June 8…"A nice morning, but a brassy glare gets us worried. By 1130 we have rain and
the wind picks up. With a third reef in the main and the genoa rolled back to a number
three, we are making seven to eight knots. The boat is awash with breaking seas and spray
keeps flying over the boat. My gourmet meal suffers as cutting and cooking have become
a lethal exercise."
June 23…"The wind is still very strong and veering to the north. We are unable to
maintain course and are 15 miles off the rhumb line. At 0930 the wind has picked up to
more than 40 knots and the seas are 25 to 30 feet high. We decide to pack it in and take
all sails down. With the wheel locked, the boat drifts at about two knots but the motion is
very smooth. For the first time we have no waves breaking over our bow. We overhear two
freighters on the VHF and find out that we are in the centre of a storm in [with a pressure
of] 1,000 millibars. Still, after six hours of well-deserved sleep, the next morning looks
These are two log entries from the Alberg 37, Rabaska (an aboriginal name meaning
war canoe), from Hank Borsboom\'s passage to Bermuda in June 1993. In his seventh
season with Rabaska, Borsboom chose the Alberg for its reputation as an ocean passage-
maker. "Every year I add some more equipment," said Borsboom in his thick Dutch accent.
"To date I have added mast steps, furling gear, a windlass with three anchors and lots of
rode, plus a new GPS, life raft and EPIRB for our Bermuda trip. Other upgrades include a
high-output alternator, 500 amp hours of domestic battery capacity, improved wiring, and
new panels, circuit breakers and battery-monitoring equipment. My next project is a new
refrigeration unit in an upgraded icebox."
The Alberg 37 was designed by Swedish-born Carl Alberg (1900-1986) for Kurt
Hansen's Whitby Boat Works. In total, 248 of these boats were built between 1967 and
1988 – the MKI model from 1967 to 1971 and the MKII until the late-'80s.
With long overhangs and a pleasing sheer, the 37 is an unmistakably classic design.
Although first built as a racer/cruiser, the Alberg is now known as a traditional cruiser
with medium-heavy displacement performance. During the early '70s the AL37 was
actively raced in SORC and other offshore events, but today is only occasionally seen out
PHRF club racing.
Below the waterline the forefoot is cut away at the forward end of a relatively short
keel. The large, raked rudder is attached directly to the keel. Low topsides, a long and
narrow cockpit and a well-proportioned coach-house are other distinct features of the
I recently spoke to Doug Stephenson, a former sales agent for Whitby Boat Works
from 1981 until the factory closed in 1988. Now a broker at Bay Harbour Yachts in
Midland, Ontario, Stephenson described the differences between the MKI and MKII. "On
the Mark II the toe rail was changed from wood to fibreglass. Hansen also incorporated a
dodger splashguard into the deck mould. The port lights were also elongated and fewer
opened. But the largest change, from a construction point of view, was the addition of a
moulded floor support and liner to replace the wood that was there in the MKI. This made
the boat more durable and also decreased production time."
Other modifications to
the MKII included a more efficient use of interior space, allowing for a larger head and
galley, as well as longer berths.
SAILING A 37 ALBERG
During the '70s the Alberg was considered a boat-show "dream-boat" by Canadian
sailors in the boat market. At the time, the yawl rig (see line drawing) was especially
coveted for its graceful silhouette. A good part of the 37's strong reputation comes from
its strengths as an ocean-crossing vessel. I know of one circumnavigation made by Mike
Phelps of Florida, but there are bound to be others who have logged the trip as well. Mike
completed his seven-year global tour on hull #42, built in 1968.
A March '82 article in a U.S. sailing magazine speaks of how the Fowle family sailed
their Alberg 37, Arion, from Massachusetts to Ireland, weathering the famed Fastnet gale.
They described the usual thrills and chills of a first-time ocean crossing with mandatory
descriptions of towering seas and their fright as they watched the anemometer register
gusts of 76 knots.
While in New Zealand aboard Lorcha during a circumnavigation with my wife and two
children, we met a Vancouver sailor single-handing his Alberg on a proposed
circumnavigation. He told us of how he became stranded on the coral near the entrance of
Palmyra Atoll in the North Pacific for several days. A poor spell of navigation meant he
entered when the angle of the sun made it hard to read the coral reefs surrounding this
uninhabited atoll. As the boat settled on her bilge, this hard-luck sailor was forced to
throw away thousands of dollars worth of charts, books and spare parts to lighten the
hull. His Alberg 37 pounded for three days before the tide rose high enough to float her
off. He then sailed to Tahiti, several thousand miles away, before he made repairs to the
portside bilge! But as a testament to the structural integrity of the Alberg, his boat never
leaked. When we saw her after her repairs a few months earlier, she appeared not to have
had suffered any serious damage.
James Hiller of Southfield, Michigan, had a new Alberg 37 built for him in 1982, one
of only 42 built in the '80s. During a visit to the factory, Hiller surreptitiously pinched two
core samples left over after the shop had cut the through-hull fittings in his new boat. He
sent these cutouts to a testing laboratory, presumably to check up on the quality of his
nearly completed hull. When the report came back it read in part, "both specimens are
excellent and represent state-of-the-art glasswork."
Although strong and solid, the Alberg 37 was not intended as a luxurious racer/cruiser.
Indeed, her interior is relatively modest, almost Spartan, in fact, with square corners and
no fancy woodwork. The boats were built for a reasonable base price, but individual
owners could add options if they wished.
SOME DATA OF INTEREST
The Alberg is narrow and small by today's standards, with a beam of only 10 ft. 2 in.
and a waterline of 26 ft. 6 in. Whitby Boat Works offered the boat with a number of
different engines but the 23-hp Volvo MD2D and the 27-hp MD11C were the standard for
most years. A 40-hp Westerbeke 4-107 was also a heavy-duty option.
With some of these boats nearing their 30th birthday, most need some work. Anyone
considering purchasing a 37 should budget for anywhere between $10,000 and $25,000
for the refit. There are, however, many well-loved boats on the market that have had their
sails and equipment upgraded over the years. Others are structurally sound but are rough
cosmetically. These sell for under $40,000, while well-cared-for examples are often listed
at upwards of $65,000. I have been aboard several boats where some of the bulkhead and
floor tabbing (the fibreglass tape that attaches a wood bulkhead or stringer to the
fiberglass hull) has lost its adhesion. As well, I have noticed that the decks sometimes
need repair around the stanchion bases. On older models the hardware, hatches and port
lights may need to be removed and re-bedded to stop drips and leaks. Rabaska is the first
boat people see when they motor through the gap at Bluffers Park Yacht Club at the base
of Scarborough Bluffs. "She is on the end of the first dock at the club," says Borsboom. "I
love having her dark blue hull out there. Nearly every visitor that comes through the gap
comments on 'that beautiful traditional boat.'"
A refurbished and updated Alberg 37 may just be the boat would allow someone to
fulfill a dream. Live aboard, sail south or just enjoy the boat for the quality cruising vessel
it was designed to be.. Space, safety and fun to sail i any and all conditions...
LOA 37'2" ft.
Draft 5'6" ft.
Displacement 16,800 lbs.
Ballast 6,500 lbs.
Sail Area 646 sq. ft.
To see if this boat is available on Boatcan, click on
HREF=/index.php>BOATCAN to search for listings!
Re-published and produced with permission from Canadian Yachting Magazine. For
more Boat Reviews click on CANADIAN