could accommodate 4 comfortably—and beat the pants off the competition from time to time.

Pearson Yachts introduced the Pearson 30 in 1971 and ended production in 1981. In that period of time more than a 1000 boats were produced with more than 400 of them being built in the peak production years of 1973 and 1974. Hundreds of Pearson 30 still sail the Chesapeake, often by original owners, and many can be found for sale at very reasonable prices.

The hull of the Pearson 30 is constructed of hand-laid fiberglass material and polyester resin, reportedly, with an average thickness of .29" below the waterline and .21" to the deck edge. Decks are a balsa-fiberglass sandwich and are typically found to be delaminated and water soaked in the vicinity of the chain plate penetrations. Ballast is 3,500 lbs. of lead molded into an integral keel. As with any fin keel type vessel, attention should be paid to the area of the keel/hull intersection to insure there is no damage from significant grounding.

The hull-to-deck joint on the P30 is an external flange with the two components glassed together and then mechanically fastened with stainless steel, sheet metal screws. This is a method of construction that is particularly prone to damage from impact with piers and pilings and should be carefully inspected. Generally the Pearson 30 is constructed to good boat building standards and holds up well when properly cared for. The only consistently reoccurring problem noted with a majority of Pearson 30's is sloppy rudders that results from Pearson's use of Delrin bushings in a fiberglass rudder post tube. Worn bushings are easily replaced without considerable expense. Through about hull number 200, Pearson used an aluminum rudder post that was prone to failure. These boats were recalled by Pearson and retrofitted with rudders with stainless steel post. It is unlikely there are boats with aluminum rudder post but its a good idea to check if the hull number is below 200.

The Pearson 30 was an attempt to meld the attributes of racing boats with those of family cruisers—sort of like rigging a mini-van to race at Indy. This is not the easiest task but Pearson was a pioneer in the racer/cruiser concept and racing boat design theory of her day can be seen in the raked, fin keel, spade rudder, her narrow beam and angular hull form.

The mast is deck stepped with an oak compression post in the cabin. The compression post is glassed into the keel. The mast is aluminum and her rig is single spreader masthead with double lower shrouds. This was quite standard for a sloop of her size and age.

The cockpit of the Pearson 30 is comfortable for 4 adults who are close friends. The tiller steering is likely to make them even closer friends and there isn’t enough room for a good conversion to wheel steering.

In Pearson’s effort to make her speedy, they did not neglect the interior accommodations. Headroom is about 5’10", she is easy to move about in, and the fiberglass cabin liner makes her easy to keep clean. Opening ports make ventilation easier and provide ample light. The forward hatch should not be counted on for much more than ventilation—a bit tiny. There is plenty of storage in lockers arranged all about the cabin. The head is small but functional. The galley is adequate with a self-contained alcohol stove.

Originally, the Pearson 30 was equipped with the revered Atomic Four gasoline engine. Later models were propelled by a Universal, 2-cylinder diesel. Both power systems are adequate though the Atomic Four in older boats may be nearing the end of a useful life cycle.

Older Pearson 30's were fitted with gate valves on some through hull fittings. These are prone to failure and frowned upon by insurance underwriters. Any gate valves should be replaced with seacocks with good backing plates. Another bone of contention is Pearson's use of fiberglass tubes, integral with the hull, to form their cockpit drains. No shut off device of any kind is provided. This is not in compliance with American Boat and Yacht Council standards which recommend seacock shut off devices on all through hull openings below the inclined waterline. Some insurance companies will insist on this modification and it is not an easy or inexpensive fit.

If you’re looking for a good used family cruiser that can still be competitive and fun to race from time to time—look at the Pearson 30. There are plenty of them out there, many are in good shape, and the price can be right. Go find one and enjoy.

Naval architect Jack Hornor was the principal surveyor and designer for Marine Survey & Design, Co., based in Annapolis, MD. He was on the boards 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 sailed their Catalina 42, Legacy, based on Maryland's Eastern Shore.

Return To Boat Reviews