The Offshore Voyaging Reference Site

Boréal Yachts—Eight Years On

On January 1, 2010, Attainable Adventure Cruising published an article I wrote on a then recently-designed aluminum cruising yacht being built in France.

As proud owners of an Ovni 435 that my wife and I had built to our specifications, I took more than a passing interest in this new design, not least because at first glance it had one wonderful feature that our boat lacked (and that we would have loved to have had): a watertight doghouse.

Further digging and an email exchange with the factory only piqued my interest. The excellently conceived doghouse was only the first of many equally worthwhile ideas incorporated into the boat.

It was if the builders, Boréal Yachts, had taken every sensible design feature that there had ever been for aluminum expedition boats and then added some brilliant innovations of their own. And all that at a vast discount in terms of price to what might have been expected for a custom built one-off high latitude boat. I was, by now, hooked. Who were these people and what was this boat? So I went to find out.

What I found was a massively constructed boat, with a multitude of sensible features for long-distance cruising far from help and support:

  • A solid, stay-up rig with parallel spreaders. A large single wheel and well protected single rudder.
  • A simple, airy and comfortable interior.
  • Thick insulation and a wonderful Refleks heater system to keep you cosy.

Oh, and that doghouse, a major benefit, as anyone used to ‘summer’ in the higher latitudes will attest.

Now we are eight years on…

The fundamentals remain the same: Boréal believe in evolution, not revolution, and having got the basic boat so right, have then concentrated on simply making it better. I, having worked with many owners having a new Boréal built since then, have been close to the action and have seen those changes first hand.

Simple things, for the most part, but all designed to make the boat better and broaden its appeal. Having sailed all of the different Boréal boats in all conditions, I can confirm that this strategy works.

Login to continue reading (scroll down)

Boréal—The ultimate evolution of French aluminium centreboard voyaging boats Child Topics:

More Articles From Boréal—The ultimate evolution of French aluminium centreboard voyaging boats:

  1. Boréal Yachts—Eight Years On
  2. Boréal Yachts—Looking To The Future
  3. Rudder Options
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Stein Varjord

Hi Colin.
Even though I’m a long time fanatic multihull sailor, I really like the Boreals. I understand why their owners seem so in love. I’m looking forward to part two and the future ideas of these clever and nice people.

Tiit Lepp

Hi! Thank You for all articles and especially my dream yacht Boreal 🙂 I had wonderful chance to sail 47 on last October in Brittany coast for almost week. Absolutely best experience. Just few ideas to change and maybe I expected more speed, but overall definetively best concept and stunning and beauty.

Tiit Lepp

Hi Colin, yes, you’re right, for speed there are lot of more options on the market 🙂 And if to point up, I liked mostly very practical layout, plenty of storage everywhere, comfortable cabins, saloon and galley, stunning carpenter work, secure cockpit, doghouse and all concerning to design. Very practical, indeed. And seaworthiness, as well. And landing on the keel…. this was one of highlights for all this weekend. Best! And waiting for part II.

Baxter Gillespie

Hi Colin,
Thanks for all the articles on Boreal. We are currently in the research phase for a new boat and the Boreal 47 has topped our wish list for some time. Articles such as this help solidify our desire/decision!

Dick Stevenson

Hi Colin,
I read your excellent article with mixed feelings.
Like many (I suspect), there is a big part of me (not to be too disloyal to my wonderful cruising sail boat) wishing to start out again with a Boreal. No regrets, but clearly improvements have been made over the decades.
Which brings me to another point: although clearly there have been improvements, I do not believe the average sailing/cruising boat is better, maybe the contrary, than a few decades ago. And, concomitantly, I believe the average sailor nowadays is less clear about what makes a good sailing/cruising boat. (Those who believe that “fake news” was a product of recent political rants in the US just have not been listening/reading the hype at the boat shows and in the maritime media about new boats/products over the last few decades.)
I would expect your article (and the boats from Boreal visiting the many ports of the world) would go a ways toward educating emerging sailors as to the design/manufacturing elements that contribute to an excellent passage-maker. Not everyone needs to have a Boreal, but it is important to have an example to aspire toward and measure against.
My best, Dick Stevenson, s/v Alchemy

Charles Starke MD

Dear Dick
I agree: great article. And Boreal boats and Morgan’s Cloud lead the way by example in good boats and seamanship.
There may not be much progress in boats overall. Look at the 80 keels that have fallen off with loss of life. This is not the epitome of good boat construction. Some previous designers did it right and their boats remain as good examples we should all learn from: Rod & Olin Stevens, McCurdy & Rhodes.

