Used boat test: Oceanis 36CC
Beneteau's Oceanis 36CC Clipper would be easy to live on, but has accommodation compromised her performance? Dick Durham sails one to find out
This would be a great boat to live on, but how does she sail? Dick Durham went to find out
Not many boats priced at under £50,000 could seriously offer liveaboard accommodation as well thought out and as comfortable as that of the Beneteau Oceanis 36 Clipper. So it’s hardly surprising that in the mid-1990s, she became the biggest seller of the French builder’s centre cockpit fleet.
Down below, the eye-catching flair of a walk-through head and a galley fit for a chef – just two of her radical features – was down to a collaboration between designers Jean Berret and Olivier Racoupeau.
But all this luxury has to come from somewhere and, like the high-rise flats of the 1960s, it was accommodated by going skywards.
The first thing to say about the Beneteau Oceanis 36cc Clipper is that if you are used to sailing boats with low freeboard, you could be forgiven for feeling a mild sense of vertigo, so high up is the helming position.
She handled easily and was exceptionally light on the helm, with good directional stability provided by the winged fin keel. In stays she spun round within her own length and goose-winged, in the admittedly light airs, she was a joy of balance – the helm can be left to itself intermittently as she will not run away off course.
As the wash of a passing ship went beneath her shallow forefoot I heard an ominous slamming noise, but dismissed it as being no more than symptomatic of a comparatively modern boat’s light displacement.
Zircon’s owner Rob Bolan and his partner Lizzy Adams have cruised the boat extensively in the short time they’ve owned her, knocking up 2,000 miles in their first season, around the Channel Islands and Brittany from her berth in Fareham.
On one occasion they made an impressive passage of 10 hours 45 minutes from Cherbourg to Newtown Creek in 25 knots of south-west wind with a third of her genoa and inmast furling mainsail rolled away.
High though her coachroof and coamings are, they're not impregnable – Zircon was once pooped while reefing in a big Channel sea, in wind over tide conditions. It has to be said that her roomy hull will give unwanted windage in a gale, counteracting the boat’s relatively shoal keel.
We sailed across to Yarmouth and then returned to Lymington under power and while her 40hp Volvo will push her along her all day at 6.5 knots on 2,000 revs, she will also go up to 7.8 knots at 3,000 revs to ‘get out of trouble’ as Rob put it.
Motoring astern, the propwash will kick her to starboard and Rob found she was difficult to manoeuvre into a tight berth with a cross tide, so he fitted a bow thruster.
One security issue is that the engine starts with a push button and no ignition key. Rob is to address this by fitting a ‘secret’ manual start.
At the helm
The cockpit, while high up, is also deep and safe and the Lewmar 44 sheet winches are to hand from the wheel, although access behind the steering position is tight: it’s a scramble up over the cockpit seats to climb in and out.
The mainsheet hauls in on a track on the aft end of the cockpit coaming and you have to twist round away from the wheel to trim or ease it.
There is limited locker space to starboard, as stowage has been sacrificed to accommodate the walkthrough heads compartment beneath.
Design & construction
Built between 1996 and 2003, the Oceanis 36CC has the same hull as the sporty First 36S7. Although she might look top-heavy, her deck has a lightweight balsa wood core.
Her slight sheer and rather flat head give her a foreshortened look from ahead. Her best ‘side’ is a three-quarter view from aft as she has a pretty run sternwards and her full beam and sugar-scoop stern are pleasing. Overall she has a sweet-lined hull but the high coachroof and fixed windscreen do mar her appearance, to my eye at least.
She’s got a masthead rig with double spreaders, cap shrouds plus uppers and lowers, and twin backstays.
The mainsail is stowed and reefed with an in-mast furling system which worked well on the day, but Rob found it could jam severely in the past. This was because her original mainsail had stretched and when the lifeless cloth of the main reached the exit slot it ‘fell’ out, slackening off the rest of the as yet unset mainsail and bunching it up inside the mast.
