Forty feet, one inch. That’s the length overall (LOA) of the Hallberg-Rassy 39. At that length it’s hard to imagine finding a center cockpit boat that doesn’t look like a floating wedding cake and actually sails well. Fortunately, in true Hallberg-Rassy fashion, they hit the mark on both styling and performance with this boat.
Designed by noted Argentinian yacht designer, Germán Frers, the HR39 enjoyed a 13-year production run between 1991 and 2003 that saw 209 boats crafted in Sweden. And on a beautiful spring day, I was able to get out for a sail on one of the last boats built over that period, the 2001 HR39 Artful Dodger.
Sitting in a quaint marina between floating home communities near Eastlake in Seattle, when I walked up to the boat it was every bit the beauty that HR is known for producing. The wedding cake look didn’t apply. Instead, her pleasant lines, functional windshield, graceful swimstep transom, and clean, uncluttered decks gave this mid-sized cruiser the appearance of a well crafted and cared for cruiser.
When we opened the companionway, I went down below to store my bag and poke around before getting the boat out of her slip. I always appreciate the look of Hallberg-Rassy’s satin finished mahogany interiors and for a 40-foot boat, the inside seemed quite large. With a 13-foot 2-inch beam that is carried well forward and aft, the boat has two generously sized staterooms and one large head compartment.
The forward stateroom is a classic HR V-berth that works well as a guest cabin or as a bunk for the kids. At the foot of the bed is a watertight bulkhead that separates the anchor locker from the cabin and storage lockers are built in above. Just aft of this cabin in the passageway is a small seat with a cushion that is located just below a hanging locker, which would make a great spot to don foul weather gear while underway at sea.
Across from this seat is the head. Cupboards and under-sink cabinets provide a lot of storage and there is enough space to pull a curtain around to take a shower. It may have been tempting for HR to try for a separate shower stall on this boat, but I don’t think it’s necessary.
Moving aft, Artful Dodger’s salon has a classic L-shaped settee to port and long bench to starboard. A table in the middle of the salon has two folding leafs that can flip up for meals, and when stowed, the table acts as a place to brace yourself when walking forward or aft while underway. The cushioned seat backs are hinged at the bottom, folding down to reveal storage. And there are two opening cabinets above each settee with an open storage space in between. As I sat on the long bench admiring the interior joinery, I could’t help but think that this would be a comfortable cruising boat in the Pacific Northwest or around the world.
One of my favorite features of the layout, though, is the galley just aft of the salon and to starboard. Instead of it being a U with a sink that juts out towards the salon. It is reversed so that the sink is aft and the stove and counter run along the starboard side of the hull. What this does is opens up the space to make it feel much larger and less compartmentalized. There is storage above the sink and stove, and a top-loading fridge is between the two, with a freeze being housed aft of the navigation station on the port side.
Moving to port, the nav station faces forward and instruments and radios are well positioned at arm’s reach yet out of the way above the desk. To one side is a bank of drawers opening athwartships and to the other is the ship’s power panel. Behind the nav station is the passageway to the aft stateroom. The engine and genset are easily accesible in this space and from under the companionway, and there are large hanging lockers for foulies and clothing.
Artful Dodger’s master stateroom is one that many sailors dream of having. With a large bed, lots of storage and an L-shaped seat to port, it would be comfortable at anchor or sea. A large overhead hatch, two ports and one large linear window let in lots of light during the day and can be covered at night. And there is enough headroom to stand and get dressed.
Overall, the HR39’s interior has been well refined over its 13 years of production and this one has been kept immaculately clean. The craftsmanship and detail is first rate, and it would make a perfect living space for a couple or small family who wants to travel the world, liveaboard at a marina or both.
Enjoying a spring wind
After spending time down below, we were ready to get Artful Dodger out on the water for a spin on a beautiful spring day. She was backed into her slip, so leaving the dock merely meant untying the docklines, giving her a little shove and driving in forward.
Out on Lake Union we found a pleasant 5 to 10 knot breeze that occasionally gusted to 15. With a full suit of Hasse & Company Port Townsend Sails — including a beautifully cut traditional mainsail instead of a roller furling one — we had the sails up and drawing in short order. The mainsheet and traveler are located behind the helm and are in quick grasp of the driver. We started off jibing downwind towards South Lake Union and from my seat at the helm, I could trim the main from side to side with little effort while Pete McGonagle worked the jib sheets.
When we ran out of sea room, we turned north and tacked our way from one side of the lake to the other. As we did, we passed other boats out enjoying the breeze and we returned waves while they gave long looks of approval. While steering to the tell tales, I found myself perched on the wide coaming to leeward between the winch for the mainsheet and the winch for the working jib sheet. What this allowed me to do during a tack was to ease the jib sheet and then steer through the tack and move to the other side. Had Pete not been there to trim the new sheet, I easily could have taken a seat and trimmed it myself. It was a perfect setup for tacking shorthanded.
Artful Dodger’s helm was smooth as we zig zagged from east to west and it felt very familiar. I later found out that this generation of HR39s employed a spade rudder on a half skeg, much like my Grand Soleil 39, which explained my affinity for her handling.
Though Pete and I both had other obligations to get to that evening, we eked out as much time as possible on the water before finally turning on the Volvo diesel, furling the genoa, and dropping and stowing the mainsail in its cradle cover. One of the last things I noticed about the boat as we did this was how simply rigged it was. There are no control lines or halyards running aft to the cockpit from the mast. And while that may be desirable for many, it can also be a burden and can give the deck and rig a cluttered look. There is surely something to be said for the simplicity of going to the mast to reef and hoist sails.
From my short time sailing Artful Dodger I could tell that she would be a seaworthy and relatively fast boat in just about any sea conditions you’d find yourself in. Hallberg-Rassy is known for building quality boats that can girdle the globe in style and comfort, and in many ways they hit the mark for 13 years while building the HR39.
To find out more about the Hallberg-Rassy 39 Artful Dodger, visit swiftsureyachts.com.