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Old 05-06-2010, 19:29   #1
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The Good, the Bad and the Ugly !



Although I've had fun picking on Beneteau recently (questioning Bluewater capabilities), searching for threads of the past has revealed a lot of contentious opinions and bitter debate on the matter already. Some owners highly support them, and other sailors and delivery people have had serious problems.

However, to be fair and balanced, what I do see lacking on the site is a unified and concentrated discussion on which models of Beneteau are strong in design and construction, and which ones are weak and should be avoided. I think that would be very helpful to anyone considering a Beneteau - whether some of us disagree with them or not. For those that do want to sail in a used one, the record here would be a good source for them.

For example, some might think that the FIRST series from the 80's is a design that holds up to scrutiny and can be purchased in confidence. However, in your opinion which specific years were better, and which lengths? Someone might think anything over 35 ft is best for bluewater work; however which models and years? And that goes to those models and years that should be avoided.

To sum up the questions:

- Which model, year, and length of Beneteau are strong for extended blue water passage? Lets say more extreme "cod-runs" rather than "coconut-runs".
- Which years and models were weak?
- Just like in most boat manufacturers, what modifications are necessary to bring any contenders you have chosen up to true blue water capacity (e.g. additional bulkhead, replace inner plates with out etc.)

If you have any information, please share. Not necessary to be an owner.

Thanks

SaltyMonkey
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Old 06-06-2010, 06:51   #2
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With all due respect, I submit that only an owner, or one that has crewed on a given yacht for an extended period can offer a very meaningful assessment of a given yacht if they can be objective. (Some, of course, become "married" to their boats and, accordingly, willingly or unwittingly overlook their flaws). Beyond that is little but speculation.

We own a 1986 Beneteau First 42 whch was part of a line that began in 1981 and was, unfortunately, discontinued in its original form in '87-'88. The boat is pretty, very fast, very confortable and, essentially, bullet proof. The First 38 of the same era is similar as attested to, and tested by, Liz and Andy Copeland (s/v Bagheera) as is the First 456 line. We also know the owner's of several of the Idylle series of the same era--something of a detuned "crusing" version of the Firsts--that swear by the boats as well. (FWIW, a very edited but still somewhat detailed owner's assessment of the First 42 will be appearing in an up-comming edition of Southwinds Magazine)

As for the later boats, I believe Mark and Nikki can speak to the 393 based upon their experience circumnavigating with that yacht.

FWIW...
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Old 06-06-2010, 07:12   #3
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Take some of what may be said with due caution as at least one of these guys has his B for sale so objectivity goes out the window
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Old 06-06-2010, 07:20   #4
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Yes, Salty Monkey did yank a few chains!

I spent a couple of weeks skippering a Beneteau 423 Oceanis of about 2002 vintage in pretty heavy weather -- Meltemi winds and sometimes big seas. Not being an owner and not having one for sale, I think I have a pretty objective view.

The boat was nearly new and was very well set up, rig well tuned, and so forth.

It had excellent sailing qualities in all conditions, including gale-force winds and big seas. Very fast and weatherly. It was very stable and quite stiff, although the hull was somewhat flexible. I had no doubts about the boat's seaworthiness.

The boat's biggest flaw for long-distance cruising is lack of tankage and storage. The accomodation was very comfortable and well-laid out with a nice "owner's" forecabin with en-suite heads, and two pretty comfortable doubles tucked under the aft cockpit. This comfort in accomodation is achieved at the expense of deck storage, and other kinds of storage. The boat is really intended for coastal use so this tradeoff is probably right for most owners.

There were some signs of mass-production cost-cutting. Quite a bit of bare plastic i the fitout. But the thing I hated most of all was the fake-wood laminate sole, which was noisy underfoot besides ugly. But everything seemed to be well screwed together, and the design is much more thought-out and tasteful than other production boats like Hunters or Catalinas.

The cabinetry was surprisingly good for such an inexpensive boat; better than that of some much more expensive boats.

I don't like the spade rudder or delicate-looking, high aspect keel for blue water work but that's a question of taste.

The boat pounded a little but not enough to be really bothersome. The flip side of that was awesome surfing when sailing downwind. We frequently saw 11-12 knots of boat speed downwind in the Meltemi, usually sailing with just a bit of the genoa out. Boy, would that boat fly downwind, and we never felt at risk of broaching.

All in all I liked it. Tremendous value for money. Great choice for coastal sailing on a budget and probably ok for water sailing">blue water sailing too, especially if tankage is augmented somehow.
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Old 06-06-2010, 07:25   #5
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Considering Beneteau "bendytoy" vessels, I'd consider many of their First series to be better than average.
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Old 06-06-2010, 10:10   #6
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Good stuff coming here. Thanks svHyLyte, Dockhead and the Capt'n.

