Mission of the Beneteau Oceanis 38
Beneteau’s intentions for the Oceanis 38 are hard to peg. Is she a large daysailer -- the way most sailors use their boats most of the time? Or is she a weekender -- perfect for a couple or two for a short trip? Or, is the boat intended for longer excursions?The short answer is, “Yes.” Beneteau offers the Oceanis 38 in three versions: The "Daysailer" is well equipped above deck but sparsely so below, with few options. The "Cruiser" includes most enhancements as standard, while the "Weekender" falls between the two, open to customization to meet buyers' preferences.
To understand how Beneteau offers the three versions, think of them as three trim levels on an automobile. Not that they range from economy to luxury the way a car might, but Beneteau does offer varying accessories intended for the three distinctly different missions. There are also several features that can be installed or removed in minutes to further tailor the boat to the upcoming trip. For the automobile analogy, think of a convertible with an optional hardtop for cold winters.
The Difference Below Decks.
Most of those changes -- either between versions of the boat or day-to-day alterations -- happen below decks. The interior layout and design is by Nauta Design. Major choices here include a full galley versus just a sink and countertop; long settees both port and starboard versus a U-shaped dinette; and whether the boat includes one, two or three private sleeping cabins.
The most noteworthy ephemeral change is whether the forward cabin remains open to the salon -- this 38-footer (11.58 m) with a completely open cabin and many sources of daylight feels incredibly spacious -- or if the forward cabin is closed off with a hard bulkhead and door for privacy.Back to the automobile trim analogy, most of these choices are included with the Cruiser, available on the Weekender, and not possible on the Daysailer.
the opposite is true. The cockpit and deck arrangement is also by Nauta Design. By adding a few options, the Daysailer can be configured identically to the Cruiser for all but a very few options.In all three versions, the Oceanis 38’s large cockpit proves equally useful for daysailing or entertaining on the hook overnight. An interesting foldout transom makes for easy boarding from the dock, a convenient step into a dinghy for a night ashore, or an ideal snorkeling platform perched above far-away coral reefs.
The Oceanis 38 accommodates shorthanded sailing with jib winches aft, adjacent the dual helms, while the boat is equally well suited to a crowded cockpit with the mainsheet well out of the way atop an arch above the companionway. An optional self-tacking headsail makes either short-handed sailing or entertaining large parties aboard even easier.
, designed by Finot-Conq Architectes, carries her wide 13’1” beam all the way aft, which lets the boat sail with only minimal heel even in strong wind. Twin rudders ensure full control when she does heel, and two keel choices tailor her draft to local waters.
Coastal cruising, weekend overnights and daysailing are all nighttime variations of the same daytime activity -- enjoying the power of the wind and the lure of the sea. Understanding this, Beneteau configured the Oceanis 38 well for sailing in all versions.
Helm and Cockpit Seating.
Long seats down either side of the cockpit are separated by a permanently affixed folding table with storage within and handrails for safe passage in rough water. A removable folding table is another option here that leaves the cockpit sole completely unimpeded when not needed.
The helmsperson sits on teak seats outboard of the helm or on twin bench seats that fold out of the way when using the full width of the stern swim and boarding platform.Each helm also includes an additional handrail and compass as well as space for electronics. The downside to having two helms is that some might opt for duplicate port and starboard electronics. The upside is that today’s networking of navigation and radar displays syncs port and starboard units or allows independent usage. Duplicated displays also provide redundancy if one fails.
Visibility is excellent
, and having two helms located far outboard becomes particularly convenient when maneuvering alongside a dock. Engine controls are located inboard on the port helm pedestal. Reaching the shift lever from behind the starboard wheel requires a half a step inboard, but not more than the required step outboard from a centerline helm to look over the side at a low floating dock.Depending on interior cabin configuration, the cockpit also includes a huge storage locker accessed through the starboard cockpit seat, or a shallower locker here when the third sleeping cabin is below.
The 103% genoa includes roller furling. Genoa winches are just a bit of a stretch forward from the helm, though definitely reachable. If the winches were mounted farther aft, however, they wouldn’t be as comfortable when trimming the jib from the cockpit seat ahead of the helm -- an excellent compromise in our mind.
