John and Phyllis Visit Boréal


Back in May, while we were in Europe to teach our High Latitude Course, Phyllis and I traveled to Tréguier, in Brittany, France to visit Boréal, builders of offshore voyaging yachts of the same name.

Colin has already written an excellent three part review of the Boréal and then followed up with a two part account of Boréal partner and designer Jean-François Delvoye’s voyage to South Georgia in the prototype Boréal 44, so I won’t duplicate any of that, particularly since Colin is far better qualified, as the owner of an Ovni 435, to review lifting keel boats of this type.

Rather, I will write about our personal impressions of the Boréal from the point of view of experienced offshore sailors who have always owned and voyaged on very different fixed keel boats.

Or to put it another way, it would be hard to imagine boats more different than our own much loved Morgan’s Cloud and those from Boréal. Many of our readers will be coming from the same experience and place. My goal is to help you understand these boats.


JHHOMD1-5141127 JHHOMD1-5141117

Although I don’t have any formal engineering training, having lived with and cared for an aluminum boat for over 20 years, I do have a feel for good construction in the material. After looking over several of the boats in various stages of construction, the impression I was left with was of truly massive strength that is far in excess of anything you will get from most other builders.

Heaven help anything that this massive stem fabrication hits.

Heaven help anything that this massive stem fabrication hits.

This is a boat that will survive just about anything the sea can throw at her, short of a catastrophic grounding. No, the boats are not specified for ice—very hard to do with a yacht—but as long as you don’t do something truly stupid, these boats will bring you home from even the most inhospitable parts of the planet, including the extreme high latitudes.

The Look

There are few boats that can compete in a beauty contest with those from the drawing boards of McCurdy and Rhodes, designers of our boat—which, after our 23 years together, has become our bench mark for functional good looks—so I was simply not prepared for how appealing I would find the lines of the Boréal boats.


No, the Boréals, with their hard chines and bare aluminum hulls, don’t have the graceful overhangs and sweeping perfect shear of our boat, but they replace that with a rugged look-the-biz vibe that I found both appealing and reassuring.

It is clear to my eye that these are boats drawn by a man who has studied the sea and learned its lessons well. They simply look and feel right.

Wide Stern


Regular readers of this site will know that I’m no fan of the very wide sterns so prevalent today, and at first glance the Boréals seem to exhibit a little of this unfortunate trend. But closer examination shows that Jean-François Delvoye has used considerable flare in the topsides aft so that the actual water plane is quite symmetrical fore and aft and further, as the boat heels, the water plane remains that way. More on that later.

On Deck


The deck layout has a simple comfortable functionality that reflects the tens of thousands of miles her creators have spent at sea—that indefinable, but easy to recognize, ease of moving around with everything to hand, together with clear places to walk and convenient hand holds at every turn.

Sure, there are things that I might like to see changed, such as:

  • Increasing the height of the lifelines,
  • Changing the bow roller assembly to be more like that on our boat to facilitate lying to a mooring safely without removing the anchor,
  • Adding a foot bar to the middle of the very wide cockpit floor, a width necessitated by the required swing room for the dog house door.

Precious few, really, and relatively easy to do.

The Rig

JHHOMD1-5151255The rig is good, solid, and simple, just the way Phyllis and I like it.

If it were me, I would have set the boat up with a traditional cutter rig: 100% high cut jib topsail (Yankee) and low cut staysail, which would be used together in all but the strongest winds.

However, I can certainly see the utility of the Boréal approach of a larger low cut genoa and self tacking staysail that are intended to cover the full wind range from light air to a full gale, but not to be set together.

One of the few criticisms I would feel strongly about was that the boat we sailed on had a stackpack type mainsail cover, a 2:1 halyard and no dedicated winch for the main halyard. This setup resulted in more work and struggle to hoist the main than on our boat, even though our mainsail is nearly twice the weight and we have a 1:1 halyard—definitely something I would want changed.

Dog House


The dog house and the way it integrates into the covered cockpit area is brilliantly designed. It would have been easy to ruin a boat, particularly the smaller 44/47, with this feature by allowing its presence to obstruct the sight lines in the cockpit or make the companionway awkward. Not only did Jean-François Delvoye avoid that trap, he actually managed to enhance the whole area with the inclusion of the dog house—very rare and very hard to do.


The wheelhouse/chart table area works perfectly with forward sight lines that are so good I would not hesitate to stand watch from there, even in icy waters. There is a blind spot to windward when the boat is heeled—created by the width of the side decks and low profile curved design of the deckhouse that preserves the sight lines from the cockpit (you can’t have it both ways)—that will require a regular excursion to the cockpit to take a look around, but that’s always a good idea anyway.

Having stood watch in open cockpits for some 40 years I can tell you that the Boréal way is simply a better way: a cockpit that really works when you want to be outside, and a wheelhouse that will make a huge difference to your comfort when you don’t.


