The Offshore Voyaging Reference Site

Colin And Louise’s OVNI 435, “Pèlerin”

Pèlerin, our boat and home, is an OVNI 435 cutter designed by Philippe Briand, built for us and launched in 2008. Here is a brief introduction to her, what has worked for us, and what we’d do differently if we were starting again.

The Designer

Philippe Briand has long been one of the foremost French designers, and a notable helmsman in his day, winning the half ton and one ton cups during the 1980’s. What was noticeable in those early days was that even his race boats were good looking, during an era that wasn’t noted for handsome lines. He then went on to design many well-known production yachts for the likes of Jeanneau and Beneteau, although today he is more involved in super yacht design. He designed many of the OVNI range, including the 495, which remains in production.

The Builders

In 1973, Alubat were amongst the first of the French builders to adopt aluminium as their build material. They have stuck to their formula of chunky, multi-chine designs with lifting keels ever since, and currently produce around fifty boats each year from their main base in Les Sables D’Olonne.


LOA 44’ (13.37m)
LWL 34’11” (10.59m)
Beam 13’11” (4.22m)
Draft 2’4”-8’4” (0.74-2.54m)
Displacement -dry (10.3T)
Sail area (working) 1065sq ft (99sq m)
Measured rig height (I) 52’6” (15.9m)
Fore triangle base (J) 15’6” (1.69m)

Cruising history

After 16 years skippering yachts commercially (in my case), Louise and I had Pèlerin built to fulfil a long-term plan to go cruising. With that in mind, we had a great deal of input into planning her above and below decks, assisted by the experienced team at Alubat who gave us much good advice and converted our ideas into reality very well.

Having lived aboard for over two years, we are currently making our way South after spending the 2009 season in the West of Ireland and the Western Isles of Scotland.


For us, Pèlerin is a near ideal size. Not too big to handle, especially at close quarters, and just the right side of affordable in terms of gear and maintenance. She has true shoal draft with her hydraulically controlled lifting centreboard and rudder and ability to take the ground, which gives her amazing versatility and opens up many otherwise off-limits cruising grounds. Being easily driven she doesn’t have a huge rig and is simple to handle short-handed. Like many centreboarders, upwind is not her favourite point of sailing, but if sailed a little free she’ll get on with it. Downwind, with the plate raised she is fast and stable and is the most controllable boat we’ve ever sailed. With her ballast all mounted internally she has a very comfortable motion in most conditions, and is a relaxing boat to sail, capable of keeping up good average daily runs without putting big demands on her crew.


OVNIs are all aluminium, chosen not necessarily to make them light, but to make them robust. Aluminium construction is massively strong with its matrix of frames and stringers, and should deform on impact if necessary. It lends itself very well to custom fabrication and features at little extra cost, and we tried to make a virtue of that, welding everything possible on deck to avoid leaks and corrosion. In any case, Alubat have many years of experience building in the material, and have long ago learned how to avoid most of the pitfalls.

Most of the problems with aluminium and electrolysis can be traced to connection to shorepower, so we installed an isolation transformer soon after delivery. OVNI’s also have a leak meter which will detect any current bleed via the 12V system, which we check daily.

We had Pèlerin fully insulated at the build stage, hull and deck down to the waterline, which keeps her cosy and condensation free in winter and cool in the summer. It also cuts down on one of the less attractive aspects of aluminium construction which is noise inside – she is really quiet at sea.


Pèlerin is a true cutter with a high cut Yankee and staysail. The Yankee is mounted on a roller and the staysail is hoisted conventionally. She has a fully battened main running on a Harken track, which has single line reefing worked from the cockpit. Much effort (and expense) has gone into reducing friction in all areas of sail handling, which has really paid off, so that reefing is now straightforward and effective. All working sails are in laminated fabrics, and are wearing well.

We carry a hanked on storm jib, but not a trysail. Our mainsail has three reefs at larger than standard spacing, and so our third reef is effectively not much larger than a trysail. The staysail can also be reefed.

For light airs we have a lighweight No 1 genoa that sets on a stay just aft of the roller, which has really improved our upwind and close reaching ability below 8 knots of wind. We also have an asymmetric spinnaker mounted on a gennaker furler, which sets from a detachable bowsprit, which is versatile and easy to use.

We have one power driven winch to handle all halyards, which also double for hoisting the dinghy aboard, and lifting large heavy items from our forward store room and workshop.

Mechanical systems

Pèlerin is fitted with a Volvo D2 – 55D normally aspirated diesel engine currently driving the original three blade fixed prop via a Hurth gearbox. The engine is adequate for the size of boat, and we when we fit a Max-prop in the coming months we hope we’ll gain some extra grip astern, as well as better sailing performance. In calm conditions we motor at around 6.5 knots, using around 4l of fuel per hour. We carry 300l of fuel in two integral tanks.

