A Quick racer/cruiser from Canada
When Jack and Marilyn Williams moved west from their home province of Ontario in 1977, settling near Victoria on Vancouver Island, one of their priorities was to get out on the surrounding ocean.
They sailed their first boat, an O’Day 27 purchased in 1978, extensively through the spectacular cruising grounds of British Columbia, including a voyage out to Barkley Sound on Vancouver Island’s wild west coast. With an appetite for more distant horizons, the couple decided they wanted a bigger boat. A friend of theirs sailed a Canadian Sailcraft 36, a significantly larger boat and a bit more than they were prepared to take on. But they were impressed by Canadian Sailcraft design and workmanship and found a 1986 CS 30 that met all their expectations.
Jack and Marilyn were soon the owners of Musashi, named for a historical Japanese folk hero of the samurai era — an author, artist, philosopher, and swordsman. An artistic rendering of the hero remains framed on the cabin bulkhead.
With Musashi their sailing life expanded, including a 1991 Vancouver Island circumnavigation, a 30-day, 800-nautical mile adventure proving the CS 30 capable of open ocean seas and winds. Winds on the west coast can easily reach 40 knots at headlands, with whitecapped following seas under blue skies — a sailor’s dream. In the following years, they cruised Washington state’s Puget Sound, the Broughton Archipelago to the north, and the Canadian Gulf Islands.
Leaning toward the IOR-influenced designs of the 1980s, the CS 30 is essentially a slippery hull that also features a comfortable cruising interior. Created by transplanted British designer Tony Castro, the CS 30 complemented the Canadian Sailcraft lineup between the 27 and 33. With an extensive background in developing race boats to current rules, Castro created a go-fast cruising boat that excels on all points of sail. A slim bow, beamy midship, and tapered stern all point to a hull that will sail well on the wind. The tall rig and deep keel complement that ability, and Castro designed both wing-keel and shoal-draft keel versions.
Canadian Sailcraft had a well-earned reputation for quality construction and finish. The company built 500 CS 30s at its factory in Brampton, Ontario, between 1984 and 1990. The single-skin hull with balsa-cored deck produced a comparatively light hull strengthened by a bonded fiberglass substructure under teak-and-holly floor panels.
The hull/deck joint is an inward-turned flange bolted through the anodized toerail on 4-inch centers with butyl tape used as a sealant. Interestingly, while most aluminum toerails of this era were slotted, the CS 30 has evenly spaced holes that serve as handy attachment points for turning blocks or fenders.
The 3,440-pound lead fin keel draws 5 feet 6 inches. The optional wing keel adds another 140 pounds with a 4-foot 6-inch draft, and the shoal keel is 400 pounds heavier with a 4-foot 3-inch draft. All three keel options are attached directly to the hull with a double row of stainless steel bolts. There is no keel stub as part of the hull, which results in a very shallow bilge sump under the floorboards, too shallow for the installation of a standard immersion-style bilge pump. A factory-installed manual pump is easily accessible from the helm position in the cockpit locker. Jack reports that the sump is generally dry, but with such a small capacity in the bilge before the floorboards start floating, I would install a remote bilge pump with a high-water alarm.
Deck and Rigging
The Isomat keel-stepped, double-spreader anodized aluminum mast has all shrouds terminating at single chainplates set well inboard of the toerail. This leaves a clear, unobstructed passage forward. However, without lower shrouds spaced fore and aft there is a risk of mast pumping in heavy seas. A jackstay has been provided as a preventive measure. The chainplates are bolted to the internal bulkhead, tucked behind removable fiberglass covers. On our review boat there was some evidence of water leaks in this area, so sealant around the chain- plates should be checked regularly.
The mast has an integrated spinnaker track on the forward side, with control lines for the car included. However, without bearings on the car, it would be difficult to move under load. All running rigging is internal to the mast and exits at the base, turning out to deck organizers and aft to line stoppers with Lewmar 30 self-tailing winches. This is a perfect setup for the cruising family or singlehanded sailor, but not ideal for the racer as it’s going to get crowded in the cockpit.
The stem fitting at the bow is cast aluminum, incorporating a single bow roller and fairleads for docklines. The anchor locker lid has a molded arch at the forward edge for an anchor shaft reaching back from the roller. Unfortunately, this setup does not lend itself to easy installation of a windlass, something Jack is seriously considering as his next project.
The backstay is secured to a chainplate mounted low on the slightly reversed transom. Adding an adjuster would require some thought, as the attachment point to the chainplate is almost out of reach. A remote hydraulic system would work well here.
The deck has a molded non-skid texture that has survived very well over the years. Contrary to the tradition of the day, the cabintop handrails are stainless steel, not high-maintenance teak. Musashi has four opening portlights on each side of the cabin trunk, a large deck hatch over the V-berth, another over the main cabin, and a smaller hatch over the head. For inclement weather, a single Dorade vent provides circulation in the main cabin. This is more than adequate ventilation for a boat sailed in Canada, where it’s more important to keep the rain out than let a tropical breeze in! That said, I am somewhat surprised that an opening port was not installed in the galley to help ventilate cooking moisture.