In addition, I think the wheelhouse will be of special benefit to crews that have substantially different discomfort tolerances by allowing the less tolerant to feel comfortable when the more tolerant pushes into more demanding areas—a real benefit to onboard harmony.



The layout below, while very different from what Phyllis and I are used to, was clearly designed by people who have lived on boats and been to sea, a sad rarity in these days of interiors that are more condo than sea-going.


The forward owner’s cabin can only be described as palatial, with a queen-sized centre line bunk that is even big enough for a tall couple like Phyllis and I to sleep comfortably head-forward, and therefore avoid the horror of ever disappearing pillows that haunts those who sleep head-aft.

JHHOMD1-5151323And talking of heads, there is a decent sized one just aft of the main cabin.

Moving aft, the first impression on entering the salon is of light and visibility. The salon table seating is to port and considerably raised so you can look out through the large windows.

A truly wonderful advantage over boats like ours, which are, in comparison, dark caves where you have to stand on a settee to see out of a tiny port.


The galley is to starboard and of the in-line variety. We are U-shaped galley fans, pure and simple, so there is no way for us to be enthusiastic about this layout. Having said that, the galley as designed should work well and be perfectly safe since the cook is constrained by the relatively narrow corridor between the galley and dinette.

Moving aft there is a head on the starboard side which is rather small, and on the boat we were on, further constrained by being full of foul weather gear. I would definitely like to see a larger head, but then I’m 6’ 2” and not, shall we say, the most graceful guy around. And if said larger head could be accommodated, we would have the boat delivered with a really nice shower and some more storage where the forward head is now.

We would also like to see a separate foul weather gear locker, which I’m sure could be arranged in one of the aft cabins.

JHHOMD1-5151293And that brings us to the feature we like least of the interior on the boat we inspected: twin aft cabins. To me, a boat this size is simply too small to do this well, but it’s a near-obligatory layout on a boat these days, so I certainly understand why Boréal went this way.

One thing we would suggest is ordering the boat with two stacked single berths in both cabins rather than one with that configuration and one double as the standard boat comes. Or even worse still, two double berths, for the ultimate in impractical.

Oh, OK, my prejudices are showing here. To my way of thinking there is just about nothing in a boat interior more useless and more a waste of space than small double berths in cramped aft “cabins”—too big for one person at sea, and too small for two in port.


The stacked berth option works well.

By going with the stacked singles one cabin would be great for sleeping in at sea, even for two people, and the other cabin could be converted to storage and utility with bins on the upper berth and then easily converted back when you want to sell the boat to some deluded soul that is willing to—or at least thinks they will—go cruising with a cast of thousands.

After that rant, you might come away with the impression that I didn’t like the interior. Nothing could be further from the truth. We loved the layout as a whole and could easily see ourselves living in it for long periods of time, both at sea and at anchor.

And anyway, if I’d started this section with the last sentence and no criticism, regular readers would have thought that the Jean-François (yes, there are two) plied me with way too much good French wine!

It’s also important to understand that many of the layout decisions in this boat are driven by the need to accommodate the centreboard trunk, so a more conventional layout simply would not work.



John steering while the partners, Jean-François Delvoye (right) and Jean-François Eeman (left) plot their little surprise for me.

OK, enough of that stuff, let’s cut to how the boat sails, which is what really matters.

First, let’s set the context. We own a boat that sails brilliantly, particularly offshore. You don’t clean house in the Bermuda Race the way M&R designs have consistently done without sailing really well. So with the Boréal we were prepared to make allowances for a boat that had made performance sacrifices to achieve shoal draft and drying out capability.

While it was a light day with no more than 12 knots of wind, I was simply blown away by how well this boat sails. And not just reaching and running, the traditional strength of these French lifting keel boats…the real shock was up wind. With her high efficiency air foil section board down and low centre of gravity conferred by ballast in the keel box, the boat gives little or nothing away to fixed keel cruising boats.

However, she did seem a little squirrelly up wind in the puffs and lulls. No big deal, and I have steered worse, but none the less I was only able to answer with a noncommittal “not bad”, when Jean-François Eeman asked me what I thought of her upwind performance.

Turns out that the devious man was setting me up, as became apparent when he casually lowered the leeward leeboard. Suddenly I was steering a boat as directionally stable and as well mannered as any I have known.

He then added insult to injury by telling me to let go of the helm, at which point the boat showed that she could steer herself up wind, undoubtedly for hours, without my help.

That’s a neat trick for any boat and confirms that Jean-François Delvoye has got the waterplane just right, so that the helm does not load up, as it does with many boats, when she heels. Add in the leeboards and the design goes from clever to brilliant, without resorting to complicated and vulnerable twin rudders.