In keeping with our policy of simplicity we have no diesel generator. We do, however, have 180W of fixed solar panels, which can be augmented by a further 85W of portable panel when at anchor. We also have a highly efficient (and now quiet!) Superwind wind generator. So far a combination of these units combined with relatively frugal daily demand has allowed us to avoid running our engine to charge the batteries. We carry a small petrol driven Honda generator for emergencies, but have so far only used it once to test it out.

We have no bow thruster, although there are times when we wish we did. OVNIs are not the easiest boats to handle in tight harbours, especially in cross winds.

We carry 600l of water, which is adequate, but we have our one concession to complexity in the form of a Spectra Ventura 150 watermaker, which is not too power hungry, and allows us to have showers whenever we like.

Our refrigerator is by Isotherm, and is well insulated, and so very efficient. We have a 5Kw blown air diesel heating system by Webasto, and so far it has worked very well.


On deck, we have a Simrad integrated system, including radar, plotter, wind, AI 50 AIS transceiver and a Simrad AP 28 hydraulic autopilot. We have an Echopilot FLS Gold III forward looking sonar, with a custom aluminium transducer housing. Down below we have a back-up Furuno GP 32 GPS linked to an ICOM M505 DSC VHF radio, and an Iridium phone for e-mail and long distance communication.

The autopilot is matched by a Windpilot Pacific vane gear, which is powerful, easy to use and seems to match the boat very well.

Some other things that make Pèlerin a great boat

  • She has a feeling of immense strength which leads us to have great confidence in her
  • She is not at all demanding to sail, and has a very comfortable motion
  • She is very light and airy down below
  • We had considerable input over the interior design, and so far we feel it has worked very well, both at sea and in harbour.

What we would change if we had a magic wand

  • A solid dodger/doghouse like on the Boreal 44 that we recently tested. We couldn’t have one at the build stage (although we asked), but plan to have one fabricated in due course, either in composites or alloy plate.
  • Fit a Max-prop. We didn’t, and we regret it.
  • NO PAINT! There is no question that the one real downside to aluminium construction is keeping paint on it. If it had to be painted, then just the coachroof and deck, but, please! Not the hull!
  • We would change the deck hatches- all of them – to Goiot or perhaps Gebo.
  • We have changed nearly all of the deck gear to Harken, and what a difference it has made. We’d change the rest if money were no option.
  • Install a day tank so that we could monitor fuel condition and consumption.
  • Better engine access – the engine is mounted very low in the hull to assist stability, and despite numerous detachable access hatches access is not good. This is especially true of the stern gland, which is a Volvo seal, and needs to be ‘burped’ every time the boat is dried out – a job best suited to a contortionist.

Do you have questions or comments about Pèlerin? Leave a comment.

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Victor Raymond


I was very interesting to read more about your Ovni today and especially about what you would change vs what you have installed.

Although my Jeanneau SO 45.2 is a GRP production boat we do share the same designer and a surprising number of similarities that Philippe Briand must have discovered worked well with either GRP or alloy boats.

I cannot agree more with your decision to upgrade to Harken equipment. I have yet to find anything of theirs I don’t like, although I do like Spinlock for jammers, but for winches, travelers, bat cars, etc they make beefy equipment that does the job. I have not seen or used their furlers (I have Profurl) so cannot comment. I would look at Antal and Facnors (especially for a furling gennaker or code 0.)

Another issue is engine access. I guess Phillipe never had to change the oil, replace the impeller or worse the stern gland on his designs. If he had perhaps he would have been more kind to us.

One point that few designers address is stainless on an alloy boat. Why not weld solid aluminum stanchions directly into the toe rail and while at it make them a comforting 1 meter height so they hold you onboard rather than help make sure you fall over board. Personally I would also make the life lines of spectra instead of stainless cable for numerous reasons too.

My final gripe for today involves mounting winches. My preference would be to always have them mounted on access plates (with enough room to get a wrench underneath) so that they can be easily removed for annual service. How many ball bearings have we all lost trying to service on deck? Down below in your nice workshop in your standup engine room is the ideal place for this type of work.

Please keep the details coming. Problems are the same, solutions are different.



PS I look forward to seeing what you come up with for your hard dodger.

John Harries

Hi Colin,

Who manufactured the hatches that you would replace? I have my suspicions.


