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Old 24-04-2009, 11:02   #1
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S&S Swan as Cruiser

My wife and I have some experience sailing smaller boats on lakes but zero ocean experience. I have been doing research to find the right boat for us. I have been bouncing between strictly live-aboard blue-water cruising and condo living near San Francisco and Bay sailing with some occasional coastal sailing. I have been pricing used Swans for the past 18 months as I am very impressed with their build quality and safety. They seem to get high grades for being great handling boats. I have read in other forums that people do not consider these older Swans a good choice for cruising. A Swan broker had a 1976 41 footer for sale and said it would be great for the Bay but not for blue-water. He could not explain why but gave me a list of books to read. I realize that the older Swans have a very dated interior layout and limited tankage. Specifically why are the older S&S Swans not viable cruising candidates? We will have a budget of $30K for a down payment this year and $45K next year. We are also considering other options such as a new boat in/out of a charter service but that is for another post.
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Old 24-04-2009, 11:25   #2
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If tankage is the problem. That's what jerry cans, or fabricators are for. I am not an expert, but I can't imagine anything designed by S&S not being ocean worthy.....JMHO......i2f
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Old 24-04-2009, 11:43   #3
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The Swan 41 was designed as an ocean racer to the old IOR Rule. The yacht can be sailed hard by a good sized crew but they do take work. The yacht is certainly capable of blue water but they can be a bit much to handle in a blow, and would not be a wise choice for a relative novice. On the other hand, one of the yacht's slightly bigger sisters, Toscana, came through the '79 Fastnet unscathed while many other yachts of similar size struggled. By today's standards, with only a 30' LWL, the boats are also relatively slow for their size. As for cruising, frankly, for the LOA of the yacht, one doesn't have a lot of space below although a couple could probably make do. For more information on the boats see S&S Swan Association .

They are lovely looking yachts but, IMO, unduely expensive, pedigree not withstanding. My late uncle owned one of the boats in the mid-70's that we sailed out of Sausalito and later SDYC. We now own a 1986 First 42 and while some might hold there is no comparison, having sailed many days on both, I'll take the First.

FWIW...

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Old 24-04-2009, 11:51   #4
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I looked intot he swan 41 S&S but decided against it for the following reasons 1) First and foremost was the teak decks. Replacing them is very expensive 2) The tankage, 3) The boats were designed to be raced and require crew on the rail to hold them down otherwise you need to reef early and change headsails, and 4) I was told that they were kind of squirely downwind as many of the IOR boats of that time were.

I think there are better boats for the price.
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Old 24-04-2009, 15:14   #5
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I couldn't think of anything worse that a 1970's Swan.

They are over-built for family cruising. Break a gadget on deck and the replacement will cost a fortune.

Nor do I go for the floating Condo.

But Swan has never realised there is another market out there for them: the double handed cruisers. OK they did for a few years with the 57 RS but then they dumped the whole range.

I sailed on a 651 trans altlantic and it was a fine race boat but inside built like and ugly brick public toilet. We had 6 on board and we buisier than a 1 armed wallpaper hanger to sail it.

I had an interesting experience seeing an old 45' in Sydney a few months ago: On the boat you are looking at, you want to pull the floorboards up and look down into the black hole of the bilges... because thats what it will be. A smelly black hole full of tankage. Stuffed if I know what you do if you get a problem down there!

Just to make matters worse the Swan name will have a price premium on it. So a $50k Swan would be worth, say, $30k (imho) its just everyone wanders around and says "but its a Swan!"

1976 - 2009 = 33 years. Would you buy a 33 year old car? What about one reguralry dunked in salt water?

If you have $75k there's boats around that will be much better suited.

