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

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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.

Per­for­mance

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.

Sailplan

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.

Deck lay­out

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.

Liv­ing aboard

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.

Chart table

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.

Gal­ley

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.

Main­te­nance

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

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