Jim Patek

Hello Colin

First I would like to thank you for your ongoing review of your Ovni experience. I look to your postings for ideas that I might apply. I have always been quite reluctant to be critical and all things considered, the positives of the design and construction far outweigh the niggles. The robust construction, flexibility of the builder, attractive and sea kindly accomodation, the forgiving characteristics of a centerboard and rudder that will retract on impact along with access to shallow places, the easy to manage sail plan and the sailing performance, off the wind, have made our Ovni 435, Let’s Go!, an almost perfect voyaging platform. After seven years and 45000 miles, my only serious complaint is that I am looking at a major cosmetic repair job related to stainless stanchions, grab rails, etc on an aluminium deck. It could be argued that I should have done a better job of catching the problem as it emerged. In addition, the insulation around the fridge and freezer proved less than adequate for the tropics and condensation has stained the woodwork. I understand that this is common problem not unique to the Ovni. But this, too, is a rather minor issue, however annoying.

All in all, the Ovni 435 is a fantastic voyaging vessel, difficult to beat, especially for the price. Most important: bullet proof construction; retractable centerboard and rudder; seaworthy layout; easy to sail.

Thanks again for your reviews.

Let’s Go!
Scalloway, Shetland

Colin Speedie

Hi Victor

It seems that Phillippe Briand follows the same routes with many of his designs! All designers should make their very best efforts to make access to all service points truly accessible. On a 45ft boat this shouldn’t be the issue it always seems to be – Boreal managed it fine. Re the stanchions, Boreal use alloy, and whilst it’s not so aesthetically pleasing, it’s simple and light. And I’d agree about Spectra for lifelines, and when ours are due for renewal, that’s the way we’ll go.

Access to the bolts for the winches is fine on the OVNI, and much of the deck gear is mounted on plinths – much better with aluminium.

John, the hatches are Lewmar, and the two forward ones are their Ocean models that we specified at build, and they’re OK. The others just don’t feel robust enough to me, and the small ones have the handles glued to the lens, and I’ve seen a few of these come off – and that’s them finished.

Jim, it’s great to hear from another 435 owner, especially someone who has really put some miles on her. It sounds to me like your experience and impressions mirror mine, and I’d agree with everything you say.
On the later boats Alubat started fitting plastic inserts into all of the stubs for stanchions etc., and so far ours have been OK. As for grab handles etc., we had everything welded and we’re very glad we did. Our fridge has coped well with the heat down here, so far, but we’ll watch out for evidence of condensation. It would be good to hear any other comments you might like to share – glad you’ve found mine useful.
Best wishes

Jim Patek

Thank you for your feedback Colin. I am happy to share my experiences with you.

Regarding the stanchions, a sleeve was inserted in each base but the stanchion was locked in place with an aluminum screw. Therefore the sleeve was neutralised. There are, however, many areas of bubbling paint or areas where paint has come off in small sheets where the beneficial effect of Duralac around ss fastenings was reduced with time. I have removed the fastenings and coated these with Tefgel to slow the process and buy some time.

The condensation related to the fridge and freezer first showed itself with water between the cabin sole and its aluminium framing underneath. This warped the sole before I could effectively seal the end grains of the panels. Only the two cabin sole panels below the step down just forward of the galley were affected. The staining of the wood below the fridge and freezer did not occur until nearly three years after purchase when the insulation must have become saturated. While I originally thought that this was a problem with my boat only, I subsequently learned that the problem is common. I am sure that by 2009, the builder will have modified the design, perhaps sealing the insulation in, and you will remain trouble free.

I have not found engine access to be a real problem (but I am not a big person). I replaced the Volvo dripless seal with PSS within a year of purchase and this has performed well. I have damaged the all rubber cutless bearing twice with line wraps and recommend that you carry a couple spares since they are not an off the shelf item in most places. The engine has, thankfully, performed reliably, after initial teething problems. Engine mount nuts loosen occasionally and I have to check them periodically. I had the Max-prop installed at purchase.

For power, I have two alternators on the Volvo, an Aerogen 6 wind generator (installed in New Zealand in 2004 once I realised my actual power demands), two 55 watt solar panels, a 3.8 kw Mastervolt 220V generator (also installed in New Zealand) and six AGM 120 AH batteries that have performed reliably since their purchase in Australia in 2006 ( I must have been charging them adequately in spite of my ignorance. I had been equalising them regularly). The generator, used relatively infrequently, has performed well. It is my second Aerogen, the first having taken off in Batsi, Andros in a huge gust of wind while at anchor, in 2008.

I had a Spectra Catalina installed in New Zealand in 2005 after ditching my Pur Surv 40 and it has been extremely reliable with the exception of a leak in the Clark pump, replaced by Spectra at no charge in 2010.