Sail tracks long enough for virtually any size headsail hug the cabin trunk, allowing for close sheeting angles. The mainsheet traveler is mounted on the cabintop over the companionway sea hood, keeping the traveler out of the cockpit. Although the cabintop would not be considered cluttered, the multiple hatches, sail control lines, and sea hood leave little room for feet.
Unlike more modern designs with shallow cockpits (allowing for tall, roomy aft cabins), the CS 30 has a wonderfully deep and secure cockpit. Seating is long and wide, with cutouts to accommodate the 36-inch wheel mounted on a guarded pedestal. Coamings are tall enough to provide excellent back support.
Although the full height bridge deck ensures that any seas flooding into the cockpit won’t run into the cabin, it does make climbing into the cabin a bit more cumbersome.
For storage and access, there are three cockpit lockers, as well as a deep portside locker in the cockpit, that the average person can easily climb into for servicing the back end of the engine, transmission, hot water tank, and various electrical paraphernalia.
As I climbed over the bridge deck and into the companionway, my first impression was of bright, efficient use of space, with off-white interior panels that complement the teak trim.
The U-shaped galley is immediately to port. A deep single sink with both pressure and hand-pumped water is near the centerline. A good-sized icebox is next to it against the hull. For longer sailing adventures, Jack has added a portable Dometic cooler/freezer. A gimbled two-burner propane range with oven is against the hull, with storage behind it. There is also excellent storage in a cabinet under the countertop. To starboard is a small navigation station with a pull-out stool. There is limited room for navigational instruments, but the chart table will hold a typical-size chart book. Aft of the table is a double-wide, and very long, open quarter berth. Where many quarter berths are restricted in width by the engine compartment, on the CS 30 the engine is forward of this berth, and the mattress stretches all the way to the cockpit locker on the port side. There is certainly no sitting headroom under the cockpit sole, but lots of shoulder room.
The starboard settee can be pulled out into a double berth. The 30-gallon freshwater tank is located underneath. Additional storage is available behind the seatbacks. A fold- down table on the bulkhead easily seats four. Handholds include oiled teak rails that run the length of the cabin under the portlights, and a stainless steel post at the galley island.
Moving forward, the head is a separate compartment to starboard. Opposite it is a substantial hanging locker. The locker door performs double duty, also serving as a door for the V-berth, which is relatively small. Although there is a fill-in panel to create a wide mattress at the shoulders, the berth is relatively short for a 6-foot person.
Although the CS 30 was originally equipped with a two-cylinder Volvo Penta 2002 18-hp diesel engine, Musashi is now powered with a three-cylinder Beta 20 installed in 2020. Jack also replaced the 18-gallon aluminum fuel tank mounted behind the engine and the hot water tank in the cockpit locker.
Heating the interior to a comfortable level is critical in British Columbia, particularly in the shoulder seasons. An Espar diesel forced air furnace was added during a recent upgrade.
The electrical panel and battery switch are located behind the companionway, easily visible and accessible. Two 6-volt AGM house batteries are located under the portside settee, with two 12-volt starter batteries under the starboard settee. A solar panel atop the bimini frame over the aft end of the cockpit keeps the batteries topped up.
Sailing conditions were challenging when I climbed aboard Musashi, with not a breath of wind on a calm fall day. Control under power was exactly as expected, the deep rudder in the prop wash providing precise directional control even at low speed. Backing down was dead straight. I was expecting prop walk in one direction or the other, but that was not evident. Jack cruises at about 2,500 rpm with 5.5 knots of boat speed. Engine noise in the cockpit was acceptable.
Motoring out over mirrored water, we found a patch of wind, then hoisted the main and pulled out the genoa. The Harken roller furling performed well. Both the full-batten main and 110% genoa were about 5 years old, with excellent shape. Musashi accelerated smoothly in the light 7 to 9 knots of breeze, heeling nicely and pointing well. The cockpit coaming on the leeward side was ideal for watching sail trim and reaching the genoa sheet winch. She tacked easily through 100 degrees and would likely do better with a bit more wind. The Whitlock geared steering was very sensitive to the touch, with excellent feedback and no noticeable slack — no cables to adjust or maintain. The wind was too light to cause any weather helm, but Jack reports that even in heavier air, with the sails trimmed properly, the CS 30 can go hands-off for long distances.
Although we didn’t have an opportunity to sail through any seas, Jack and Marilyn report that Musashi had no undesirable characteristics while sailing in ocean waves during their Vancouver Island circumnavigation. The boat was not squirrelly in heavy following seas, and they were quite confident in her capabilities.
The PHRF ratings for most fleets in the U.S. and Canada are 150 seconds per mile. A J/30’s numbers are very close at 144, while an O’Day 30’s are around 189.