Best wishes,
Charles L Starke MD
s/v Dawnpiper

Dick Stevenson

Hi Charles,
Thanks for the reminder about Rod Stevens’ book. I read the intro and I believe I read it decades ago, but look forward to doing so again, especially as it was download-able. What a treat.
My best, Dick

Mike Hiscock

Great boats and I look forward to your articles. Now I just have to hope that a used one shows up on the market about 2-3 years from now…

If your articles are not written yet, could you also comment on how some of their design/construction decisions are different from ones we see taken on the Ovnis that you know so well?

Mike H

David B. Zaharik

Thanks Colin,
If I may add … As you know, I travelled to Tréguier in January of 2018 to visit Boréal. This was the culmination of almost 5 years of looking for a suitable boat to sail post retirement. Some of the boats I looked at were from Cherubini, Morris, Hinckley, Hallberg-Rassy, Wauquiez, Ovni, Garci and finally Boréal. I wanted a raised saloon and a protected cockpit. This quickly reduced the number of boats and once I had visited Cherbourg and the Garcia plant, I was sold on aluminum.
Jean-François took the entire day to tour the factory with me, explaining in detail the differences of the Boréal from the other manufacturers I had shown interest in. The design, the strength and the thought put into the Boréal is truly inspiring. And like you said, the doghouse is incredible and was the deal breaker for me, as was the incredible good fortune of being able to pick up a 47 already under construction so my delivery time was reduced dramatically.
A few days later, on the heels of a late January winter storm, Jean-François and I took his Boreal 47 out of the harbour into the English Channel in 20 – 25 knots of breeze and 3 – 5 meter swells. The boat just trucked along very comfortably even with the fluctuating winds and uneven seas. We sailed every point of sail comfortably and I was impressed that, without trying hard, the boat pointed well… easily 35 degrees and I figure I could have tightened up close to 30 or so if need be.
Having done my homework with you (Colin) discussing options, I was in a very opportune place to continue discussing my desires, needs and wants with Jean-François. What is truly a benefit when articulating these particulars with him is neither Jean-François are “salesmen” but rather “sails-men!” In other words, the design comes from their experience off-shore and they understand the difference between wants and needs and are able to clearly articulate what works and what may not.
I am expecting delivery in March of 2019 but to date they are at least 3 weeks ahead of schedule. That, even with the custom modifications I have requested. I plan on visiting the yard several times in the next 9 months to learn more.
So far I have been delighted with the team work that is putting together what will be a truly magnificent, safe, comfortable floating home for me and my family and guests. I trust that the relationship with yourself and the two Jean-François’ will continue to grow… and as they send me pictures of the progress, the anticipation is a fabulous experience that will only be eclipsed by taking delivery and sailing for years to come.

Eric Klem

Hi Colin,

Thanks for the update on this. There are many things on these boats that really appeal to me like the pilothouse, toughness, rig, shallow draft, etc. I will admit to still being a bit unsure of the shallow draft and resultant stability but that probably comes from having spent the majority of my life sailing boats drawing >8′ and sometimes much greater. We have no plans for major offshore sailing in the near future but longer term if we start doing it again, we would take a real hard look at these.


Dick Stevenson

Hi Eric and Colin,
Not having 8 feet of keel under you, also means that your boat may slip around in big breaking seas rather than “tripping” over a keel designed to prevent slipping around. I suspect the jury is still out as to the actual effectiveness of a (relatively) keel-less bottom making capsize less likely, but the argument’s face validity seems apparent. I would also suppose that running off using a drogue would be more effective as there is less of a forward “pivot point”. This, of course, is at the expense of a good deal of complication, but I suspect Boreal’s solutions for centerboard handling is quite robust.
My best, Dick Stevenson, s/v Alchemy

Dick Stevenson

Hi Colin, That certainly sounds like a ringing endorsement for a centerboard boat in breaking seas. The older I get the more I opt for “undramatic”. Dick

Drew Frye

Obviously, I’m a multihull sailor. They seem to fit my waters and the sort of sailing I do best. I like tools that fit the purpose.

