The Offshore Voyaging Reference Site

Where Do We Go From Here?

I rarely attend major boat shows these days, and sincerely don’t regret it. In the past I spent many a day on stands for whoever it was that I was working for, or supporting, at that time, generally in the foul aired mausoleum that housed the late, lamented (?) London Boat Show at Earl’s Court.

Not only was it a trial physically, but even then there didn’t seem to be much to get excited about, and that was in the days when the likes of Swan still attended and displayed, and money seemed to be far more plentiful. But now?

Regardless of the era, it’s obviously the case that boat shows offer the interested observer an insight into the direction that the market (and indeed yachting in general) is going, so when I get the chance I’ll still turn up.

Attending the recent La Rochelle Boat Show gave me a golden opportunity to catch up on ‘the industry’, and see where we’re currently headed, and if I’m correct in my analysis, it isn’t the direction I think we’d all like to see.

The boats

Every boat show I’ve attended in recent years seems to have had fewer yachts on display, but La Rochelle seems to be doing better than most, even though regulars at the show claimed new boats were down in numbers. Given the immense cost of attending a show–stand and/or pontoon space, staff travel and subsistence, etc.–that should come as no surprise, particularly given the rickety state of the European economy.

It’s been a long time since many of the ‘niche’ players that produce long distance cruising boats have attended in force, which leaves the field to the volume builders, and France being home to several of them, they were out in force, with Beneteau, Dufour and Jeanneau all showing several models. German giant Bavaria also had a number of yachts on display.

There were a large number of interesting boats, not least the fast cruiser/racers produced by the likes of JPK and Pogo, which are not my idea of cruising boats, but the younger generation of French sailors love them, especially for short-handed racing, and if I was thirty years younger I’d be itching to join them.

Or the RM range of ply/epoxy bilge keelers, that have similarly been enthusiastically adopted by French owners. And even though it isn’t my sort of boat, it was hard not to be impressed by the conceptual thinking behind the Beneteau Oceanis 35, which offers a modular approach (daysailer, weekender, cruiser) like her bigger sister the 38, that won the 2014 European Yacht of the Year award. With these boats at least, Beneteau seems to be maintaining a brave attempt to stay in the private ownership market, which seems to have been abandoned elsewhere.

Who buys boats these days?

Looking at many of the ‘cruising’ production boats, especially the very latest designs, suggests that the trend towards yachts with charter use as their main market continues to develop. These are typically boats with huge volume hulls, carried well aft, housing cavernous interiors.

Simplicity in rig design has led to more boats with wide swept spreaders attached at deck level as far outboard as possible, which reduces costly internal support structures for the builder, but doesn’t help the cruising sailor much.

Angled twin rudders to control these beamy boats when heeled might work fine for charter or racing, but are undeniably vulnerable to snagging lines, or damage through impact by floating debris or grounding.

Huge interiors certainly offer palatial living when at rest, but lack seaberths for when safe, sound sleep is an absolute necessity: on passage.

Flimsy, rudimentary bow rollers work fine if you only plan to anchor in calm conditions, but would be lucky to stay intact in a solid gale in an exposed anchorage–the list of negative aspects for practical cruising goes on and on.

The same pressure is evident in the build quality of the interiors. The move to CNC production of internal joinery has certainly improved the fit of much of the woodwork, but it often seems to be far from robustly installed, and the long-term durability must therefore be in question.

And to take just one example of a crucial piece of equipment for living aboard–the cooker–many of the popular models installed are very obviously built to a price, rather than a standard. And if there’s one thing that you absolutely must have on a boat with anything other than daysailing pretensions, then surely it’s a decent cooker, like the GN Espace OceanChef.

But the builders must supply what the market wants.

Quite right–they’re in business to make money. And the market for single owner yachts is far from what it was, according to industry insiders. This is especially true (and most worrying for the future) in the under 40 age group, where disposable income and job security are both way down on previous generations. As a result, more and more people are opting to charter on a regular basis, or join one of the fractional ownership schemes on offer, rather than take on the maintenance, depreciation and mooring costs of ownership.

Taking only that last element, mooring cost, an annual berth for a 44ft like our own could be up to £10,000 (c. $16,000) in one of the main marinas on the South coast of the UK, and that is if you can even find a berth to rent. Currently, one of the biggest brakes on yacht sales across Europe is the chronic shortage of available berths.

Old fibreglass (GRP) boats don’t die like wooden boats and new boats keep being delivered, so the demand for berths is drastically overstretched. And largely due to the global financial crisis that has plagued western economies since 2008, large-scale marina development projects, whether private or public, have been put on hold–new berths just aren’t being created.

The Atlantic coast of France suffers from this shortage as much as anywhere, and the French magazines regularly report stories of visiting yachts being turned away from the more popular ports, as all available visitor spaces have been taken. If you want to be sure of a berth you’ve got to arrive by midday! Which is hardly encouraging for family crews looking to cruise that coast, and the Mediterranean coast is reputedly even worse.

Globally, it’s even affecting the ultra wealthy–a recent report in The Economist on the growing global market for power driven superyachts cited the lack of available berths in Hong Kong as a stumbling block for sales of new yachts to a city where they have sold 110 superyachts in recent years–and when it affects those guys…

Is anyone making any money out of this?

