Bluewater Sailboat – Cavalier 32


The Bluewater Sailboat Cavalier 32, often known as the “Cav32,” is maybe New Zealand’s best production cruiser, and certainly one of its most successful. When Sea Spray magazine took the first production boat out for a sail in July 1971, they were impressed by both the capacious interior, which slept up to eight people, and its on-the-water performance, noting it was fast, responsive, remarkably close-winded, and with good acceleration.

The boat went on to compete quite well as an ocean racer with a half-tonne rating, finally establishing itself as a comfortable and dependable blue seacraft among the cruising community. Many have cruised extensively in the South Pacific, while others have circumnavigated.

Cavalier 32
Cavalier 32
  • LOA: 32′ 0″ (9.8m)
  • LWL: 24′ 0″ (7.3m)
  • Beam: 9′ 9″ (3.0m)
  • Standard Draft: 5′ 4″ (1.6m)
  • Displacement: 9,000 lbs (4072kg)
  • Ballast: 4,570 lbs (2076 kg)
  • Sail Area: 375 sq.ft. (34.85 sq.m.)
  • Headroom: 6′ 1″ (1.85m)
  • Engine: Various 12-20 hp
  • Designer: Bob Salthouse
  • Year Introduced: 1971
  • Builder: Cavalier Yachts, NZ


The prototype Cavalier 32, designed by Bob Salthouse in 1969, made its debut at the 1970 Auckland Boat Show. The idea was to create a hull with significant racing potential; a boat that could be raced both inshore and offshore while yet providing family-size cruising accommodations. It was an instant success, with 14 boats sold by the time the first boat was launched in July 1971.

The Cavalier 32 was the first boat offered by a new company formed by John Salthouse and renowned boat builder Peter K. Smith. Cavalier Yachts was the name of the venture, which became the largest manufacturing boatbuilder in Oceania at its peak in the 1970s.

The boat’s rig was changed shortly after its release, with a shorter mast and boom to meet the half tonne racing rule. The Cav32s were such fierce opposition as a half tonner that the boat racked up several victories in the mid-1970s.

The Cav32 racing legacy lives on today, with a squad of RNZYS skippers competing alongside the Royal Sydney Yacht Squadron onboard Cav 32s in both Auckland, New Zealand and Sydney, Australia. There has never been a protest in the 30-year existence; all disagreements have been settled in the bar, in true Kiwi-Aussie fashion.

The yacht went on to become a popular among the cruising community. Before the infamous 20% “Muldoon boat tax” devastated the NZ boatbuilding business, 99 boats were manufactured in New Zealand. The moulds were transported to Australia and Japan, where a similar number of units were constructed.

The Australian boats had a revised rig that was 1.5m taller and various layout changes.

“Bullet proof,” writes Andrew Fagan, of Tingara’s initial delivery journey in 1975, skippered by none other than builder Peter Smith himself. The boat was caught in harsh weather when it passed Castlepoint; sustained wind speeds of 100 mph with gusts of 120 knots were recorded. A adjacent 55-foot fishing boat capsized, killing two people, while Tingara, running on bare poles, was repeatedly breached and rolled by breaking waves. The rig kept place, and the crew did not send a mayday (the radio went out), and the boat made its way into Wellington port, a bit damp inside and with some staved in washboards.


By modern lightweight racer/cruiser standards, the Bluewater Sailboat Cavalier 32 is a substantial all-arounder with exceptional performance in heavy conditions and downwind. Expect it to hold up full canvas long after other boats have to reef, thanks to its 50% ballast ratio.

The boat on its debut, noted that when a gale strikes, the boat surges ahead rather than lying on her ear and fighting to round into the wind. The boat is swift off the wind and not prone to broaching, and summed it up by adding, The boat performs admirably from every angle of sail. She carries her way and makes miles when ghosting; in the fresh, she is absolutely exciting.

This Bluewater sailboat is perfectly balanced and simple to sail and handle. At all times, expect finger-light steering.


The boat was a forerunner of cored fibreglass construction. The hull is made of extremely sturdy hand-laid GRP with end-grain balsa coring.
From the outside in, the layup begins with the gel coat, which is strengthened by 1oz matt, followed by 10oz cloth and two layers of 2oz matt. In the bilge, the balsa coring is 19mm thick and 13mm thick above the waterline. Then comes a layer of 2oz matt and 24oz woven rove, which together makes a robust impact-resistant layer.

All deck fixtures are wood-backed and glassed over. The hull-deck joint is epoxy bonded, then pop riveted every 6 inches with Monel rivets and stainless steel bolts. The junction is glassed over, providing a gusset with the same thickness as the hull.

Quick Notes

The Bluewater Sailboat Cavalier 32 has held up well over time, owing to its sturdy build. Prospective buyers are most interested in the following areas:

  • The initial boats built by Cavalier Yachts’ Peter Smith devoted special attention to preventing osmosis. It has been reported that boats built subsequently under licence may have had issues.
  • Rig pressures must be high to preserve the Cav32’s outstanding close-windedness. Some owners have overdone it, causing weariness. Wire terminals, rigging screws, and chainplates should all be checked.
  • Examine the mast fittings and the mast itself.
  • Examine the joints between the hull and the bulkheads for movement, particularly the main bulkhead.
  • Examine the chainplate knees. This is a well-engineered area in general, but it is also a high-stress area.
  • Check the rudder stock for wear in the rudder shaft keyway, and look for loose play in the tiller.
  • Leaching of zinc concentration in various bronze alloys in saline water has been observed in some rudder stocks. On the surface, look for pinkish powder or paste.
  • Yanmar YSE 12hp single-cylinder diesel engines were frequently used. Despite being smaller than what is often used nowadays, it has proved to have considerable force when paired with a suitably sized prop (not the folder race prop).

Looking for a used sailboat for sale? Check out the Bluewater sailboat data and specs to make an informed decision. Ocean Wave Sail has data for over 10000+ boats that can help you select one to meet your sailing needs.

Now you can also precisely calculate the expenses related to boat ownership to make smart choices based on your budget and sailing needs. Use this bluewater Sailboat Calculator to explore different options and make the best decision.

error: Content is protected !!