Spencer 35 Lines and Sail Plan The Spencer 35 is a semi-custom bluewater cruiser designed by John Brandlmayr. Many of them have made offshore passages, including the well known “Whisper” owned by noted author Hal Roth. There were 64 hulls produced in Canada by Spencer Boats Limited during a production run that lasted more than twenty years.


Spencer Boats began production of moulded fibreglass sailboats in 1958 with the Spencer 28. The yard was located on Canada’s west coast, in the town of Richmond, British Columbia. Eventually, the line of sailboats grew to include numerous models up to 53 feet in length. The most popular was the Spencer 35, introduced in 1962.

The popularity of the Spencer 35 was no doubt helped by several books written by Hal Roth. These books, classics of early cruising literature, described the adventures of Hal and Margaret Roth aboard their Spencer 35 Whisper, which was built for the Roths in 1966.

Most of the models in the Spencer line were designed by John Brandlmayr, a prolific designer of a wide variety of pleasure and commercial vessels and co-founder of the company. John died suddenly in 1974, and a few months later his partner Phil Hantke also passed away. John’s wife Pat, who had been involved in the business since day one, carried on the business for the next decade with the assistance of their son Grant (who went on to become a naval architect himself) and the company’s skilled employees.

Like many sailboat builders, Spencer Boats ceased business in the economic downturn of the early 1980s. The last Spencer 35 was built in 1983.

Configuration and Construction

The Spencer 35 is an attractive traditional design. With an overall length of 35’ and a displacement of 12,000 pounds, it has a full keel with a cutaway forefoot and an attached rudder. It has a narrow beam of 9’6” and a waterline of 25’ that lengthens considerably when heeled. There are traditional wineglass sections and 4500 pounds of lead ballast encapsulated in the fiberglass hull. The standard rig was a sloop, with optional ketch and cutter rigs. Tiller steering was standard, although the occasional boat can be found with a wheel.

Yachts built by Spencer Boats enjoy a reputation of being very well constructed. Spencer Boats attached the bulkheads and deck to the hull while the hull was still in the mould, to ensure that the hull remained undistorted. The hull deck joint is heavily fiberglassed, forming a strong monocoque structure. The bulkheads are bonded to both the hull and deck, and the furniture is also bonded to the hull for additional support.

One advantage of the wineglass sections is that there is room in the bilge area for tankage, and this is where both the fuel tank and the main water tank are found. This keeps the considerable weight of the fuel and water supplies down low, and also frees up space above the cabin sole for storage. The tanks are moulded of fibreglass and then glassed into place.

There were significant changes to the design with the introduction of the Spencer 35 Mark II in 1974 (although some of the modifications may be found on some earlier boats as well). Prompted by the experiences of Hal Roth on Whisper, the cabin on the Mark II was extended 30” aft. This resulted in a smaller cockpit that was more suited to ocean cruising. It also resulted in considerably more room below. In addition, the Mark II has an improved rudder design and a higher aspect rig.

The Mark II also has an airex cored hull, rather than the solid fiberglass hull of the original design. Spencer Boats was a pioneer in the use of cored hulls, and by all accounts the hulls have held up very well. The coring starts several inches down from the sheerline and continues to the turn of the bilge, below which the hull is solid fiberglass. The deck is cored with end-grain balsa. The Mark II also has a substantial fibreglass toerail, instead of the teak toerail found on earlier boats.


Spencer 35 Layout There is no “standard” interior layout for the Spencer 35, because of its semi-custom nature. Rather than being built to standard specifications on a production line, each boat was built in accordance with the wishes of the commissioning owner. However, there is commonly a forward cabin with a v-berth followed by a decent sized head to starboard and a hanging locker to port. The narrow saloon generally has two settees with a centre-line table, although some boats have one U-shaped or L-shaped settee and an offset table.

The original design has a small galley aft to starboard, and a side-facing chart table to port. The Mark II model has a much more spacious galley (well known designer Ted Brewer described the galley layout as one of the best he had seen on a boat this size). In addition, the Mark II added a quarterberth and has a forward facing chart table.

The headroom in the main cabin is a 6’4″, with a few inches less in the head and forward cabin. The berths are all a generous length as well. The interior finishing varies, as some of the boats were sold as kits. However, the yard finished interiors are of a high standard with attractive teak joinery. The size, style, and location of portlights and other fittings and hardware may differ considerably from boat to boat, because of the semi-custom nature of the production.

Under Sail

The Spencer 35 is surprisingly nimble and responsive for such a traditional looking design. With its moderate displacement, narrow beam, and slack bilges, it is relatively tender initially. However, it stiffens right up at 25-30 degrees and has a very good capsize ratio of 1.68.

The Spencer 35 is generally very well-behaved on all points of sail, although it can roll a bit downwind in heavy following seas. Not surprisingly, it does not point quite as high as many more modern designs. However, it has decent performance upwind and doesn’t pound in a chop (although with its low freeboard and high angle of heel it can be a bit of a wet ride).

It has a very seakindly motion, with a high motion comfort ratio of 32. While It isn’t likely to be first across the line in many races around the buoys, it is a respectable long distance performer – the Spencer 35 “Haulback” placed first overall in the 2002 Singlehanded Transpac.


LOA: 35′ 0″
LWL: 25′ 0″
Beam: 9’ 6″
Draft: 5′ 3″
Displacement: 12,000 lbs.
Ballast: 4,200 or 4,500 lbs. (lead)
Freeboard (Fwd): 4′ 2″
Freeboard (Aft): 3′ 5″
Sail Area (Original): 522 sq.ft.
Sail Area (Mark II): 487 sq.ft.