Sure, although it has never happened, a leeboard could hit a piece of debris, but they are designed to sheer off flush without damaging the hull. Replacement would be a matter of minutes—nothing like the disaster of a damaged twin rudder.


So what was our overall impression of the Boréal? Well I will now reveal the kicker: This visit was about far more than simple curiosity. Phyllis and I were seriously thinking of buying a Boréal 47—the 44 with a sugar scoop stern added—as a replacement for our beloved Morgan’s Cloud, because the latter is a bit big now that we are sailing seasonally and not living aboard full-time.

Not only were we motivated by the more easily maintained size of the Boréal, we were also intrigued by the opportunities that shallow draft and the ability to dry out would open up to us. And then there is the attraction of that wheelhouse.

In the end, we decided to stick with our McCurdy and Rhodes 56, but that is a lot more about having, since the visit to Boréal, come up with various strategies to make seasonally sailing Morgan’s Cloud easier, than any criticism of the Boréal.

I can go further and state pretty categorically that if the Boréal 47 had existed in 2003, we would have bought one instead of doing a three year refit to Morgan’s Cloud, as we ended up doing. But now that that refit is done, and considering that she will serve us well for our remaining sailing years, however long that is, we decided to stick with the boat we have…but it was a close run thing.


Boréal pride themselves on being open to customizing their boats. And I have been open about the things I didn’t like. But you know what? Phyllis and I talked at length and decided that if we did buy a boat, aside from a few trivial changes like a shower instead of a forward head, and opting to have stacked singles in each aft cabin, we would order a standard boat.

Why? Because design is holistic and when you tamper with one part of a well thought out design like the Boréal, you risk screwing things up in ways you never dreamed of.

Bottom line, these guys know what they’re doing and have now built over a score of boats with each one tweaked to be a little better than the last. So we came to the conclusion we shouldn’t mess with that.

And that is, coming from an arrogant opinionated old curmudgeon with a lot of miles under his keel like me, the ultimate accolade.


So what’s all this going to cost you? The Boréal 47 is priced at Euro 453,000 without VAT or US$515,ooo. And I would guess that most owners will drop another EURO 30,000 or so on options.

And if we had decided to buy a Boréal, we would have definitely hired Colin to act as owner’s representative. No matter how reputable and good intentioned the builder is and how experienced you are, having an experienced person like Colin involved, who is not emotionally invested, will always pay dividends.

Yes, that’s a lot of money, but when you look around at the market and then compare the quality and strength of the Boréal to other boats on offer for the same price, the 47 starts to look like a hell of a bargain.

In addition, Boréal have clearly established a brand with this boat, so she should hold her value well.

One More Thing


We spent most of two days with the Jean-François and one overall impression we were left with is that they are two truly decent guys who are dedicated to building the very best boats they can, or for that matter, that anyone could.

This is not a company managed by some finance person intent on squeezing every dollar out of each owner. No, these guys genuinely care about every boat and every owner and will, I’m convinced, put your interests and safety ahead of their own interests, financially or otherwise…and that really is the ultimate accolade.

Like what you just read? Get lots more:

Meet the Author


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

42 comments… add one
  • RDE Feb 2, 2015, 11:52 pm

    Simply a brilliant, holistic design. The one quibble I’ve always had with the styling of the doghouse windows disappears upon first glance out through them!
    And John, in case you were wondering, If I had a half mil in jingle money I’d buy one of these in a moment ahead of the best catamaran I could build for the same money!


  • Rob Withers Feb 3, 2015, 8:50 am

    These thoughts pretty much match my impression of the Boreal – which is why we decided to order one! We put our order in for a Boreal 47 9 months ago – so we still a while until she’s going to be delivered. We’re quite excited about the process of speccing and detailing our new boat – and also where she will take us.

    Incidentally, I have a video of my test sail aboard the Boreal 44 which I can share if anybody would like. I made it to show my wife before she came out to look at it herself, but it gives a good flavour of the boat

    • Rob Withers Feb 3, 2015, 11:27 am

      You can view the video at:


      • Patrick Genovese Feb 3, 2015, 6:59 pm

        Hi Rob
        What sort of wind speed did you have when the video was shot ?

        • Rob Withers Feb 4, 2015, 8:54 am

          The conditions were pretty near perfect considering it was late February. I can’t remember the exact figures but I think there was about 15 knots of wind when we got out into the open sea. Once we were back in the channel, there was less wind (10-12knots true, from memory), and the boat was underpowered when using the small self-tacking jib. However, in that narrow channel it was either that or motoring, because the larger genoa would definitely take more time and effort to tack.

