In Brief

Bristol Channel Cutter 28 Line Sketch With all the nostalgia of yesteryear the Bristol Channel Cutter 28, introduced in 1975, represents a pinnacle of ruggedness and practicality while retaining respectable performance. Few boats can take the abuse of extended voyaging as well as the Bristol Channel Cutter and I guess it’s become something of a Lyle Hess masterpiece.

Late designer Lyle Hess achieved somewhat of a cult following among a select group of small boat adventurers. In particular his designs were popularized by Lin and Larry Pardey and their series of cruising books. Hess is probably best known for Lin and Larry’s 24 foot Seraffyn and their subsequent 29 foot Teleisin. And really when you dig a little deeper, you’ll find the Bristol Channel Cutter was created in answer to sailors wanting a “Pardey” yacht.

Bad puns aside, among the endearing features for the long distance sailor are huge stowage, a sensible layout and a proven track record. Besides Serrafyn and Teleisin’s well known 40,000 mile circumnavigation and five passages of the potentially treacherous Tasman Sea, a Bristol Channel Cutter was first in the Newport to Ensenada Race of 1978, and first in class in 1979. And in the 1980-1990s Roger Olson sailed his Bristol Channel Cutter Xiphias 50,000 miles over a thirteen year two-ocean odyssey.

Upon first glance the sheer size of the bowsprit is noticeable, together with a bumpkin, the boat can carry an immense amount of canvas for her displacement. A peek under her waterline reveals lines that look conservative and traditional. There’s the familiar wineglass section profiles and a full keel that’s missing the popular forefoot cutaway that many designers employ to improve nimbleness and reduce drag. Yet on closer inspection performance tweaks can be found. A fine bow entry coupled with maximum beam quite far aft is good for close windedness and flat sections with minimal deadrise aft aid righting efforts when heeled over under sail.

Bristol Channel Cutter 28 Interior Layout The Bristol Channel Cutter’s layout has been thoughtfully designed to the minute details, we hear even the smallest of owner modifications will have ramifications elsewhere. Fitting for this kind of sailboat, don’t expect staterooms designed for time on anchor – all berths are seagoing. There’s four of them – two settees, a pilot berth, and the all important quarter berth. Stowage is abundant and everywhere. In short a long distance voyager’s dream.


So the story goes, a friend of Lyle Hess asked for a small traditional boat that would cross oceans. To that commission, Hess presented his interpretation of the pilot boat designs which had proven themselves in the 19th century. These workboats were heavy in displacement, long in waterline with wineglass sections and hard bilges. Their rigs carried lots of canvas, they’d lug a lot of cargo, and could sail fast on all points of sail.

Hess’ initial design was a 28 footer, which then was scaled down to a gaff-rigged 24 foot design to mitigate his friend’s concern over construction cost. This boat became Renegade of Newport, launched in 1950. By the 1960s the Renegade caught the interest of Larry Pardey. Upon request Hess drew up plans for a marconi-rigged version for carvel wood construction. This boat became Seraffyn which launched in 1968.

Through the magic of books and articles written by the Pardeys, an interest in small boat voyaging emerged with the famous Pardey tagline “go small, go simple, go now”. It drew attention to Hess’ work and Hess answered this interest by designing the 28 foot Bristol Channel Cutter, for construction in fiberglass by the Sam L. Morse Company. The Bristol Channel Cutter 28 launched in 1975.

In 1992, before a recession, Morse sold the company he founded to a Hess fan named George Hylkema, who hired Roger Olson, fresh from his 50,000 mile world cruise onboard Xyphias brimming with ideas to improve the boat. Olson bought the business in 1995 before selling the company only three years later in December 1998 to the fourth and final owner, Sumio Oya.

By 2007, Sam L. Morse Company was struggling to be viable. Its classic boats were in less demand and profits tended to be found in building much larger vessels. New mass production technologies from other manufacturers made it harder to compete. After the completion of its 126th hull, Cape George Marine Works was given the molds along with the right to build both the Bristol Channel Cutter and the Falmouth Cutter 22. For Sumio Oya, it was important to protect the quality and reputation of the boat so upon selecting Cape George to carry on the name, the deal involved no money apart from the cost of relocating the molds which was paid by Cape George. Before closing, Sam L. Morse Company did consider the opportunity to build a larger Hess boat but in the end there was not enough capital to launch the project.

The company continued operation through to August 2008 helping Cape George build two more Bristol Channel Cutters before finally shutting down, leaving Cape George to carry on availability. Since then Cape George rolled out an additional hull in January 2011.

Beyond the 129 American boats it is estimated between 30-45 hulls were built in a Canadian yard called Channel Cutter Yachts located in Vancouver, BC. These were bootleg versions for which no design royalties were paid. From what we hear the Canadian boats were also built to a very high standard.


LOA: 37′ 9″
LOD: 28′ 1″
LWL: 26′ 3″
Beam: 10′ 1″
Draft: 4′ 10″
Displacement: 14,000 lbs.
Ballast: 4,600 lbs. (lead)
Sail Area: 673 sq. ft.

Headroom: 6′ 1″ (Optional 6′ 6″)
Fuel: 32 US Gal.
Water: 64 US Gal.
Holding: 15 US Gal.
Engine: 27 hp Yanmar 3 cyl.

