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Virginia Belle


By John Wooldridge

It was a chilly, spring day on the middle neck of Virginia’s western shore. I was driving the new Zimmerman 38, a solid Down East lobster boat design, from the board of Spencer Lincoln, made into a custom cruising yacht at the Zimmerman Marine yard near Cardinal, Virginia. And I was loving the weather-protected inside helm.


The saloon and helm are spacious and comfortable. Twin Stidd helm chairs provide excellent sightlines, and the cabin has a true pilothouse feel with a starboard side door, so the helmsman can gain quick access to the side and forward decks. A large chart drawer and flat just ahead of the navigator’s seat is an excellent feature. The electrical panel is found just to port of the wheel.

Four large steps lead to the down galley, yet its position aft of and beneath the windshield gives the area an abundance of natural light. The head is located to starboard opposite the galley, and it is large enough to include a stall shower, complete with a seat and easy-to-clean fiberglass surfaces. The centerline queen berth in the forward master stateroom hinges up to provide access to voluminous stowage areas—there are a locker with drawers and a hanging locker for additional stowage.



The boat’s sporty performance, of course, is due in large part to her hull. The hull and deck are fabricated by Flowers Boatworks in Walpole, Maine, a fifth-generation, family-owned boatbuilder and repair facility well known for their craftsmanship, both commercial and recreational. Zimmerman receives the rough hull, deck, and cabin components by truck, and then begins to reinforce the structure. “We have our own mold for the cabin top, the cockpit, and the shower,” says company president Steve Zimmerman. “But we get it as a stripped hull—we don’t want any stringers, or any bulkheads. We specify a vinylester outer laminate on the hull. We request the hulls with the deck and cabin in Nidacore honeycomb core. The hull is cored with closed-cell foam from the waterline up, and all the cores are vacuum-bagged. As far as the rest of the layup is concerned, it’s pretty conventional.”

Zimmerman uses vinylester resin for everything that’s a secondary bond to attach all interior structure—all the stringers, all the bulkheads. The hull-to-deck joint is bonded with Plexus and fastened mechanically, with the deck resting on an inward turning flange.


We had a stiff wind chop on the day of our test, and the Zimmerman 38 acquitted herself well, both in her ability to provide a smooth ride, and her ability to stay dry. This hull form illustrated once again the design benefits proved over years of commercial work in all kinds of weather.

“More speed when you need it is a valuable asset, but the boat certainly performs very well as an 8-knot cruiser if you want more fuel economy,” Zimmerman says. “And one of the unexpected benefits you get from more speed is the stability you get from it. If it’s rough, you can be much more comfortable at 14 knots on this boat than you would be at 8 knots.”

The Z38 tracks very straight on all points, and turns with authority—the qualities you’d expect from a substantial yacht with a full-length keel. This is a great boat underway, and our test boat was easy to dock thanks to the bow and stern thrusters specified by the customer.

Zimmerman Marine, 800-397-3442;

  • : 42'8
  • : 13'3
  • : 4'3
  • : 25,000 lb.
  • : 400 gal.
  • : 100 gal.
  • : 1/600-mhp Cummins QSC 8.3
  • : Upon request
  • : ZF 286A, 2.391:1 gear ratio

Steelhead ES 1000 davit; HDTV w/ lift; Splendide combo washer/dryer; Glendenning Cablemaster; Hurricane 24,000-Btu diesel heater; Teak cockpit trim package.

Wind: 12 to 15 knots; seas: 1-2'; load: 400 gal.fuel, 90 gal. water, 4 persons onboard. Speeds are two-way averages measured with an onboard GPS. Range is based on 90% of advertised capacity. Sound levels recorded at the helm. 65 dB(A) is the level of normal conversation.

RPM Knots GPH Range db(A)
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