Boats We Like: The Saga 43

We have come across a couple of Saga 43s in the last two years. I can’t say we have made a close evaluation, but they do seem like nice boats with good and moderate lines, that avoid the problems caused by excessive beam, particularly aft. The designer, Bob Perry, has a history of wholesome offshore boats under his belt going back to the classic Valiant 40.

Based on a brief tour of one Saga, the deck layout and fittings appeared seamanlike and the interior well thought out. The boat we were on had two heads, which is just a waste of space in a 43’ boat. Having said that, the forward head could easily be converted to a work shop and storage area, and the boat can also be bought in a single head configuration.

Both of the two owners we met said to stay away from some of the early Saga 43s with the very shallow draft option (no longer offered) and opt for a deeper keel.

This is not, by any stretch of the imagination, a cheap boat, but the prices they command on the second hand market do indicate that the boats are good value.

We sailed offshore next to this Saga 43 for several hours last fall and were impressed by her speed. On a close reach, when the wind was light, she actually pulled away from Morgan’s Cloud. As the wind filled in we had the legs of her, but not by a lot. There is a lot to be said for these modern long water line boats, although, on the flip side, they do not have the reserve buoyancy in the ends that longer overhangs confer

This photo shows the Saga 43’s fine lines (somewhat exaggerated by the wide angle lens) and the workmanlike combined bow platform and anchor roller

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Meet the Author

John

John was born and brought up in Bermuda and started sailing as a child, racing locally and offshore before turning to cruising. He has sailed over 100,000 miles, most of it on his McCurdy & Rhodes 56, Morgan's Cloud, including eight ocean races to Bermuda, culminating in winning his class twice in the Newport Bermuda Race. He has skippered a series of voyages in the North Atlantic, the majority of which have been to the high latitudes. John has been helping others go voyaging by sharing his experience for twenty years, first in yachting magazines and, for the last 12 years, as co-editor/publisher of AAC.

10 comments… add one
  • Dick Stevenson Apr 30, 2018, 8:32 am

    Hi John,
    I just came across this evaluation and agree with your conclusions.
    I had followed the design development of the Saga 43 for a year or so and went to the 1998 (9?) Annapolis boat show with the intention of seeing in depth the then new Saga 43 and perhaps moving to buy one for our live-aboard plans. The manufacturer was very accommodating and informative and I spent hours poking around the boat seeing most everything that did not need a tool to get to.
    My conclusion: good design with some significant execution issues. I shared this with the manufacturer as he was so gracious and he wrote back saying they had made and were making improvements. At the show, we then went to a Valiant 42 and found the answers we were looking for in this more mature design and long run of construction. Our main concern in buying a used V-42 was speed and sailing ability and it has proved more than adequate for our needs though, as you correctly point out, a Saga 43 sails fast.
    A few years later we dined on a new Saga 43 (in the Bahamas) whose owners had worked hand-in-hand with the manufacturer to get the boat they wanted: most or all of the concerns I had were well addressed and the owners indicated that the changes made were being incorporated in all the boats. Years later met up again in Turkey, and they continued to be very pleased with their boat. They reported impressive passage times.
    I do not know how many were eventually made or how they have held up over the years, but I would suspect that a Saga 43 made after the bugs were exposed, would make an excellent used boat to buy and take its crew safely and fast most anywhere.
    My best, Dick Stevenson, s/v Alchemy

    • John Apr 30, 2018, 5:22 pm

      Hi Dick,

      Thanks for the confirmation and added information on the boat. I got interested and took a look at the listings. The later models seem to be running around $200K which seems to indicate that they have held their value well.

      The other thought I had is I wonder how many people who buy a 30-40 year old boat for a sub $100K price and then refit it, spend even more, when all is said and done, than for one of these Sagas. I know that was Poor Stupid Bob’s experience, when we adjust for inflation: https://www.morganscloud.com/2012/03/17/are-refits-worth-it/

  • Rob Cochran Feb 21, 2020, 3:49 pm

    I spoke with a former Saga 43 owner after I had a viewing of one I was considering for purchase. A couple of concerns were rudder bearing undersized, mast step not manufactured to design specs (builder’s fault not Bob’s) and a major keel/hull repair on a Pacific passage as the keel bolts loosened wreaking havoc. Another comment was the boat was a bit tender and does not track well requiring more attention than desirable on a boat making long passages, with the self-steering gear working overtime and the need to reef often. The owner did mention a racing background that influenced this purchase originally.