Designer: Lyle C. Hess
Builder: Sam L. Morse / Cape George Cutter Marine Works / Channel Cutter Yachts
Year Introduced: 1975
Total Built: 129 (US) / 30-45 (Canada)

Also Known As: BCC28, Bristol Channel Cutter

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Links, References and Further Reading

» Bristol Channel Cutter / Falmouth Cutter Owners website, information, images and discussions.
» Lyle Hess: A Profile by Chuck Malseed, a historic look at his work, Cruising World Magazine Feb, 1977.
» The Bristol Channel Cutter 28 on the official Cape George Marine Works website.
» Bristol Channel Cutter Review by Jack Horner,
» Bristol Channel Cutter Review,, Aug 2000
» A vintage video tribute to the Bristol Channel Cutter including construction details.


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16 thoughts on “Bristol Channel Cutter 28”

  1. bobahabbob says:

    A stable boat, a BCC handled a southbound rogue in the gulfstream. It was hard to judge the height as it came from the north with the moon tracking to the south, all you could make out was the whitewater crest. After it passed, judging from the height differential on the backside looking south, 35 feet seems about right. Pointed just below 45 degrees to keep up speed before the hit, helmed hard over into the crest above 45 degrees, decks full awash save for the lifelines, she settled well and kept going. No mast whip, the keel kept her stable. To this day, the owner doesn’t know. Had her up over 8 knots on NW blow on a leeshore, calm water, she skated across like she was meant for a good howl. No reef. Just let her go to see what she could handle. No torsion/tension tweeks, no groans, no slacking in the stays. I would not push that kind of thing but the design handled like a much larger, much heavier boat. In the land of coastal cruising designs, it was nice to see an all-round rig.

  2. Davi nunes nogueira says:

    Gostaria de saber se ha destes BCC28, aqui no brasil .

  3. andrew says:

    This is vintage video on YouTube that shows the construction of a BCC.

    1. W. L. says:

      Thanks Andrew, I’ve added this link to the article.

  4. Helen & Col says:

    Hi Roger,

    Do you remember Helen & Col
    We have been trying to find you for zonks

    Best Regards

    Helen & Col Dounan

  5. r cozad says:

    I own “Annie” Sam Morse BCC # 50. She will be comming up for sale in the near future. If interested

  6. W. L. says:

    Notes from Sumio Oya (grammatically edited) describing the reason why her closed down Sam L. Morse Co. and gave away the molds:

    Hi Will,

    I forgot to write to you why I gave all of the assets to Cape George.

    When I decided to close the company, I first asked all of my shipwrights if closing down would cause them any problems. At the time I had only three shipwrights: Tommie, Manuel and Geoffrey. All of them agreed to close down. Tommie and Manuel wanted to retire and Geoffrey needed to find a job. Geoff is now working at Dana Point West Marina.

    Next, I started looking for a buyer who was interested to purchase my company but no one wanted to… There were a few investors who wanted to purchase Sam L. Morse Co. but none of them had enough professional knowledge nor shipwrights. They just wanted to make the BCC cheaply and to sell it cheap… They all thought there were liner molds. When they found out there were no liners they stopped thinking to purchase.

    I also had pride [in the boats] and a duty to the BCC and FC customers not lower the value of their asset, or create bad news to the quality and safety of both boats.

    So, there was only one company who I could trust in the West Coast. I had visited Cape George Marine Works long before I purchased Sam L. Morse Co. and saw the way they built boats and met with Mr. & Mrs. Lange. So, I knew the place and people.

    When I contacted Todd, who was the new owner, he showed interest to have the BCC & FC as part of their line of the boats. He also mentioned that he didn’t have money to purchase at any price… The transportation of the molds cost almost $20,000. So I decided if he paid the transport fee I would give everything free of cost to Cape George Marine Works.

    I preferred Cape George from any other buyer who wanted to pay because they would keep BCC & FC’s pride of quality.


  7. W. L. says:

    Just a note about BCC hull #126. According to Sumio Oya, the last owner of Sam L. Morse Co, this hull was semi-complete boat. The boat was fitted out with the help of parts from Cape George Marine by its second owner. It is not known if she has been completed and launched.

  8. Gerald Shippen says:

    How many BCC’s are still in existance?

  9. Rick Peterson says:

    BCC JUNESSA is a Canadian built boat. You can find pictures and videos at

    1. Will says:

      Thanks Rick, I’ve added some of your pictures to the Gallery.

    2. Richard says:

      Do you happen to know if the 6ft 6ins headroom was created by lowering the sole or by raising the coachroof height?

    3. Ben says:

       Im pretty sure they lowered the sole, Ive never seen a BCC with a higher cabin house…

    4. George Hylkema says:

      I was browsing this site and ran across this question. I had the Sam L. Morse Co. after Sam. Indeed I built one BCC with the whole cabin top raised 4″. Later when Sumio Oya and Roger Olson were building BCC’s they built another for a tall guy. The boat was called AMERICANO and I think the cabin was raised 6″.
      George Hylkema

  10. Shaulaseattle says:

    About “Serrafyn’s well known 40,000 mile circumnavigation and five passages of the potentially treacherous Tasman Sea….”, Serrafyn circumnavigated via SE Asia and Japan. Taleisin did Tasman Sea crossings and circumnavigated south of all the great capes.

    1. Will says:

      Thanks, I’ve tweaked that sentence to be more accurate.

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