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The Boat

Why does someone choose a particular boat?

We fell in love with the Sun Odyssey 40 (SO40) when we first saw one back in1999 when they first came out. Over the years we have looked at lots of other boats, both new and old and have not found anything that fits our needs as well as the SO40 does.

I wanted a modern coastal cruiser/racer. It needed a fin keel with spade rudder, a large cockpit, scoop stern, roomy master cabin and a decent head. I also did not want a boat with a built with a pan liner. Jeanneau was the only production sailboat maker that used a grid system. They stopped building them this way in 2003.

The contenders:

 I like pretty much like all boats but each has itís weaknesses and strong points so picking one is always a compromise. Cost, value, design, quality, condition and potential all need to be balanced against intended use. Offshore, coastal, day sailor, weekend, solo, family, entertainment are just a few of the types of uses to consider.  Also where you intend to sail also heavily impacts the choice. Cold or warm climates, deep or shallow waters, rough or calm seas and winds. The following are a list of boats I liked and considered for different reasons. Mostly because we were unable to find a nice SO40 that was configured the way we wanted one.

  C&C 115 - These are nice boats, they are clearly a Racer/Cruiser instead of a Cruiser/racer. I was disappointed to see shoddy finishing work in the areas under and behind the finish surfaces. Didnít expect that. They also donít strike me as a very durable boat. Time will tell however but I am sure they would be fun to sail. They are fairly new so still expensive and overall I like the SO40 better for us.

     Catalina 400 - I looked at several of these and feel they are very nice boats. They are however very big and heavy compared to the SO40. We wanted to like them but in the end just couldnít do it.

     Jeanneau SO40.3 - The replacement for the SO40 has the same hull but utilizes a pan liner instead of rib/stringer system and no Kevlar reinforcements. They are a stiff boat however and sail as well or better due to a newer keel design.

     Beneteau First 40.7 - Great design and a fast boat. Itís really a race boat with accommodations however. I couldnít warm up to owning one. Just not for me.

     Beneteau First 405 - An older design but I really liked these boats. The ones I looked at were beat however from years of hard racing.

     There were others but they were all older designs.

The particular SO40 we purchased is very nicely appointed, it actually had a lot of stuff we didnít really want. We will want to upgrade sails and a few other things but otherwise she is just what we were looking for.

Every boat is a compromise however. I am going to write this as a review as it applies to our needs. Please understand that these are my opinions and I might be wrong about some points. I welcome comments and corrections. Contact me here.

Design positives:

     Hull design is modern but I would describe it as moderate. The trend in many new boat designs like the new Jeanneau SO39i is more in line with downwind racing boats. At least that is the way I see them. Fat and wide sterns are very fast going down wind and plane quickly but they can tend to pound like crazy going upwind into a chop. The SO40 is a fair compromise here. Less radical and not as fast but will behave better for the cruiser on all points of sail.

     This is the smallest boat you can get with a twin wheel arrangement. This is a big plus for us as it makes it a very social boat. Most boats put the skipper behind a large wheel and separate from the crew. The twin wheels really open up the cockpit. It also allows the skipper to easily pick an outboard position either high or low for best visibility.

     The interior design is quite roomy and very usable in the owners version. Nice galley and head arrangement. The owners cabin is forward and has plenty of foot room and length.

     The navigation station on the 1999 boats have a nice place for 2 people to sit across from each other. This design was changed in late 2000 to something less desirable for us but maybe not for all.

Design negatives:

     The hull is flat on the bottom. This is normal for modern racer/cruisers and creates a faster hull, but water does not drain very well into the very small sump.

     Itís a masthead rig with the mast far enough forward to provide decent power from the main but I would have preferred a fractional rig. It still has the factory sails and seem OK for the light winds of Southern California but the original sails were not the of the best quality even when new. The traveler is on the cabin top and is pretty short. I will want to upgrade sails and some of the sail systems however.

     Cockpit seats are too short to stretch out on. (This is kind of minor)

     The aluminum toe rails are not ventilated. This is really annoying to me. At least they are not teak like the new boats.

     There are no mounting pads for secondary cockpit winches.

Construction positives:

     Solid hull made with vinyl ester resins using a grid stringer system glassed in with Kevlar matting in the collision areas. The interior can be disassembled giving access to hull.

    Note: Jeanneau discontinued this construction method in in 2004 (I believe) when they went to the SO40.3. The new Jeanneau are built with a pan liner system and Kevlar is only used in the biggest boats. (building with a pan liner is a cheaper process but still results in a strong boat. The liner is glued in and over time the bonding can break down and repairs could be almost impossible. You are also locked out of getting to the hull from the inside of the boat. You can only clean areas that have access plates.)

     Real teak and teak plywood below deck. The new boats have gone to some kind of plastic wood looking stuff.

     Engine is a 56 hp Yanmar, bigger than the boat needs but plenty of power. Engine access seems good.

Construction negatives:

     Iron keel will take more maintenance and offers lower performance. Keel bolts are not SS. I believe the newer boats might have lead bulbs on iron keels. Should be better performance but you still have the maintenance problems.

     The traveler is too short.

     SS Holding tank is 11 gal, I believe the newer boats have larger tanks.

     Windlass is Leroy Somer SV 801 now obsolete with no spares available.

     Forward chain plate lowers were not used on 1999 boats. This can result in damage to the deck. This happened to my boat prior to my purchase and required repair and retrofit. The retrofit is not necessarily a drop in. The holes in the deck for the chainplates do not match up exactly with the retrofit parts from Jeanneau and required modifications to the supplied parts. I have added a write up here.

Value positives:

     You get a lot of boat for the money. Resale values will always be depressed due the the large number of charter boats out there.

Value negatives:

     Same as above when you go to sell your boat.

Note: A large majority of these boats were built for the charter market. Generally with 2 heads, 3 cabins, engine driven refrigeration and in-mast furling systems.

 

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