Join Date: Jul 2000
Location: Calgary Alberta
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Beneteau 361: One charterers experience
Personal impressions of the Beneteau 361 from a monthís charter in the BVI:
First Iíd like to acknowledge the fact that Iím no expert. I simply will report my impressions and ideas Ė as I perceive them. I may be totally incorrect in some things, and anyway different strokes for different folksÖ
I specifically asked for this boat: Beneteau 361. I wanted to see how we as a family do with this size boat, since although Iíve sailed on much bigger boats in the past, it was always with a crew where at least a few people knew what they needed to do and there was usually no shortage of muscle power. My wife and I, although fit, are relatively small and by no means very strong physically. Iím only 1m71cm tall and weigh 65 kg. (probably 145 lb or so). We have two children of 7 and 10 Ė both girls.
We wanted to see if this size boat would be easy for us to manage on our own but also whether we would feel that it is too small for comfortable cruising after having been on it for a month.
The separate shower stall of the 361 is one of the features always touted on the ads, and that appeals on paper.
Here are my impressions:
The boat was a few years old and had the expected dings, nicks, cracks and so on. Everything however worked. The rigging was too loose and we had a lot of weather helm which may or may not have been associated. We had slab reefing with lazyjacks which worked well, but I did have to go to the mast for both raising and lowering the sail. We could however reef from the cockpit alone with single line reefing. All lines were led to the cockpit.
Large. Helm chair had a crack which will cause it to break in two soon. We took care not to step on it. The cockpit seats are long enough to lie on but the cut-out for the wheel make it uncomfortable (but not impossible) to sleep on them. The large wheel was difficult to get around, especially for my dad who joined us for two weeks. It became a bit of an irritation to squeeze around the wheel. It could not be easily removed but that is something that would be very easily changed so that the wheel could be removed at anchor.
The cockpit lockers were quite huge in spite of the double cabins aft, and I believe adequate for longrange cruising. It did however become a pain to have to first open the larger forward locker before the smaller hind one (it is impossible to only open the hind locker lids).
The cup holders in the binnacle are not deep enough and many glasses and cans of pop ended up on the sole of the cockpit. The cockpit table had large flaps for eating and worked well. There were no cupholders in the table and nowhere to securely put down a worm cup of coffee. The storage space in the table base was very handy for handheld compass, binocs, chart handheld VHF etc.
Worked well. We used the shower only a few times Ė almost always showered outside on the sugarscoop Ė great design. In temperate climates like the Pacific Northwest I believe this shower arrangement will be great though. The basin worked well. The head Ė well itís a manual marine head. We had a problem with a defective siphon valve and resultant backsiphoning of holding tank content.
Galley: My wife complained that it was a bit cramped and we noticed that only one person at a time could be there. Working in the galley blocked access to the port stern cabin. We have come to prefer the European style longitudinal galleys.
The most serious design flaw in the boat IMHO is this: Two galley cabinet doors sweep across the propane burner Ė about 4 Ė 5 cm above the burners! When something is on the burners it is impossible to remove or replace anything into two of the main galley cabinets. If the doors inadvertently open with the burners on they WILL catch fire if it is not noticed. Iíve been told that some Sunsail bases have screwed the doors permanently shut. This is an almost unbelievable design oversight but something that can be fixed by replacing the doors with sliding doors in some way or opening up the cabinets with catches and not doors or some other solution like that. As it were we sustained some burnt hand hairs and fingers trying to quickly remove something from the cabinets without having to first turn the burners off and again on (still everything first had to be removed from the burners before the doors could be opened). If I were to buy this boat I would insist on the dealer affecting the changes as part of the sales agreement.
Another thing that irks us on most production boats is the fact that the fridge top opening door has no fiddles (not sure what to call it) preventing spilled juice, crumbs etc from running and falling into the gap. This invariably leads to an unhygienic situation which is difficult to clean. Iíve seen the same on most boats. Canít the designers come up with some better ideas???
Worked well. No complaints. As with all charter boats in the Caribbean the actual navigation equipment consists almost exclusively of a VHF radio. WE had no cockpit repeat mic or speaker and I was very glad I took my own VHF handheld. (They can be rented there as well).
The large saloon table worked well but restricted access to the bow cabin completely. Even with the table leafs down it was awkward to get around the table to sit on the starboard settee. One had to literally climb over the settee to pass by the corner which just about abutted the settee on the starboard side. After a few weeks this was very irritating.
There was ample storage everywhere except bookshelves in the saloon. This can be retrofitted but will involve some carpentry.
The first few nights my wife and I slept there. After rapidly tiring of playing footsy however I started sleeping in the saloon. The front V berth rapidly narrows towards the bow with little foot space. It will NOT make a good live-aboard cabin for two as a result. Unfortunately the stern cabins have the same problems as most stern cabins in an aft- cockpit boat, which Duane described as well. AS a result of this, I think longterm cruising in this boat will be compromised with the layout we had.
No problems. All cabins were well ventilated and with the strong winds we had we only needed the windscoops on a few occasions.
The felt the boat size was perfect for us. We believe we could easily cruise for a long time on a boat this size even with two children. As a couple, I think anything more would be unnecessary, create extra expense and hassles not offset by significant returns. We had ample stowage space and the opportunities to add gadgets to improve life aboard are endless. The slab reefing was easy to work and I would be happy with a full batten sail and not want in-mast reefing. That would slow the boat down even more and reduce the safety of the design for distance work.
From the accommodations standpoint we would not be happy with this configuration however. The V berth was to narrow towards the feet and the stern cabins are not comfortable for longterm living.
The boatís motion through the water was complicated a bit by the excessive weather helm, already discussed. In reasonably big waves however it felt safe and generally dry. At all times it felt as if the boat could handle a LOT more comfortably and safely.
At anchor and on moorings the boat tended to swerve and sail a lot, sometimes quite violently and disconcertingly. It led to inability to sleep well many nights. Increased puffs would violently swerve the bow away from the wind. WE also sometimes seemed to roll a lot. The boat sat high and with heavier loading as will be the case with live-aboard or cruising sailors Iím sure this will be different.
The galley needs some attention from a practical and safety aspect as mentioned.
Just my own opinions