Want a value-for-money cruiser from a renowned manufacturer? The Beneteau Oceanis 37 could be just the ticket, reports Kevin Green.
When you are the world’s biggest yacht builder there’s an even greater obligation to deliver, especially when the stated aim is to produce the "ultimate family cruiser". A good start is to receive some acknowledgement from the industry — which is just what the Oceanis 37 has done, winning yacht of the year in a European competition.
A popular choice for the charter industry, the Oceanis range has undergone a revamp and the rebranding includes the simplification of the model naming as well as streamlining of the Nauta-collaborated design.
Volume was evidently high on that list, at least that was my initial thought. There certainly was plenty of hull showing above the water and the full shape continued right back to the transom, but the raked lines of bow and stern, enhanced with its low-slung cabin, combined to appeal to the eye aesthetically, and this is undoubtedly a pretty boat, despite there being a lot of it.
With stern-to mooring the norm in Europe, the gas-strutted transom bulkhead is easily lifted for cockpit access and the area itself looked functional with the single binnacle/wheel adjoining a good-sized table which left enough room for six people to lounge. Emergency steering is also easily accessed near the binnacle. Equipment fitted varies according to which package is chosen, with the review boat being the "exclusive version"’ in three-cabin layout. This model included a Raymarine electronics package with C80 cockpit plotter, hi-fi, bathing ladder, leather finishes and lots more. Another extra I’d try to budget for, remembering its cruising aspirations, would be teak decking. The review boat’s teak slatted cockpit finish is comfortable and locker volume good with space for a liferaft included.
The optional ST 6002 autopilot would also go on my list, but apart from that the base price of $285,000 looked to give enough cruising comforts. These included the dodger that shielded the Spinlock jammers for all lines running aft. The twin cockpit Harken 44.2 STC winches combined with the ones on either side of the cabin (32.2s) gave good control of all halyards and the cabin-top mainsheet traveller.
Walking forward with the aid of the wooden hand grips, the clean layout of all fittings is apparent and a signature of Beneteau’s collaboration with Groupe Finot, which has produced features such as the patented slide-top main hatch and indented stern lip, which shows a lovely design cohesion throughout the 37-footer.
Up forward, the anchor well with its manual and electric 1000W Quick windlass is neat, with remote control easily to hand. Jutting out from the open pulpit is a single arm for the anchor and beside it the forestay/roller reefing, leading up to a 9/10 Sparcraft rig with twin wire backstays. These come with an optional adjuster if required and, for the boom, there is a solid vang to hold it up. The shrouds are outboard on the gunwale, which is good for allowing unimpeded headsail trimming. A no-nonsense set-up. With slab reefing and a furling 10-percent jib giving a manageable 65 sqm sail area. Lazyjacks and a zipped boom bag complete the arrangement, which worked well on the water. In addition, a spare halyard has been run for the optional gennaker/snuffer arrangement, which would really power up the 37, given its modest weight.
The GRP hull (review boat was number 14) is built with extra lay-up around key areas (keel, rudder, chainplates, hull-deck joint) and the inner moulding is bonded to the hull. The deck is a double layered sandwich-infusion type, which keeps weight down, but is strong while insulating against heat and external noise. Keel options (in cast-iron) are in shallow draught and, preferable for Australian waters, a deep draught version (1.9m).
Below decks the Oceanis 37 really shines with a finish and layout that reflects a lot of research and development that has translated well into the finished product. Beautifully finished dark wood surfaces, effective yet lightweight doors on all spaces and luxury touches that include leather-covered handles. The compression post is a good example with its vertical leather-covered handrail.
Being a bit of a traditionalist, I’m not sure about the midships location of the navigation area that sits in front of the head/shower on the starboard. The saloon seating has to be used by the navigator, who conveniently faces aft so should be able to keep an eye on the cockpit. The navigator’s instrument control panel has positive switching gear but bulkhead space is limited for instruments, especially if the optional microwave is housed there. Power comes from an 80-amp alternator attached to the 29hp shaft-driven Yanmar with stored power from one 110-amp house battery and one 70-amp starter battery. Engine access is easy via gas struts and a handle on the steps opening up the compartment with access also from the cabins. Only slight annoyance here was the rather loud extractor fan that caught my attention from the steering position as we motored.
The rest of the saloon is comfortable with soft cushioning. Standouts in the area are the deep twin sinks, the multitude of cupboards and spacious front-opening fridge, though for efficiency I’d prefer a top-opening arrangement. The two-burner cooker/stove looks fine and gas supply is safely stowed in the transom. Drinking water capacity is 360 litres with 140 litres of fuel — pretty much the norm for this category. Accommodation is good with the wide stern section allowing for two roomy cabins with an interesting transom hatch and shelf giving not only enough light but also quick access to the quadrant area — always handy during steering emergencies. Up front, the big hull volume allows for a comfortable cabin with dressing table and wardrobe storage. The 2.2m bed combined with 1.94m standing room should cater for most people. Having chartered an Oceanis 36 several years ago, the comparison demonstrated the amazing space efficiencies that the latest design employs with the new 37 easily and comfortably housing a four-person family with some additional guests.
On the water, there were no surprises, in that all the running gear ran easily and speed was comparable with even the odd cruiser/racer design — on the flat waters of Sydney Harbour in 11.3 knots of wind we managed a very respectable 7.3 knots. The well-balanced helm gave a docile feel; no bad thing in a cruising boat, with neither a lee nor weather helm, even in 20-knot gusts that had us nearly on our beam ends. This predictable sea-keeping inspires confidence but didn’t preclude sharp gybing and a windward performance that the modest Elvstrom sail wardrobe did well. Trimming was a two-person affair with the helmsman able to work the nearby headsail winch but the cabin-top mainsheet required crew input.
Cranking up the 30hp Yanmar with its fixed, three-bladed propeller took us to speeds of 7.6 knots with the quietly running engine showing 3200rpm; again no surprises and more importantly no shuddering or swaying off our track. Which pretty well sums up this latest Ocean 37 — very much on track to be an ideal cruising boat, especially in its exclusive version, as reviewed.