I believe the CS 30 is exactly what Tony Castro intended all those years ago: a fast coastal cruiser designed without the constraints of racing rules. Fast under all points of sail, efficient under power, and nimble under both, the CS 30 exemplifies quality design and production. Fastidiously maintained, Musashi is a fine example of the heyday of volume production boats. I would have no hesitation taking this good old boat for extended coastal cruising, including open ocean sails off the West Coast of British Columbia.
A recent search for CS 30s for sale found only two, priced at $23,000 and $25,000.
CS 30 Owner Comments
I own a 1985 CS 30 shoal- draft version with a 150% roller-furling genoa. That and the mainsail work well up to about 12 knots of true wind before the boat feels overpowered with excessive weather helm. In the 12- to 20-knot range, I furl the genoa to the size of a 110% genoa. I also put a reef in the main. The boat is quite stiff. At about 45 degrees of heel, the rudder loses grip in the water and the boat rounds up.
I consider the build quality better than the typical production boat such as a Catalina, but not as good as top-level boats. The boat is probably on a par with a C&C, Pearson, Sabre, or Tartan. The hull is on the light side and it has more sail area than most 30-footers, so I consider it more of a bay boat or a coastal cruiser than an oceangoing boat. The boatyard needs to be careful in the placement of the jack stands, as the fiberglass is on the thin side and there are no solid bulkheads aft of the companionway.
The packing gland on the propeller shaft is hard to adjust unless you remove the rear side of the engine compartment. The batteries are located under the galley sink, making them somewhat hard to remove or replace.
I once had a leak between the keel and the bottom of the boat due to the sealing material deteriorating after 30 years of use. The keel had to be dropped and new sealant applied. The boat is susceptible to gelcoat blistering. When I purchased the boat in 1993, the previous owner had just had the old gelcoat removed and a barrier coat applied. I found that if I kept the boat in the water year-round, some blistering reappeared. I fixed those spots and started hauling the boat out each winter and have had no further problems.
—Wade Moler, Linthicum, Maryland
I am the owner of a 1988 CS 30. She has the deep keel and points very well. I sailed for many years with a 150% genoa, but when I purchased new sails I opted for a 135 as I was often sailing with a partially furled #1. These boats like to be sailed fairly flat. They love 10 to 15 degrees of heel, and you will easily see why if you get overpowered. She isn’t generally considered tender, but finding the right amount of sail area is key. The bottom is on the flat side forward, which can lead to some pounding when the going gets rough.
In my opinion, the boat is very well built. There are plenty of articles about blistering of the gelcoat, but I did an epoxy bottom job on her and have never experienced blistering.
I like the cockpit shape, and in particular the height of the cockpit seatbacks. The coaming isn’t the most comfortable, but the trade-off is the comfort of the cockpit seats.
The fact that one has to step up onto the cockpit seats to get around the helm isn’t a big inconvenience. I bought a Lewmar folding steering wheel, which is absolutely wonderful when lounging in the cockpit at the dock or cleaning the boat.
—Mark Bridges, Shediac Bay Yacht Club, Shediac, New Brunswick
There is very little exterior wood to maintain, only the companionway trim. There is no core in the hull or the stringers, except the one behind the holding tank. Only the deck and coach roof have core. The keel is lead, so it doesn’t rust. There is no core in the rudder (the bottom is hollow and sacrificial in case of grounding). You do need a drain hole for winter storage, however.
I like the ease of regular maintenance and the build strength — after two groundings, one at more than 5 knots hitting a vertical rock to a dead stop with no hull damage, I can attest to that. There’s very good engine access and singlehanding is easy. The interior is spacious, with standing headroom everywhere.
The space behind the nav table and breaker panel is very limited. It’s hard to overstate how difficult it is to run new pipes and wiring. There’s very little space between the hull and interior finishing. If you like to tinker with systems, spend a day drilling multiple holes in the fiberglass stringers on the port side (remember, there is no core to rot; water actually circulates in the stringers anyway) that go from the galley sink all the way to the head sink, and are large enough to run wires. I did manage to add an electric bilge pump, forced air heater, modern autopilot, and an inverter, but it required a lot of creative use of space and drilling large holes through multiple layers.
The extremely pointy V-berth is only usable for a single typical adult. Most owners use the rear double berth.
—Benoit Grégoire, Montreal, Quebec
When we were shopping for a sailboat in 2001, the beautiful lines and features of this boat captured our attention. However, the 5-foot 5-inch fin keel was a concern for our home waters in northern Minnesota. After consulting with Mars Metals in Burlington, Ontario, we decided to purchase the boat and modify the keel. We reduced the draft to 4 feet 3 inches (with a chain saw) and added a bulb custom made by Mars Metals.
The hull has remained solid after 38 years, with minimal blistering. The bilge is shallow, making it difficult to maintain a dry bilge.
Occasionally the deck-and-hull joint will leak, especially when beating to windward in heavy winds. The stanchions would be improved with a better design for connecting to the deck.
—Paul and Diane Losinski, Cold Spring, Minnesota