Bagheera had some modifications done to make it supersea capable. Nothing wrong with that. For example, Islander 36's others are modified for like conditions. Might ask a question on what can be done in general to all bendy boats to bring them around to offshore spec.

In some ways it's a bit unfair to look at typical stats over the Bennie (e.g SA/D etc). These boats are not full keel boats, maybe not even fin keels, and are designed more as the ocean racer which has its pluses - exceptionally good sailers "downwind" - designed like surfboards. Comfort/heeling etc distrustful of numbers. Stats do show they do not recover rolls/knoctdowns very well which I believe is true. But again, I'm looking at newer designs.

Spade vs Skeg. Difficult to access really. Opinions vary. Some say the Spades are built like bricks and can handle things just as good as a skeg if not better. Some say that skegs can break off on a roll and leave a man hole in the bottom of the boat whereas a spade will leave less damage. Personally prefer neither.

Anyway offtopic. Back to the real question about models, good years, and length
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Old 06-06-2010, 11:02   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by SaltyMonkey View Post
Spade vs Skeg. Difficult to access really. Opinions vary. Some say the Spades are built like bricks and can handle things just as good as a skeg if not better. Some say that skegs can break off on a roll and leave a man hole in the bottom of the boat whereas a spade will leave less damage. Personally prefer neither.
My -- admittedly instinctive, and not scientific -- aversion to spade rudders is simply that they don't look right. Think of the huge lever arm effect. A skeg or half-skeg rudder seems like it should be much stronger because you have distance between the bearings.

Ironically, this may be more important for coastal sailing than blue-water -- I'm thinking of what happens if you touch the ground with a spade rudder.

In blue water maybe it's not so important, or maybe spade is actually better for the reasons you mention.

I don't know. But the builders I admire the most do seem to always use some kind of skeg, at least a half-skeg (my boat has a half-skeg, by the way), for their cruising boats, at least their larger cruising boats, reserving spades for racers, cruiser-racers, or little bitty boats.

One advantage of a spade rudder no one mentioned is it can be set up to be balanced which radically reduces steering forces, which has got to be good for the steering gear (and autopilot), not to mention the helmsman's shoulders. A half-skeg like on Dixon designs like my boat can be partially balanced, by extending the leading edge of the rudder forward below where the half-skeg ends.

Oysters, the cruising boas I admire probably the most, all have full skegs, massive bronze jobbies that look very strong.
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Old 06-06-2010, 11:36   #8
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I think the skeg is sold mostly as protection from flotsom and to reinforce for bottom cleaning on tides. However, I get from various sources that spades are built thick and strong (massive piping), can handle reef bounces just as well as a skeg. Of course I would not want to bottom clean on the low with one, unless it had twin keels. Not scientific? Ummm...based on real historic cases not on science sure - especially the hole in bottom.

Not to my prime taste as you know: pilot house; full keel; transom hung rudder...and moving toward PNW steel. But if someone said "Hey SaltyMonkey, you old grump! We're having a solo race from Europe to the Carib and we have a FIRST with Spades just for you". I'd most likely take it and keep the open mind. I'd also be putting wax on the spade rudder getting ready for the jump.
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Old 06-06-2010, 11:53   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by SaltyMonkey View Post
I think the skeg is sold mostly as protection from flotsom and to reinforce for bottom cleaning on tides. However, I get from various sources that spades are built thick and strong (massive piping), can handle reef bounces just as well as a skeg. Of course I would not want to bottom clean on the low with one, unless it had twin keels. Not scientific? Ummm...based on real historic cases not on science sure - especially the hole in bottom.

Not to my prime taste as you know: pilot house; full keel; transom hung rudder...and moving toward PNW steel. But if someone said "Hey SaltyMonkey, you old grump! We're having a solo race from Europe to the Carib and we have a FIRST with Spades just for you". I'd most likely take it and keep the open mind. I'd also be putting wax on the spade rudder getting ready for the jump.
LOL.

The builders at least say that their skeg are not only for protection, but to provide a lower bearing point to make the rudder much stronger. Maybe it's propaganda, but I think it's clear that a spade will require much more massive construction to be as strong as a skeg-hung rudder. I don't think drying out has anything to do with it -- can you see an Oyster 56 being careened for scrubbing? You wouldn't intentionally stand a boat like that (or mine) on her bulb keel.

If you're going to give up the performance of a fin keel, why not look at bilge keels like that lovely origami steel boat MOM? Bilge keels are very popular over here (in England). They sail no worse than full keel boats (and some of them are supposed to be much better), and you get the humongous, stupendous advantage of being able to dry out without any legs. You will never again fear going aground, and you can crawl up into all kinds of fantastic places. Would multiply your cruising grounds by about 10x, even if it would take you somewhat longer to get between them (but no longer than full keel boat). A boat which not only has bilge keels but which is steel, would be just perfect for creek-crawling; would be indestructible and un-groundable. Really like that MOM boat, which is not only all that, but really pretty too.

