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How to avoid expensive mistakes when you buy a new or second-hand yacht. 

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GMDSS A User's Handbook

By Denise Bréhaut

GMDSS A user's handbook








The Global Maritime Distress and Safety System (GMDSS) provides a fast and efficient way of calling for assistance at sea, whatever the size of craft or its geographical position. Since it was first published, this book has helped explain the system for anyone using GMDSS and has been excellent pre-course reading for students.



SafaSail HatThe SafaSail Hard Hat looks just like a sailing cap, but will help protect you if you get a bang to the head.  See our review here

Oceanis 411: "1,000 happy owners"

Oceanis 411Beneteau built more than 1,000 Oceanis 411s before replacing the model in the process of giving the  Oceanis range a newer, sleeker look, and proudly proclaims “no yacht has reached such a success.” The company's claim of “over 1,000 happy owners” is possibly an exaggeration because an awful lot of 411s belong to charter companies.

Nevertheless, 1,000 yachts is a big achievement, no matter who buys them, so it was interesting to go for a sail on one, and see what made it such a favourite.

If you are a racing purist, you will not like the 411. From the moment you step on board, and see the huge table which takes up most of the cockpit, with the sailing controls pushed out of the way as a result, it is obvious that is a boat where accommodation has been given priority over performance.

For many people, especially those holidaying in the Med, where so many of these boats are based, that is the right order. So let's look at the accommodation first. The boat is available in a choice of layouts, a three cabin “owner's” version, and a four cabin version ideal for the charter market, where the emphasis is on packing people in.

The owner's version, which I saw, has a palatial owner's cabin forward, with its own heads and shower right up in the forepeak. To reach the heads, you have to walk through the cabin, and this means that the double berth, to starboard, is not as wide as it might be, but there is a bonus of a settee to port to sit on while you get dressed, or to escape to for some quiet reading. There is plenty of stowage, too. And a design feature throughout the boat is the plentiful supply of deck hatches and portlights. This cabin, with two of each is light and well ventilated.

The main saloon too is huge and airy and with light pouring in from numerous hatches and windows. There's a U-shaped settee to starboard with a (perhaps rather small) table, with a bench on the centre line to complete the dining arrangements. On the charter version, which has two double cabins aft, there's a linear galley on the port side of the saloon.

On the owner's version, which has just one double cabin plus heads and shower, to port of the companionway, the galley is to starboard of the companion way, going back into the space the other cabin would occupy. And a very nice galley it is, too, complete with fridge, double sink, cooker, and plentiful lockers and storage places. There's space for a microwave and freezer, too.

Then, on the port side of the saloon, where the galley would be on the charter version, there's another settee, the aft end of which forms the seat for the backwards facing chart table. Again, this sailing essential has the feeling of being rather pushed out of the way, to maximise the living space. But there's room for a decent sized chart plotter/radar display, VHF, switch panel, and more besides. Although on the boat I saw, the Navtex had been forced to migrate to the other end of the saloon!

This was a 2001 example, and the green and white striped upholstery was starting to look a little tired. Those white stripes might have looked clean and cool when they were new, but they weren't the best idea for durability. Otherwise, the plentiful varnish work was in excellent condition, and the boat appeared to be wearing very well.

It was easy to imagine that on holiday this layout would provide a very comfortable and spacious home for the six people it is designed for. Purists might argue about the shortage of proper sea berths for use on passage, but the galley and aft heads are ideally placed for use at sea. The forward heads would be no use at all on passage, and the owner I sailed with actually uses his as a fender store while at sea!

So how does the boat sail? Beneteau has responded to criticism of the relatively modest sailing performance of the earliest Oceanis models, and this boat was available with the “easy handling” Clipper pack , or the Performance pack, which included a deeper keel and taller mast.

This boat was a Clipper, and her shallow keel, combined with her high volume/high windage hull made handling her in a confined marina in a stiff breeze something of a challenge, even for a professional skipper (I was relieved not to have to try!).

She had been fitted with a bow thruster, in an attempt to provide more close quarters control, but because of the plumbing for the forward heads, it proved impossible to fit one either big enough or deep enough, and it doesn't provide as much help as might be hoped for.

Once in open water though there was no problem handling the boat under power with a nice big Volvo diesel engine and a three-bladed prop. She was fitted with a bimini cover and an absolutely enormous spray hood - so big it was easy to work the coach roof winches underneath it, which can sometimes be a problem. On the other hand, it was quite difficult to see over and round the hood!

The coach roof winches, to which most of the control lines (including single line reefing) are led, were rather small: Lewmar 34s. Electric power had understandably been added to the one used to hoist the mainsail.

The genoa sheet winches are nice big 48s, conveniently placed within reach of the helmsman. The main sheet is another matter. The track is positioned in front of the sprayhood, and the sheet comes back to the cockpit as a single line, through a jammer, to the self-tailing winch.

It is difficult to trim the sail at all quickly, as there is a great deal of friction in the system, and this is a particular problem when you need to “dump” power if the boat becomes over-pressed. The traveller helps, but is not really long enough or powerful enough.

This high volume hull, with its relatively shallow keel, is on the tender side. You have to furl the big headsail as the wind increases, to keep her on her feet. And you have to accept that she won't point like a racing boat. But on a beam reach in a good breeze, she was plenty of fun to sail, especially once we put up the cruising chute.

The helmsman has the benefit of a huge navpod at the aft end of that large cockpit table with room for a nice big chart-plotter display and a bunch of instruments, and the steering compass, on top of the binnacle, was at a comfortable-to-read height.

There is plenty of locker space in the big, comfortable cockpit, and an exceptionally generous bathing/boarding platform on the transom - complete with shower, naturally. That massive cockpit table comes complete with cup holders, bottle stowage and fold-out leaves for sumptuous al fresco feasts.

All in all, it's easy to see why this boat proved such a hit. Beneteau found a winning formula in providing a lot of accommodation, with quite a degree of finesse, in a value-for-money package.
She may not be racing thoroughbred, but as a floating holiday home, especially somewhere sunny, the Oceanis 411 has a lot to recommend it.

Vital statistics

LOA: 12.78m
Hull length: 12.34m
Beam: 3.94m
Draft: 1.7m or 2.0m
Displacement: 7,800 kg
Sail area: 88 sq m standard

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