|Finisterra at anchor in Bahia de Concepcion|
As of today, we've owned Finisterra for a little over two years. During that time we've lived aboard for 10 months and sailed her about 6,000 miles including a six month cruise to Mexico and back. We are preparing to depart again on another voyage and I thought now would be a good time to review my list of things that I would like to repair, replace, add or upgrade. As part of the process I considered what worked, what didn't, what we love and what we don't love about the boat. I categorized it all into the following groups:
Finisterra's performance under power is excellent. She is equipped with a Yanmar 4JH4E naturally aspirated diesel engine connected to a Slipstream 3 bladed folding prop. In flat water we have 7 knots of boatspeed at 2,100 RPM and a fuel consumption rate of about .8 GPH. Punching into a head sea, I would throttle up to about 2,300 RPM. I could have run the engine harder but never felt the need.
During the two plus years and 6,000 miles we've owned and sailed the boat, there have been no structural failures. Driving the boat hard upwind in 15 to 20 knots of wind for 24 hours revealed no leaks, the leeward shrouds remained taut, and we never felt any concern regarding the boat's structural integrity. With that said, I must say I was disappointed in the construction of the aft-most bulkhead in the boat. My blog entry dated 4-6-2014 describes the issue. The bulkhead didn't fail, but it needed reinforcement. After that incident I went through the boat carefully, examining bulkheads, frames and reinforcements, and found no other reasons for concern. Is it the best boat ever built? Hardly. Is it sturdy enough to take us wherever we care to venture? I would say yes.
Much has been written about the pros and cons of glued versus tabbed bulkheads. I've built many boats with carefully tabbed bulkheads and can attest to the strength, durability and cost of this type of construction. Virtually all of Finisterra's bulkheads are glued into recesses in the boat's fiberglass liner. If properly done, glued and tabbed bulkhead joints are in fact roughly equal. To my mind the more important question is how well the liner is bonded to the hull. In Finisterra it seems to be very well secured, so that loads are adequately transferred between the bulkheads and the primary hull structure. Still, I would prefer that the bulkheads be bonded directly to the hull whenever possible.There are other production boats that have bulkheads that are not as well secured as our boat's, yet they soldier on year after year, with most of their failures, whenever they have them, in the engines and systems rather than the primary structures. There have been a few keel failures, or more accurately, hull/keel joint failures, on Beneteaus over the years. Google "Cheeky Monkey" for an example of the tragic consequences of such a failure. Finisterra's hull/keel joint is massive and I would be surprised indeed to hear of a structural failure of this type on a Beneteau 423.
Our last boat, a Beneteau First 36s7 had a rudder that was supported by a fiberglass cone surrounding the rudder tube. It was pretty flexible and watching it move around when we were under sail was a bit disconcerting, but we never had a problem with it. The Beneteau First 42s7 has the same type of construction and I have first hand knowledge of one that sailed from Los Angeles to Australia with nary a problem, and another that recently completed a voyage from San Francisco to Denmark via the Panama Canal, also with no problems. Finisterra, like all Beneteau 423's, has a rudder tube that is supported by a set of longitudinal and transverse bulkheads, which is a much more robust arrangement. I've watched for flex in this area while underway in various conditions and am pleased, and relieved, to report that there is no discernible movement of the rudder stock, even in fairly boisterous conditions.
Finisterra's rig is just about perfect for the sailing we do. It's not a tall rig but it provides adequate power in all but very light conditions. The mast has double aft swept spreaders and is fitted with forward lower shrouds and double backstays. What I really like about it is that it is simple, reliable and well built. I have no concerns about the rig coming down.
Overall, I am pleased with the boat's structural details. With a full fiberglass liner in the hull and the deck, we hear a bit of creaking when the boat is pressed, but that is to be expected with this type of construction. Flexing is an integral part of any structure and the key is to keep it within the allowable limits. I think Beneteau's boats are well thought out in this regard.
The electrical, mechanical and plumbing systems aboard Finisterra have been almost flawless since we bought the boat. Last year we installed new 6v AGM batteries, rewired the 12 volt system from the batteries to the DC panel and added an auxiliary DC panel. The previous owner had made some changes to the system that were not in accordance with ABYC standards so we corrected that, eliminated some wiring and simplified the system. I converted all the internal and external lighting to LED's and added three solar panels. I wasn't sure that three 50 watt panels would be sufficient in all the situations we might encounter so I brought along a Honda 2000 genset on our voyage to Mexico, but we never needed it and I am considering leaving it home on our next voyage.
The engine has been the epitome of reliability. The previous owner had installed a 125 amp alternator in place of the standard 65 amp unit, which enables quick charging of the batteries. He also replaced the standard stuffing box with a PSS shaft seal and replaced the fixed 3-bladed prop with a folding unit and both have performed very well. Aside from those improvements, the system is exactly as it was the day it was shipped from the factory.
The steering system is also original and has shown almost no signs of wear. The previous owner had replaced the steering wheel with a Lewmar folding unit which is not as strong as the standard wheel. Those folding wheels make moving around the cockpit easier while in port, but I prefer the solid feel of the original, so I put the old one back on and sold the Lewmar.
