Though not well known here in the U.S., the Golden Hind 31 is an iconic boat in Great Britain. I bought one in Maine over 10 years ago, cruised it on the coast there for several seasons, and developed great respect for it. Conceived as a shoal-draft bilge-keel cruiser for gunkholing the tidal creeks and swatchways of East Anglia, it is also a proven bluewater boat. For many years it was said to hold the record for most transatlantic crossings by a production sailboat and at least one has been around Cape Horn.

Though it does have its quirks, the Golden Hind is extremely versatile. With less than four feet of draft it can sail into all kinds of nooks and crannies where other boats dare not venture, a feature I found very useful when exploring Penobscot Bay and environs. Thanks to its bilge keels, it stands up straight when aground and can be anchored with impunity in areas that dry out at low tide, which is very helpful when you’re looking for a parking place in a crowded harbor. Add to this the ability to cross oceans, and the Golden Hind makes for a unique package, particularly for a small boat exhibiting a great deal of traditional charm and character.

The original design, drawn up by Maurice Griffiths, was commissioned in 1965 by a British coffin manufacturer, Hartwell’s, that decided to try its hand at boatbuilding. They built 120 Golden Hinds in plywood over six years, whereupon their yard manager, Terry Erskine, took over in 1971 and began building the boat with a fiberglass hull and a wood deck and cabinhouse.  Erskine closed up shop in the early 1980s, but in 1995 production was resumed by Golden Hind Marine. Using Erskine’s molds they built only a few fancier, more modern “Mark II” versions of the boat before selling out to Newson Boatbuilders in 2006, which is building the boat to all stages of completion . In all, over 250 Golden Hinds have been built. Most surviving examples were built by Erskine, who filled several orders for Americans (my boat, named Sophie, built in 1977, was one of these).

Most Golden Hinds were built with the “standard” sloop rig, which is very short, reaching just 32 feet from deck to masthead. These boats tend to be slow under sail and rarely sail anywhere near their potential top hull speed, except when conditions are boisterous. The more modern Mark II boats have much taller cutter rigs (over 39 feet from deck to masthead), plus over 1,000 pounds more ballast, and though they have a lower potential speed due to the increased weight, they routinely sail much closer to that potential. A few of the older boats have also been converted to taller rigs. I did this myself with Sophie and was very pleased with the result. (The photo at the top of this post is of Sophie with her tall rig.)

With both a long full keel and two small bilge plates in the water, the Golden Hind’s underbody presents a lot of lateral surface area in three different planes. The boat tracks extremely well as a result and does not like to change direction. This makes it very easy to sail singlehanded, even without self-steering gear. It also points to windward better than one might expect, and the bilge plates help dampen the boat’s motion in a seaway. The plates also, of course, increase wetted surface area, which hurts light-air performance, most particularly on boats with shorter rigs. If one likes, the heavy steel plates can be removed, and I know at least one owner who tried this before embarking on a transatlantic passage. He reported his boat rolled much more than it had before and was more tender and that he did not consider the relatively small increase in boatspeed to be worth the bother and discomfort.

Many of the original all-plywood boats have deteriorated over time, but the fiberglass boats are strong and quite durable. The double-chined hull is solid laminate, while the cabinhouse sides are solid mahogany. The deck and coachroof beams are hardwood covered with marine plywood, which is sheathed with 6-ounce cloth and epoxy resin. The cast-iron ballast is fully encapsulated within the center full keel, while the bilge plates are through-bolted into a heavy steel support frame installed inside the hull. This allows the plates to carry the weight of the boat when aground without unduly stressing the hull.

Structural maintenance revolves mostly around keeping moisture out of the wooden parts of the boat, as any leaks lead to water wicking quickly along the plywood’s horizontal sections. Fortunately, the structure of the wood deck and house is not complex. All deck sections are easily accessed from inside the boat, and cutting out and replacing saturated areas is relatively easy. On the whole the later Mark II boats are built to a finer standard than the Erskine boats, with a more modern hull-laminate schedule and superior interior joinery. The Mark II models also have a redesigned rudder, with more surface area forward of the pivot point in the oversized prop aperture, and this helps to relieve the boat’s sometimes heavy weather helm.