I’ve heard it argued that yachts with charter use as their principal objective are designed on a time/use percentage basis–70% at rest, 20% under power and 10% under sail–and it’s those demands that dictate the configuration.

Consider, too, that bareboat charter rental rates revolve around length and volume, not quality, so there’s no value in building a more robust, better equipped yacht if the big fleets won’t buy it. So that market belongs to the big players who can achieve the necessary economies of scale in labour, purchasing power and marketing, and who are prepared to build the boats that the market demands, even though the margins are very thin.

One of the biggest players, Hanse, has recorded losses running into tens of millions of Euros in recent years, despite their undoubted technical prowess in building production yachts. Chasing volume sales clearly isn’t an easy gig. Hanse, like Bavaria, fortunately have substantial investment capital backers, and are taking the long view that a recovery in yacht sales will eventually take place, especially in the newer markets in developing economies such as Brazil and China.

And the bad news continues for the specialist yacht market in Europe, with the likes of Sweden Yachts, Najad and Southerly in and out of difficulties in recent times, the latter going under for the second time in two years during August of this year.

Smaller, bespoke yacht yards face the double whammy of a diminishing pool of potential customers and no chance of achieving the economies of scale that the big yards can secure. And let’s not forget that so far the developing world has not shown huge enthusiasm for sailing boats–motorboats seem to be their poison. It’s a tough old world out there.

So who’s building the mid priced, long distance cruising boats for the future?

Well you could argue that some of the French builders mentioned–JPK, Pogo–are. In fairness, some of their boats offer many of the things that I like to see in a yacht–simplicity, sailing potential and the innovative use of structural techniques and materials. But equally, some of them have design extremes that would rule them out for me.

If I came away from the show with an overall impression, it would be simply that the market has changed beyond all recognition since the financial crisis began: The market for individually purchased cruising yachts is still on its knees, motor boats and sailing yachts designed for the charter market are on the way up, and builders of ‘traditional’ cruising designs will have to fight for a share of a much smaller market in the future. I simply cannot foresee any likelihood of a return to the way things were in the short term, at the very least.

What’s missing amidst all the market conformity, is surely a simple, purpose designed, long haul cruising yacht, especially one with a specification and price pitched at entry level. The market would seem to need a boat like the A40 to fulfill that niche, and I think there would be an appetite for just such a boat–who knows, it might even get the cruising boat market moving again.

And the belle of the ball for me?

The new Boréal 52, hull number one of this updated model, on display for the first time at La Rochelle. With many detailed design improvements over the original 50, this boat stood out like a Humvee in a parking lot full of compact sedans, and was undoubtedly the most coherent, built for purpose cruising boat on display.

Constructed for an experienced German couple, Nordlicht definitely was ready to go anywhere, and in comfort and style. A major success that will definitely help the yard claim their place as the builder of choice in the long distance, high latitude cruising yacht market.

Any other good news?

The huge–and I mean huge–marina that hosts the La Rochelle Show has just completed a major expansion, with a whole new basin of pontoons, combined with enhanced protective walls to provide additional shelter, that will hopefully prevent a repetition of the major damage caused by a storm in 2010.

An additional 1000 berths have been created, which has substantially reduced the waiting list for permanent berths, and it’s reported that there are still some berths available for boats over 14m.

The expansion has also allowed a larger area to be set aside for visiting yachts, which should help to reduce congestion problems during the season, even if it’s only a local advantage–but I’m sure that visitors to the French Atlantic coast will welcome that with open arms. We must be grateful for small mercies in such difficult times.


Colin provides construction supervision and owner representative services to some new Boréal owners.

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I think you’ll get a lot of support for this position around here. I too like to pop in on the occasional boat show, sometimes there are some ideas worth thinking about (the way Jeanneau is controlling genoa sheets on the 349), but all too often they are a reminder that that bad ideas seem to know no limits. I don’t know much about the EU market for boats, but even here in San Francisco many of these boats don’t seem like they are even set up for the costal weather that we get here which builds quickly and changes often. I still eagerly await the day that the A40 or its equivalent is built.

Colin Speedie

Hi Andy

as you rightly point out, bad ideas seem to know no limits. I have sympathy with many of the builders, in that they have to make a living, and so must supply what the market is currently buying at the price they are willing to pay. Unfortunately, with the decline of personal ownership, for a volume builder, there seems to be only one show in town currently, the charter market. To build a more cruising oriented boat is, by comparison, costly and demands a higher price.
But with a combination of greater volume production and clever design, it many still prove possible to sell a ‘for for purpose’ product at a sensible price, something that I think would do the market good in the long term.
Best wishes


Marc Dacey

Colin, we agree quite closely on our observations, and even in the inland/less oceanic-orientated shows, the condo craze continues. Travellers are short and are coach house-mounted, windage is vast, handholds and positive lockdowns for sole hatches absent and veneer over chipboard (fine for IKEA stuff when one is 20, I suppose) abounds…(

I agree that little is going to change as the paradigm has, probably permanently, shifted to fair-weather coastal booze cruising. The Adventure 40 and your Boreals (and a few others) will not only find favour with the fraction of a fraction who desire to sail farther and more rationally, but for those who are even able to attain the level of seamanship required to recognize a good thing when they see it as fit for purpose. An example of the shift: I just did an RYA course last week in Antigua (yes, my first hurricane) on an in-mast furling 1986 Beneteau 40. While I didn’t fancy the rig much in terms of performance, I was impressed by the large cockpit lockers, interior layout, great stowage and general solidity of the (by today’s standards) moderate design. I felt safe, and I felt I could handle the boat in adverse conditions, although she’d never take line honours. By contrast, today’s designs frequently seem cheap and often clearly weak, or weakened by economics of boat construction. Anyway, I concur from a less boaty locale with your observations.

