I like both these boats but am leaning more to the Catalina 400 since I think the build quality is better (not too sure it really is though), two heads, nicer galley, more headroom, and it has a lead keel vs an iron keel. I have a few questions:
1. Do both boats have fiberglass grid pans that are glued in place to the hull?
2. Do they both use the same glue? If so what is it?
3. Are the decks fastened to the hull the same way? If so how are they fastened and are they inside or outside joints?
4. Is the bulkheads tabbed with fiberglass or are they also glued to the hull?
5. What are the inside doors made of (solid teak, marine grade plywood with teak venear, compress board with venear, etc.)
6. The Bene 400 has a very shallow bilge sump almost none existent. Does the Catalina 400 have that also?
7. How does each boat perform in rough weather (sea states over 12ft and wind gusts over 40 mph) ? Do they pound and if so how bad?
2. I don't know but have never heard of either coming apart. I would not make a buying decision on that.
3. THIS IS FROM ANOTHER DISCUSSION ON THE C400... So please excuse if some of the information does not make sense as it is cut and paste. But I think it will answer your questions and give you more insight:
I thought we would start this conversation out with some nice pic, as follows (this is good for this discussin because the interiors betweenthe two boats are significantly different):
(Edits will follow
) I was also under the impresion that most of the backingplates were Stainless. Many of the visible ones are. Also, of interest to those in the design aspect, since Catalina knows exactly where every item will go through the deck, it is SOLID glass, and not cored. This keep delatmination from happening in the future as was on many boats we looked at when shopping for Dad. I have not had one, NOT ONE, reported failure of a winch or load dependent item on a 400. They have built over 350.
By looking at the third picture above, you will notice the bulkheads are glued to a solid glass beam (visible running across the top of the bulkhead). THey are also mechanically fastened on the back side every few inches or so (not visible). We have not had a single reported failure of a bulkhead. I have not had a single report of any 400 having their bulkhead shifting underway or squeaking. These boats have gone all over, including hawaii and the Caribbean (edit - now have some in Europe
). I do not know if the boats picutred in his original email were sailed across or shipped. It would not surprise me if they were sailed.
The 400 and 470 use an Internal Flange for their hull-deck joint. It is both glued AND mechanically fastened. In fact, it is mechanically fastened through the toe rail. Only the 400 and 470 use this system that I am aware of. I have included a pic below to explain the different types. We have not had a single issue, ever, of a failure of these joints in well over 350 c400's. This is the most exepnsive and complicated of any of their Hull-Deck Joints.
The C400's use a grid and liner system. The grid is bonded into the hull during layup. A picture of it is here:
(Edit - Take some time to follow this link and get a good feel for the build quality of the 400)
Catalina Closer Look
The hull is solid glass - not cored. I prefer it but that is personal preference. They use a lot of E and S glass and Kevlar over the high-stress areas. They then put a liner on top of the hull which serves as the layout for much of the furniture and also adds rigidity. However, without a single exception that I can think of, the cabinets and access all show the hull where applicable. You do not look into the other side of a hull liner. The only exception on my boat is where they molded in a below-floor storage and the dry storage. In both of these places you would not want to be staring at the hull. In all other places - open the cabinets or pull the boards. You will be looking at the hull.
The wide open spaces are a blessing and a curse. They are a blessing for the 99% of the time when you want a comfortable place to live in, and a curse that 1% when you are in a storm offshore. There are, however, plenty of handholds. The only extra handhold I would add is right down the middle of the "walkway" from the galley to the V-Berth. This is visible in the pic. There is a solid teak to port on the side which makes the entire run, but I would prefer one overhead too.
The Ice box is both top and bottom access. The bottom has a spot for a lock so it cannot be accessed via the bottom. However, I have put together an article to alter this design to make the bottom a freezer and the top a fridge. That is 3cf freezer, and 3cf fridge. The mod takes about 2 hours max and you do not have to buy anything but a fan, styrofoam, aluminum duct tape, and hot beer to fill it with. As such, this design is a positive. Also, many of the older 400's had a freezer access behind the fridge.
The wire runs are a blessing and a curse. They are a blessing in that you know exactly where everything is. They are a curse if you have to pull out wiring. However, there is ample room in other runs located throughout the boat for extra wiring and runs which I have done a lot of. On the other side of this, I will compare the more traditional design like a Tayana. Yes, the access is much easier. But you then have 44000 wires going everywhere and don't have a clue what is what. And no doubt on a used boat, the owners spent a weekend and $1,000 at radio shack and made their own runs so that the reality of accessing these systems is not that good except when purchasing new. But you want to know what: Want to know where a wire is? Want to know where a piece of plumbing is? Catalina can tell you to the inch. Like I said, a blessing and a curse. But if you hate it, just drill holes in the stringers and run it out in the open under the floorboards. Catalina could have done that too and saved a buck.
I have added storage. THat is one area that irritates me about Catalina and an area I wish they would improve on (Note - Beneteau is worse on storage IMHO which was one of teh biggest turnoffs for me and Kris
). It is all do-able though. Honestly, it is not in my view a failure of them being an offshore yacht... but rather one of the areas that they save some money at. But again, you can add your own cabinetry. I have... a bunch of it.
