Gulfstar 50 Review: Affordable Three Stateroom Classic

Gulfstar 50 Color PDF Brochure (Click to Download)

The Gulfstar 50 is one of Lazzara’s best designs. Lazzara previously was a partner at Columbia yachts who produced another well know 50-footer, the Columbia 50. The Gulfstar 50 is a lot of boat for under $200,000 these days and attracts a certain degree of interest. The combination of a 50 foot boat with a three stateroom layout for sometimes below $100,000 is one of those golden combination in a brokerage boat. There are always a large number of clients looking for a 50-foot boat for around $100,000. Gulfstar has a confusing reputation. Ask some people and they’ll lambast the builder for shoddy layup and bathtub designs. Ask others, and they’ll praise the skill and quality of Gulfstar. This inconsistency is a facet of the diametric divisions in Gulfstar’s history. For the first five years in 1970-1975, they built cheap, floating bathtubs. If you wanted a sailboat, they would step a mast. In the late 1970’s, Vince Lazzara jibed and produced high-quality, performance sailboats. These performance yachts include the 50 along with the 60 and 44.

Gulfstar 50
Gulfstar 50

First Impressions
With her teak caprail, long fine lines, and just the right touches of chrome, she is a boat many a client has fallen in love and had to check the hard reality of their bank account. The cabin trunk is streamlined with not too much height. She has a slightly spoon, raked bow with a sweet sheer and lovely counter stern. It is a design that has proven time and still keeps a modern look with it’s classic teak touches. You find sloop and ketch rigs on these centercockpit cruisers.

The 50 Gulfstar straddles the Gulfstar build lines. For instance, early on they used a star logo while later switching to a wreath shape. Some Gulfstar 50’s feature a star-wreath combination logo. In the early years, I have unconfirmed reports of iron ballast while later ones definitely have lead. This iron-lead choice is a primary division in quality. Lead is superior in density and corrosion resistance, but iron is less expensive. This change highlights the concerted effort of Gulfstar to improve the build quality. The tankage was set low in the bilge over the keel cavity so it is difficult to inspect the area. Another change was a switch from Formica to teak veneer interiors. They patented a special plywood for construction. You can see the quality with nicely radiused corners, cambered edges, and laminate. Gulfstar 50’s have dark teak interiors that rival the best workmanship of any manufacturer. The hull is solid glass. Because of the oil embargo, Gulfstar was experimenting lower than usual glass-resin ratios. While the learning curve had issues shown by the blister pox of all manufacturers during this era, essentially Gulfstar was right. Lazzara’s insistence on a low for the 50% glass-resin ratio is now the normal ratio for building yachts. Reports are that a few late model 50’s had balsa cored hulls. The decks are balsa cored and attached with the standard lip flange.

Gulfstar 50 Saloon

What to Look For
Most of the 50 Gulfstars were Caribbean charter boats. You will see quite a difference between the two stratas of 50’s, and it’s a real difference in all the ways you can and cannot see. Another note is that these are becoming unlikely financing candidates. Banks prefer not to finance boats older than 25 years of age. And because of Gulfstar’s confusing reputation, banks will hesitate to finance the brand. Unless you have a Bristol survey and perfect credit, financing a Gulfstar 50 is unlikely.

Gulfstar 50 Cockpit

On Deck and Down Below
The 50 comes in both 2 and 3 staterooms designs. These may correlate to the Mark I and II versions though noone seems to know the difference. The three stateroom design is more attractive with a V-berth forward, starboardside bunk beds, and large aft stateroom. The two staterooms have an enlarged engine room and navigation station area. One couple I met mentioned how steep the companionway is as you come down. The freeboard leads to 6’6″ headroom albeit the cockpit sole lowers the portside walkthrough. You will see the cockpit sole lower deep into the walkthrough on most Gulfstars. Because the cockpit is sunken into the hull lines giving that low slung look, the walkthrough headroom is restricted to 5’6″. I am 6’0″ and really have to crouch down to pass through the walkway. A pair of overhead handles in the companionway-saloon would help for safety offshore.

Gulfstar 50 Layout (Three Stateroom)

Engine and Underway
These have great Perkins engines originally. The access is from behind the companionway and also along the walkthrough. Some were surprisingly underpowered with a 65HP Perkins while others had a 85HP model. The fuel tank is in the bilge of fiberglass or stainless steel in front of the engine. The engine room has a cute little portholed door with the teak cambered top. Being a 35,000 pound displacement boat, she really can be a lot to handle for a newbie couple. Docking will be the biggest problem, and I would recommend a bow thruster which would run about $8,000 to ease the difficulty.

Gulfstar 50 Sloop

With a fin keel and skeg rudder, she has a modern underbody and will surprise you. One broker mentioned his experiences. “I owned a 57 Nautor Swan and a friend a 50 Gulfstar. One day it was really blowing, and nobody could stay out there except me and my friend on his 50 Gulfstar. With a Swan is saying something. And he was right with me the whole time. That’s when I realized these are great boats. I really like them.” The Gulfstar 50 is heavy displacement cruiser and can sail amongst the best.

After producing the 50 in the late 1970’s and early 1980’s, Gulfstar moved on to motor sailors and powerboats again. In the very end, they produced charter boats like the Gulfstar 50 CSY (a wholly different design) with Formica interiors. The sons were powerboat guys and did not do well with Gulfstar. Gulfstar shutdown in the late 1980’s. They successfully moved on to found the megayacht company Lazzara Yachts in the Tampa Bay area. The 50 Gulfstar remains, perhaps, Vince Lazzara’s greatest legacy to the sailing world – the inspiration for the Stevens / Hylas 47. You will find these for between $75,000 and $150,000 in varying condition.

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