Miami Boat Show Report – I attend the boat show for 2 days. As stated before it was a very small show compared to previous years. Only Catalina, Hunter, Jeaneneu, Beneteau were there with their line-up. A Passport, Hinckley Friendship, and a E-boat rounded up the line-up at the show. My good friend and dockmate, Ed, is looking to buy a 49' boat so this report is mostly about these boats. As I toured the boats I had the pleasure of the manufacture's representative to show me around vs a broker. Most of this came about when I said I was going to do a article on the boats for various bulletin boards on the internet. For my disclaimer, I am just an ordinary sailor like all of you and the following is just my opinion on design, functionality, and personal choice.
As advertised, “the prettiest girl at the dance.”! High quality, high dollar, high maintenance boat for rich boys/gals to turn all heads on the water. Now where is my lottery ticket! Drool factor 10!
– Boat of the Year from Sail Magazine. This boat in particular I wanted to see for myself due to the award they received after the Annapolis Boat show. I wasn't that impressed nor did I get it. Where do I start. Topside
: When I first walked on the boat via the swim platform I immediately noticed that the transom walk-thru was missing the seat in the middle. Catalina forgot to put the seat as well as something to block any following seas that might sweep in. Just one big hole in the back. This is also a safety hazard in my opinion. The twin helm stations are nice with the jib winch within easy reach of the helm. One thing I like about Catalina yachts is the engine instrument panel. Has all the important gauges on needs. The cockpit table is one of the best I seen with nice wood and deep ice/storage locker.
The one big negative item is the placement of the compass at the end of the center table. I feel it should be at the helm. When I tried to read it from the station it was hard to pinpoint exactly the heading. I would imagine in low light or foul weather it would be impossible to see. In addition, it is where entertainment activity is therefore, the chance of damage to the casing exist. Catalina is now sporting Seldon masts vs Charleston. I was told that the Seldon in-mast furling system is superior with less jams. Cabin coach roof rails almost to the bow is a great safety feature. Two things that that I love that only Catalina does is the aluminum toe rail and lead keel. For sailing these two items are critical for me in any boat.
: When I first walked down the companionway, it felt a cold and stark. The reason, no cabin top liner. I was looking at pure fiberglass. From there on I was instantly turn off which is a shame because I really like the layout and materials used. For a few dollars more, it would have really dressed this gal up nice to take to any dance. The next biggest item that failed is the nav station. No place to put any instruments. For a cruising boat, I was amazed by this lost detail. It was here that I think I figured out what Catalina's true market intentions were for this boat. Just a weekend cruiser for families with children. Speaking of children, the innovative third cabin aft to port, convertible to double berth, upper/lower berths, or storage locker is what I think got this boat the foremost award. The berths in my opinion can only be used by small children due to size (small than a twin bed). Other humanoids it will fell very cramped at best and coffin feeling at worse. The idea of turning it into storage for a cruising couple is a must since the deep cockpit lazzerate went away when they put this cabin in. Moving forward to the galley, it is well designed and functional. I would like to see the sink closer to the center line but all manufacture's seem to placing them near the sides. The salon table is a horrible designed. If one is entertaining, with all the leafs unfolded, getting around the settee is difficult due to the overlap into the seats. Large Americans will really find it difficult to sit as witness by this author. Catalina is one of the few boat builders still using Teak veneer. This is my taste, for it makes the boat a little more classy. The forward and aft port berths are nice and functional. My only regret is one has to use custom bedding. The heads are classic plastic, stark and cold. A shower curtain vs door is another lost touch by Catalina.
Overall, the boat will find its niche for the weekend cruiser. There is nothing fancy about this boat, just your basic Chevy. Drool Factor 5!
– I had the pleasure of Mr Emerson, VP of Marketing and Development, to show me the Hunter line. Being a Hunter owner, I gave him an earful of things that Hunter is doing both good and bad. He liked what I had to say so much that he requested a detail letter to him to take up with the board. One can only hope that someone listens. Thank you Mr Emerson for taking your valuable time to listen to me and show me around. Now on with the tour.