Colin Speedie

Hi Marc

the boats from the eighties were more robust and durable in my view. The designs were also less extreme, and many had good seagoing interiors – I owned a Dufour 39 for many years as a commercial craft, and she had a great island galley, and excellent seaberths along the centreline of the boat – and the likes of Beneteau and Jeanneau produced very similar interpretations on the same theme. Mostly built as cruiser/racers, they could stand quite a bit of punishment, and unlike a lot of todays boats could withstand a hard grounding. They had their faults, but I had confidence in mine.
Best wishes

Marc Dacey

That’s what it comes down to, really: confidence in one’s seamanship working in concert with confidence in one’s vessel. Several sailors and I were discussing this perennial topic and decided that the early to mid-’90s is when many production boats started overskimping on construction of boats too flat-bottomed and beamy aft to be safe in a seaway. I’ve seen some very bad ideas (or the good ones have been absent) in a lot of boat show boats. At the same time, ideas for stowage and cabinetry are still quite innovative, but that won’t be very important if you’ve got a broken arm having been thrown a dozen feet across a saloon.


What did you think of the inmast furler?

Dick Stevenson

Colin, Always a pleasure to read your observations on the boating world. I must say also: I never met a boat show I did not want to attend. I always learn something, most often from the venders. About French marinas, the French Riviera was most difficult, even off season in Oct. But Atlantic France was great for us. Even high season, they would find space, often rafting in ways that allowed you to walk boat to boat across the harbor. Maybe we were lucky but I was impressed.
My best, Dick Stevenson, s/ v Alchemy

Colin Speedie

Hi Dick

one of the things I remember well from the boat shows was the after hours chat in the bars. It seems that every single builder had just broken all the sales records, and the number of boats sold increased exponentially as the cash register behind the bar went ‘kerching!’

It’s goo d to hear that the Atlantic coast had quietened down in October, but that’s largely a function of the slower pace of life after ‘la rentree’ in early September, when the kids have all returned to school. It’s in many ways the best time to be in France.

And I have vivid memories of rafting 15th boat out with more outside us in some French and Channel Island ports. Prising your way out for an early departure sometimes took some doing, but with courtesy and a willingness to help, all was possible – a sense of humour also helped.

But in the absolute height of the season (August) it can be a very different matter, and I’d avoid the place then…

Best wishes



Concerning what does sell today and what does not, I understand that the like of Beneteau, Bavaria, Hanse etc… are playing a very rational part in current survival game, and that this part is plain classic marketing the way cars manufacturers have been doing for a long time. Corresponding products are efficient floating caravans tailored for large boat-rental companies…
The other guys tat seem to sell today are the like of Boreal, Pogo, Latitude 38 etc… Small guys targeting niche markets who succeed in finding some customers whose needs are very far from rental companies needs. Corresponding boat are not sold on price arguments, but those boat-builders are small operations without economies of scale but with strong pressure on overhead costs.
Everything in-between, that is structures too small to get major builders’ economies of scale and too large to live with small atypical customer bases and very low overheads, seem to suffer bitterly.
Considering yachts berths in France, current situation seems to somewhat locked, because marina projects are pretty much decided by town councils & mayors, and, as I see it in Normandy, they are not popular in elections. If a mayor decides to convert a disused former commercial basin into yacht berths (you could find quite a few disused basins or equivalent between Dieppe and Granville….), he will frustrate much more local voters who resent yachts-owners as a whole, than he might benefit from this decision. Today, it means that corresponding projects have been frozen for the last 15 years or more.
Looks like A40 manufacturing base might be available in France, but it seems that A40 market is perhaps more related to the US, at least for some time….

Colin Speedie

Hi Laurent
I’m right with you, and agree entirely.
Your last point about ‘resentment of yacht owners’ is a telling one. In the UK whenever there’s a mention of a yacht in a newspaper or TV broadcast, the word ‘yacht’ is always preceded by ‘luxury’. Now I don’t know what impoverished planet some of this interlocutors are from, but when the accompanying image is scrutinised, the ‘luxury’ element often seems to be missing…..Not all yacht owners are rich people, by any stretch of the imagination.
Secondly, the resentment often seems to be greatest in ports where traditional employment (e.g. fishing) has collapsed, leaving a very bitter taste. Such attitudes can actively hinder change that might allow other marketable options to be developed, such as marine tourism (that’s what they call it, folks!), which does nothing for regeneration.
Best wishes


I know a particular port in Normandy where there is a long standing debate about tourism development vs. industrial development.
Tourism exists since the 1840′, when train & coastal steamer services made the town accessible from Paris, and, town size is supposed to be reasonable for small dedicated industries (#8.000 inhabitants).
3 years ago, town council got about 2 hectares of disused industrial estate from the state administration who owned it in an exceptional location (right in town center next to a large 1880 basin) at a very low price.
I wondered whether they would use it for tourism development (hotels…) or for dedicated industrial development (fashionable shops or offices for boat-related activities…)
Best plot was used to build a magnificent new house for the local state run unemployment agency and most of the remaining space was used for subsidized housing in the shape of the most expensive old houses tourist are renting nearby, but for 1/10th of the price or less.
Corresponding basin is disused for about 20 years and there is a frozen project to convert it to yachts berths for about the same time.