Headroom: 6′ 4″
Water: 35 Imp. Gal.
Fuel: 35 Imp. Gal.

Builder: Spencer Boats
Designer: John Brandlmayr
Year Introduced: 1962
Year Ended: 1983

Similar Boats

Bristol 35

Links, References and Further Reading

» Ted Brewer, Spencer 35: She’s capable of cruising anywhere in the world in comfort, Good Old Boat, Issue 38 – September/October 2004
» Ferenc Mate, Best Boats to Build or Buy (1982), Chapter 23 (focuses on the Spencer 1330, but also addresses the Spencer 35 and Spencer yachts generally)
» Hal Roth, Two on a Big Ocean (1972), After 50,000 Miles (1977), Two Against Cape Horn (1978), Always a Distant Anchorage (1988)
» Marianne Scott, Bluewater Spencer: A baby-blue Mark II Spencer 35 heads for the horizon, Good Old Boat, Issue 38 – September/October 2004
» Spencer Yacht Owner’s Association’s Facebook Group


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13 thoughts on “Spencer 35”

  1. Ben says:

    I have a 1964 Spencer 35. She has circumnavigated. Her Volvo Penta runs strong. She is for sale. Ben 208-388-3016

  2. Justin Hirsch says:

    I live near Seattle and own hull number 1 of the Spencer 28 line. The vessel registration says it was manufactured in 1957. Am I to understand that this is the first sailboat that Spencer made?

  3. Kerry says:

    There’s a spencer 48 at Yamba NSW called Champayne she selling cheap was wondering if anyone knew this yacht

  4. Patrick Dickie says:

    Note that the Spencer Yacht Owners Association website at http://www.spenceryachts.net has been replaced by a facebook group at https://www.facebook.com/groups/SpencerYachtOwnersGroup/

    1. W. L. says:

      Thanks Patrick, I’ve updated the link.

  5. Bob Burton says:

    I own the Deanna B, Hull # 64, built in 1983. The last Spencer 35 MKII built. Although the hailing port is Winnipeg, MB, Canada the boat is moored in and sailed out of Mazatlan, Mexico. We spend a lot of time sailing the west coast of Mexico and the Sea of Cortez. I just returned from a voyage to Isla San Benedicto, which is located 385 nautical miles west of Mazatlan. The boat sails extremely well on the open ocean. I am constantly updating equipment on the boat but the Spencer 35 is a very well built boat. I love sailing this boat and would never consider trading her for a more modern design.

  6. Russell hartley says:

    Interesting just saw HAULBACK tied uP at constitution dock Hobart Tasmania

  7. Bill cote says:

    My father had Jeunesse a 1965 spencer 35 that we raced Victoria to Maui in 1968. We won, what else can be said about the Spenser 35. I am interested in finding Jeunesse and any other Spenser 35 that might be for sale. Any response would be appreciated . I still have the trophies from the victory in the 1968 Vic Maui.
    Bill Cote

    1. Kathy Smith says:

      Bill, my husband just passed away and we have a 1964 Spencer 35 and I need to sell it. He has it in a boatyard as he was working on painting the hull. May need one more coat but a beautiful boat and was his dream. He got very sick so never got it back in the water. Please contact me if you are interested in buying it. 503-861-1169.
      Thank you,
      Kathy Smith

    2. Kathy Smith says:

      I have a Spencer 35 for sale. Call 503-861-1169
      Thank you,

    3. ALAN CARPENTER says:

      Hi Bill,

      Don’t know if you are still looking to buy a Spencer or not, but our 1964 Spencer Mark I, 35 ft. hull #17 is for sale. Beautiful original boat, with 30 HP Yanmar diesel engine, less than 25 hrs and still under warranty, Northsail main, drifter with Rolla reefing, long boom, bags of spare sails, new custom dodger. Set up for single handed sailing, crazy fast. If interested please give me a call. Alan 360-331-1210

  8. Bill Kelly says:

    I have owned a Spencer 35 for 30 years and I have to say this is one of the best and accurate reviews I have read on the Spencer. The detail is bang-on and the additional info (such as Brewer’s comment on the galley) are very interesting. The only thing I could add that may be of interest is that the Spencer 35 does point very well, in part to it’s excellent underwater design and always I think to the fact that it is not a beamy boat so the foresail can be sheeted in quite close to the wind. We have raced, and beat, a C+C 35 a couple of times and certainly pointed as well. The fact Haulback has done so well in the Transpac says a lot. 

  9. Jamie Harris says:

    An excellent piece about the Spencer 35.  I own hull#35, SV Onrust, built in 1968. She is a Mark I and has the traditional layout described in this article.  I am enclosing a picture of her with me at the wheel sailing under the Gold Gate Bridge at the start of my voyage to Hawaii in 2006.  While there I met up with Jim Kellam, owner of Haulback (mentioned in this article), he had just arrived in Hilo Hawaii ending a round the world voyage (solo) he completed after racing in the 1994 single handed Transpac.  Haulback is a Mark II.  I’ve owned Onrust (a Dutch word meaning “unrest”) since 2003.  She is solid, sails really well, and as you say in the article surprisingly nimble and quick for older CCA design.  Thanks for the good piece on the Spencers. -Jamie Harris

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