Its a buyers market out there. Squeeze the pips till they squirt juice in your eye
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Old 24-04-2009, 15:20   #6
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I have over 20,000 miles on a 1973 S&S Swan 44; it is a great ocean boat and very soild, I would not hesitate to take it anywhere. The 41 and 44 of that vintage are hard to tell apart, they are classic designs, have a comfortable motion offshore and good sea berths. I single handed the 44 alot, doing mostly day hops up and down the east US coast, and had no problems. On longer trips offshore I did it many times with just one friend on board, again with no problems. We had an autopilot and an Aries vane for steering, and handle very nicely. There were quite a few times when we did 200 mile days.
I would say go for it if you can find one in good condition.
Brian
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Old 24-04-2009, 17:03   #7
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I tried and tried and tried...

...to get my wife to fall in love with a Swan 41, but she hated it. Too dark, too stinky, too hard to sail shorthanded.

Looking back, at this point, I'm glad she held out for something with which we could both fall in love.
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Old 24-04-2009, 18:56   #8
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Delux,

I'll side with Brian, who has actual experience rather than rumour and word-of-marina. S&S have consistantly designed really good all around boats, and I am quite sure that the Swan 41 would not be hard to sail in cruise trim. Drive her hard with a kite and the IOR shape will make it a bit squirrely to steer, but that isn't my idea of cruise mode!

Ann and I did 86K miles in a very similar Franz Maas designed IOR one-tonner of 1974 vintage, and seem to have survived, and even enjoyed it!

But having said all that, I agree that Swans seem to attract overly high prices, and that the teak decks will be a source of misery on one that old. Further, we've seen a disproportionate number of Swans of that era with serious boat pox challenges.

As to the interior design, ya like it or ya don't... that is a personal thing, and one that we shouldn't be advising you on.

In the long run, most boat purchases are affairs of the heart. You will know when the right one comes along!

Good luck, mate

Cheers,
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Old 24-04-2009, 20:22   #9
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Wow. Lots of good advice so far. We are trying to decide between a new Beneteau (37-46 depending upon finances) or a used boat. I have been to the S&S website and found lots of good info there, everyone loves the boats. I have heard replacing the teak decks can easily cost $50K for a 40 foot boat, the condition of the decks seems to be directly related to boat price. My wife also thought the interior was dark and dreary on the 41 foot Swan we looked at, she prefers the newer boats. I wish we lived closer to the coast, window shopping would be much easier.
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Old 25-04-2009, 07:57   #10
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Get rid of the teak's weight by getting rid of the teak if it needs replacing. The boat will also be cooler. Not as pretty, but everything is a compromise.....i2f
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Old 25-04-2009, 11:24   #11
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Good luck with your search.

S&S design good boats, and Swan build to a super standard, and most of thier models do retain their value for a reason. They are strong and they sail well.

I've never been lucky enough to own one but did have a 42 Freres designed Grand Soleil which was similar in design respects to same sized Swans of the period.

It was a good race boat, and despite what others may think, the teak decks don't just look pretty but are nice underfoot also.

As a cruiser the Grand Soliel (and I suspect the Swans) have limited storage and tankage, but clearly both can be adapted.

The offwind handling of any IOR designed yacht is not as easy to rectify however, so fwiw if I were trying to get my loved one to love sailing (so you get the chance to do as much as you can) then I'd go for a airier and more spacious yacht - perhaps fractional rig so no running backstays or big headsails to grind in?

Enjoy

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Old 25-04-2009, 14:28   #12
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Quote:
Originally Posted by deluxe68 View Post
I realize that the older Swans have a very dated interior layout
That all depends on what you want. Yes they are dark, because they are nearly flush decked (very few windows). This also means that the deck is a clear, excellent work space. Yes they seem small below. This also means that there is not a large space for you to get thrown across and injured in a sea offshore. Yes the pilot berth/settee layout is out of vogue, because it just doesn't appear spacious and is not wonderful for entertaining at the dock, which is what most boats are actually used for. But it does mean that there is always a leeward bunk amidship for sleeping underway, while the settees are still free for the watch to pull on seaboots or foulies. If you end up with kids, pilot berths are ideal kids bunks.