Electronics are primarily Raymarine with twin C-Map plotters/radar at helm and at the nav station and dated by now. I have relied on the Raymarine ST6001 with 400 series course computer combined with Lecombe and Schmidt hydraulic ram and pump, all original equipment and have no wind vane. So far so good. I carry lots of spares but have not had to use them. I baby my AP. I use an ACR AIS transponder with a Watchmate, low amp draw, display. A fantastic piece of kit manufactured in NZ.

Completely unrelated, I met the owner of the Boreal prototype, “Borealp” in Reykjavik a few weeks ago. His was a 50 footer. While he said he loved the boat and I could certainly understand why upon inspection, I thought the doghouse could have been extended further aft and some additional cockpit protection provided. It was a large cockpit, very exposed. I know this is radical, but I could not imagine having to go forward to reef since, as you know, we can do all our reefing quickly and safely from behind our dodgers and standing in the companionway.

Well, enough from me. But you did ask and I am camping out in Lerwick.

All the best, Jim

Jean-François Eeman

Hi Jim and Collin,

Good you met the guys from Boréalp in Reykjavik. They were clients, they became friends. The owner, Fred, is one of the rare guys I know who has sailed in 70’s to South Georgia on his own boat with wife and children. Excellent sailor!
When he arrived in Iceland he phoned us to say he felt fine with the boat in 45 knots headwind.

Colin, for your information, the doghouse and the cockpit on the 50 are exactly the same as on the Boréal 44.

The Boréal was not designed to be a one-off. We made something which we thought would meet the expectations of “everybody” allowing to have two people on watch outside, protected by the doghouse.
Boréalp has the standard doghouse. Up to now, we have never had the demand for an extended doghouse but we could tailor-make.


John Harries

Hi Jim,

Thanks very much for taking the time to share all your experience with the boat and equipment. Great stuff that I’m sure our readers will find very useful.

Victor Raymond

Colin and John,
I have Goiot hatches on my Jeanneau and they are surprisingly dry except of course in cold weather they will drip condensation but that is my “fault”. I don’t think any hatch manufacturer has thought of thermal breaks like commercial and residential glazing.
As for the aesthetics of alloy stanchions, I like all the shiny stuff below but not on deck. In the same vein I would not have any wood on deck. I abhor aesthetic maintenance. Let the alloy stand up for itself. I say.
Finally Boreal has not shown me how accessible their engine area is. I hope that includes tranny and stuffing box too. It would help change my mind about their otherwise refreshing design.

Colin Speedie

Hi Victor
I like the Goiot hatches because they are castings (at least the ones I looked at), and are therefore ‘stiff’ – the handles looked robust, too. And I’ve never seen any double glazed hatches, either – a pity.
Totally agree re wood on deck, and apart from the floor and seating in the cockpit, we don’t have any.
The engine access on the Boreal was very good – the whole engine cover lifts up and is supported by a strut when raised. You can then climb in from the starboard side and get to everything – a well thought out approach, I felt.
Best wishes,

John Harries

Hi Colin and Victor,

I had a dreadful time keeping Lewmar opening ports water tight in my old boat, which was why I asked the original question. At that time (30 years ago) the Lewmar hatches were just about OK, but, as Colin says, flexible and given to leaking.

I have always found it much easier to prevent deck leaks on this aluminum boat, in the few places that we have caulked joints like the hatches, than I did on the old fiberglass boat. I think the difference is that there is just less flexing stressing the joints.

And yes, the world really needs a good quality double glazed hatch but, like you, I have never seen one. After all, it does not need to be very cold before water starts to pour off a single glazed hatch. Even 20c will do it if it’s damp.

We have the condensation on the ports problem cracked and are thinking about a similar solution for the hatches.

Jean-François Eeman

Hi Victor and Colin,

Access to the engine: You can access the engine in two ways : 1) Frontal by lifting the staircase and you have direct access to the front, and the starboard, and the rear of it. There is enough room not to stand but to crawl around it. 2) In the port cabin you have a second access… There is enough room to store extra batteries AND a group and a watermaker (depending on model) as you have pretty much height…
You don’t have a real engine room in which you can stand but compared to (a lot of) other boats, I think there is pretty much room and an easy access.
Please Colin, do not hesitate to disagree on this if you feel like…

Victor Raymond

Thank you for explaining the engine access of the Boreal. I don’t mind crawling as long as I am not likely to get stuck half in or out. 🙂 I would love to see some photos some time. Maybe better would be to visit in person……

Colin, John,
Since my Jeanneau came with Goiot I never really paid any attention to other manufacturers but apparently I should. Yes, the frames are cast which leaves a sort of speckle finish which is pleasant. The one complaint I have with the Goiot is that the dogs from one size hatch to another do not work or unlatch the same way, i.e. left or right, all to center or whatever. Over living areas Jeanneau has provided hatches that you could escape from. However, in an emergency situation it would be nice to have only one solution to remember to open any hatch.