The first thing I noticed when stepping aboard was the high freeboard of this boat. This has both good and bad points. While Hunter is not claiming this to be a “Bluewater” boat, apparently most of the owners are taking this boat bluewater. To Quote Hunter” With an overall length of 49 feet 11 inches, plus a 14 feet 5 inch beam and 6 feet 9 inches of salon headroom, the Hunter 49 is a BIG boat with impressive interior volume. Driving the Hunter 49's new hull is a specially engineered sail plan that achieves maximum efficiency while maintaining the Hunter trademark of single-handed sail-ability, which is a great feature for a boat of this size. Components aboard the Hunter 49 include Hunter's famous mainsheet traveler arch, backstayless B & R rig, a battened full roach main sail, and two headsail options: single self-tacking jib or self-tacking staysail with overlapping jib. A dual-ended mainsheet allows adjustments from both the cockpit and companionway, and all sheets and halyards end at the cockpit. the Hunter 49 “ end quote. The single hand ability I cannot say enough great things about. The newly innovative dual mainsheet can be adjusted at both the port side helm station or the cabintop. This makes all adjustments to all sail trim at the helm station. For cruising short handed or solo this is outstanding. With a bow thruster standard equipment, Mr Emerson stated that even I can sail this boat alone with no problems. Ummm, maybe a test sail will prove this point. The center cockpit table is nice however, the ice/storage locker is too small for any use. It was the smallest in the group. Moving forward, Hunter moved away from Lewmar Ocean hatches to Bomar hatches. Not the best choice in my opinion. The other major fault is the fact that Hunter moved away from Harken blocks and rigging to all Seldon. I would have to ask the experts here if this is a wise move. From what I can tell it is not. Having said that, Hunter will put in any hatch or blocks a owner wants. In contrast, the French builders said no to any change. Moving forward towards the bow is unobstructed but narrow. I would like to see a little bit wider, however, for safety I can have two hands for the boat when moving in rough seas with ease. Another safety item is the lack of a forward coach roof rail. An easy fix, but one will have to request it. The anchor locker is deep, divided for two anchors and with a water tight bulkhead.. The windlass lives here as well and is out of the elements which is a nice touch. Also, is a cleat and easy to reach U-bracket to tie off the anchor to. Hunter is the only one that has all these features in this class of boat. The Jeaneneu and Beneteau have a sail locker up there as well which Hunter did not. The anchor platform is a large SS array, offset to accommodate two anchors. Also, is an attachment point for a code zero or asymmetrical sail. Speaking of which, only Hunter puts in blocks at the stern for these sails as standard equipment. The SS goes all the way back to the anchor locker so no chipping of the fiberglass topsides when working the anchor system. There are padeyes on deck for jacklines. Missing were padeyes in the cockpit area. The boat can be ordered with one of 3 Seldon mast: tall rig (68.6”) standard rig (63.4'). Roller furling (63.4). For those not worrying about bridges on the East coast, the tall rig might be a great option to consider. In summary, I like the deck layout with a few exception. Those exception can be corrected when ordering a new boat or added on by any owner. .
Interior – Unlike the Catalina, where I started down the companionway steps to cold and stark, I was greeted with the warm colors and gorgeous design. First up, was the half moon embedded blue wrap around LED lights at the top of the companionway stairs. Nice touch. In the 2010 models Hunter went from the holy/teak veneer sole to all wood flooring. This flooring adds a richness and solid feeling to the whole boat. Starting in the back both aft berths are nice and functional with standard spring mattresses. So bedding can be bought at your favorite retail store. There is good storage here for guest. One nice safety feature is the kick-out panel between both aft staterooms in case of a knock down.. There is a wet locker in one of the berths. Next up is the galley. Great galley layout with plenty of storage. Nice deep double SS sinks. My biggest complaint with all Hunter models is the refrigeration system. This boat has 4. Counted em 4. The refrig/freezer combo unit next to the companionway stairs is real nice. Can be used as either all refrigeration, all freezer of combination of both. The other two are front opening units. Both are inefficient models that I have in my boat. I would either get rid of them both, for more storage or put in one nice Isotherm unit to complement the other unit. These units as is, would drain the life out of any battery system. The Nav station of the port side is nothing short of wonderful Starting with the Captains chair worthy of any Star Trek ship, one can lock themselves into this chair during rough weather and command the ship. There is plenty of space for all the toys. To prove that Hunter does listen to owners, they moved the circuit breaker panel from the panel below the capt's chair to the upper panel. It was a stupid idea to begin with. The settees are both elegant and functional. The port side can be turned into a sea berth if one so desires. There is adequate handholds and fiddles throughout the cabin for safety. I personally would add one handhold up on the rooftop. The mast is hidden from view and lives in a locker in the forward stateroom. The forward master stateroom is real nice. A stupid thing Hunter did was place the reading lamps forward of the headboard, making them worthless for reading. The head is split between the shower on one side and the head on the other. Plenty of storage here for clothes. The aft head is split set-up with head and shower separated by a glass door. The shower area has a teak grate.