  • Patrick Genovese Feb 3, 2015, 9:33 am

    Hi John,

    Excellent article. I would be interested in your views on the B44/47 with respect to:

    a) Ease of maintenance, accessibility etc…
    b) The lack of a traveler
    c) The self tacking jib setup especially with respect to its use in heavy weather, e.g is there a simple & reliable way to stop it from tacking to be able to use it to heave to.


    • John Feb 3, 2015, 1:12 pm

      Hi Patrick,

      Good questions:

      Ease of maintenance accessibility: The accessibility is general good, particularly the engine. Having said that a boat like the Boreal with a lot of accommodation for the hull volume and therefore all of the equipment separated out into wherever it will fit, is never going to be as easy to maintain as our own “Morgan’s Cloud”, or the Adventure 40, both with a dedicated equipment area and work bench and, in the case of our own boat, a walk in engine room. This was a big contributor to our decision to keep MC.

      Lack of Traveler: I’m not a big fan of not having a traveler because without one you can’t trim the main really well in light air. But then again, since the main sheet is on the top of the cabin giving a good sheeting angle, the problem is not as bad as you might think. On balance, I think Boreal made the right call on this for their boat. Hard to see how to make a good traveler on the curved dog house roof.

      Self Tacking Staysail: We did not use the staysail, but generally I think this might be a very nice feature. I can’t see that it would be a problem to rig a line to haul the car up to windward.

      In summary all these decisions are compromises that are influenced by different issues depending on the boat and its intended market and use. There is no right or wrong here. If I was designing the boat, would I have made all the same decisions? Probably not. But the telling point is that as I say in the post, none of the things I didn’t like were deal breakers.

    • Matt Chauvel Feb 3, 2015, 7:00 pm

      Hi, I’ll second John’s comment re. the self-tacking staysail: tried and tested, it’s really not difficult to rig a line to lock it in back-winded position in order to heave-to in heavy weather. Arguably off-topic, I just want to point out I’m posting this from Puerto Williams, Southern tip of Chile, where four Boreal 44/47s out of the 25 afloat have made it so far, all having sailed from Bretagne (SVs Sila, Coyote, Juan Sa Bulan III, and Obelix)…so the boat is proving itself in its intended ‘natural environment’. Sila is on its way to South Georgia, God knows where Coyote is headed (its skipper is an insatiable sea-miles ogre), I’m off to a Cape Horn-Cape Town passage on Obelix in a few days, and Juan Sa Bulan is making its home here for a while (after coming back from a cruise in the Patagonian glaciers, skippered by Jean-Francois Eeman after a hand-over from JF Delvoye a few days ago).

      • Colin Speedie Feb 4, 2015, 11:05 am

        Hi Matt

        Sila is safely in South Georgia after a good outward passage, the second Boreal in a year to visit.

        Good luck with your passage – should be a fast one!

        Best wishes


    • Patrick Genovese Feb 4, 2015, 6:06 am

      Hi John & Matt,

      Thank you for your input, very informative. I must admit that a B44/47 is at the very top of my list of desirable boats. One day … One day hopefully in the not too distant future JF may be getting a call from me.


  • Paul Good Feb 3, 2015, 11:06 am

    Would love to see the video as well. I’ve been exchanging email with them about a potential future factory visit and potential build.

  • Dave Benjamin Feb 3, 2015, 11:11 pm

    I’ve become a fan of lifting keel aluminum boats, and the Boreal is certainly an impressive yacht. One thing that I’m surprised nobody has mentioned so far though is the presence of deadlights below the hull to deck joint. I’ve never been comfortable with those but perhaps the engineering is such that my concern is unwarranted. John, what are your thoughts?

    • Jean-François EEMAN Feb 26, 2015, 5:36 am

      Hello Dave,
      I would be happy to answer your question but I do not understand with you mean…
      I simply do not understand the word deadlight ?
      What I can say is that the deck is not welded directly upon the hull. On the hull we weld all the way a a tube.
      The deck is welded on that tube.
      Is that the answer to your question ?

      Jean-François EEMAN,
      Manging Director form Boréal

      • Colin Speedie Feb 26, 2015, 10:42 am

        Hi Jean-Francois

        I think Dave is referring to the windows in the hull – ‘hublots’ – and how safe are they?

        Best wishes


      • Dave Benjamin Feb 26, 2015, 1:25 pm

        Jean Francois,

        Deadlight is a term we use here in the US to describe a non-opening port.

        On fiberglass yachts, I have seen problems with deadlights installed below the hull to deck joint. I have not owned a metal boat so no experience to draw from.

  • Bill Balme Feb 4, 2015, 1:46 pm


    Any concerns about the large windows/ports from a strength perspective?


    • John Feb 4, 2015, 2:47 pm

      Hi Bill,

      Not really, there are quite a lot of them, but none are really that big. The biggest ones are in the dog house, but they are curved and therefore stronger than flat. As with the hull ports I would carry some bits of ply pre-cut to cover a port if one did break.

