The Bristol 45.5 is one of the second generation designs by New England’s Bristol Yachts, a continuation of the popular 35.5 Hood design. Clinton Pearson founded the company in 1966 after being ousted from Pearson Yachts which he co-founded with his brother Everett in 1959. Clinton purchased the troubled manufacturer “Sailstar” and renamed it Bristol Yachts after the production facility located on Popasquash Road, in Bristol, Rhode Island. After a successful decade of mostly Carl Alberg, full keeled designs, the company started producing high performance cruisers by Ted Hood’s design office such as this 45.5. Dieter Empacher was the lead naval architect and deserves much of the credit for these fantastic yachts. Launched in 1979 and produced until 1990, the 45.5 is a good subject to study the features of Bristol’s second generation which include centerboard keels, fine entries, and beefy aft sections. After focusing on custom projects during the 1990’s, the manufacturer went bankrupt in 1997 and permanently closed shop.
The handsome profile of Bristol Yachts such as the 45.5 attests to the first class tastes of our New England craftsmen. The teak trappings blend with a sweet sheer for a fine first impression. Like the Bristol 41.1 and others, the 45.5 comes in both aft and center cockpit versions though the aft cockpit model is rare with reportedly only 5 ever built according to brokerage records. Dieter Empacher did an excellent job of maintaining a low profile on the more common center cockpit deck mold, so the aft cockpit is only slightly sleeker looking to my eye. Finishing her off is a delectable rocket ship stern. Underneath she features a Hood centerboard fin keel arrangement with a partial skeg mounted rudder.
Construction and What To Look For
Bristol used woven roving and polyester resins for a variable inch thick solid glass hull paired with a end grain balsa cored deck. The ballast is a 15,000 pound cast lead insert encapsulated in her keel cavity for a high proportionality to her 34,660 designed displacement. On deck, the toerail, handrails, and combing tops are solid teak. The main mast is keel stepped and set in the same location whether she is sloop, cutter, or even ketch rigged. The rare ketch versions have a shorter main mast and boom with a deck stepped spar. The ketch, aft cockpit combination oddly and necessarily steps the mizzen in the midst of the cockpit.
On Deck and Down Below
The center cockpit versions have moderate length cockpit benches while the helm is raised for a shallow seat back. Down the companionway ladder, you are immersed in the lovely light teak interior. Her galley is the attractive and secure U-shaped style offset starboardside. Bristol Yachts was a semi-custom builder, so you may find lounge chairs or a straight settee in the saloon across from a dinette arrangement. Centerline is a folding table and inline with the forward bulkhead is the keel stepped spar. On center cockpit models, the aft stateroom may have split berths, an athwartship king, or an island queen. The aft head has a separate stall shower unlike the forward wet head.
Engine and Underway
The original engine on these yachts was either a Westerbeke in the range of 60 to 70 HP, 6 cylinder Pathfinder, or the Perkins 4-236 which would be my preference. Some have been repowered with a Yanmar 75 HP most likely at least on the center cockpit version by removing the cockpit sole. Access is available from the port passageway and through the aft head. Fuel is located in two 100 gallon stainless steel tanks. She comes in ketch and sloop versions with a rather yawlish mizzen drawing 4′ 11″ with the board up, but when sailing windward having the board down to 11′ significantly improves her pointing height and stability. The sailing performance of these heavy displacement 34,000 pound yachts is a prime attraction for both passage making and coastal cruising. Her long lines, fine entry, and meaty aft sections give her a PHRF of 111.
The Bristol 45.5 is one of Bristol’s second generation designs attributed to Ted Hood along with the 41.1, 47.7, etc. She has traditional New England looks with a high performance keel centerboard underbody. These yachts are usually lavished with attention by owners who demand perfection as well as extravagantly equipped with all the latest and greatest accoutrements. A quick scan of the brokerage market shows seven available widely ranging from $139,000 to 279,500. A fair goal would be to make an offer on one for under $200,000.