Instead of anchoring, just run her aground at mid-tide on a falling tide, and chill out.

As to transom-hung rudder -- much less gear to fail and no performance hit. I like that to, although the steering gear becomes impractical in larger designs.
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Old 06-06-2010, 12:24   #10
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If you're going to give up the performance of a fin keel, why not look at bilge keels like that lovely origami steel boat MOM? Bilge keels are very popular over here (in England). They sail no worse than full keel boats (and some of them are supposed to be much better), and you get the humongous, stupendous advantage of being able to dry out without any legs. You will never again fear going aground, and you can crawl up into all kinds of fantastic places. Would multiply your cruising grounds by about 10x, even if it would take you somewhat longer to get between them (but no longer than full keel boat). A boat which not only has bilge keels but which is steel, would be just perfect for creek-crawling; would be indestructible and un-groundable. Really like that MOM boat, which is not only all that, but really pretty too.

Instead of anchoring, just run her aground at mid-tide on a falling tide, and chill out.

I would tend to disagree with "sail no worse"! I've owned a bilge keel boat and grew wary of trying to get up wind. And on a reach it would go to weather excessively. But for the rest is was great. It was great for gunkholing in the shallows! I could anchor where others couldn't. Once I had vessel owner yelling at me in Port Ludlow saying I was going to run aground. Fooled him! I pulled in around the small Islands in the SW corner and stayed the night out if sight.
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Old 06-06-2010, 12:44   #11
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now now gentlemen...we are getting a bit away from our birthday subject - the Beneteau and which models, years, and length are subject to "best practices".

As for steel - you got me on the target there. I'm conversing and getting convinced from other steel owners. Size appears to be an issue because of the weight and construction. There's also much about knowing what to look for when shopping, and being careful about maintenance. The Origami / Brent Swain boats are of course beautiful and it looks sooo simple. I'm transfixed reading that MOM story. Love the idea of learning to weld.

Anyway back to Bennies. I'd go in that too...just not 100 miles solo up the coast of california to vancouver island during late May into June which seems to be the window for an uphill run.
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Old 06-06-2010, 13:13   #12
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Cant sat to much about the standard Beneteau, as all I've ever had were the FIRST series...
Rudder issues, not a concern here, as the rudder post is a 4 inch piece of stainless stock re-inforced with over a foot of bearing surface..befor the keel would break off, the rear of the boat would be torn off..
The FIRST series of the mid 80s, the 38-42-456 wern't just built for racing but offshore racing and to compete in the Admirals Cup, a series of offshore races..
even thou our boat is 42 foot, its easily handled singlehanded as it was when I brought her down from Alaska two years ago..
The fin keel issue,
Not a concern as the keel in weight is more than 50% of the boats weight, not a fin with a bulb but a 12 foot long 6 foot tall piece of iron mounted to a cross section the measures over 200mm in thickness..
Thats over 8 inches thick where the keel bolts, 16 of them at 3/4 of an inch hold the iron to the boat...
so you would have a better chance of busting the boat off the keel than the keel off the boat...
Our is a little strech on the origional as it has an optional deeper draft lead keel and a tall rig....
We've inlarged the tankage for ours and now hold over 200 gallons of water and have turned our forward head area into a water closet with the watermaker for cruising..
Being ours is of the mid 80s vintage, our interior has NO plastic and everything is built of Teak and Holly, including the soal..
Because the FIRST series of the Mid 80s was designed for the riggors of off shore racing, you find many items designed for offshore use that you dont find on many boats.. the complete boat is wrapped with copper striping for SSB ground plane, the standing rigging is not just bolted to the deck, and inside the underside of the plates are anchored to a strut that travels throu the interior to be bolted to a plate that is glassed to the hull and runs for and aft throu the hull.. this plate over 2 inches thick and 10 to 12 inches high is part of the overall support of the hull...
The only gripe I have at all about the boat is that It wont sail Dead Down Wind without acting like a skateboard at high speed as its all over the place, BUT you turn her off the wind about 5 to 10 degrees and she locks into a 10 to 12 degree heel and feels like she's running on tracks..
The FIRST 42 is a proven Thoroughbred, with a list of trophys around the world.. to this day, at over 27 years old, still hold a rating of 94 sec per mile.. Not bad for an old WarHorse............
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Old 06-06-2010, 14:22   #13
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Great great post there Randyonr3! Now we're on to something specific. Wonderful details about the integrity of the whole keel/rudder issue and specific lengths/years

- FIRST series
- 38, 42, 456
- Mid 80's (not sure what would be considered the mid 80 range, but can be figured out looking at listing in the raw).
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