      More here.

      Also, Boreal offer the option of double glazing the ports and I would definitely go with that.

  • James Feb 4, 2015, 2:08 pm

    We too are thinking of having the 47 built.
    I found Jean Francois very open to our modification requests which matched yours.
    Change the forward head for a really large shower.
    Only one aft cabin with stepped bunks, the other being for a workshop , spares store etc., Remote oil filters and fuel polishing system,all easily reached,as well as the Water maker.
    Provision of a decent separate Heated Wet Locker
    Alteration to the Anchor Stem Head to enable a rode to be used and not rub on the anchor.
    ALL of which they said could be considered , though we were asked to remember that they do not build Custom Yachts…yet.
    Our other wish list will be a Carbon Mast and Boom with 3/4 reefs, winches on mast such as you have and to keep our toes warm, an insulated floor.If possible also a Stable type door in two parts, wave breakers for the hatches and a higher guard rail,we like 36 inches.
    To sum, a brilliant boat for Adventurers who rely upon their on resources.

    • Dave Benjamin Feb 4, 2015, 2:51 pm


      Funny, I had some similar thoughts as well. Bit opposite though in that I could see the aft head as a shower compartment and serving as a wet locker whilst underway.

      Another thought I had was ditching the heater shown and installing a hydronic heating system that would not only heat the boat well but provide heating for domestic hot water and not require a bulky water heater.

      I’m not keen on carbon fiber for expedition yachts. Having seen a carbon fiber mast fail firsthand and knowing that repairs in remote area may be very difficult to accomplish, I think it’s best to stay with aluminum. That said, I would rig the boat with Dyneema Dux rather than conventional wire or rod to save weight and allow for easy replacement anywhere in the world as we could carry enough replacement Dux with us to re-rig.

      Agree on the higher rail and my wife prefer solid rails after experiencing that on our Amel Maramu.

      I really don’t like adding a 4th reef on any boat if I can avoid it. We build our own sails since that’s my business and like I’ve done for so many of our clients, I would make the first two reefs a bit deeper than normal and the third deep enough to bring the size of the sail to that of a trysail. With twin-ply in the leech and head there’s no problem carrying the main this way into a fully developed gale. I still like a trysail as well.

      The leech of the sail is very critical and it’s under stress. We prefer not to add any more weight than necessary to it in the form of reef cringles and reinforcements.

      • Colin Speedie Feb 4, 2015, 4:28 pm

        Hi Dave

        I’d agree with your comments on reefs in the main. We have exactly the configuration (at our request) on our Ovni, and it works very well, and having used it in anger I have ditched the idea of a trysail. But I know people who have four reefs in the main, with the 4th trysail size who also swear by it.

        There are other complications, though, such as reefing lines for 4 reefs – more thought is required than with your/our configuration of 3 reefs.

        And as we have port lights in our boat, too, I don’t consider them a major concern now, after 7 years voyaging.

        Best wishes


    • John Feb 4, 2015, 3:03 pm

      Hi James,

      While I agree with most of your changes (not the carbon rig), as I said in the post, if I were going to buy a Boreal I would think twice about customizing it. As an owner of a custom boat (not built for me) I can tell you that the law of unintended consequences thrives in custom boats. To me one of the benefits of buying a Boreal is you are getting a proven boat—jump in, quick shake down, go places. See Matt’s comment above for the proof.

      For example I know of one “small change” that was made to one of the earlier Boreals that caused a huge and expensive problem.

      The other issue is resale value. Custom boats are probably the biggest wealth destroyer known to humankind. If you change your Boreal too much you risk losing the benefit of the Boreal brand as it affects resale.

      And then we have warranty. I know for a fact that Boreal excel in this area. But if you change too much, things get murky when something goes wrong—is it the fault of the builder or was the modification ill conceived?

      In summary, I would never, ever, have a custom boat built, full stop (period). The only time custom boats are a good idea, in my opinion, is when you buy a used one where the poor person that built it has already taken the typical 80% depreciation hit. I’m not saying that the customizations your are suggesting are going to result in a hit that bad, but it’s as well to be aware of the dangers. Worse still, once an owner starts changing things it tends to get addictive and out of control.

      In summary, I would stick with the mods that Boreal have already done to other boats (forward shower) but not push them into doing anything that they have not done before. These guys really know what they are doing and so if they look uncomfortable about something you suggest, you should be very cautious about insisting.

      As we used to say in the computer business:

      Q: How do you tell who the pioneers are?
      A: They are the ones with the arrows in their bodies.

      • Patrick Genovese Feb 5, 2015, 8:12 pm

        Hi John,

        Now you have got me curious as to what the small mod was. Sound like a lesson to be learned. Would you be able to share some details?