    On the other hand I spoke with another person that sailed the Atlantic in both directions as delivery crew on a Saga 43 with great comments on the passages.

    This boat does appear to be ocean capable, with some attention in specific areas, as the above passages indicate.

    Dick,
    I am interested in, if you recall, what “significant execution issues” you found on the Saga 43 you inspected.
    John,
    The boat I saw is advertised as a centre board version – 7′ 6″ down and 5’6 up. I have not found information online about this option. Other than the very shallow draft option of the early boats is there any other reason that you have heard to stay away from some of the early Saga 43s? This offering is from 1996 which would most likely make it one of the early builds.

    This is my first comment on this site please let me know if this passes the AAC comment guidelines and I have not violated item #3 “Not a forum”. Thanks.

    • John Feb 21, 2020, 8:13 pm

      Hi Rob,

      Yes, totally what comments are for: discussing the topic of the post above. Also, anytime someone asks a question I’m well disposed toward their comment even if it’s a bit off topic, since with a question we have a situation that can be improved, always worth my and other’s time. Where I get a bit testy is when comment threads spin off into a bunch of unrelated position statements, particularly when they have been stated scores of times before.

      On the Saga, I really don’t know any more about the boat beyond what I wrote above.

      One thing I would say is having sailed 1000s of miles on one, (F&C 44) I’m not a fan of keel-centreboard boats. To me, if you are going to have the complications of a board, go the whole hog and get a Boreal or Ovni. So if I were looking at Saga 43s I would be holding out for a deep draft one.

      If you are serious about a Saga, what I would advise is talking to the man himself, Bob Perry. He will know all about the different models and have some idea of quality variability issues over the life of the production run. Well worth what he charges.

      • Rob Cochran Feb 25, 2020, 3:13 pm

        Bob Perry, in conversation with Andy Schell (podcast) and in forum comments, gave the same advice about the deep draft version. He was happy about the sailing characteristics but thought quality of build was not what it could have been. The Saga I saw was a nice looking boat and only a few hours drive from my home north of Toronto. However I will blink the hearts out of my eyes and keep looking.

        As I am in the early days of boat hunting, and have time, I find myself in the “sail away offshore cruising boat for $100 000” stage. However the more I read about worst case scenarios with fiberglass boats, (bulkhead bonding, deck/hull joint issues, keels and keel bolts, rudder failures and bearing issues, deficient mast steps, cored hulls, delamination, etc.), the more aluminum construction sounds appealing. I need to learn more about the worst case scenarios with aluminum to compare.

        Your work and Colin’s on AAC plus a video tour of Charlie Doane’s boat has sold me on the Boreal as an ideal cruising boat! Unfortunately not in the budget at the moment.

        An older Ovni (36, 395, 43/435) may be attainable while still keeping the house. When the time comes I plan to hire the professional to assist in avoiding novice mistakes. In the meantime I will continue to get more experience sailing other people’s boats, learn about characteristics of as many different boats as possible and work on my seasickness strategies (gravol my go to).

        Maybe a trip to France to hang around their boat yards is in order (not many Ovnis on the market close to home)? Boat buying tourism sounds like a thing!

        Thanks for your site. The best reference I have found online.

        • John Feb 26, 2020, 11:09 am

          Hi Rob,

          Sounds like a plan. That said, aluminium is not a panacea either. And Ovni’s have had their own problems with keels and rudders. For example Colin has been through two keel rams on his 435.

          More on the care of aluminium here: https://www.morganscloud.com/2017/11/11/22-aluminum-boat-care-tips-part-1/

        • Richard Elder Feb 26, 2020, 12:28 pm

          Hi Rob
          Before you (or anybody) decides to spend the next 5-7 years saving money for what you believe is the perfect boat (Boreal) or even worse, building the perfect boat there is something you absolutely must do first. Cross an ocean!

