Caroline Strainig checks out a yacht with a lot of pluses for its size – the Beneteau Oceanis 31.
“A small yacht with big-boat features.”
That’s how one of the Beneteau staff summed up the Oceanis 31 when he showed it to me, and he’s right.
The baby of the Oceanis cruising range, this boat has been designed by renowned naval architect Finot-Conq and interior designer Nauta Design and has most of the same features as the Oceanis 37, but obviously packed into a shorter boat with a correspondingly lower price tag.
It’s a lightish-displacement yacht and a little small for comfortable long-term coastal cruising, but for weekends and the odd week aboard, it has all the basics you need attractively packaged, including a massive double-berth aft and comfortable V-berth forward.
This is a boat that’s easy on the eye, as are most of the production boats of today, where the designers aim for that all-important love-at-first-sight reaction.
The 31 has a plumbish bow and a sporty-looking deck-stepped aluminium mast, single swept-back spreaders and 9/10th fractional rig.
The main has lazyjacks and a rigid boomvang and is reasonably conservative in size, with minimal roach.
The 105-percent genoa is on a Profurl furler.
Both sails are Dacron and by Elvstrom.
The rigging runs back to jammers on the port side of the cabin top and a Harken ST two-speed 32.2 winch.
Sheets come back to two similar-sized winches on the cockpit coaming.
The base price includes just a fixed attachment point for the mainsail, but the test boat had a traveller.
The cockpit is a good size and boasts a central pedestal with Plastimo compass and engine control. There is room for some instruments on the pedestal and the owner of this boat had opted for a Raymarine C80 chartplotter and a Raymarine ST60 wind.
A drop-leaf table is another option.
The most innovative feature is the companionway door, which lifts up and slides back into the cabin top for stowage. This is a huge improvement on those slot-in washboards in terms of day-to-day practicality, but does have the downside that you cannot just partially shut it in a seaway.
The seat backs give reasonable support forward, but are only low at the aft end.
Stowage comprises a large starboard lazarette and an L-shaped locker at the aft end near the helm, which has room for a couple of mid-sized gas bottles and other gear – this is where you’d put your liferaft if you had one.
The transom has a small sugar scoop and a stainless-steel swimming ladder, with a hot and cold shower attachment under an aft section of cockpit seat, which lifts up on a strut to give access to the stern.
The anchor locker is reasonably deep and you get a small Danforth as standard, but most would upgrade this and add the optional 1000W Quick anchor winch.
Side decks are wide and headsail tracks inboard next to the cabin top, so it is easy to make your way forward.
You could stow a small dinghy on the foredeck or an inflatable in the cockpit locker.
Shade-wise, the test boat had an optional factory-made dodger. If you opt for this, you will need to also ask for shorter winch handles because standard-size ones will not turn fully with the dodger in-situ.
Starting at the bow, you have a V-berth cabin with one hatch and double berth (2.03m x 0.34m and 1.66m). Features include a hanging locker, cubby-hole lockers and stowage under the bed. There is a small dressing area just inside the entrance to this cabin, and you can slot in an extension to extend the bed into this section.
Midships is the saloon, which boasts an L-shaped settee to port and a straight settee to starboard and a drop-leaf table. There is stowage under and behind the settees and above in lockers.
Aft to port is an L-shaped galley with twin-burner stove with oven, double stainless-steel sink, top-opening fridge with optional small freezer compartment and four overhead lockers and one under the sink.
Facing this to starboard is a small nav station with instrument panel.
Aft to starboard is a combined head/shower.
Aft of the galley to port under the cockpit is a cabin with a huge double berth .
The 21hp Yanmar diesel is under the companionway steps. Engine access is excellent.
The saloon has one overhead hatch – with the popular Oceanair one-touch screen/blind system – and two opening portholes.
Headroom is 1.85m in the saloon and cabin entries, and grabrails, fiddles and other “hang-on” points abound.
The overall feel is modern without being excessively so.
Sydney Harbour turned on an erratic westerly gusting up to 20-plus knots on
the day of our outing. Without non-stop concentration on steering and sail trim, this made it difficult to keep her comfortably in the groove going to windward, but she felt light and direct on the helm and fairly responsive.
The sail plan worked well.
The 31 is priced from $218,000 and is distributed by Vicsail, email email@example.com, website www.vicsail.com