Locals are frustrated by high unemployment, and, those plots could be used to help local economics either in tourism (hotels…) or in boat-related commercial space (fashionable shops or offices space…).
Instead, they decided to build a grandiose state-unemployment agency to celebrate unemployed people instead of trying to help employers to settle there and employing those guys.

Looks like current french electoral logics consider that an unemployed guys who gets a grandiose local unemployment agency is less frustrated than the same guy that might get employed in the hotel that could have been built there.
Guess that the disused basin alongside this new building will stay disused for some time…

Colin Speedie

Hi Laurent
what an extraordinary tale, but one that seems all too believable in the fury tale world that we live in today.
What is so hard to understand is that many of the jobs created (marine engineers, electricians etc) are hardly white collar work, are they? I’ve met many ex-fishing fleet guys who have transitioned really well to yacht work, and to be honest I’d often rather use them as they are never fazed by work, and will see the job through.
I grew up in a tourist town, and most of the local jobs were either directly or indirectly related to tourism, and nobody gave it a second thought. But it takes time to change engrained views….
For depressed, out of the way places, tourism can have a major reviving effect, and the jobs can be just as good as any other.
Best wishes


I think that tourism vs. industry is a difficult debate in local politics, because people in a small town like this tend to consider that financial success in tourism is due to the legacy houses and monuments built by their ancestors and that they deserve a more-than-equal opportunity to develop touristic activities vs. newcomer who would like to settle there.
Point is that they often get some limited kind of more-than-equal treatment for touristic activity development, and then they ask for the same kind of advantage in other fields, like industrial activities development projects, which creates big frustrations….


i’d recommend a trip to Ellös … the Swedish builders have an annual Open Yards, a floating boat show at Orust on the Swedish west coast. great opportunity to see lots of boats similar to the A40 (albeit at Swedish prices!), meet the builders and generally meet lots of like minded adventure sailors


Hallberg-Rassys are very unlike the A40. They are selling luxury boats for the wealthy customers. Most of the money goes to the interior while seacocks are made of brass (not even DZR brass but usual home use brass.) Believe me I own one that I bought with cruising in mind. If you want a quality boat from Sweden buy an older HR or a Malø or an older Najad. Today all these are building production boats just aiming to another segment of the market than Hanse Bavaria and Benetau do.

Colin Speedie

Hi Enno
HR, like Oyster, have a ‘niche’ market, but even they aren’t immune to the sorry state of the market it seems.
And as I understand it, the use of ‘domestic’ fittings for skin fittings is something that has been permitted through rule changes at EU level, which, if correct only goes to prove that you should be careful about letting rule makers near such matters.
And personally, I’d agree with you, that the older boats are better, with the exception of Malo, and I think they’re better looking, too.
Kind regards


Hi Collin
You are quite right. The RCD requires a 5 year guarantee for skin fittings I believe. This requirement is met by RS58 type alloys. The point is that one expects something better than “barely legal” if one buys a HR priced boat. I did not expect them to use bronze, but DZR brass would not be too expensive compared to the rest of a boat I think.

Marc Dacey

“Barely legal” is always an issue. I was speaking to a condominium developer over the weekend and was trying to explain that the main reason I would never buy his product was due to our province’s underwhelming building code. I prefer to have a century-old house I can retrofit myself as required than a rented box in the sky that I cannot made fit for purpose without making a case to a condo board looking to keep maintenance fees low. Unsurprisingly, this summer, many Toronto condos popped their windows from their frames because “building to code” means it’s legal to use materials unfit for the thermal expansion issues in our climate. “Good enough” sometimes isn’t.

Colin Speedie

Hi Ashley

I’d love to, and very much hope to one day. And I’d like to have a closer look at Malo Yachts, who seem to me to be building some very nice GRP yachts.

Best wishes



Hi Colin,
We’ve just spent a frustrating year looking for a boat here in France for live-aboard cruising around Europe, the Atlantic Islands, and possibly a trans-Atlantic hop to the Caribbean. While we don’t need a Cape Horner, we were hoping for something robust that still had some sailing performance to it. But here in France, you only have 2 choices: buy one of the sturdy older model boats and pump considerable time and money into it, or buy a new production boat and hope it will be okay. Having just spent years upgrading a 1992 Dehler 34, we weren’t excited by the prospect of new never-ending fix-its, so we chose the later option. I’m not over-the-moon about our new boat, but I think we made the best choice we could given our options and our cruising plans. But in the end, it just really felt like we didn’t have much choice.