I would be curious to know whose hatches Boreal uses since they are double glazed. Jean-Francois…..?

Thank you for the explanation re: stanchion to base corrosion. Colin, this is case in point why I would prefer welded alloy stanchions…less ongoing maintenance and/or replacement.


John Harries

Hi All,

Victor and Jean-François have both mentioned photographs in the last few days, as did another reader in a direct email to us.

It seems to me that it would be really good if we at AAC could provide some easy way for ourselves and readers to post photographs, perhaps to Flicker, and then link to those pictures in the comments. I will look into it.

Colin Speedie

Hi Jim

Great stuff, and thanks for enlarging your thoughts. A couple of things – I’m planning to do the same with the Volvo seal – the PSS is a much better (and longer lived set-up), and I’m planning to have some custom cutless bearings made up with machined down phenolic resin casings – much better, and we did this before with our last boat – if you’re interested just let me know. And the stanchions are now secured with stainless machine screws through nylon inserts – so far, so good, although keeping the paint on the outer casings is still a problem….

Victor, I like the Goiot hatches, too, and despite the niggles with handles, they are stiffer and stronger than any others I have looked at – in fairness, until I reviewed the Boreal I hadn’t realised just how good they were. And unless you’re a man mountain, you’d definitely be able to get into the engine compartment on the Boreal! This is partly possible because the beam is drawn well aft on the Boreal, and thus has allowed more space between the cabins, and wisely they’ve used this to improve engine access – once again, the reality of a boat designed by sailors.

Jean- Francois, I wouldn’t disagree – as I’ve outlined above. Some images, as John suggests, would be good to show what can be done when the needs of the long term cruiser are put first.

Best wishes to you all, and thanks so much for the lively and interesting thought train this has opened up.


Colin (and others with comments on this),

Would you mind discussing a bit more about the interior layout you chose and what you would change (or not)? You have made passing comments in your articles (which were very beneficial to me) but some more detail about the configuration(s) would be great (e.g. cabin spaces, work areas…on passages and at anchor). I am especially interested in ideas of workshop space and how it has worked out.

For context, I am planning on building an Aluminum boat for cruising with similar purposes as you (and John/Phyllis) have described in articles.


Colin Speedie

Hi Robert
Our interior differs quite considerably from the standard boat – Alubat were very helpful with this, and as our boat was no 104, there were already many configurations available in their design portfolio, that we could call upon.
To detail it all here might take up too much space, and not show the changes to full effect, so what I’ll do over the next week or so is to draft a new post with accompanying slide show, and discuss what has worked, and what we’d change. I realise that I didn’t include enough in my first piece on interior, and maybe I should put that right.
For what it’s worth, this was an area were we put a tremendous amount of thought in – and we’re very glad we did. Not that all of our choices will suit all prospective owners or builders, but I’ll offer them on the basis that they can be useful for discussion – or dissent! I hope that suits you.
Best wishes


Colin….that would be fantastic. This is the area I am most concerned about screwing up. I agree that the interior design requires a tremendous amount of thought and is quite subjective and personal. My wife and I keep notes on what we like and dislike, but we don’t have yours or John’s experience in off-shore high latitude sailing. We have tended to be coastal cruisers so I’m sure there are lots of “obvious” features that I have/will miss in the design phase. Your comments and opinions are very valuable to us. Thanks!


Bryce Winter


Great article, thanks! Your boat sounds like a real beauty.

Not having sailed in alloy boats before, I do have a couple of questions: I’m interested to know if you still get noise in the cabin from the uninsulated area of the hull below the water-line? Also, do you have to be careful with different grades of alloy when you weld on attachments to the hull, or does any alloy labelled as “marine” grade work?



John Tynan

I note your comment that you would have appreciated having a solid wheel shelter but that it was not a possibility as original equipment.

I asked the same question at their stand at the Salon Nautique (Paris) and they told me the contrary.

FWIW “Pelage Service” do custom solid dodgers (I have no connection, I’ve just seen their ad in a French magazine.)

Colin Speedie

Hi John

I think it’s a case of ‘that was then, but this is now’. Our 435 is no longer built, having been replaced by the 445, and it may be the case that they are prepared to fabricate a hard dodger for the new model. The refusal on ours was cited due to the need to re-submit stability calculations in order to maintain the EU Certification.

And, yes, I am aware of Pelage, and have seen one or two of their composite solid dodgers on French yachts I’ve seen, and they looked pretty good. But I’d still rather have a solid alloy one, with a watertight door!

Best wishes


John Tynan

The Boréal 44 is a lovely boat and is definitely on the wish-list.

