Sundeer 56/60 Review: Super Offshore Sailing Machine

Sundeer 60 Brochure

Steve and Linda Dashew started out in 1978 with the 68′ Deerfoot. This was the first design with a molded swim platform. Their goal was and still is to build the optimal offshore boat. They followed with a range of Deerfoot designs. Then they made a switch in the 1990’s to their second evolution, Sundeer. One of these designs, the 60′ Sundeer (also shortened to be the 56-footer) would become a production fiberglass yacht built by Tillotson Pearson Industrial Composites or TPI for short in Warren, Rhode Island. They produced seventeen of the 56/60 Sundeers from 1994 to 1997. The Dashews moved onto their Beowolf and Godspeed designs in the late 1990’s. Today, they are focusing a a FPB series of circumnavigable poweryachts including their test bed, Windhorse. Sundeers distinguish themselves by being narrower (4.9 length to beam ratio), very fine entries (14 degrees from centerline), and larger mainsails than other offshore yachts. These changes give them additional waterline length and increase passagemaking speeds as the Sundeer 60’s for instance regularly average over 200 nautical miles a day offshore. Dashew says that the 60 is the “most efficient 2 person cruising boat we could conceive.”

First Impressions
Sundeers have an extreme masculinity and look like they ought to built out of some rough and tough material like steel or aluminum. The edges are angular like the swim platform that is cut off straight aftmost. The three portlights in the topsides are distinctively large, menacing, and squarish. Starting forward the bow is cut-off straight with hardly an overhang tough bowsprit provides anchor clearance. The plumb bow goes with the Dashew theory of a no nonsense offshore boat. The bow is fine with absolutely no flair to cut deep through waves upwind. The straight slightly uplifting sheer runs to the aft cockpit and swim platform arrangement. The beam stays wide aft. With her 4.9 length to beam ratio, the narrow hull shape allows her to surf down waves. The cabintrunk hides slanting quickly into the cockpit combings. Some 56/60’s have pilothouses or hard dodger arrangements. Her sloop rig makes room for a large mainsail and flexible foresail area. She features a 64′ raked, double spreader mast. The underbody is balanced up to 20% heeling and leads to a soft, comfortable motion. Her keel can be of different arrangements but standard is 6′ fin paired with a shorter rudder and long, skinny skeg. The prop comes out close to the skeg on a steep angle.

Sundeer Fabrication Details

One good part about Dashew is the plethora of information. They are prolific publishers of books including the bible of offshore sailing, the Dashew Offshore Handbook, and numerous videos. The Dashews both have strong, stable opinions. The builder was Tillotson Pearson Industrial Composites whose co-founder Clinton Pearson helped found Pearson Yachts in the 1950’s, maybe the first fiberglass production builder. The company is world renown for its innovative and advanced molding techniques and composes everything from sailboats to wind turbines. They were one of the few users of SCRIMP technology in the mid 1990’s. This technique uses a vaccum bagging and resin injection to avoid secondary bonding. TPI used vinylester resin with a mix of quadriaxial, biaxial, unidirectional fiberglass with end grain balsa coring. The gel coats for the deck are hull were white though other colors were possible. TPI gave a 10 year blister free warranty. The hull structure was built to ABS standards. Heavy scantlings including keel floors of 18″ center stiffen her. An aluminum mast step bolts on to the floors. The 56/60’s have two watertight bulkheads one each to square off the forepeek and engine room areas. These along with the main bulkhead are balsa cored. The hull deck joint is of the standard flange glued by 3M’s 5200 and bolted at 4″ centers with the aluminum toerail. The keel is an external lead piece bolted to the fiberglass keel stub. A swim platform is glassed on the transom.

Sundeer 60 Layout

On Deck and Down Below
Up forward, she has a bow chock for dual anchors. The watertight anchor bin is below the electric windlass. This is a narrow foredeck with the fine bow that is meant to slice through oncoming seas. There can be a cutter stay here. There are numerous dorades molded in which the Dashews say provides enough ventilation to avoid the need for air conditioning in most climates. Their philosophy avoids generators, air conditioning, and mast furling. Aftmost is the cockit. The beefy ground tackle is by Lewmar. A lazarette aftmost provides access to the engine room behind the aft watertight bulkhead. There is only a single through-hole in the whole boat to provide hull integrity. The aft cockpit has long seating to lie down on and nice width and height. They have sailed enough to know the importance of cockpit ergonomics.

The narrowness of the hull makes this a rather distinctively different interior. Although 60-feet in length, the 56/60 was meant with a cruising couple in mind. The layout is only a two stateroom boat with the cockpit and portside cabin aft arrangement. Forwardmost is a master suite with a centerline queen that is common on Dashew designs since the Deerfoots. The open saloon and “C” shaped galley is next. Aft starboardside is the single head with shower.

Sundeer 56 Standard Equipment and Specifications

Engine and Underway
Behind a watertight bulkhead aft is the engine room. This is a interesting and very safe idea also seen on the big MacGregor 65’s, another narrow long waterline design. The idea is to separate the danger of sinking from a failed hose or shaft leak. Access is through a lazarette, and there is posible access from the aft cabin. Common are the now discontinued 88 HP Yanmars while the earliest had a 77 HP Yanmar.

The prime focus of the Sundeers is a great circumnavigating sailboat for two people. The 56/60 is known to clip off 200 plus miles a day. This is because of an efficient hull shape, i.e. long waterline, and easy to handle sail plan. The larger main but not too much canvas can be easily managed at pretty good efficiency by one person. All lines run into the aft cockpit for this purpose. The fine bow inhibits any tendency to pound up wind, and the narrow beam increases buoyancy forward to surf downwind without plunging the bow.

The Sundeer 56/60 line by TPI and Dashew Offshore is an strongly built, well though-out passagemaker for those who dream to sail around the world. Her masculinity, rawness, and narrow beam give her a distinctive style. Great support is available as the Dashews continue to try out innovative ideas and have produced wide array of books, pamphlets, and videos to explain their philosophy and boats that envelope it. Originally retailing at $277,000 in 1993 for sailaway, a sign of their value is the brokerage prices of around a half a million.

6 Replies to “Sundeer 56/60 Review: Super Offshore Sailing Machine”

  1. On single handed passage from Balboa, CZ to Honokohau, HI on my Sundeer 60 after having crossed up into the NE trades I made about 210 miles per day for 8 days without touching the helm.   The wind was on the starboard quarter, 15-18 knots gusts to 20.  Sea 8-12 ft; swell NW 1-2 ft.  Just good steady trades.

    This kind of sailing spoils you for the rest of your sailing life.

  2. As a 12 year owner of a 56 there are a few mistakes here. Firstly there is no skeg and the rudders are BIG, secondly the standard anchor arrangement is for a single over-sized anchor, normally a 110llb Bruce and the windlass is a Maxwell from New Zealand.

  3. Also noted, the price. Dashew worked hard to get a headline grabbing price for the boats but this was absolutely basic with e.g. no equipment, no cushions for berths and none of the interior woodwork varnished. It was never a sail away price. In reality they were almost double the base price. My receipt for the delivered yacht from TPI was in the mid 600s in 1996.


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