Rob was lucky that a new mainsail, not yet bent on, came with the boat and since this replaced the old mainsail, the system has worked well.
Zircon has a teak laid deck which has seen better days and wants re-caulking in many places. She has wide cockpit coamings with 'granny bar' grabrails on each quarter; these protect the raised dorade vents beneath. The coamings are high enough to require a step in their sides on both port and starboard to access the cockpit.
‘ The eye-catching flair of a walk-through heads and a galley fit for a chef are just two of the radical features she had at the time’
The decks are quite narrow but there is, nevertheless, room to go forward unimpeded. Because of her centre cockpit and a coachroof that runs well forward, the foredeck is small. She has an electric windlass and a single bow roller. With the bower anchor stowed in it, there's no spare fairlead for picking up a mooring. Rob has fitted davits to Zircon, which usually hold a four-man RIB fitted with a 5hp outboard.
Her coach roof is ‘terraced’ aft, providing space for the liferaft and she has a fixed Perspex windscreen with a collapsible cockpit tent fitted.
The living quarters are very attractive, fitted out with well-finished veneer. Light is provided not just from coachroof windows and overhead hatches, but also, in the saloon, via through hull windows. Even when seated at the drop-leaf table, you have a view out.
There is 1.85m (6ft 1in) headroom throughout most of this seven-berth boat. The forecabin is fitted with a double berth, shelving each side, two hanging lockers and is well lit from the forehatch and two coachroof windows by day and bright LED
lamps by night. The saloon seats provide an extra double berth (if the infill is used) to port and a single to starboard, with shelving beneath the through-hull widows.
The white ‘popple effect’ vinyl headlining is easy to clean and adds to the overall brightness down below.
The heads is a clever design accessed behind the chart table: a walk-through ‘wet room’ which also has a door through to the aft cabin, thereby offering en suite facilities.
A double berth in the aft cabin is complemented by a circular settee raised on a dais. It is well lit with both LED lights and natural light from a skylight and windows, and is fitted with a vanity shelf and mirror opposite the aft window.
The forward-facing chart table has a seat that stows beneath it and slides out and locks in front of the heads door. There is room for a half-sized Admiralty chart on its fiddled face, but stowage beneath for hand-bearing compasses, dividers, and pilot books is shallow. A neatly fitted instrument panel is set beside the chart table in the hull lining.
The star feature of the Beneteau Oceanis 36cc Clipper is the galley, comprising a double fridge, two stainless steel sinks and a gimballed twin-burner oven. The galley itself runs from the end of the saloon on the port side to the aft cabin entrance, a run of 2.60m (8ft 6in) with 50cm wide (1ft 8in) work surfaces in the corridor to the aft cabin on both sides. There is standing headroom if you are shorter than 2.0m (6ft 7in), and plenty of cupboard space for pots, pans, crockery and drawers for cutlery and teacloths.
The condition of this 1999-built boat is nothing short of stunning. She looks almost new because she is easy to keep clean with high-quality mahogany veneer and solid vinyl headlining.
The companionway steps lift up, and the bottom step lifts off to reveal what can only be described as an ‘engine room’. You can clamber inside it and get to every part of the engine.
Yet even with a 40hp Volvo installed there is still enough room for a bilge blower, a generator, five batteries and stowage for an aluminium emergency tiller. ‘Down in the Med they fit an air-conditioning until in here as well,’ said Rob.
In the saloon easy access is available to the exposed rod chainplates for the cap shrouds, behind the seats.
Her high topsides are the result of generous headroom and a spacious interior
The Beneteau Oceanis 36cc has a slippery hull with an enviably stylish layout and well designed live-aboard accommodation
Although high up, the 36CC’s cockpit is deep and safe
Her masthead rig is easily handled. She also has a babystay forward, to give extra support to the mast
She looks a bit top-heavy from some angles
The saloon is attractive, cosy and gives views outside when seated. It has also stood the test of time remarkably well
The long, linear galley design was a radical feature when this boat was new