As for crowded marinas here in France, the fall and winter seasons aren’t necessarily better than the summer. Over the last few years, the marinas have been renting out their visitors’ berths for monthly or winter-long contracts. We’ve often been the only ones on the water but then have to raft up 2 or 3 deep along the visitors’ quay in an otherwise deserted marina. Sigh.
Maria and Patrick
S/V Spray

Colin Speedie

Hi Maria and Patrick
It’s always difficult to know what’s for the best when considering the ‘old vs new’ equation. Both options have their merits, as I know to my cost. But when you’ve just spent years fettling an older boat, and seen no return in the overall value of that boat, it’s hard not look forward to new, trouble free sailing – granted that you’re lucky enough to get that. Looking at your plans, I’m sure you’ll do fine, and a spacious, airy boat with comfortable interior will do you well.
Re the berthing problem, I’d heard the same from friends who do deliveries, and also that there are more ‘social’ problems with disaffected people ashore out of season. And that idea of never allowing use of owners berths (those leased to an absent owner) is also all the rage in Spain and the Canaries, and seems utterly, totally, pointless to me. If I were the owner of the berth, and not using it I’d be entirely happy to share the visitors fee with the marina, and someone, maybe elderly, maybe with kids, could enjoy a secure, peaceful berth for a few nights. It’s a nutty situation.
Good luck with the cruise – it gets better further South!


Maria & Patrick,

Was wondering if you checked out Allures or Ovni in your search. If so, what were your impressions? Thanks! Paul

Petter ;-)

Hello Maria,
Saw your post about looking for a rugged vessel. I would take a peak over the border to the Netherlands. The Durch are world-class when it come to making aluminium and steel yachts. I do not know your budget and requirements, but a search at may provide something of interest.

Hope this may be of use to you.

Bill Balme

Agree with the sentiments – but have to say, I was pretty impressed by the Garcia Exploration 45 I saw at the Southampton boat show this year – very nice looking and it appears a very well built cruising boat…


Colin, did you spend any time looking at the Garcia Expedition? would be interested in your thoughts. Seems to be head to head with Boreal,

Colin Speedie

Hi Bill, Rick
I had a good look at the Garcia at La Rochelle, and its certainly a very interesting boat, with a quality finish and some good features (e.g. insulated floors, central chain locker, great visibility from inside) and some less good features for ocean sailing (in my opinion) such as wide, swept spreaders, twin wheels and twin rudders. It seemed to me to be more of a compromise boat, but I think some owners will actually like it for that reason.
It’s a very different concept and design from the Boreal’s, and I think will find its own market.
It was exhibited alongside its sister the Allures 45, and whilst they are share many features, it was interesting to imagine who they would appeal to. The Allures reminds me of our Ovni, as more of a multi purpose cruising boat, at home in the tropics but with some high latitude capability, and the Exploration goes some way further. The Boreal’s are designed with high latitudes in mind from start to finish – the ultimate question is what the owner wants and expects from his boat.
Best wishes


Hi Colin,

Very astute and interesting observations. Thanks for another great article.

I can assest with some authority as to who the Allures 45 would appeal to, since you were in fact on my boat in La Rochelle! And you are right, we built the Allures as a go-anywhere multi purpose cruising boat. As a couple swapping bricks and mortar for a life afloat and a definite plan to sail around the world, we requried a yacht that afforded comfort and space, ease of maintenance (all systems accessible and technical room/ workshop) combined with strength to go anywhere (aluminium centerboarer) and ease of handling (conservative cutter rig sail plan). Allures gave us flexibility to specify a boat to our requirements such as double insulation, Lavac heads, GN Espace cooker, Electroscan, electrics and electronics through to an oversized cleats, windlass and anchor, drogue chainplates and a dedicated inner running stay for storm jib. Yes along the way we accepted some design compromises, but in the end have a boat that will I beleive allow us huge flexibility and look after us. No production boat seemed to meet any of these ciritcal objectives. Also in my estimation, a low cost production boat will actually cost much more in the long run – given our plans.

I give heartfelt thanks to you, John and many commentators on AAC for sharing thoughts and experience that have helped shape yacht L’escale.

Allures 45

Colin Speedie

Hi Neil

Aha, I thought that she was quite a long way from standard, and noticed the drogue attachment points that suggested whoever had her built had big ambitions. A very nice, coherent cruising boat, and I’m sure she’ll do you well.

I’m glad you’ve got a lot from the site towards her, and I’m sure we’ll all look forward to hearing how you get on. Look forward to meeting you out there.
Best wishes



The Allures is at the top of my wish list. It’s a ways off but im constantly reading, taking notes and pondering different options. If you happen to see this, I’d love to know more about your experience with allures and your specs. My email is moc.liamg@71pdrac.


Jean-François EEMAN

Hi Rick,
I just have seen your comment.
And I have read Colin’s reply as well…

You will of course not hear me denigrating what sour colleagues do, but, on top of what Colin writes, there are some fundamental differences which are essential in our eyes :
1) At Boréal we have chosen to build the hull and the deck completely out of aluminium. No polyester parts deck or roof…
2) The concept of the doghouse :
– The doghouse is in immediate contact of the cockpit. It means that during your watch except for going to the toilet, there are no good reasons to go downstairs with (wet) foul weather gear.
– your chart table and the man sitting behind is in direct contact with the helmsman
– Most important : you have a 360 ° view and you do see your sails…
3) In the tropics, the owners who sail a Boréal insist on the huge living area on top of the lazarette which is a real sun deck…
4) In the (deck)saloon we choose to have doubleglasing with windows which do not have any aluminium mounts… So, except for the frames of the hatches, there are no thermic bridges on a Boréal…

And yes, I’m not neutral…
And yes we are proud of the boats we build.

Jean-François EEMAN,
Managing Director Boréal


I’m going to go out on a limb here and make the case for modern production yachts. For some of us that are still 40 something, mid-career with small kids at home, “attainable” adventure cruising is a charter in the Caribbean every year.