One of the great things I have to say about this boat is all major systems are below the waterline, centerline, and in the middle of the boat under the floorboards in the salon; water, fuel, engine, batteries, and genset.. This adds more stability to the boat. Both water and fuel tanks are above the keel, with easy access. Hunter has the most fuel and water tanks compare to the French builders by a large factor. This leaves the settees, aft and forward section where boat builders traditionally put them free for storage. However, all 3 manufactures the tanks are too small for anything but coastal cruising especially the fuel tanks. One of the biggest surprises is the 12k Panda/Fisher genset lives in the floor by the companionway stairs. Normally they live in some remote place in the stern. Access is right there when you need it. However, I worry about the noise when running in the salon area. The 12k is need to run all three air conditioner units, battery charger and other systems. Another great feature, is the air conditioning system. Instead of one or two vents, Hunter put in a gasper vent system along the entire length of both the port and starboard cabintop. No hot or cold spots in the entire cabin.
In summary; Hunter did a nice job on their flagship boat. The drawbacks are the iron/concrete keel, rudder even with the keel, no aluminum toe rail, Bomar hatches, and Seldon rigging/blocks. On the positive side is the boat is NEMA and ABYC certified and Cat A ocean, epoxy/Kevlar layup below the waterline, great interior/exterior layout and all the major heavy hitters are centered massed over the keel. I can see myself living in this Buick. Drool factor 8.5!
Beneteau Oceanis 50
To quote Beneteau “The Oceanis 50 also features the same sleek coachroof, long side windows, a fully integrated mainsail arch and all the ergonomic ease of detailed design to make the most of every space. The new Oceanis 50 will be built in Marion, SC and will make her US Debut at the Miami Boat Show in Feb 2010”, end quote.
Jeanneau 50 Deck Salon
Topside: Starting at the stern like the Catalina the transom thru-way has a big hole there but Beneteau at least put in a seat there. There is a good storage locker on the swim platform for a life raft here. A nice safety feature. Cockpit storage is the least of all the models. The genset lives in the starboard stern locker. It is very hard to get to and work on. The helm stations are nice and functional. The center cockpit table with split folding tables is adequate. The new integrated mainsail arch is a disaster to be kind. No traveler and it is made of fiberglass. I guess they didn't learn anything from the earlier Hunter fiberglass arches. WHAT ARE YOU THINKING! The Beneteau representatives try to convince Ed and I a traveler is not needed in sail trim. Can I vomit now or later. Moving forward the deck has enough room to move forward. The cleats are in the right place and unobstructed. The lifelines are too small for this size boat. They are knee level and I am 5'6”. Jeaneneu suffers the safe fate. Major safety problem. Now for Beneteau second major disaster on this boat, the anchoring system. It is an afterthought at best. Starting with the combo sail locker/anchor locker. One cannot get to the chain locker without emptying the small sail locker. Than you have to open a door which you cannot do standing in the sail locker. There is a dual parallel SS anchor platform that is worthless for placing two anchors. It is to small to handle a large anchor for this size boat. The anchor chain/rode goes through a hooser pipe with no control in case of a problem with the topside windlass or castling of the chain. Furthermore, if one needed to cut away the anchor chain in an emergency it will be impossible to do in a hurry. In my opinion this whole setup is a major design and safety snafu.
Interior – The salon design is a mix of both American and European. It is a comfortable liveable area that any owner will proud of. While not my taste, I can see how other would like this. Staring aft are two berths. There is an option for another stateroom here vs having two berths. Both cabins were nicely laid out. Good storage for guest and spares. The galley is workable with the sinks in the middle by the companionway stairs. The frig/freezer is top loading as it should be. Plenty of counter space should make any chef happy. The aft head is has both a head and separate shower area. Nothing remarkable here. Same goes for the navigation station. Barely adequate for this size boat. Next is the salon area. I like this area the best. The show boat had a pop up flat TV screen the come up from the area next to the bulkhead. Very cool to see. The two stools around the table are moveable to make room when the leafs are folded out. A very versatile setup. Plenty of handholds, fiddles and overhead handholds for safety at sea. The forward stateroom is real nice. The layout is very functional with plenty of storage. There is a forward head that is OK at best.