I don’t think the current crop of general purpose cruising boats are bad. They address what the market asks for, though the buyer needs to educate himself about what they are. For example, I know the limitations of multihulls very well and I respect them at all times. I’m not sure all buyers understand design limitations (multi or mono).

I was asked by a friend who was going north to look at some boats. I participated in the survey and seatrials of a Boreal 47. While it did not fit my needs, I was deeply impressed by the singleminded pursuit of function. From crash tanks, to deck layout, to anchoring gear, nothing felt like an afterthought. Without question, it would be right at the top of my personal lists for adventure sailing.

Dick Stevenson

Hi Drew,
Nice comment well stated.
I believe you are correct that the boats are a reflection of the wishes of the buying public and that “the buyer needs to educate himself about what they are”: ie their strengths and limitations in design and manufacture.
I, personally, do not believe that the education you refer to is so easily attained: possible, for sure, just pretty elusive for the average sailor. My focus goes to the marine “experts”: media, brokers, surveyors, manufacturers all of whom shy away from the kind of reporting and subsequent dialogue that takes place here on the AAC site.
Now, I do not get to see most of the sailing media very often, but when I do and I see an article on anchors and anchoring, on tethers and jack lines, on dealing with boatyards etc., never have I seen a sentence such as “For an in depth analysis and discussion of this subject by people who have been there/done that, please go to AAC (URL) site where you will have to pay a small membership fee.” Out of tact, it need not be said, but is truly the case, that the membership fee may be about 1/3 the price of the magazine subscription and provides far more content year to year.
I understand why that will not occur, but it should. Getting the focus on the best interests of the sailor rather than what is perceived as the best interests of the advertisers/media can, I think, be a win/win for all.
My best, Dick Stevenson, s/v Alchemy

Marc Dacey

A very good point. I’m legendarily frugal (or cheap, depending on one’s cultural baseline) and this is the only website for which I pay, thanks to the quality of discourse. I stopped buying magazines some years ago as they were clearly advertising-driven and weekend-sailor-focused. Which was fine: editors have to eat, too.

My sense from speaking with marine industry people is that AAC is known and read, but it’s not often cited because the level of discussion and the focus on getting out of sight of land is considered rarefied. Which may be the case, I suppose. Still, a bargain for me in the scheme of things. I’ve learned and continue to learn a great deal about offshore operations, tips and techniques that will serve us well.

Charles Starke MD

Dear Dick
Wow! Well stated. It takes a long time to learn that the only sailing magazine/internet site worth subscribing to is AAC/ Morgan’s Cloud. Before that, we get seduced by the sailing advertisements . Only after many years do we learn that the information here is what we need in our daily life and time at sea.
Best wishes,
Charles L Starke MD
s/v Dawnpiper

Drew Frye

I think he is tired of the paid “infomercials” that fill advertising-driven magazines. Another example of the market at work (blue lagoons and happy faces sell boats, the accurate reality of boating, maybe not so well). Just guessing.

That said, there are a few magazines that accept advertising that resist. These are mostly DIY magazines. They deserve credit.

John Harries

Hi Dick, Marc, Charles, and Drew,

Thanks for the kind words. I think the key here is indeed not being beholding to advertisers. (Yes we have half a dozen corporate members, but none pay enough to be vital to our survival or influence our content.)

The good news is that it seems that the scandal at FaceBoook is finally making some people realize that getting vital information about products from an organization that owes its very survival to keeping the people that make that product happy might not be a good idea.

John Harries

Hi Colin,

I agree with you on CO alarms and would never burn any type of heater without one. I can highly recommend the combined CO/smoke alarms from Nest. We have two on Morgan’s Cloud and four at Base Camp.