However steering in the pilot station is by automatic pilot. When conditions are at their very worst you need to hand-steer as pilots no longer cope. In which case, you are back outside when you most want and need protection.

For that reason principally I like open dog-houses such as on the Salar 40. The better ventilation probably lessens the risk of sea-sickness too.

Drawbacks of a large doghouse are as you indicated with respect to the OVNI’s: weight aloft and aesthetics – unless the boat is very big.

Maurice Griffiths, in designing the 27’ Kylix as his retirement boat, wanted a cuddy to shelter under while he was sitting and of a height where he could look over when standing. His was a pretty boat.
When sitting he has a view forward which is not always the case when there is an overhang of the cockpit.

A really good example of water-tight doors to a deck saloon, is on Philippe Poupon’s boat, Fleur Australe (20m) which is now up for sale. Designed by Michel Joubert it’s built in Strongall by Meta.

Great site this; tons of useful inforamtion.

Best wishes,


John Harries

Hi John,

I have to disagree with your statement “When conditions are at their very worst you need to hand-steer as pilots no longer cope.”

First off, a good autopilot can easily steer a well mannered boat like the Boreals up to and probably a bit above gale force. Our Autopilot on “Morgan’s Cloud” is quite happy in these conditions, even though it is quite old and not the sharpest knife in the draw and MC is almost certainly harder to steer than the Boreal.

Further, in my opinion, when conditions are at the very worst is exactly the time when you don’t want to be steering. I’m a pretty experienced helms person, but I can’t steer for more than about two hours in challenging conditions without getting very tired with the associated risk of making a bad mistake. So unless you have at least four, and preferably six, helms people of my skill level or better aboard, the idea of steering through really heavy weather, is, in my experience, flawed.

Rather you need to be able to go passive and in this case the Boreal‘s small pilot house will be a great place to stand watch out of the cold and wind, which will, in turn, preserve the crew’s energy.

I can tell you that after standing watch in the open for 40 years, I covet the Boreal wheelhouse like you would not believe!

Marc Dacey

Colin, I saw by chance your comment about “watertight doors”. I own a steel cutter with a totally inadequate, if typical, Lexan dropboard. Like you, I want something sturdy enough to take a pooping sea or at least to defer its entry into the pilothouse.

I discuss my thoughts here:

If you’ve had any thought on how I should proceed, or if you wish to utilize any of my own ideas, I’d be pleased to discuss it here or offline. I feel that decent companionway doors are hard to find without getting into the “submarine” type, and would welcome your real-life thoughts on this important topic.

colin Speedie

Hi Marc

I had a look at your weblink, and think that you’ve come up with a good, strong, viable option. There’s quite a bit of engineering involved, but nothing that a good fabricator should struggle with.

Companionways fall in to two categories, I think – the standard drop in type (as you and I currently have) and the more robust hatch or watertight door type. The first has known weaknesses, as was discovered in the ’79 Fastnet Race, for example, but these can be largely mitigated against with good strongbacks and mechanisms to stop them falling out in the event of a bad knockdown. But it takes something really robust to resist a breaking wave coming aboard, and that’s certainly where your design looks good.

Best of all (in my view) is a solid watertight door, in a doghouse, a la Boreal, perhaps with the inclusion of a deck hatch in the upper part to allow ventilation and communication in less than the severest conditions. But – you have to work with what you’ve got, don’t you?

Like the sliding hatch arrangement on your boat, too!

Best wishes



i was very happy with the companionway solution designed by was vey practical and safe.Also the new Pogo are using the same design.
i linked a pic to better express my point

Marc Dacey

Giancarlo, that is very clean, but would take up too much room inside my pilothouse. Thank you for the pictures of your beautiful boat.

Marc Dacey

Colin, thanks for having a look…and quickly, too! It’s meaningful to me as a sailor with limited saltwater experience (not to mention limited fabrication skills!) to receive this sort of constructive feedback from an experienced mariner such as yourself.

As you noted, ventilation in wet, but not “hove to” conditions, is important. That’s why the top half of my “Dutch door” is fold-down,*not* hinged, as is the case with S/V Hawk, which also sports the sort of hard dodger I expect you would enjoy on Pelerin.

If that flap is open and the hatch is closed, air and words may pass easily. If it’s pouring rain and blowing wind, I have rooftop and side portlights to provide circulation in all but the foulest weather.

Now all I have to find is a decent fabricator in aluminum who understands how to make a complex little door that isn’t much bigger than a bar fridge door, but which must be closely fitted and strong as the sea. Good luck if you wish to do the same.


Hi Marc,

I would be happy to build this for you!