For a small traditional boat with a narrow beam, the Golden Hind has a remarkably roomy interior. There is over 6 feet of standing headroom throughout the main cabin, plus both a dedicated nav station and a proper wet locker for hanging up foul-weather gear right by the companionway. The traditional lay-out has a full-size settee berth to starboard, plus a love-seat to port that can be converted to a full-length berth by opening a small hatch in the forward bulkhead, which allows prostrate crew to insert their feet into the bottom of the adjacent hanging locker. There is also a small removeable table that can be set up in the center of the saloon. The V-berth up forward can honestly function as two separate single berths, or as a very roomy double if the midsection is filled in. An optional dinette layout also allows for the creation of a double berth in the saloon if desired. The galley, as a rule, is a bit undersized with inadequate counter space and can be difficult to use while underway.


LOA  31’6”
LWL  26’9”
Beam  9’0”
Draft  3’8”
– Original  4,100 lbs.
– Mark II  5,196 lbs.
– Original  11,600 lbs.
– Mark II  13,500 lbs.
Sail area (100% foretriangle)
– Original  370 sq.ft.
– Mark II  510 sq.ft.
Fuel  20 gal.
Water  40 gal.
D/L ratio
– Original  271
– Mark II  315
SA/D ratio
– Original  11.53
– Mark II  14.37
Comfort ratio
– Original  33.86
– Mark II  39.40
Capsize screening
– Original  1.59
– Mark II  1.51
Nominal hull speed
– Original  7.5 knots
– Mark II  7.1 knots

Typical asking prices
– Original  $12K – $42K
– Mark II  $90K plus
Base price new  $149K


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11 Responses
  1. Jim

    Thanks for the history of the Golden Hinds! You filled in a few gaps in my knowledge. My wife, son and I currently live aboard “Lammeroo” in St. Petersburg, Florida (No. 161, cutter rig with Dinette, completed summer 1976). It’s a bit cramped as a liveaboard, but we think she’ll be great when we start cruising in a few months.

  2. John Lawrence

    I have a 10 meter “Levanter”, which is the steel version of Maurice Griffith’s Golden Hind.

    It was custom built from plans in Glasgow,Scotland. It is now in Miami, FL.

    Any other owners out there?


  3. michael Elliott

    Hi Charlie,
    Just amazed at all you did with Sophie. You obviously enjoyed this unique vessel. Hoping you are well, and happy enough these days. We are still in Rockland and would enjoy hearing from you.
    Best Regards,
    Mike and Karen
    Owner #2 of Sophie

  4. Barry Buchanan

    Hi Charlie,
    Just amazed at all you did with Sophie. You obviously enjoyed this unique vessel. Hoping you are well, and happy enough these days. We are still in Rockland and would enjoy hearing from you.
    Best Regards,
    Mike and Karen
    Owner #2 of Sophie

    Mike and Karen,
    Is there any chance that “Sophie” is also, “Adagio”? The reason I ask is, I just purchased “Adagio” in Rockland, ME!


    Mount Desert Island, Maine

  5. tony

    hello ,,yes i,m from mallorca,i,see you comentaris abaut this golden hind 31,i,,have a few boats before , like catalina 27, puma 34,,,bavaria 36,,,, i,want to know more abaut this clasic boat ,,maybe cross the atlantic again next year and back year after,,,what is you opinion abaut big trips for the golden hind,,?i,pass my e-mail adress,,,,

    1. Viv Wright

      My Father, David Nott crossed the Atlantic in a plywood GH in 1978 from Plymouth. The boat was called Lady Milly.

      He dropped me off in Antigua and sailed to Jamaica and I think he sold it there.

      It was a great boat and definitely an ocean passage maker.

      I am in Canada on the East Coast and looking for one for myself.

  6. Gene Bruce

    Hi , can anyone tell me if a 1977 Erskine built 31 would have Iron or Lead ballast ? Thanks . Looking a one for sale in Florida .

  7. Brendan Mulligan

    Really enjoyed your article on Sophie..
    I have a shorter rig Golden hind 31 and wish to upgrade as you have done.
    I wonder if you could advise me of the mast section as i note you had a single spreader rig.
    Also did the extra ballast go into the slot under the stern tube and propshaft.
    Many thanks

    1. Charles Doane

      Hi Brendan: Sorry for the slow response! I’ve been out sailing for a few weeks and just got back. The section for Sophie’s new mast was actually lighter than the old mast, which was much heavier than necessary. The two masts weighed about the same. In fact, I think the new one may have been lighter. Selden Mast specced and built the new mast for me. They’re very good at that sort of thing! I added no ballast. It wasn’t necessary, as the boat was so under canvassed with the original rig. I did have to reef earlier! cheers, charlie

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