These were built in an age when it was expected a 40' sailboat would be sailed offshore, and that's what they're for. Tied to a dock, they are really not a wonderful boat.

They're still safe, solid cruisers. As for tankage, add a watermaker.

What I would look at closely would be cockpit ergonomics. Are the seats long enough to stretch out on? Is there a place to lean back to read a book? Is there a good way to install a cockpit spray dodger? These older Swans can be wet "guys boats", and my wife doesn't really like a facefull of spray with every wave. With her, the dodger is not an option.

I wouldn't worry too much about the IOR broach-looking-for-a-place-to-happen rep. Those were boats being pressed hard, and cruisers just don't sail that way, and the S&S 41 design predates that anyway. The boats that really suffered from that were the ones with designed in bow-down trim to make the boat unstable for the rule. They planned on having a big crew on the rail aft to bring the boat back into trim.

Cruisers reef before they need to. Also, cruisers don't have 140% primary jibs, too hard to tack and to see under. A 105-110% will be plenty for cruising, easy to tack, and won't overpower so early.

Decide how you will really use the boat, then shop accordingly.
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Old 03-05-2009, 22:09   #13
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That all depends on what you want. Yes they are dark, because they are nearly flush decked (very few windows). This also means that the deck is a clear, excellent work space. Yes they seem small below. This also means that there is not a large space for you to get thrown across and injured in a sea offshore. Yes the pilot berth/settee layout is out of vogue, because it just doesn't appear spacious and is not wonderful for entertaining at the dock, which is what most boats are actually used for. But it does mean that there is always a leeward bunk amidship for sleeping underway, while the settees are still free for the watch to pull on seaboots or foulies. If you end up with kids, pilot berths are ideal kids bunks.

These were built in an age when it was expected a 40' sailboat would be sailed offshore, and that's what they're for. Tied to a dock, they are really not a wonderful boat.

They're still safe, solid cruisers. As for tankage, add a watermaker.

What I would look at closely would be cockpit ergonomics. Are the seats long enough to stretch out on? Is there a place to lean back to read a book? Is there a good way to install a cockpit spray dodger? These older Swans can be wet "guys boats", and my wife doesn't really like a facefull of spray with every wave. With her, the dodger is not an option.

I wouldn't worry too much about the IOR broach-looking-for-a-place-to-happen rep. Those were boats being pressed hard, and cruisers just don't sail that way, and the S&S 41 design predates that anyway. The boats that really suffered from that were the ones with designed in bow-down trim to make the boat unstable for the rule. They planned on having a big crew on the rail aft to bring the boat back into trim.

Cruisers reef before they need to. Also, cruisers don't have 140% primary jibs, too hard to tack and to see under. A 105-110% will be plenty for cruising, easy to tack, and won't overpower so early.

Decide how you will really use the boat, then shop accordingly.
Good advice. I am looking at a Swan 41 footer just overhauled but listed at $190K in San Diego. The cockpit seats do not look long enough to stretch out on. I think you have to go to a 43/44 footer for cockpit comfort. We just got back from sailing week at Antigua, wish we were on the water instead of the hotel. I may decide to get a cheaper boat such as a used Beneteau 36.7/40.7 and sail it for 5 years before getting a live-aboard. We cannot afford a quality offshore boat right now and I am thinking about getting our feet wet on a Beneteau first. We may inspect the Swan 41 in a few weeks to see what it looks like.
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Old 04-05-2009, 04:21   #14
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looking at a Swan 41 footer just overhauled but listed at $190K in San Diego. I may decide to get a cheaper boat such as a used Beneteau 36.7/40.7 and .
There would be a starteling age difference between the boats if a similar price.
The Swan would be late 70's or early 80's and the Bene's would be close to new.
Or do you mean a Bene in a lower price range?
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Old 04-05-2009, 04:42   #15
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I don't care for the dual companionways on many Swans. For cruising and live aboard you want a large cockpit, and a dry boat. Not A Swan.
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