        • John Feb 5, 2015, 8:35 pm

          Hi Patrick,

          I’m sorry I can’t, the situation was explained to me in confidence. Trust me though, it was one of those situations where everyone tried really, really, hard to do it right and the law of unintended consequences still reared it’s ugly head.

          One thing you can be sure of, that particular problem won’t happen again.

  • Eric Klem Feb 8, 2015, 8:08 pm

    Hi John and Phyllis,

    I am curious as to your thoughts on the security of the cockpit. The picture of John steering got me wondering about this as that looked like a great place to steer from on a beautiful day but maybe not a great place when there is a sea running. It would seem like the area behind the wheel does not provide a lot of security and the cockpit coamings are low. Probably my favorite all-around cockpit that I have been in for a couple is the Nordic 40/44 and I think the reason is how high the seat backs are making them both secure and comfortable (I do have concerns over draining on this specific boat). The other thing that I find I don’t like in a lot of boats is how you have to put your body to grind in the jib. Our boat actually has mounting pads that come into the cockpit just ahead of the wheel (T cockpit) and I have been thinking of moving the primary winches there as I think you could really stand up and get some purchase or still kneel and do okay. One thing that I don’t like is the traditional “bluewater” cockpit which has a tiny footwell. Unfortunately, I am not in the market for a Boreal but I would be curious to see if you felt cockpit security was an issue or not.


    • John Feb 9, 2015, 1:23 pm

      Hi Eric,

      That’s a really interesting question, thank you.

      There is no question that the Boreal is a low freeboard boat and you are right that when aft of the wheel there is not a lot between you and the water. Having said that, I did not feel insecure in it. As you can see from the picture, there is a lot to hang on to as you move aft including a massive custom binnacle and the very clever “leaning bars” behind the helm. Also, a huge positive is that since the traveler is on top of the dog house and the cockpit is carefully contoured you do not need to step up on the seats to get aft of the wheel as you do on many boats. So, all in all, I think the Boreal has a pretty safe cockpit, although if I skippered one, I would insist that anyone moving aft of the wheel be clipped on but then Phyllis and I are clipped on pretty much all the time at sea anyway.

      There is also another related point. After talking at length with the JFs and other about these French lifting keel boats I’m convinced that the danger of green water coming aboard is significantly lower, because they tend to skid sideways when hit by a wave, than it is for keel boats.

      Winch positioning is an interesting design problem. JFD has placed the winches well out on the combings to leave room to sit up on the combing when steering (I think), but the trade off is that it’s harder to get right over the winch when in the cockpit. I did notice that both JFs tended to winch standing outside the cockpit because of this—not ideal in my view.

      • Eric Klem Feb 9, 2015, 2:53 pm

        Hi John,

        Thank you for your thoughts on this. I am glad to hear that it is not an issue. I do really like the more open feel provided that there is a good backrest someplace. One thing that I know trips me up is the difference between perceived security in cockpits and actual security.

        The point about less green water is really interesting and something I hadn’t thought about.


  • Mark Feb 15, 2016, 2:45 pm

    Hi Rob,

    Thanks for your great video. I really appreciate all of the information available between you, the Jean-Françoises, Colin, John and the RC Louise folks.

  • Bil Bowers Mar 8, 2017, 12:29 pm

    HI Colin,

    Awesome series!

    Curious to know how well does the B44/47 or your Ovni heave-to with deeply reefed main and backed staysail with the centerboard fully retracted to wave-skid position?


  • Richard May 9, 2017, 12:56 pm

    I’ve been looking at Allures / Garcia. Does anyone have any thoughts / comments. Superficially they look similar in approach to Boreal.

    • John May 9, 2017, 1:06 pm

      Hi Richard,

      If you look through the comments to the chapters in this online book you will find a bunch of discussion of exactly that. Short version, at least for me, is that I prefer the Boreals to either of those boats, with the older Garcias second.

      Disclosure: The partners at Boreal are person friends and long term financial supporters of AAC.

  • Tim Brown Aug 18, 2017, 7:40 am

    So just to be clear, if you were ordering a new Boreal would you option the boat with “a traditional cutter rig: 100% high cut jib topsail (Yankee) and low cut staysail, which would be used together in all but the strongest winds” or would order the boat with the standard headsail arrangement?

    I just finished reading your chapters regarding the advantages of a cutter and the times when you would recommend converting to a true cutter. That’s what made me wonder your thoughts regarding the Boreal.

    Thanks for the great unbiased review!

    • John Aug 24, 2017, 5:06 pm

      Hi Tim,

      A hard question. On a general basis I prefer a true cutter rig. On the other hand the guys at Boreal have built a bunch of boats and their customers have sailed them a bunch of hard miles with the standard rig they provide and they have never done one with a full cutter rig.

      On balance, I guess that given the track record of the Boreals I would go with the “if it’s not broken, don’t fix it” option.