As an example, for a few grand and an cheap airline ticket from JFK I jumped aboard a Lagoon 440 last spring with a few friends on relatively short notice. Had a blast sailing on a boat that was perfectly engineered for its intended purpose in its intended location. At the end of the trip we handed the keys back — no worries.

Sure, would I rather be exploring Nordic fiords in an 52′ custom aluminum bluewater yacht — of course. But, this year that’s not attainable — my 10 year old daughter has a ballet recital that week. So, we can charter and have some fun.

And by the way, for the cost of acquisition, insurance, maintenance, docking, and depreciation of a typical 40 ft boat (even an Adventure 40) I can do a whole hell of a lot of charters.

That’s “attainable.”

Marc Dacey

I don’t think anyone would deny you that “fit for purpose” charter, but in sailing we have to deal with what’s thrown at us, and it’s not always sunshine and trade winds. I was in Antigua last Monday for the conversion of Gonzalo from a TS to a hurricane and saw some pretty horrible things happen to boats new and old. I was impressed with a very ordinary ’80s Jeanneau 32 that pulled its dock apart at the stern and then snapped its bowlines. Despite some ferocious grinding on both another boat and a concrete post, the damage was largely cosmetic. Some more modern, higher freeboard boats were sunk in Jolly Harbour and made a sad spectacle for the rest of the week we were there. It made me consider the limits of seamanship (a spiderweb of adequate lines to a dock that itself breaks free just means you’ve run out of options) in the face of rough stuff. I suspect the bad damage I saw to a Hunter 42 was in part due to the windage inherent in the design. This is why I find many modern designs on the “fair-weather” side: great for charter, but charters don’t generally go out in the snotty stuff.

Colin Speedie

Hi David
I’d agree with all you say. As someone who charters a boat every year for survey work, I know that it’s a cost effective, convenient way to enjoy a wide variety of cruising grounds. And as you point out, chartering fits in well around work and family life. The boat we use is a typical charter boat, and as I’ve said on every occasion, has looked after us very well, within the parameters of its intended use.
But many people still have the ambition to move up to their own boat (as you acknowledge yourself) one day, and envisage themselves in a very different boat and place indeed. And the problem I think we face at the moment is that there are ever fewer options being built new as ‘owners boats’. Which I think in turn harms the overall market in the long term – we need entry level cruising boats every bit as much as mid range and top end, to develop and sustain the market and the dreams of high latitudes and wild places.
The only other comment I’d make on the latest generation of charter boats is that I wonder just what they are going to look like after five or ten years of hard use.
Best wishes

Eric Klem

Hi David,

In general, I agree with your thinking. Where I start to disagree with a lot of people (talking generally now, not directed to you) is when they think a single boat can be good at everything. Before buying a boat, each person should create a detailed requirement of how they want to use the boat and what they feel is important. John did a post on this recently which was well written. With the charter market being so large, this means that the production boat builders are often building boats that are designed for several people to spend a week aboard in relatively calm conditions spending each night on a mooring or in a marina. As much as some of the things on these boats pain me, when I look at it objectively, the design has actually met the user requirements quite well at least for the initial user. I say initial because the person who buys them afterwards often has different needs which are not met as well and the requirements of the initial user did not call for high quality construction so the boats are often in need of major work (quality is an area where I have serious issues with many boat both new and old).

I find that I have a very different set of requirements than the average charterer and I have managed to find a boat which meets these requirements fairly well. Last time we went through the boat buying process, we spent a lot of time trying to figure out the mix between near coastal (I define this as when you stay close enough in to outrun a bad weather forecast) and offshore. Realistically, as both my wife and I work full time, we do a lot of coastal sailing (which I know many would consider offshore) but haven’t been what I consider as offshore in several years. Therefore, we bought a boat this is best suited to this type of sailing although many would consider it a boat suitable for “bluewater” sailing. When we were looking at boats, I kept gravitating towards the boats designed with heavy weather in mind but given how we use the boat, this would not have been as optimal. I suspect that in another 20 years, our requirements will look very different again and we will have to decide if that means we need to change boats.

Where I think the problems start with modern boats is the inability of people to think critically about their requirements and a boat’s capabilities. The internet is full of people who want a “bluewater capable” boat but will never sail it outside of protected waters and would have much more fun on a production boat. The sailing magazines have a very bad habit of saying that a boat can do everything well including taking you anywhere/offshore. If the sailing magazines were honest, they would say that the boat is optimized for a certain purpose and look critically about how it fits that purpose and then maybe look at how it fits some other use cases. Equally bad are the forums where you get truly ridiculous debates about whether certain boats are “bluewater capable”. The fact of the matter is that everyone should look at how they plan to use a boat and pick an appropriate boat for their use. Part of the requirements for a boat need to be your risk tolerance and the weather that you want to be able to safely sail in. Some people may feel that they have the skills and are willing to take the risks with sailing certain boats in certain weather where others would not be comfortable with it. Boats are compromises and some will be safer and more comfortable in poor weather while others will be more fun sailing in protected waters.

This website is obviously geared towards those who value going to remote and often inhospitable places. I really like the A40 concept but I also realize that there are production boats which could suit ones needs better if the person never planned to go offshore. If you built a coastal cruiser to the quality level of the A40 it would be a great boat but I fear that it would be unsuccessful as the buyers would not value the quality to the monetary level that it should be. This could be a failure of the user defining their requirements and looking at the long term cost of ownership or it may simply be that there is no financial case for the initial purchaser to buy a boat with a low maintenance cost.