          Not an un-Obtainable goal! Here are several ways to make it happen:

          Offshore Passage Opportunities: https://www.sailopo.com/h1.aspx
          59 North Sailing: https://www.59-north.com/
          Mahina Expeditions: http://www.mahina.com/
          John Kretschmer: https://johnkretschmersailing.com/
          ROAM: https://sailsurfroam.com/

          • Marc Dacey Feb 26, 2020, 3:52 pm

            I strongly recommend this. Both my wife and I have done (collectively) four saltwater deliveries as crew, two coastal and two offshore. We did them separately for “worst-case” reasons and because we wanted different experiences, which we got, in spades. In addition, we’ve both taken RYA courses. This has sharpened our skills and given us “real-life” experience about what it’s like to live aboard a boat in passagemaking conditions.

            You want to do this to ensure you are on the right path BEFORE you plow money (estimate you’d spend a lot more than you’d think, everyone does) into the boat you think is right today. It’s entirely possible, having been to sea without the prospect of a dock in, say, a week or three, that what you want and/or need might be quite different from what you would choose today. I know the 59 North people and have met Kretschmer: both are good choices and a couple of grand thrown at them now could save you tens of grand later on.

          • Rob Cochran Mar 5, 2020, 12:26 pm

            Yes Richard and Marc that is the best advice, experience sailing other peoples’ boats first for sure and working with role models and mentors. OPO is my next goal, just trying to line up my schedule.

            Add Ocean Crew Link by World Cruising Club to your list. Through them I experienced my first two offshore, non-stop passages the first double handed from Nassau to Annapolis (Lord Nelson 41) and the other the first leg of the ARC USA Nanny Cay, BVI to Bermuda (Hallberg-Rassey 42). This is how I got hooked! (even though I experienced 3 days of sea sickness on the second trip I still completed all of my watches and want to keep cruising. Reminds me of my teenage years swearing never to drink again after a bad hangover only to do it all over again the next weekend!)

            To get the experience of sailing the Strait of Georgia from Vancouver to Vancouver Island I enrolled in a Sail Canada 5 day live-aboard Intermediate cruising course. To further refine my skills I completed Sail Canada’s Basic Cruising instructor course. One of my evaluators is a professional skipper, mentor and role model. In 2024 she will be the first Canadian woman to race in the Vendee Globe!

            Now I need to increase my offshore experience. OPO seems to be my best option at this time. An Atlantic crossing is definitely on the list. Having passed on an offer to sail to the Azores from Bermuda I feel there is unfinished business. 🙂

            I spoke with Andy and Mia and John and Amanda at the Toronto boat show and agree their programs are great options that I am also considering.

            Andy Schell’s On the Wind Sailing podcast is where I heard about the Saga 43 during his conversation with designer Bob Perry. This is what caught my initial interest with the Saga 43.

            Too many different boat options on the used market is overwhelming! I will continue to build my experience and hire a professional to help guide me when the time is closer.

  • Dick Stevenson Feb 21, 2020, 5:18 pm

    Hi Rob,
    It has been almost 20 years.
    I went to the Annapolis Boat Show specifically to see the Saga 43. I thought, still think, the design was excellent: it was like a smaller version of the Sundeers which were out of my range.
    It was hull # 1 and the manufacturer was the rep on board who let me poke around, take minor stuff apart to look behind stuff which I did for hours. For that hull it was details that stood out: drawers that when pulled out more than ½ way over balanced, tipped to 45 degrees and spilled their contents, the pulpit was very shaky and a number of items of that ilk. We worried that it was indicative of slipshod attention to details in other areas.
    The rep was so accommodating I wished to give him feedback as to why we were not considering his boat. He graciously wrote me back, acknowledging that he agreed with my areas of concern and said that new boats were addressing those concerns. I believe that to be the case.
    I wonder whether the boat you mention could be that hull # 1.
    Years later, we spent time with a later hull number Saga 43 whose experienced owners had basically worked very closely with the manufacturer to get the details right. They were very happy with their boat, already had a lot of miles and an ocean crossing on it and years living aboard. I believe all subsequent Sagas benefitted from that collaboration, but I do not know what their hull number was.
    Good luck with your search.
    My best, Dick Stevenson, s/v Alchemy

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