      • Tim Brown Aug 24, 2017, 6:33 pm

        Thanks John,

        I was thinking very much the same thing. I was somewhat surprised to see that they had never done a true cutter rig on one of their boats. I don’t think I’d want to be the guinea pig.

        Again thanks for your insight. I love your website and I’m learning a lot!

  • Bill Balme Oct 7, 2017, 11:01 pm

    I have not sailed her and only visited her (for the first time just this week) as a consequence of this article… was expecting great – and was sorely disappointed.

    From my perspective, the Boreal is probably a very strong boat – something that I imagine would appeal to John, and will no doubt do well on an ocean crossing – providing it’s not to windward (but whoever does that?) with it’s flat bottom and lifting keel, but for most cruisers – high and low latitude, most of our time is spent in an anchorage where interior and exterior comfort are the prime prerequisites – and this boat had (IMHO) neither of both. The interior was tight and chopped up, the cockpit was not spacious enough to invite more than one couple for sun-downers.
    I’ll very happily stick with my Outbound – a solid blue-water boat that goes to wind tremendously, is fast, has a great cockpit – both seaworthy and accommodating – and has a wonderful open and comfortable feel down below.

    • John Oct 8, 2017, 8:28 am

      Hi Bill,

      Each to their own I guess, although you will note that I too express some reservations about the interior, particularly the galley and small double aft cabins. That said, it’s important to be clear that a centre board boat has fewer options in layout because of the trunking.

      Also, having sailed the Boreal to windward I can say that she might surprise you.

      Of course the Outbound is a really nice boat too, but very different so I’m not sure that saying that one is “better” than the other is valid.

      For example, I’m fairly sure the Boreal will be faster, less likely to broach, and more comfortable off the wind in big seas. Also the Boreal has an enclosed wheel house and can be beached.

      Does all that make a Boreal better? No, just optimized for different things.

    • Tim Brown Oct 9, 2017, 10:30 pm

      I too saw the Boreal 47 at the US Sailboat Show in Annapolis this weekend. My take away is very different than yours. The first thing that I see when looking at the Boreal is a serous, comercial grade, aluminum boat with beautiful lines. A Yacht that will most likely outlast all of the other boats at that show. I admit that beauty is in the eye of the beholder and I find Battleships to be a thing of beauty as well.

      The deck layout was very clean with immensely strong grab rails from stem to stern. Stanchions, rigging and dinghy arch where all built to take some serious abuse. Being a scuba diver I loved the sugar scoop! It provided enough storage for four tanks and all the rest of your dive gear within its steps. Those same steps also allowed for very easy access to the water. The cockpit looked as if it would be secure and comfortable in the most extreme conditions.

      Upon entering the doghouse is where I would have to lodge my first complaint. I’m 6’3″ tall and there wasn’t much head room for a person my height. Fortunately this particular boat was outfitted with the optional overhead hatch in the doghouse which helped.

      Descending into the saloon and galley I was pleasantly surprised to find a roomy, bright and comfortable living area with adequate headroom. No, it wasn’t so open that you would be tossed about in heavy seas, but it most definitely didn’t feel cramped.

      The heads where a bit tight if you’re tall, but again, very bright, well laid out.

      I, being 6’3″, had to duck to enter any of the berths. But hey, I’m generally laying down in short order upon entering the berth anyway.

      Don’t forget about the fore and aft water tight bulkheads on the other side of which resides massive storage space easily accessible to large items. Also the comparatively large diesel and water tanks for a boat this size.

      Jean Francois informed me that the Boreal 52 & 55 have three inches more headroom throughout. Obviously the heads and everything else are much more spacious. The tankage basicly doubles as well.

      Overall I found the Boreal to be a one of a kind yacht, built like no other. A vessel more than capable of taking you on whatever adventures you have planned in some of the most hostile environments in the world!

      • John Oct 10, 2017, 8:16 am

        Hi Tim,

        I think you are right, a one of a kind. That said, like any one of a kind not everyone’s preferred boat and I can certainly understand Bill’s preference for the Outbound.

  • Paul Jan 28, 2019, 6:17 pm

    “the boat gives little or nothing away to fixed keel cruising boats”
    What windward performance should we expect of a GOOD cruising yacht? What does Morgan’s Cloud tack through when making its best VMG to windward loaded at sea?
    The Shackleton followers typically managed 110° in their Boreal 47 Sir Ernst:
    “Le résultat est sans appel, et impossible de faire mieux que 100° d’un bord sur l’autre. Peut être même que cela flirte avec les 110°, mais je ne peux pas l’écrire, ça fait trop mal au moral …”
    The result lacks appeal, it is impossible to better 100° tack-to-tack. In reality 110° is more usual, but my morale would suffer too much if I wrote that.