Marc Dacey

Well, I was skeptical at first, Brian, but then I looked at your site. Because we have a custom boat (you will recognize this from my blog), I would think a hands-on, “fitted on site” approach would be necessary.

Then I noticed you’re in Dartmouth, N.S.

Now we’re talking. We have plans to do our first season going from Toronto to N.S. as a shakedown cruise and then to over-winter in N.S. before doing a trans-Atlantic the next spring (I want to take the RYA course available in N.S.) I was looking at hauling out in Mahone Bay, but if this job hasn’t been done before we leave Toronto, I may very well come to you.

If you email me with a rough estimate, I will file that for future reference. I note you also do hull painting: I was thinking of shelling out for getting the bottom blasted back to bare metal, and going for plenty of barrier coat and a hard anti-foul good for a couple of years. Maybe even Ameron, Endura or Imron on the topsides…it’s not really an Awlgrip sort of vessel.

So thanks for letting me know of your shop. Your build floor looks strangely familiar.

Simon B

I have fitted a max prop to my OVNI 435 – really great – top motoring speed up – revs when cruising down speed when sailing up – all good. SB

John Harries

Hi Simon,

Thanks for the real world experience, we always appreciate getting that here at AAC.

Simon B

Re max prop. If fitting one make sure that you have the ‘angle of attack’ (or bite ) set just right. Look at the engine spec sheet to see max revs then look for min revs constant at full throttle and set the prop up to be about half way between the two. i.e max revs for a volvo 50 may be 3600 and min full throttle revs at 3200. Set the prop so that the max revs with the prop on in calm water come out at about 3400/3500. I found I was well under propped and my max speed jumped by about 1.5knts and so cruising revs for a giving log speed were lower. Hope this helps anyone thinking of fitting one.SB

John Harries

Hi Simon B,

Good point. We have a post on that here.

George Woodward

Hello Colin
“custom cutless bearings made up with machined down phenolic resin casings”
How did you get on with this? I need to be planning a replacement on my Ovni and I would be interested to hear of your experience.
Thank you

George Woodward

Hello Colin
“custom cutless bearings made up with machined down phenolic resin casings”
How did you get on with this? I need to be planning a replacement on my Ovni and I would be interested to hear of your experience.
Thank you

Colin Speedie

Hi George
I apologise for the long delay in replying to your query, which somehow passed me by when it came in.
The answer is that I haven’t taken this any further (yet). Partly this is because I’ve only replaced the cut less bearing once (we don’t motor a huge amount) and also because it has been suggested to me that the tube might be rather ‘rough’ internally, which might make for the perfect setting for an old cased bearing to get stuck in place! And we had enough trouble getting the old neoprene bearing out in the first place.
As we were in a hurry to change the bearing we just went with another the same, and, as I say it’s now done many thousands of miles and is still in good nick.
Best wishes


Hi Colin ,
A question related to insulation , or lack thereof , with some of the Ovnis , if I may ? I am in discussions for a 455 and am concerned about apparent lack of insulation . She has sailed mainly in tropical waters but I would want to keep her in Southern BC and cruise mainly in the PNW . Have you had any feedback from Ovni owners that might help me to decide whether to continue , or abandon this particular prospect . Most of my other boxes would be ticked . Not keen to consider tearing out panelling to retrofit . Your thoughts would be very welcome .

Colin Speedie

Hi Dave
plenty of Ovni’s were built without insulation (it was an extra, not standard), but I’d have to say I’ve never understood why. Here are three good reasons why insulation is not just a good idea:
In cold weather it keeps the boat much warmer internally and cuts condensation down dramatically.
In hot weather it keeps the boat cooler internally.
It significantly reduces internal noise levels when at sea or at rest.
For all of those reasons I’d want my aluminium boat to be insulated.
It would indeed be a major undertaking to remove much of the interior and install insulation – although the insulation Ovni used is easy enough to fit once you can get at the hull and deck, as it is 5 cm flat sheet building insulation that can easily be cut to shape and tack glued and secured in place.
In the tropics the lack of insulation would be less of a problem, but in the PNW I think you might find it a far less attractive option.
Best wishes


Hi Colin ,
Thank you for your very prompt and comprehensive response . You confirm almost all my thinking about uninsulated metal hulls . I have owned steel vessels in the past but sailed only in the tropical regions , where the lack of insulation was not so keenly felt .
Your personal experiences with your own Ovni , plus other info gleaned from the web , encourages me to continue my search for the “next” (insulated )boat for this area and to ,sadly , sidestep the current prospect .
Best regards,

Colin Speedie

Hi Dave
Well, sorry to have been the bearer of bad news, but I’d do the same thing. In fact I looked at several steel and aluminium boats before we decided to go for a new build, and I’d have to say lack of insulation was a real deal killer, especially as we planned to go to high latitudes.
The real bonus is that the boat is so quiet down below, which provides real relief in bad weather – once you go below in a blow it sounds like two wind strengths less!
Best of luck with the hunt for the right boat.