The plumbing system aboard Finisterra has also worked well. The boat had two electric heads when we bought it and one failed almost immediately, so I replaced both with simple and reliable Jabsco manual units. The gauge on the aft holding tank stopped working not long ago so I will diagnose and repair that before we leave on our next voyage.
When we bought the boat it was equipped with a Village Marine Little Wonder Model 200 watermaker. It's a simple and reliable unit that fits nicely under the forward part of the dinette. In southern California, where the water is usually less than 70 degrees F it produces about 7.8 GPH of pretty good water, in the 300-350 PPM range. In the warmer waters of Mexico, which sometimes reached 85 degrees, it produced water in the 450-500 PPM range. It's going on ten years old and I think it's time to replace the membranes.
|The Rocna anchor fits well in the Beneteau 423's stemhead. I changed both rollers on the starboard side to the type with a chain relief. Notice the chain stop just aft of the anchor.|
|The relief in the Lewmar anchor roller helps prevent the chain from bouncing on the deck when raising or lowering the anchor.|
I converted the Raymarine wind, speed and depth instruments to a TackTick T104 wireless system. TackTick was recently acquired by Raytheon, which I guess is a good thing. I've been using TackTick racing instruments for years and would never go back to the old wired system.
|TackTick T104 Wireless Cruising Instruments.|
|Icom M802 SSB.|
|Zodiac 250 Rib|
The transom folds down to make a very compact package when it's deflated. It came with a nice nylon zippered bag but it faded quickly in the tropical sunshine. I had a cover made for it out of Sunbrella, which incorporates tie-down webbing straps to secure it to the deck . Photo courtesy of Zodiac Marine.
|Danard dinghy wheels|
Our dinghy is a Zodiac 250 Rib with Hypalon tubes. At 8'2" long, it's smallish for our needs but that is offset by its compact size when deflated, about 6' long x 3' wide and 10" thick when stowed on the foredeck. It will plane with two aboard using our Tohatsu 6hp motor as long as we don't have a lot of groceries aboard. Of course planing is relative, we're traveling at about 15 knots with the engine wide open when we're on a plane. We used only 3 gallons of gas in the six months we were in Mexico so the boat is very economical to run. Whenever we had a beach landing, which was all the time while we were in the Sea of Cortez, we used
Danard pinless dinghy wheels. They use pneumatic tires and are perfectly simple to operate. This is another piece of equipment I would not go cruising without.
We also brought along a Hobie inflatable kayak which we used often. It's perfect for cruising around quiet bays. If we had the space to store it, I'd bring a second one on our next voyage.
The boat has been very comfortable to live aboard. The fixed dropleaf table in the cockpit was annoying and I replaced it with a small pedestal that serves as a drink holder and mounting base for the GPS. I had planned to fabricate a smaller fold-down table that would mount on the pedestal but didn't get around to it before we left for Mexico last January. On that trip we used a couple of small plastic folding tables that could be stowed out of the way when not in use. Now that we're home I've started making a new table, which will be done in a couple of weeks. The cockpit itself is big and comfortable and the step-thru to the transom/swimstep is very convenient. The previous owner installed a tankless propane water heater in the starboard lazarette, which provides lots of hot water without having to run the engine. This is especially nice for showering on the transom, which we did a lot of in the Sea of Cortez.
I like the tall, sturdy bulwarks and grippy nonskid on deck. They make moving around the foredeck easy even in rough conditions. Whenever we reef the mainsail I have to go to the mast to secure the tack, but aside from that, pretty much all boathandling tasks can be done from the cockpit.
Shade is vital in the tropics so we replaced the dodger, expanded the bimini and added removable mesh screens around the sides and back of the bimini. The screens do a fair job of blocking the sun while still allowing plenty of ventilation. But when it's really hot outside, the most important accessory is the swim ladder and transom shower. A quick dip in the ocean followed by a freshwater rinse on the transom is the best way to beat the heat.
Below, we found the basic accommodations plan to be nearly ideal, but there are some details that would make it even better. For example, in the forward cabin , the Vberth should extend all the way to the hull on the sides. It would also be nice if there was a bit more counter space in the forward head. The main cabin proved to be adequate for entertaining up to six people comfortably and plenty spacious when there were just the two of us aboard. The galley has a lot of usable counter space and is quite large for a 42 foot boat, which makes day-to-day life aboard much more comfortable for the cook. The quarterberth is enormous and I rigged up a leeboard to make it a suitable sea berth. That's where the off watch slept whenever we were at sea. The primary fuel filter, shaft log, batteries, water tank and a couple of storage spaces are all located under the quarterberth, but access to them was difficult because you had to pull out all the cushions and lift up the plywood bunk supports to get at them. So I built smaller access hatches into the panels that enable me to get at the fuel filter, shaft log and storage compartments without disassembling the entire bunk.
Lighting and ventilation in the 423 is excellent but we need a few more fans to keep the air moving, especially when we're in the tropics.
Another item that vastly improved our comfort aboard was the small, 5,000 BTU air conditioner that I bought in Mexico. It was very much appreciated when the thermometer reached past 100 degrees, which it often did in La Paz. I had built a seat in the companionway awhile back, with the thought in mind that it would be a handy place for a portable AC unit, and it worked well.
Overall, the boat has been very comfortable and we have no plans to make any major changes before we head out on our next adventure.