The mainsail is furled within the mast or lowered and flaked between lazy jacks from the port-side cabin top. The mainsheet ends here as well, a few steps forward from the helm. An optional, removable inner forestay carries a staysail sheeted to a self-tacking track forward of the mast, so tacking to windward in tight quarters requires just a turn of the helm. An asymmetrical spinnaker rounds out the sail choices.
Mainsail Sheet Arch and Dodger.
The mainsail sheet arch frees the cockpit or cabin top from being divided by a mainsheet traveler. This allows unhindered movement within the cockpit and from cockpit to deck. Equally important, by having the boom over 7' (2.13 m) above the cockpit deck the boat's owner mitigates worries of crew injury in the event of an unexpected jibe. This means that less experienced guests or family can be put on the helm in most conditions without concern about potentially catastrophic results. Beneteau thoughtfully provides two handrails on each side of the arch and another farther forward on the cabin top.Cruisers will appreciate the arch as a stout place to secure the spray dodger, and the dodger’s forward end is not hindered by a traveler across the front of the companionway.
Stern Boarding Platform/Teak Beach.
The wide transom opening is made secure by three stainless steel lifelines. The folding platform also extends a few inches above the cockpit sole, keeping loose items aboard.
The entire assembly lowers using the swim ladder as a handle, but this was much easier than it might seem. Anyone able to trim a sail in moderate wind can certainly handle this task.Once lowered, this platform is the perfect height for boarding from most floating docks or dinghies, and it’s ideal for swimming and sunbathing.Note that solid wood on cockpit floor and swim platform pictured above are optional.
On our day aboard the Oceanis 38, the waters off St. Petersburg, Florida proved challenging. As is common here, winds were quite light and variable. In typically five knots of wind (when we were lucky), the boat did find the wind and sailed well, with good response from the helm, but we couldn’t perform any meaningful performance evaluations.
Winches mounted just forward of the split helms, a rig designed for a large main and smallish, self-furling jib, as well as lazy jacks or an in-mast furling mainsail, combine to make this Oceanis 38 easy to sail either with minimal crew, alone, or without affecting a cockpit full of guests.
Beneath the Waves.
While we couldn’t verify it -- because our test occurred on a very light air day -- stability from the wide beam should keep the Oceanis 38 quite level even in a breeze. Twin rudders provide sure steering when the boat does heel. Beneteau offers a choice of 6’9” draft with the deep keel option or 5'3'' draft with the shallow keel.
Our test boat wasn’t equipped with a bow thruster, nor the optional joystick controlled propulsion pod, but we didn’t miss either. With twin rudders, putting the helm hard one way or the other and giving just a touch of reverse power swung the stern smartly in the desired directly, essentially eliminating the single-engine propeller side walk that most boats experience when placed in reverse.
While the Daysailer and Cruiser can be similarly equipped on deck, much equipment below is standard on the Cruiser but eliminated on the Daysailer -- right down to interior lights. The weekender bridges the gap, offering most Cruiser amenities as options.
The Daysailer or Weekender galley includes a large countertop with a sink, a trash can in the cabinet beneath the sink, and open storage cubbies behind the countertop against the hull. The refrigerator beneath the countertop abaft the sink is an option.A small settee fills the area forward of the galley but aft of the forward sleeping cabin, where the oven and forward cabinet are shown in the photo above taken aboard the Cruising version.
The Cruising galley includes the identical sink and refrigerator. In place of the settee, though, the expanded galley includes a gimbaled two-burner propane stove with oven as well as another large storage cabinet with a countertop above, and more storage outboard.In either configuration, a rectangular hull-side deadlight outboard of the stove (or outboard of the settee with the short galley), and a huge window above in the trunk gives the entire galley daylight and a view. A small opening portlight within the large window, as well as an overhead hatch, provide ventilation.
Expand the Galley Later.
The expanded galley stove and cabinetry can be added in place of the settee even years after the boat is built. Beneteau sells the module as a factory-built kit.
A partial arch-shaped bulkhead is structural, but it leaves the forward cabin and salon open, creating a single, voluminous cabin. Note that the Blond Oak wood interior featured in the picture below is optional. Alpi Mahogany is the standard wood color on the entire Oceanis range.This open layout also capitalizes on the tremendous daylight brought in through the four forward hull-side deadlights, two on each side of the bow, as well as the huge windows in the cabin sides and the pair of opening hatches overhead. The companionway hatch brings in more light from above.
