You’ve got to hand it to the folks at Moody Yachts: it takes some guts to build two 45-foot cruising boats that occupy opposite ends of the design spectrum. Yet it’s easy to see the logic behind such a strategy. The 45DS is a hyper-modern deck-saloon cruiser that demands attention—and elicits a reaction—wherever it goes, while the traditional-looking 45AC (aft cockpit) is much more understated. Each should appeal to very different buyers, thereby maximizing the company’s appeal.
I took the 45AC out for a test sail off Newport, Rhode Island, last fall to see how long-time Moody designer Bill Dixon and his team accomplished the difficult mission of reimagining the future while still staying true to the past.
The hull is cored with foam below the waterline and balsa above the waterline and is laminated with polyester resin and a vinylester outer layer to resist blistering. The deck is also cored with balsa. Solid structural components along with bulkheads and furniture modules are tabbed in place. The keel is cast iron, with a lead ballast bulb. The 9/10ths rig has two spreaders and the mast and boom are anodized aluminum.
I did a double take when we approached the 45AC immediately after test sailing the 45DS. The lines of the 45DS are pretty radical, while the 45AC pays homage to yachting’s past. The more traditional profile of the 45AC also benefits from numerous small oval ports and carries minimal freeboard, so that it appears almost—dare I say it?—Herreshoff-esque.
Stepping aboard, I loved the enormous cockpit with its long, comfortable benches and sculpted helm seats. I also appreciated the way the drop-down swim platform is tastefully hidden behind the wide classic transom and the easy access afforded by the dual helms and split backstay. The low-slung coachroof offers clean sightlines in all directions, in contrast to the 45DS.
Other on-deck elements are pretty straightforward and very well constructed or installed. There are nice big cockpit lockers to swallow things like docklines and fenders, the built-in teak pulpit seats are both comfortable and classy, and it’s easy to go forward, thanks to the low coachroof and wide side decks.
Stepping below, I found a wealth of varnished furniture and cabinets with classic rattan inserts in the doors that both aid in ventilation and lend the interior an ultra-traditional look. The U-shaped galley has a good-sized fridge, a two-burner stove, and plenty of stowage and counter space. The saloon has an abundance of stowage as well and a curved settee that is plenty long for stretching out on.
It’s hard to provide 6ft 5in headroom in the saloon of a 45-footer while keeping the coachroof profile low, but Dixon has done it. I did feel like I was “descending” into the hull as I entered the saloon, but that headroom has to come from somewhere. The small oval ports do not let in as much light as the big ports found on most modern 45-footers, but the large opening hatch helps out.
There are no surprises in the sleeping cabins. The master forward has a large double berth. It also has bench seat and an ensuite head. The berths in the guest cabins are on the small side, but are adequate. Overall workmanship and joinery quality is excellent.
I granted myself a moment or two during our 45AC test sail to appreciate the simple joy of sailing on a sunny autumn day in perfect conditions—12 knots of breeze and flat water. In reality, though, Mother Nature only deserves part of the credit. The fact is the 45AC not only sailed well, it made me feel good just being at the helm.
I’ll be the first to admit that “feeling good” is hardly a quantitative measure of sailing performance. But I think I can explain my “analysis” in more concrete terms as well.
First, as I said earlier, visibility from the cockpit is outstanding. And while the feeling of being connected to the environment that comes from an unhindered view forward is a precious commodity on any boat, it can be especially so on a big cruiser. The 45AC’s well-built windshield enhances this effect by providing good spray protection while much being easier to see through than the clear plastic windows on most dodgers.
Second, the boat has a wide upwind groove and tracks effortlessly. Boat speeds hovered in the 6-knot range, and the wake gurgling past as I sat at the leeward helm station was ever so satisfying. The boat was equally easy to handle coming about, thanks to its self-tacking jib and responsive helm. When the time came to trim the sails, the jib sheets and double-ended main were all within easy reach. Speeds stayed in the 6-knot range as we cracked off a bit, and the helm remained easy to manage. Ultimately, the boat did everything I asked it to with aplomb.
We hardly needed to start the 55 horsepower engine since sailing conditions were so ideal, but when we did, the boat maneuvered predictably and boat speeds hit 7.5 knots at cruising revolutions. Engine noise was noticeable down below, but not so much as to be a problem.
I’m sure Bill Dixon and his team had a blast designing two such diverse boats as the Moody 45DS and the Moody 45AC at roughly the same time. There’s no doubt that with the 45AC he succeeded in putting a new spin on the traditional “cruiser” look. If you’re the kind of person who likes a well-built modern boat that sails well and reflects yachting’s traditional side, the 45AC may be just for the thing for you.
Excellent visibility from cockpit
Easy to sail/easy helm
Accommodations set low in hull
Not as much light belowdecks as on a modern cruiser
HEADROOM 6ft 5in
BERTHS 7ft X 5ft 5in (master); 6ft X 5ft (guest)
LOA 45ft//LWL 40ft
BEAM 173863ft 9in
DRAFT 7ft 2in (std); 6ft 1in (shoal)
SAIL AREA (100% foretriangle) 981ft2
FUEL/WATER/WASTE (Gal) 85/58/TK
ENGINE 55 HP Volvo (sail drive)
ELECTRICAL 2x150AH (house); 90AH (engine)
DESIGNER Dixon Yacht Design
BUILDER Moody Yachts, moodyboats.com
U.S. DISTRIBUTOR Berthon USA, 401-846-8404 berthonusa.com
PRICE $377,900 base
BALLAST RATIO 27
SAIL AREA-DISPLACEMENT RATIO 17.5
DISPLACEMENT-LENGTH RATIO 188