Marc Dacey

Life on my steel boat would be impossible without sheet insulation down to the waterline. It’s covered with screwed-down melamine sheets and cherrywood battens. With this insulation currently out in the pilothouse roof for service to the electrical runs, I had to cable-tie a white tarp to the top of the roof just to mitigate the summer heat.

It’s crazy to conceive of an uninsulated metal boat, not only due to noise and temperature shifts, but because of condensation mitigation.


Hi Colin and Marc ,
I appreciate the input and comments . It came as something of a surprise that Alubat do not insulate all their hulls as standard . We did a circumnav on an uninsulated steel boat , in the ’80’s but stuck to the tropics and had very good ventilation , so did not experience too much discomfort . There was some condensation in cold water in Cape Town and again in the Galapagos but the ambient temp meant hatches could remain wide open , with a constant warm breeze through the boat . Not an option one can contemplate in the damp PNW ! Thick fog and raining , as I type !
The ” new boat” search continues .

Colin Speedie

Hi Dave

just a thought, but have you had a look at the Ovni 435 that’s advertised here on AAC? It’s a good, well maintained and equipped boat – and it’s insulated!
Might be worth a look.
Kind regards


Thanks for the suggestion Colin . Sadly , the price translates to a scary number of battered Canadian dollars !

Anne et Benoit Brandicourt

Hello Colin,
How are you ? Benoit is going to contact darglow for a propeller Featherstream
Nous serions ravis d’avoirs de vos nouvelles.
Best regards
Benoit et Anne
Moody 35
David’s Harbour

Colin Speedie

Hi Benoit et Anne

On a parti de Grenada seulement hier, pour Carriacou. On est a l’ancre en Tyrrel bay aujourd’hui, et faire noter depart pour Union Island mercredi.

J’espere que nous rencontrons cet année dans des iles, et vous pouvez me contacter par ce site.

Bon vents et bonne route


Mike hiscock


We are potentially in the market for a used Ovni 435 or 445. In your opinion, are the improvements in the 445 worth the typical cost differential?

We will normally be two handing with a mix of Nfld to the Abacos.

Thank you

Robert J

My wife and I have been looking for a boat to realise our dream. We have poured over literature for Boreal, Garcia, Alubat, and even Ed Joy’s Good Hope 56. I have been reading as much as I can about aluminum sailboats from this website, which is a treasure trove of information. In the end, I feel that Alubat is the right choice for the money. I have been mulling over both the Ovni 435 and the Ovni 455. I would love the 455, but the twin rudders gives me pause. I wish there was a way to retrofit the single kick up rudder from the 435.
My question is what are your feelings on refitting a 435 and adding an aluminum dodger. I have significant experience with aluminum welding and have no fear of tackling the project.

John Harries

Hi Robert,

It’s unlikely Colin will answer. See (#3).

That said, twin rudders would make the 455 a non-starter for me too.

As to refitting a 435, I guess if it were me, and there was any way to stretch to a Boreal, that’s the way I would go.

Welding on an existing boat becomes a very big job very quickly: removing cabinetry, dealing with insulation issues, clean up, and on it goes. (This is the voice of experience talking.)

If you do decide to take this further I would highly recommend engaging Colin to advise:

Larry DB

Hi Colin / All,

A few questions re the Ovni:

1) Anywhere I look on the internet I find that Ovni’s supposedly are such safe and solid boats due to the aluminium construction. I cannot find anything about the aluminium plate thickness however (deck, hull above waterline, hull below waterline, keel) and the internal skeleton. A Boreal supposedly is reinforced at and below waterline to be able to cope with ice. How safe is an Ovni for trips to the Antarctic (I realise there is the odd example of Ovni’s having been there – but how happy are they really in such environment)? And what about the type of aluminium used?

2) Plenty has also been written about Ovni’s AVS. Supposedly it’s fine. But it just doesn’t make sense in my head (unless assisted by waves). Yes, a lot depends on how capable its captain is – but knockdowns and capsizes simply do happen. The same applies to Boreal and similar shallow draft boats.

3) Hatches and windows: more generally applicable to yachts filled with daylight. How safe are all of these windows and their surrounding (aluminium) construction really? What happens if a 15 meter wave dumps on top?

Larry (aspiring (ant)arctic sailor)

John Harries

Hi Larry,

It’s unlikely that colin will answer, see: (#5)

That said, he does provide consulting services if you get really interested in an Ovni, or most any other boats: