Overview

Pearson Triton 28 Sail Plan The Pearson Triton’s launch at the 1959 National Boat Show in New York heralded the birth of the inexpensive ‘Plastic Classic’. Her designer Carl Alberg was at the forefront of the pioneering move from wood to fiberglass production and the 28ft Triton was one of the earliest fiberglass cruising yachts. She was an instant hit, with 17 orders taken by the end of the show, and her popularity never waned, with more than 700 boats built before production ceased in 1968.

The Triton is a handsome boat with classic cruiser looks inspired by the well-loved Scandinavian Folkboat. She carries a narrow beam, long overhangs and low freeboard of the Cruising Club of America (CCA) racing rule boats of the time. Although her interior volume and storage capacity are scanty for a bluewater boat the Triton has successfully double circumnavigated and completed many trans-oceanic passages. Today she remains probably the most affordable of the small, seaworthy, go-anywhere family cruisers.

History

Carl Alberg, a Swedish-born Naval Architect, was unknown as a yacht designer in 1959 and the Pearson Triton was to provide the flying start to his career. Alberg’s brief for the Triton, cooked up in casual conversation with Tom Potter (a lifelong yacht broker with an eye for the future of family cruising) was to design a 28 foot racer/cruiser with full headroom that could sleep a family of four and that could be built for under 10,000 dollars. In using fiberglass Alberg was able to come up with a boat that was unique at the time in offering more interior space than its wooden counterparts and at a much lower cost. Her original bare boat price was only 9,700 US dollars.

Alberg and Potter took the design to Pearson Corporation, a small fiberglass sailboat manufacturer, founded three years earlier by cousins Clint and Everett Pearson, who agreed to put it into production. The cousins had to borrow the money required to transport their Pearson Triton to the National Boat Show in New York but by the end of the show they had 17 orders and went on to build over 700 boats at their yard in Portsmouth, Rhode Island until production ceased in 1968.

These boats built by the Pearson Corporation are known as ‘East Coast’ Tritons but a number of boats, thought to be around 125, were also built on the West Coast by Aeromarine Plastics in Sausalito, California. There are some important construction differences between the ‘East Coast’ and ‘West Coast’ boats but consistent differences are hard to pin down due to many changes throughout the construction run of both boats. The most visible difference between the boats is that the ‘East Coast’ boats were built with wood trim and coamings, while those from the ‘West Coast’ are all fiberglass.

Alberg’s design also made it to Europe and at least three Tritons were built by Jouet in France with alterations to the bridge plan and interior layout. The Jouet Tritons have a distinctive long forward portlight on the cabin similar to that of the Jouet Tiburon.

Configuration and Layout

Pearson Triton 28 Interior Layout Both sloop and yawl configurations were available and the majority of Tritons had a distinctive fractional rig which helps her to stand out in a crowd. Below the waterline, her full keel is cutaway slightly fore and aft with a wooden rudder attached. The hull has a wide flare forward to keep the boat drier and allow easier working on deck. The deck itself varies, with one owner recording at least four different deck styles with a number of additional minor variations. She has a stepped cabin top which is slightly incongruous with her sleek sheer lines but provides extra headroom below.

The cockpit is large and low and can be wet in rough seas but won’t hold enough water to cause problems when pooped. The bridge deck helps to keep her dry below. Inside accommodation is fairly cramped and typical of boats of this style but the lack of interior fiberglass liners make internal modifications and repairs easier.

Construction

Although it was a production boat, individual Tritons appear to vary widely in terms of construction. In general they have the thicker, tougher and less sophisticated hulls of the earlier fiberglass production boats. Many of the East coast boats have balsa cored decks where the majority of the West coast boats have decks of solid fiberglass but this isn’t definitive. Ballast in the early days was iron encapsulated in the keel but switched to encapsulated lead in later years.

Under Sail

The Triton sails as gracefully as she looks. She’s forgiving and nimble, though she does tend to exhibit weather helm. To counter this tendency some owners have fashioned small bowsprits to open up the fore-triangle area, while others recut their mainsail with less canvas at the sacrifice of overall sail area. Although a fast boat for her waterline length she’s slow by today’s standards and she doesn’t point very high.

Her short waterline means her light air performance is respectable, and as the wind picks up she heels quickly which increases her LWL and therefore hull speed. The boat is relatively tender up to 15 degrees before she stiffens. West Coast boats, being heavier built, are generally stiffer while East coast boats tend to heel earlier but are more responsive.

Specifications

LOA: 28′ 4″
LWL: 20′ 6″
Beam: 8′ 3″
Draft: 4′ 0″ (later models 4′ 3″)
Displacement: 8,400 lbs. (approx)
Ballast: 3,019 lbs.
Sail Area, Sloop Rig: 362 sq. ft. (100% foretriangle fractional rig)
Sail Area, Yawl Rig: 400 sq.ft.
Fuel: 15 US Gal.
Water: 22.5 US Gal.
Engine: 25-hp Universal Atomic-4

Designer: Carl Alberg
Builder: Pearson Corporation/Aeromarine Plastics/Jouet
Year Introduced: 1959

Buyer’s Notes

For boats that are now more than 40 years old Tritons have endured remarkably well despite many of them being sailed extensively. Like any older boat, they may require extensive refit if they’ve been neglected. Suspect areas are balsa-cored rot-prone decks (mainly East coast), rotten wooden rudders, corroded masts, undersized chainplates, cranky gasoline inboard engines and electrical systems that require replacement. Compression around the deck stepped mast can be an issue and the supports may require strengthening but many owners will already have done so. James Baldwin, who circumnavigated twice in his East Coast Triton ‘Atom’, reports that the original East Coast fractional rig is lightly stayed and requires reinforcement for offshore voyaging. Boats with recently upgraded systems, sails, rigging etc. as always are preferable and worth paying more for.

Triton’s are most plentiful on the East coast of the US. For prospective buyers, support and information is available from the very active National Triton Association, contactable through their website. The Plastic Classic forum has a page specifically for the Pearson Triton that can provide help and advice and there is also a Yahoo owners group. A search of the used boat market reveals current asking prices of 4,500 US dollars to 17,000 US dollars for a Pearson Triton depending on age and condition.

Similar Boats

Cape Dory 27
Tripp 30

Links, References and Further Reading

» Twenty Small Sailboats to Take You Anywhere by John Vigor, (Ch18, p77-82) an in depth look at the Pearson Trition 28. ISBN:978-0939837328
» Used Boat Notebook by John Kretschmer, a review of the Pearson Triton (p28-31)
» Wikipedia’s entry on the Pearson Triton
» National Triton Association, links and information.
» Pearson Triton Yahoo Group
» French Jouet Triton webpage
» Circumnavigation on a by James Baldwin on sailboat ‘Atom’

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24 Responses to “Pearson Triton 28”

  1. Dick Medve says:

    I am considering modifying my Triton 28 to a yawl rig.
    Are there any advantages or pluses. Your advice will be appreciated along with.u comments

  2. pete kantor says:

    Left a comment two and half years ago and have not been back since. The bowsprit I added was 3′. Sailing her with only a headsail gave me my one and only experience of lee helm. If one adds a bowsprit and a headstay, upper shrouds need to be added at the mast head. If not, the mast bends in wind over ten knots.

  3. Marc B. says:

    Were some of these boats chopper gun construction? I have read of some catastrophic hull deck connection failures. The most recent was this year on a 1961 Triton 28.5. The deck moved 4′ off the hull at the bow.

    • Edward says:

      Hey Mark,
      Most boats use CSM, do you have any pictures/links to this boat and of this deck to hull movement. 4 inches is quite a bit and I’d think you would have ripping/tearing of the deck due to a major impact to get that much movement. I haven’t investigated my hull/deck joint yet but I expect to find bolts/screws and glue in the joint. So it may leak but big movement seems unlikely.

  4. John says:

    I am working with three eagle scouts to help them prepare to circumnavigate in 3 years when the graduate college. Any leads on a good purchase?

  5. Peyton says:

    I am in the process of restoring Hull#3
    Could ue a very detailed sail plan. Usuall a tif file. I have purchase a newer mast and will need some standing rigging.

    Any information on bow and stern pulpits.

    • Al Poshusta says:

      Peyton; This may be a very long shot. Just for fun I looked up the Triton web sites and found this page. If by chance you are restoring Triton hull #3, I used to own it.
      I sailed and raced it on San Francisco bay for numerous years. It was berthed in Sausalito Ca. I sold it to an individual who planned to make it a permanent live aboard.
      It was then stored somewhere in the Delta Area. Hope to hear from you.
      Al Poshusta

      • Sharon Kreis says:

        I still have the great photograph Diane Beeston made of White Cap,
        Gallant, and another boat racing. The White Cap is a wonderful
        sailboat. Glad you still think of her as I do.

  6. John Ayer says:

    Milt, I used to own #88 in Miami in the 1970s, 80s and 90s. I was the one who gave her the name NATANA. Perhaps you are the guy that I sold it to, back in 2000. I am now in Saint Augustine. I remember thinking that a bowsprit would be nice, but mostly to get the anchor off the foredeck. I would like to get in touch with you. Dunno if I want to post my email address or phone here. What say you?

  7. Paul says:

    Great article. Another similar boat is the Tripp 30. Uncanny resemblance in design and layout while handling under sail is also very similar.

  8. Pete Kantor says:

    I bought hull #10 in !968 from a Connecticut couple whose name I have fogotten. The boat name was Good News and I think the sale price was $7000. Within a few months, I converted her to a yawl, based on having chartered hull #1, Soothsayer, which was a yawl. Finally sold Good News in 1990, after trailering her from Huntington, NY to Whidbey Island, WA. In the years  I owned her, I rebuilt the rudder, reworked the mast step, and added improvements within the cabin.  I shall not try to enumerate all her virtues, just that if there were a means to inflate her to 40′ or so, I’d still have her. She did carry a bit of weather helm which I reduced somewhat by adding a bowsprit.  All in all, she was the finest boat I ever owned.

    • Milton Brown says:

      Hi Pete, I own #88 and was seriously contemplating a bowsprit to ease the weather helm issue. What length worked out for you?

  9. Scott Yellig says:

    I think the History section is still incorrect.

    It reads:

    “The most visible difference between the boats is that the ‘West Coast’ boats were built with wood trim and coamings, while those from the east coast are all fiberglass. ”

    I am confident that it should read:

    The most visible difference between the boats is that the ‘East Coast’ boats were built with wood trim and coamings, while those from the “West Coast” are all fiberglass.

  10. Rick Lawrence, #143 WC says:

    Paragraph 3 under History is backwards. East Coast boats had wood trim and West Coast boats were all glass except for the seat lockers.

    • Anonymous says:

      Noted and amended. Thanks for your input!

    • John L says:

      West coast boats had both wood locker covers and fiberglass. 451 had fiberglass covers but it also had cored decks. Unusual for a west coast Triton. 451 was one of the last ones if not the last one made by Aeromarine for under the Pearson name.

  11. Daniel McNeil says:

    Overall a good article. I would point out one minor error regarding ballast. Our Triton #301 EC, has external lead ballast hung from the keelson, not internal. Fairly common, I believe. Sailing characteristics for our boat don’t seem to compare to the article. Light air sailing is ok as long as you are going upwind. Downwind is not so good in light airs – a spinnaker helps but newer rigs are better. Upwind our boat points as well as any newer rig I come up against. Weather helm can be strong if you maintain full sail – reef the main over 15 kts and she settles right down. Heavy weather sailing is surprisingly dry even with the low cockpit/freeboard.

    Many who post at the Triton website swear by their Atomic 4 gas engines. Our boat has been in the family since 1962 and the original motor has never been touched. Good maintenance of any mechanical device is key, obviously.

    • Will says:

      I think most boats of this vintage sharing the “Folkboat” hull shape tend to go upwind in light air so much better than downwind, although they glide through the water on a puff , they don’t point particularly high compared to more modern underwater shapes (i.e. tighter turn of the bilge and later, the introduction of fin keels improved lift considerably).

  12. Eric J. says:

    Reads well except for the east coast/west coast confusion in the History section. Thanks!

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