The marketers and accountants have figured out what the requirements are for a boat that sells. It is a totally uninteresting boat to me although I have never been in the new boat market so they are not targeting me anyways.


Marc Dacey

Very good observations. There is a tendency to sneer at lightly-built, underequipped charter type boat or “weekend fairweather coasters”, without acknowledging that this represents the vast majority of recreational sailing. Literally, if it’s “blowing a hoolie” or even raining a bit, these vessels will be tied to the dock in many cases.

Where the cognitive dissonance occurs for me is that even these boats, fit for carrying steaks, rum and sunburnt occasional sailors in the Trades in comfort and safety in 15 knots of wind, somehow obtain the “Lloyd’s Ocean A” certification (a very dodgy Dufour 40 was marketed to me a few years back with this come-on) when such light-air, fast, flat-bottomed, undersecured, handhold-absent, too many huge portlighted, minimally ruddered and vast freeboarded semi-racers would be absolutely miserable on a typical passage. Drinks *would* be spilled. So the reality of typical “light” use with the fantasy of balls-out passagemaking are sold in the same package…but that swift, multi-cabined condo-like dream boat is not fit to go offshore because it will be, if not actually in danger of structural failure, a misery to ride on if one is not a regular ocean racer on a J-Boat or something relatively minimalist.

Eric Klem

Hi Marc,

I agree completely with your assessment of the European ratings. Having sailed a few of these boats outside of protected waters, when the wind and seas came up I felt like I was running out of options quickly even though the conditions were not that bad.


Colin Speedie

Hi Marc and Eric
two points – the first being that if all larger boats attain an A category, then how do you evaluate a good A from a bad A? I.e. a boat right at the top the category, from one that has just scraped in?
And in the latter case, what do you do when the weather goes bad, the answer according to delivery skippers I’ve spoken to is motor. Not only does high freeboard, shallow floors and light displacement mitigate against them, but the sails and rigs are not set-up for hard driving through bad weather. So they’re fine for charter work in sheltered waters, but less so for open waters, whatever the Category says.
As Eric rightly points out, you’re running out of options very early indeed.
Best wishes

Reed Erskine

Excellent discussion all around on this absorbing topic. One line did resonate: “Old fiberglass (GRP) don’t die like wooden boats…” I’m sitting in Lefkada Marina (Greece) surrounded by wintering Brits, Swedes, Norwegians and a lot of them are cruising great big solid 30 and 40 year old Trintellas, and Warriors and Oysters, Swans etc. Is it possible that a whole generation of these very capable classics, which are being continually re-fit by discerning owners, will supply the market for serious cruisers and long distance sailors to the detriment of new designs and builds?

Colin Speedie

Hi Reed
I think it’s entirely possible that those old warbirds will sustain the market for many, many years. They might lack the space and comfort of more modern designs, but by God if looked after they’re robust and durable. I recently inspected an older British built boat that had been built to the highest standard, such that today it would probably cost too much to build to be sold at at a viable price – which is where we find ourselves. People today want bespoke quality at high street prices, and there’s only so much saving you can make with volume and clever design, at some stage build quality will inevitably suffer.

Obviously you have to factor in the cost of major re-fits from time to time, but as long as that’s reflected in the price paid, and you accept that you’ll never get the money back, that’s OK. Going long distance cruising isn’t about a financial investment, it’s about an investment in life!
Best wishes

Paul Kelly

This is a really interesting debate. I own a 1988 Beneteau – a small one, just under 29 foot. I am not an expert but it seems to me solidly built with a smallish heads, adequate galley and most importantly a decent chart table and a manageable double aft cabin. They crammed a lot into her 28’ 9”.

I go to the Southampton Boat Show every year and there is always an interesting range of boats. But go and look at the new Beneteaus and weep!

Yacht purchasing has grown in popularity (though whether yachting has grown in the same proportion is debatable) and as it has grown I think it has diversified into two camps. First, those whose principal activity is marina based with odd short-hop sailing which is what a lot of Flotillas are based on and second, offshore cruising which requires tough(er) boats with all the things you mention – proper cooking and sleeping facilities.

I wonder what gender new boat designs are aimed at? Luxurious heads and galleys plus show home like interiors now seem de-rigeur. Yes of course Oysters and Discoveries plus some Blue Water makes have that luxury. But you will pay for it. However try to do all that for £100,000 or less – ‘mass market prices’ – and something has to give. What the (flotilla) day sailing market wants is, I suspect, boats that are light and spacious with big heads and good light wind performance plus a decent sized engine and if it sails quite well, then that’s useful. But I suspect much of that market is very leery of conditions above force 4 and they don’t like big seas.

As I think about my next boat, probably 35 or 36 foot, I am wondering whether to buy something old and seaworthy – maybe a Rival if I don’t have a lot to spend – or something more recent which may be sportier but may not serve me so well if I get caught out in a big blow. Ah! Compromises, compromises.

Colin Speedie

Hi Paul
I think we all agree that the market has changed hugely in recent years, and has left something of a vacuum in the mid range. So when moving up the choice is now far less between a golden oldie or a new boat.