    • John Jan 28, 2019, 8:05 pm

      Hi Paul,

      MC, being a long fin keel, but not deep (6.5′) is not particularly close winded. We are also cutter rigged, which is a hit to pure pointing. Generally we tack through about 100 degrees and then lose about 3-5 degrees leeway, so around 105%. That’s assuming being offshore in waves. Inshore in smooth water it will be a little better. I would expect a Boreal to be about the same and that’s about average for a cruising boat. (You will hear a lot of owners claiming better, but that’s usually more wishful thinking than reality.)

      To be able to actually tack through 90% (leeway included) in any sort of seaway, you need a high lift deep—think 8 to 10 feet on a 45-foot boat—fin keel and really good sails with a well tuned rig. The reality is that to get this kind of performance you tend to end up with a boat that draws too much to be a good cruiser. As usual, it’s all tradeoffs.

      To put this into prospective, we have won our class twice in the Newport Bermuda race (one race had quite a bit of windward work) with MC, so that level of pointing can’t be that bad.

  • Paul Jan 29, 2019, 12:19 am

    Deep draft sounds about right. 9’4″ on the 42’7″ Nordkyn*

    My current yacht has a vertical-lift bulb-keel and transom-hung dagger-board rudder, all very achievable on a 26 footer but I imagine quite an engineering challenge on a boat big enough for an ocean-crossing 1.5-2 ton payload.

    I guess if you can make 7 knots tacking thru 105° you’ll get to windward as fast as someone doing 6 knots & 90°, and it’ll probably be more comfortable. Although Nordkyn probably makes 7 knots & 90°, which the 105° boat would have to make 8.5 to match.
    I guess the only time an ocean cruiser needs excellent pointing is clawing off a lee shore, in which cases the motor is surely helping. Sounds like the goal for a cruising yacht is a comfortable 105° and no pounding.

    Maybe head winds and an opposing current would cause a cruiser to wish for better pointing ability if they were expected to continue for longer than the cruiser would care to run the motor. Does that happen often? I guess one could plan around it.


    • John Jan 29, 2019, 12:15 pm

      Hi Paul,

      There is just no solid best answer here. For example very close winded fast boat also, as you say, tend to be uncomfortable.

      What I can say is that over all of my years sailing MC I have never been in a situation where I felt that we were in danger due to lack of close windedness. Also, the previous owner beat all the way down the west coast of South America against the Humbolt Current, with his whole family and the dog aboard, without issues, one of the longest and toughest windward passages in the world.

      And I myself once beat against a reinforced Christmas trade winds (25-30 knots) for over 400 miles out to Barbados…yes, there was a woman involved. We have also done a couple windward passages of around 500 miles.

      So I think we need to be careful about how we come at this. For example, if one has a boat that is theoretically more close winded, it does not do us a lot of good if the motion is so bad that the crew are sick as dogs and can’t take it.

      More on clawing off lee shores here:

  • Stefan Smith Jul 30, 2019, 4:39 am

    Having also just looked at a Boreal 47, I share many of your thoughts and wanted to also share a few things that I really didn’t like with the design:

    1) the aft cabin arrangement. I much prefer the layout on the Ovni 445/450 or Allures 45.9/Garcia 45 in which in the owner configuration one of the aft cabins is dedicated as a storage/access area. Certainly it’s possible to dedicate one of the Boreal aft cabins as such but honestly it would be more of a crawl space in comparison, so not very good as a functional storage/workshop space.

    2) There are two heads/showers but neither of them really feels like an owners wash space. I would be happier with one of them being dedicated as a ‘proper’ shower space with some wet clothing hanging, and the other as a toilet/sink. The new Ovni 450 has really nailed this need for a proper walk-in shower space rather than the old-style shower attachment to be used while squeezed in next to the toilet and sink, and in which the entire head is splashed with water.

    3) Honestly I found the chart table under the doghouse to be a little tight for both electronics and paper, with the desk space to the starboard being a bit impractical to use. Paper chart use would therefore have to be in the salon. The nav station setup on the Garcia 45 is much better — electronics facing forward, and paper behind you on the salon table. The Allures 45.9 also felt better, albeit with a less commanding position.

    4) Love the single helm, but I find the back rest option for the helm position a bit weird. Would be nice to have a seat option rather than just the lean-to. The cockpit also feels a bit cramped and not that comfortable for an outside space.

    The good thing is that as you said some of the above can be fixed with customization in the build, although I personally found the long-term user comfort would superior in the Garcia Exploration 45, even more so for anyone over 6′. Overall the Garcia seemed better finished inside, against the Boreal that does feel somewhat ‘battleship’ utilitarian – which has it’s own charm. The Boreal is also set at a slightly better price point.

    Cannot compare hull design and build, or sailing quality though!

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