All the stringers on the C400 are glassed in. I can provide pictures.
I will smoke any Valiant, Tayana, Taswell, Mason, or other heavy duty cruiser - period. My kids have single handed her in the 35 knot winds. My son was 8. The reality of sustained 35+ knot wind for really long periods of time is not a reality for where most people sail. Anything in the 10-20 range and that boat is at hull speed or exceed it. Also of interest is that this boat outruns boats she should lose to, like the 470 (who is supposed to be her big sister). If you want to go to the C400 users group, I will prove it with pics. The 400 was designed to perform. She can exceed hull speed, but is most comfortable in the mid 7's to about 8. But she loves to run there. Now that is not much to high performance boats like the Farr's - but you sure will be a lot more comfortable getting there and when you arrive too.
We have had MANY of those boats go from California or further away nonstop to Hawaii. We had a 400 owner singlehand his 400 in winter across the gulf from Texas to Key West (this was in Sailnet), then around to the Bahamas and Turks. I do not know if those 400's were shipped or sailed to Australia, but it would not shock me of they were sailed to Australia. I certainly consider going non-stop across the gulf, or Hawaii, or other such trips offshore. And that part about live to tell about it... you and I both know it is 1% boat and 99% skipper. There are better boats to circum, but it is probably the captain that will get everyone killed - not the boat.
Now, negatives of the C400, from an onwer and hopefully potential cruiser (edit - am now a Live Aboard and Cruiser
1) Some systems are tough to access. There is a spot under the shower that is tough. Also, the liner blocks a few areas under the galley and under the table that would be great for storage. THere are no systems there. You can cut them out and add in your own storage. I asked why they did not cut those out and make them good storage, and they said it was because of cost. Remember above - one of my gripes. But I can understand there point of view since most people will not need that much storage. Whatever... that is their call.
2) The draft is NOT 5'4. Up to about hull number 307-310 (I do not know exactly), they draft said 5'4 but it is more like 5'10.
3) Divided locker. I wish they had divided the anchor locker on the boat. Many owners have made their own - but that would not have cost them thta much to do. (Edit - I have put together an article on that which is not expeisive and easy to do. )
4) Terrible prop walk. Not as bad as a full keel - but it is the worst of any boat I have motored. Many people have gone with an autoprop to get rid of this. I just got used to it asit helps me to park her in tight spaces.
5) Large Lazarette. I wish they had a larger lazarette - but the trade off would have been what was down below.
6) Heads suck. I am sick and tired of my Wilcox heads. They are about to come OUT for good. I will replace with Raritan PHii or two household size Jabsco electrics. (Edit - replaced with two Jabsco Quiet FLush Electrics... GAWD life is sooooo much better... best heads ever made
7) More tankage. This is a major negative of this boat. You have about 45 gallons diesel and 120-130 water. The water is fine, but you will need to add diesel. There is a stbd hold just forward of the diesel tank that would be perfect for doubling the size (or more). That is our plan. It will also help even out our boat since we have the genny to port. (Edit - there is a very large area forward of the FWD water tank under the V that is ideal for a diesel tank... I would think 40+ gallons not out of the questions
8) Handhold down the middle.
9) If that boat is a MkI you may want to look into changing the steering to a 2-cable, independent system versus the one you probably have (EDIT _ MKII's are all independent).
10) Portholes. I prefer the SS screw down dogs and not those cheap looking snap downs. I am sure they were chosen for weight and cost, but will be replaced if I can budget it. That is personal prefernce.
For really long distance cruising, I would choose a different boat becaus of the tankage and some of my pet peeves. But the 400 is a much better built boat than many other boats her class and I do not doubt she would make the run. I do prefer a more protected rudder, but that is another discussion. In general, I would probably be looking at a different boat to Circum with, but I would not look at a different boat for moderate range passagemaking or "coastal". And remember, 99% of your time is at anchor, 1% on the go. Where that 1% takes you depends on how much balance you put in it. But ask yourself this question: Which of the following has killed more sailors? Buying a boat unworthy of bluewater and dying in the process, or buying a hard core blue water and getting burned out on its MANY negatives (like comfort and space)? I bet you the latter.
So if you are sure to circum, avoid this boat. Otherwise, let me know if you are interestd and I will tell you what your 400 owner-neighbors think in Australia.
6. The MKII's up to HN 307ish have a deep bilge. The modifications after that made a shallower bilge... but not as shallow as what you are suggesting on the Bene. I am a believe in deep(er) bilges for a lot of reasons, not the least of which are proper storage and so water will fall to the bilge without having to falloff.
7. Have had her in a gale offshore and a LOT of the 2-4 hour storms we encounter in SW Florida and surrounding. I mentioned this to you in another thread, but the boat is sure footed, fast, and sea kindly. You will love her.
Last thought - Look at how the Hull-Deck joint fits on teh Bene. See that Rub-rail off the stern? I am NOOOO fan of that.
If you want to PM me I will be happy to give you my phone number and you can call me and we can discuss the boats in person.