If you do get to looking for a good mid range boat, the Rival 36 is nice, well built, but I’d look for one with the tale rig, which really improves the sailing ability – and there are many other good choices, Rustler 36’s etc. Even if the newer boats are a let down, there’s still plenty of good options, but finding the right individual boat remains the challenge.

Best wishes


Arek Stryjski

I understand the main point of the article what current production yachts may not be as good as they used to be. However I think splitting boats (and sailors) on the line: privately owned yachts (serious sailors) vs charter (never sail) is big simplification.

If charter yachts sail/motor only for 30% of time, it must be something between 3% and 0.3% for privately owned yachts – at least this is how it looks in Solent specially out of season.
Also when chartering in “Nordic fjords” this September I could not spot a single privately owned yacht except few locals.

It is easy to blame “charter folks” for decline in new yachts quality, but I could as easily blame private owners for demanding yachts which will never sail.


Point is that :
– charter operations and yacht manufacturing for charter operations are very competitive businesses, with strong incentive for manufacturers to reduce scantlings
– charter operators don’t pay much attention to yachts maintenability or value after 10 years, generally they resell them before that date to limit maintenance as much as possible
– charter boats are generally used by large crew carrying limited stuff, while long range cruising boats are generally used by small crew carrying much more stuff. It means that accommodations need to be different and that light displacement that are quite OK for charter might be inadequate for long range cruising.

Plus, individual owner who intend to do long-range cruising like oversized scantlings, while charter-operators ‘ accountants hate them….

Colin Speedie

Hi Arek
There’s no ‘blame’ attached here. Many charterers sail the boats hard (I do), and many ‘serious’ sailors motor everywhere – I see them all the time. I don’t know why they don’t bite the bullet and buy a motorboat.
The fact is that the decline of private ownership, for many reasons that I’ve outlined, will inevitably alter the boats on the market, so the builders will, of course, seek to stay in business by building the boats that the markets wants and can afford. And at the moment that’s skewed towards big volume charter boats, lightly built and lightly equipped, which work fine for the market they’re designed for. But in ten years time, would you want one as a cruising boat?
If ever the market for privately owned yachts improves, I’d hope to see a move back towards traditional build qualities and values. It can still be done – as I’ve mentioned in the original article, there are still smaller builders willing to keep the flag flying – and the very best of luck to them, we need them.
Best wishes

Bill Attwood

I have spent 6 years refitting a Rustler 36. During this time I have also “advised” an american who has just had a brand new R 36 built. The Rustler is a classic long keel design with transom hung rudder. Scantlings are good. BUT: don’t think you are getting an offshore ready boat. Besides the normal and expected need to replace ageing equipment, here are some of the issues I have had to cope with: cockpit lockers which are not watertight; mooring cleats without backing plates; deck hatches with rounded flanges installed in cutouts with square corners; chainplates which were invisible and which were all corroded; 3 stainless tanks all severely corroded – with no access to diesel tank without removing engine (I have put a hatch in cockpit sole); every single deck fitting had leaked into the core, gave up counting the holes sealed with epoxy after 200 mark was passey, and the drying out took a year – fortunately no rot; deck areas delaminated and void. The list could go on, but no wish to bore everyone. I had the boat “professionally” surveyed in Falmouth before buying. I have sailed all my life, always done my ownmaintenance, the R 36 is my second yacht, but I was a complete novice when I made the decision to buy. I wish I had known then what I have learnt since. I am probably just repeating what John has already said, but maybe one piece of advice for others: besides a professional survey, get someone who has a lot of offshore experience AND has lived aboard, to do an additional survey. It need not be legally binding or in written form, and would be money well invested if you have to pay for the advice.
By the way, the american owner above had to make many of my mods to his new yacht.
Regards to all

John Harries

Hi Bill,

Thanks very much for the very clear-eyed look at the trade-offs of refits. Sounds like you now have a great boat, but your comment makes clear that refits, even of fundamentally good boats like the Rustler, are not for the inexperienced or the faint of heart!

And a great tip on the second survey from someone who has been there.

I learned the same lessons with my first offshore boat, only worse!

John Franklin

Great article Colin – many thanks. Makes me glad I went my own way with a custom design alloy boat!

Colin Speedie

Hi John

No single approach is perfect, but having the freedom to avoid unwelcome compromises is hugely attractive, and to my thinking definitely outweighs the inevitable niggles inherent with any new boat. It also helps to build confidence in your boat, worth its weight in gold when the going gets tough. And when it results in a boat as handsome as your own, that’s the icing on the cake!

Best wishes


Peter Rousseau

Hello AAC.
Wanted to ask about the risk of buying a 1990 Southerly 115 in view of the company’s bankruptcy.
Seem to remember an article by Matt about vendor support and that Colin had owned a 135, both of which might speak to this issue.
The Southerly’s lift keel and shorter mast would be an advantage for me in the shallow water and numerous fixed bridges of the Great South Bay off southern Long Island.
The 1985 Nauticat 40 I had also been considering wouldn’t work in the Great South Bay for those height and depth reasons, but I thought it might be sturdier in high latitudes, and was interested in what you thought.
I’m definitely attracted to a pilothouse, and if they existed, a used Boreal might meet all needs. Boats are compromises, as John says.
Thanks for your help on this and for your wealth of boating wisdom in general. Surely the best 20 dollars I spend, every year.
Best wishes.