Systems wise I was not impressed at all. Everything is scattered throughout the boat. The fuel tanks are only 62 gals giving the boat a range of only around 175-200 nm's at best. When asked about adding additional fuel tanks, they answered we can convert one of the water tanks. If one does that a water maker for any type of long range cruising will have to be considered. So lashing down jerry cans will be must if this option is not considered.
The overall feeling of this boat is it is made for the charter company Moorings or coastal cruising. The topside has to many faults to consider this boat a serious cruiser and the systems layout below as well. My ratings for this Toyota Camry, Drool factor 4!
To quote from Jeanueau “Inside, a light and airy feel reigns. Visibility is enhanced by the wrap-around Deck Saloon windows and the elongated hull ports. The interior layout of the Sun Odyssey 50DS offers a great deal of flexibility with an owner’s cabin aft or forward. The impressive list of standard equipped includes a furling mainsail, long Harken traveller, double anchor rollers with powerful anchor windlass, forward sail locker, dedicated liferaft storage and room for lots of optional equipment” end quote.
The last report of the big boats is Jeanneau's new 50DS. Ed and my friend Chuck both live and cruise on Jeanueau. Ed wants to move up from his 43' to a bigger one. Having been on both I am somewhat familiar with this line.
Topside: I think this is the prettiest gal of the three boats. Nice lines and styling. It is also my favorite topside. Starting with the stern, there is a dedicated liferaft locker here. Great safety feature! The genset lives under this. Unlike the Beneteau it is centerline and easy access. The twin helm stations are well balanced. On a side note, the Europeans put the main helm station on the starboard side while the USA builders place in on the port. Interesting. The teak wood like throughout the cockpit area added a nice touch of elegance. I believe it would offer a better gripe when the deck is wet. Cockpit storage is excellent as well as the center table. All lines lead to the cockpit with good organizers on the coachroof. The two biggest negatives topside on this boat are the very short lifelines and cleat arrangements. Like the Beneteau the lifelines are way to short to be dangerous in any rolling seas. The cleats on this boat are tiny tiny tiny. They are also run through a cut-away on the toerail where chafe will be problem. This surprised me the most considering her twin sister the Beneteau has just the opposite. There is also no coachroof handholds. Movement forward is good to the sail locker and anchor platform. Here Jeanueau got this right and give it a 9.5. The sail locker is separate from the anchor locker with great space for sails and deck gear. One thing I would like to see here is the bulkhead watertight. The anchor locker is big with room for two anchors chain and rode. The anchor platform is similar to the Hunter 49 with a SS offset platform.
Interior: This is a European style boat all the way. That means modern contemporary styling. Not my tastes at all, so I will try not to be too bias here. For some reason this boat's interior seem very small for a 50'. I sat for an hour on this boat trying to get my engineered brain to figure this out. I gave up. The two aft cabins are the best I liked as far as layout. Attention to detail here is why. Like a fold down desk with hidden storage for example. Tons of storage place. If one is traveling with guests or children these cabins are great. Moving forward to the galley, it is very small compared to the other two. Storage for dishes and food stuff is not great for this size boat. About the same size as my 36' boat. On the straight Jeanueau 50 the galley is the traditional straight line vs U-shape galley. Considering the French love food, I am surprised by the lack of a good galley design. The navigation station like the Catalina's is weak. No room for additional instruments. It was the weakest of all models I saw. The salon is functional with good seating arrangement. The port side settee can be turned into a sea berth if needed. There are plenty of handhold, fiddles and overhead grab rails. The best of all models visited. Both heads are gorgeous with wood cabinets and great storage. The forward stateroom is top drawer. Cabinets throughout for great storage of cloths. Like the aft berths comes with a nice vanity desk for us women.
Systems wise this boat is a little more organized than it's twin sister, Beneteau. Most equipment is centerline. However, the fuel tank of 62 gallons is way to little for any serious cruising. At 2 GPH, one can do the math to see one has about 31 hours of fuel. All external lights are LED which is a nice touch. The keel is cast iron a big negative in my book but all the boats are suffering from this. There is only 2 air conditioning systems vs 3 on the Hunter. I know on Ed's boat they are not adequate to keep the boat cool in the Florida sun. The genset is 5.5 KW vs 12KW on the Hunter. Can be both good or bad depending on how you want to run the systems while out cruising. The Jeanneau has a performance sailing package for racers out there cruising. I know from sailing on Ed's and Chuck boats, both boats have a clean hull that slices through the water easily and cleanly. For this Audi 4 drool factor 5!