Bluewater Sailboat – Southern Cross 35

Also called: Gillmer 35


The Southern Cross 35 is a toughly built, double-ended cutter designed for safe, comfortable, and fast passage-making in blue water. She was created by Thomas Gillmer, a naval architecture professor at the Naval Academy in Annapolis who also developed the Allied Seawind 30 Ketch, the first fibreglass yacht to cross the globe. The Southern Cross 35 has a wide beam and a sweeping sheerline, which keeps her remarkably dry in a rough sea. Simultaneously, a relatively high-aspect rig, a fin keel, and a skeg-mounted rudder enable her to combine excellent seaworthiness with surprisingly lively performance.

Southern Cross 35
Southern Cross 35
  • LOA: 35′ 3″
  • LWL: 28′ 0″
  • Beam: 11′ 5″
  • Draft: 4′ 11″
  • Displacement: 17,710 lbs.
  • Ballast: 5,750 lbs.
  • Sail Area: 632 sq.ft.
  • Bridge Clearance: 49′ 0″
  • Headroom: 6′ 4″
  • Engine: Universal 30
  • Fuel: 35 US Gal.
  • Water: 90 US Gal.
  • Designer: Thomas Gillmer
  • Builder: C. E. Ryder, Bristol, Rhode Island
  • Year Introduced: 1978
  • Year Ended: 1990
  • Total Built: 95
  • Also Known As: Gillmer 35


Thomas Gillmer’s profession reflected a lifelong fascination in traditional boats. He created the topsail schooner Pride of Baltimore, and after her sad sinking in a microburst squall in 1986, he designed her replacement, Pride of Baltimore II. He helped to recreate the 17th-century Dutch commerce ship Kalmar Nyckel, which is currently the tall-ship ambassador for the state of Delaware. The restoration of the USS Constitution was carried out in accordance with Gillmer’s research. His early Privateer series and the Colin Archer-inspired Southern Cross 31, with its full keel, tiller-steered outboard rudder, and bowsprit, reflected that conventional approach.

Gillmer, on the other hand, combined a classic sheer, canoe stern, and cutter rig with a modern fin keel and skeg-hung rudder for the Southern Cross 35 and 39. As a result, a pair of actual sea-going vessels with much better speed and handling were created.

The Southern Cross boats were built by the C. E. Ryder Company of Bristol, Rhode Island, a company known for its durable, high-quality craftsmanship and attention to detail. Ryder also created the Sea Sprite range, which included the 23, 28, and 34. The first Southern Cross 35 was introduced in 1978, and the last in 1990, when the manufacturer went out of business. According to, a total of 95 hulls were manufactured throughout that 13-year period. Some of them were finished by the owner and sold as Gillmer 35s. The hull number was inscribed on a circular bronze plaque on the factory-built boats.


The Southern Cross 35’s hull is made of Airex foam core layered between substantial layers of handlaid fibreglass, providing overall structural integrity, thermal and acoustic insulation, and an extra measure of security in the event of a collision with a floating item at sea. Decks are fibreglass with moulded nonskid regions and end-grained balsa cores. The keel is entirely enclosed lead and has a relatively shallow draught of 4′ 11″. The hull-to-deck interface is sturdy and dry, with double ninety-degree joints and a tough teak caprail. The strong and long-lasting Navtec rod rigging is securely attached into unique aluminum drums glassed into the hull. A 35 gallon fibreglass fuel tank is positioned beneath the cabin sole midships, while twin 45 gallon plastic water tanks are located beneath each of the main cabin settees. There were two cabin interiors available: one in white wood with teak trim and another in teak with teak veneer. The joinery work in the main cabin is superb, with great care taken to minimize hard edges and sharp corners.

Above and Below Deck

The Southern Cross 35 has an aperture-enclosed, skeg-mounted propeller with a fin keel beneath the waterline for speed and maneuverability. For stability in a seaway, Gillmer expanded the beam fore and aft. Other features above decks outfit the boat adequately for off-shore sailing. Even in rough seas, her rising sheer, large bulwarks, and wrap-around cockpit with broad combing keep her dry. At the same time, her low freeboard, along with a cut-away of the bulwarks on either side of the cockpit, provides the crew with a thrilling proximity to the passing water. The wide beam and shrouds situated well inboard allow for good fore and aft passage. A specially built, ventilated locker in the crotch of the canoe stern neatly stores twin propane tanks.

The mast is keel-stepped and rigged with a club-footed staysail, which is held in place by permanently dedicated supplemental shrouds. Factory-built boats were available in two configurations: one with a portside quarterberth and the other with an aft-facing navigation station flanked by a large wetlocker. Standard features were a U-shaped starboard aft galley and twin facing main cabin setees with a large foldable table installed on the mast trunk. The Southern Cross 35 is well ventilated thanks to three cabintop hatches (one in the main cabin, one in the head, and one in the forward V-berth) and eight opening ports. A huge main cabin closet, a V-berth closet and drawers, plus stowage outboard of the port and starboard main cabin setees provide plenty of interior storage space. The initial engine was a 30 hp Universal diesel, which may have been a little underpowered for the Southern Cross 35’s 18,000 lb. capacity.


The Southern Cross 35’s rather high aspect rig allows her to point quite effectively, tacking within 75 degrees, and gives the boat unexpectedly respectable light air performance. Her PHRF New England rating is 174. The sail area to displacement ratio of her sail is 14.83. The cutter rig and mast installation almost midships allow the Southern Cross 35 to sail well balanced at all times. As a result, even in bad weather, self-steering gear, whether electric or wind-powered, readily manages the rudder with optimum sail trim. Simultaneously, the hull design provides forgiving motion in a seaway. As Gillmer himself proudly recalled, “One of the owners said it was the smoothest yacht he’d ever sailed in the ocean. That’s a lot to say about a 35-foot sailboat.”

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