With the privacy bulkhead removed, the forward sleeping cabin is an open extension of the salon, creating a luxury efficiency that can be moored anywhere. It’s hard to imagine a more casually romantic couple's cruising layout. The open arrangement works quite well when daysailing, too.
Separated from the Salon.
When guests aboard dictate installation of the privacy bulkhead, the forward cabin is still spacious and includes small settees on either side of the boat. Large rectangular deadlights in the hull side near the bow and an opening hatch overhead bring in daylight, the view and air.
In Lieu of Hanging Lockers.
Choice of hanging one's own luggage or selecting the built-in hanging lockers option.
Aft Cabin Bulkhead Placement.
In what we suspect will be the most popular layout of the boat, the area beneath the cockpit is divided roughly two thirds into a very large sleeping cabin to port, and one third storage locker accessed through a typical cockpit locker hatch. The other option back here, which cannot be altered once the boat is built, divides the same space into two equal cabins. Either or both can be finished by Beneteau with a typical fore-and-aft oriented quarter berth, and the cockpit locker seat becomes much shallower in order to raise the overhead below.
Head and Shower Locations.
The other immutable change that happens concurrent with the division of the stern is the shower location. In the two-cabin layout the shower is just aft of the head to starboard. With three cabins, the shower stall moves across to port, replacing the hanging locker.Or, the hanging locker is kept in place, the shower is eliminated, leaving the head with a pull-around curtain and retractable shower curtain, making it a wet head.
Or Leave it Unused.
Beneteau also offers an option to leave one or both stern cabins unfinished in both the Daysailer and Weekender configurations. Bed and seat platforms are built, but neither doors, shelves, lights, portlights, upholstery or cushions are installed. These areas become huge storage compartments, or platforms for sleeping bags in camping mode.
Aft Cabin Choices.
Our test boat had the two-cabin layout with an athwartship bed that is somewhat larger than queen size. We had ample standing headroom just inside the doorway with more than adequate elbow room here for changing clothes as well as sitting headroom at the edge of the bed.
The real difference between the two-cabin and three-cabin stern is as simply as this: With the two smaller aft cabins, guests crawl into bed across the head of the bed, and then turn 180 degrees to sleep, head toward the bow -- a typical quarter berth that’s been around for many decades. That 180 turn takes a bit of getting used to, but the fore-and-aft quarter berth is the most comfortable place to sleep on most boats while underway in a seaway where typically the occupant is laying against the centerline bulkhead or the hull side.If the single, larger aft cabin is chosen, guests still crawl into bed, but from the side, which is much more natural -- like a queen bed pushed against a bedroom wall.In either aft cabin configuration, portlights open both to the deck and into the cockpit, providing cross-ventilation.
Head and Shower
One Head Fits All.
The Oceanis 38 offers just one head in one location. In the Daysailer, it is a wet head, with pull-around curtains and a cold-water pull-out sink faucet. The Weekender might just add optional hot water or opt for a separate shower stall.
Aft Shower Stall.
Our test boat, with the two-cabin cruiser layout, featured a shower just abaft the head that’s entered through its own door from the salon. The shower featured a seat with storage beneath, cubbies for soap, shampoo and the like, and an opening portlight. With three cabins, the optional separate shower can move across the boat, eliminating the hanging locker.
Engine maintenance has been planned for, with access to belts and the seawater pump on the front of the engine as well as the fuel filter beneath the companionway.A hatch in the shower accesses the side of the engine where we find the oil dipstick, cooling reservoir, secondary fuel filter and seawater strainer. Hatches in the port aft cabin also access the engine and sail drive.
While it isn’t uncommon for builders to offer an array of options to further tailor a boat to an owner’s needs, Beneteau has really taken the concept well beyond what’s common. Rather than a menu of options to select from, the Oceanis 38 can be built virtually a la carte -- through every "course." This means the Oceanis 38 can truly be fitted to the owner’s intended use, rather than vice versa.
While the ordering process might seem daunting -- which options can accompany which others, and what can or can’t be added later -- Beneteau teaches dealers how to assist purchasers through the choices. The end result is the unique creation of each buyer. An added advantage is the ability for an owner to buy a basic model and then add to the boat later, perhaps when next year's bonus comes through. In this way the cost of the deluxe version of the Oceanis 38 can be spread across many years.
Standard and Optional Features
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Boats More Than 30 Feet
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