I also agree with your previous point about service. Any heater can become unsafe if not maintained properly. For example Espar requires that the heat exchanger be replaced at a regular interval—ten years if memory serves—to reduce CO risk. And to really work well, an Espar needs complete disassembly and cleaning every year or so, depending on usage.

Scott A

It’s great to hear about the ongoing evolution of the boats from Boréal, and the increasing recognition (well deserved, IMO) that they’re getting on this side of the Atlantic.

The Boréal articles here at AAC are doubly valuable, as there aren’t very many English language articles on this exciting type of boat (the “dériveur intégral” as I’ve learned from Google translate). Those of us with only poor French skills are fortunate to gain knowledge about the type through these detailed articles on one of its best examples.

I’m very much looking forward to Part II, and additionally, any links to verifiable sources for the unfortunate events in Norway regarding malfuntioning onboard oil heaters.


Why not just take the drip heater comments as a reminder that they need to be used with some common sense just like most everything else on an oceangoing sailboat?

The heating in our condominium is in-floor hydronic with the heat provided by the city, coming remotely as excess heat from power plants. That’s pretty safe and reliable or at least, if it breaks, it won’t be me having to fix it.

But you can’t have that on a boat.

Having accumulate about 8,000 runtime-hours with two consecutive Webasto hydronic heaters on the boat and having spent 2 northern Winters aboard with my wife and young daughter, I can assure you the Webastos are not perfect, either.

I crawled around in a new Garcia 50+ft at the Düsseldorf boat show a while ago and that boat was equipped with just a single Webasto and nothing else. I would not go to the Artic with this. It was the spray-nozzle-type of model that is supposedly suited for continuous operation but I know one user of these that is now heating his boat with a coal burning stove.
Each day when I came home from work in those Winters, going down the dock, I prayed to pick up the hum of our Webasto heater which would mean it was still working and my wife and kid not being bitterly cold. More than enough times it wasn’t which meant another evening in the cockpit locker with freezing fingers and more calls to the service man.
I would spend another winter on the boat but not if this was all I had for heat.

If you go this route, my recommendation is:
– Install two 5kW models in series rather than one 9.6kW. Then run only one most of the time and have the other as hot spare. The memory on my old 9.6kW heater that ran for 5.800 hours before it died, says that it spent 80% if its runtime at a setting of 3,5kW. That’s part of why it was so unreliable. In spite of having 2 large radiators and 4 blowers going fairly strong, plus warm water boiler, and in strong freezing temperatures, I could not take off nearly as much heat as the Webasto would produce at 80% load or so where it would run much better (a 45ft boat).
– Spend the extra EUR 600 or so so buy the computer software and the USB adapter so that you are able to “unlock” it. If it runs into the same fault 3 times in a short time (like getting no oil due to air in the hose), the computer will lock and require unlocking via the service software before starting again.

About the Kabola:
These would probably be pretty reliable, as they are essentially a miniaturized house furnace but they require 110/220V AC and take 90 Watts of power while burning. For a 45ft boat, they are a little too large but, more importantly, they weigh in incredible 50+ Kgs. If I were to put that into my cockpit locker, I would have to do some major weight shift around the boat to compensate.

So I’m dreaming of a Refleks or, more likely, a Dickinson, because they make a bulkhead-mounted model that can be fitted with a water coil (The only bulkhead-mounted model from Refleks doesn’t have water coils).
I would insert that into my hydronic water circuit and keep the Webasto.
The Webasto could be used at sea or in summer to just quickly make hot water to shower and wash the dishes.
There are several nice accessories from Refleks like a length of exhaust pipe with a special heat-take off and an electric blower. The hot air from this can be directed to the forward cabin, for example. My favorite chandlery in Hamburg sells an adapter to use Refleks accessories with a Dickinson heater.

John Harries

Hi Henning,

Having owned both Webasto and Eberspacher furnaces, and lived for a month with a Refleks in Greenland, I agree with all your recommendations.

John Harries

Hi All,

If you wish to discuss heater options it would be better to do so on this article:

That way you wisdom will be where it will help others for years to come