Bristol 31.1

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Vagabond is a 1983 Bristol 31.1 owned by Brian Beggs of Punta Gorda, Fl.

The Bristol 31.1 was one of the last smaller sailboats produced by the company, with about 36 built from 1985 to 1994.

Ted Hood’s design is a mixture of old and new — a beamy racer-cruiser with a very long fin keel and a separate rudder with partial skeg. It also gives a nod to older Bristols by offering a centerboard option and plenty of teak trim.

This was the period when Bristol evolved into a top-quality all-around builder, so everything from the teak and mahogany interiors to the gear is excellent. The 31.1 pays more attention to comfort than the older Bristols.


Vagabond under sail.

She is comfortable for a couple, having a vee berth forward and two pull-out berths in the main cabin. The head is comfortable for a 31-footer and has both a shower and hot and cold pressurized water. She’s built as all Bristols are with big boat hardware (Hood, Lewmar, Edson, etc.),” one owner wrote in a Sailnet post.

Hood placed a full-sized chart table at the end of a quarter berth on the port side, a nice feature, and a large, fold-down dining table on the bulkhead to provide for civilized eating in the salon.

The 31.1 doesn’t have some of the dockside amenities of similar-sized Catalinas and Hunters — there’s no double berth under the cockpit, for example —  but there are solid reasons for that.


Vagabond’s cabin.

Hood’s hull shape sacrificed some of that space to give the 31.1 a smoother, more seaworthy ride with a motion comfort ratio of 29.28, as opposed to 23.17 for a Catalina 320 and a 20.5 for a Hunter 320.

Another Sailnet poster describes the 31.1 as following in the tradition of Bristols that can stand up to weather.

“The hull design with the tapered stern and overhangs, which doesn’t exactly maximise space, does give nice motion in a chop. The sail area isn’t that large for the size, so she likes a good wind.

“Close hauled, she doesn’t really come to life until 20 knots apparent, when you still stay surprisingly dry. She seems reasonably stiff too – feels like the first reef should happen at 20 knots, 25 if you are more of a thrill-seeker,” the poster said.

That said, the 31.1 has a PHRF rating of 174, which is not bad for a sailboat of its size that is aimed primarily at cruising.


Vagabond’s galley.

Some of the 31.1s came with a centerboard. If you buy one of these, know that you have to have to pay regular attention to the centerboard cable. If it breaks through negligence, replacing it is difficult work.

As with all older sailboats, have it checked out thoroughly if you are considering a purchase.

Conditions vary widely because some owners didn’t do required maintenance, and even small vessels can require thousands of dollars in repairs and upgrades if they were neglected.


Hull type: Fin keel
LOA: 31.1 feet
LWL: 24.8 feet
Beam: 10.2 feet
Draft: 5 feet, 3 inches (keel); 3 feet, 11 inches (centerboard)
Displacement: 11,237 pounds
Designer: Ted Hood
Water tank: 65 gallons
Fuel tank: 18 gallons
PHRF New England: 174
Motion comfort ratio: 29.28

Owners’ comments

What the Bristol brochure said

“The Bristol 31.1 combines the classically modern design of Ted Hood with the meticulous craftmanship of Bristol Yachts in a responsive yet comfortable racer-cruiser. With her efficient hull design, the 31.1 features the graceful lines and comfortable layout which provide an uncramped, uncluttered feeling when above or below decks.”

Sailnet posts on the 31.1

Youtube video of a 31.1 on San Francisco Bay

Line drawings and more specs

Read the full Bristol brochure