The difference between a racing boat and a cruising boat is usually readily apparent. Differentiating between different grades of cruisers, however, can be another matter: the line between those meant to go off soundings and those better suited to staying within VHF range of land can be blurry at best—unless you’re talking about a boat like the Boreal 47, a boat clearly ready to not only go from the Arctic to the Antarctic but all points in between.
Design & Construction
The latest design from Boreal SARL, located in France’s Brittany region, the Boreal 47 is an evolution of the Boreal 44, with the extra 3ft coming in the form of a reverse transom incorporating a modest swim step.
Both the hull and deck are fabricated in aluminum: same with the pilothouse, or “command module,” which incorporates a padded inside helm seat and magnificently large navigation surface with room for all the electronics your heart could ever desire.
The canoe body is carefully sculpted through the use of multiple chines and includes a centerboard partially enclosed in a kind of thick skeg, or shoe, which combined with a somewhat stubby rudder allows it to readily take the ground. At first, blush, said rudder might appear inadequate to the job of controlling the boat under sail. However, the Boreal 47 also carries a pair of daggerboards well aft to help her track when sailing hard on the wind in particular. More on these later.
The double-spreader masthead rig includes a Sparcraft aluminum mast and boom with stainless steel wire rigging and a pair of headsails, both on Profurl furlers. Unlike many more “casual” cruisers, so to speak, in which the inner forestay flies a self-tacking utility sail, the inner stay aboard the Boreal flies a true staysail for use in the kinds of dirty weather this sort of boat will inevitably encounter on its various adventures.
Topsides, the Boreal 47 is replete with practical details that serve to make life easier and safer at sea: safety railings to either side of the mast for extra security working forward; a massive lazarette beneath a kind of a mini lounging deck immediately forward of a robust optional aluminum arch; aggressive antislip deck coverings; sturdy welded-on mooring cleats and double stanchions; a teak toerail running stem to stern; and even a lip running along the trailing edge of the pilothouse that works as both a handhold and a vent for bringing fresh air below. The list goes on and on.
The boat is equipped with a single large wheel, which is nice for getting outboard so that you can peek around the house when steering hard on the wind. That said, the house remains a bit of an obstruction and I often found myself standing when at the helm to see where I was going. Of course, on passage, an autopilot will typically be doing most of the steering.
Beyond that, the cockpit is fairly compact, refreshingly deep, and equipped with a number of strong points for a tether and nice big drains in the event you are boarded by a big sea. In other words, it’s the perfect cockpit for passagemaking and dramatically different from the cockpits you typically see at boat shows these days. The trailing edge of the pilothouse also extends a foot or so over the cockpit benches, creating a nice pair of nooks to snuggle up into during a night watch or to get out of the rain.
Going forward, the welded handrails, jib tracks, headsail sheets, shrouds, dorades and safety rails create a bit of an obstacle course—again offering a striking contrast to the wide-open decks commonly seen at boat shows these days. However, there’s also plenty to grab onto when moving about in a seaway. The foredeck itself is both large and wonderfully uncluttered—it seems a shame that this is where most cruisers will end up storing their dinghies, but there it is.
Forward of that, there is a suitably large sail locker and a sturdy aluminum sprit that serves as both an anchor roller and attachment point for a Code 0. The overall effect, like that of the boat as a whole, is satisfyingly, even elegantly utilitarian, the kind of look any real sailor can’t help but love.
As is the case topsides, there’s a lot going on belowdecks. That said, on passage wide open spaces also mean that much more room to tumble should you lose your footing. A lot of what is “going on” also translates into storage space, a critical feature aboard any serious cruising boat.
At the heart of the saloon is a large table raised up to port with settees on three sides all with a good view of the outside world, that and an in-line galley to starboard. Between the two is a substantial divider that houses the centerboard trunk and also serves as both a great place to brace yourself when fixing meals and somewhere to store various food items. I am a huge fan of this kind of galley, since there is something nice and solid to lean up against, but you can also dodge one way or the other in the event anything hot spills off the stove.
The owner’s cabin forward aboard our test boat was large and very comfy, with the same ash joinerywork that, in combination with the many hatches and ports in the cabintrunk, kept the saloon feeling light and airy despite being set far down in the hull. (Mahogany is also available as an option.)
My one complaint is that the quarterberths in the two aft cabins of our test boat were pretty cramped (although full-size double berths are also available) at least for a six-footer like me, owing in part to the command module overhead. Even just pulling my boots on was a challenge as I kept bumping my head against the underside of the cockpit. If the boat had ever been seriously banging around? Heavens!
That said, it would be hard to overemphasize how nice it was having the module, especially on a night watch or in stinky weather. The view is amazing and again you have everything you need—VHF, chartplotter, AIS, paper charts—right where you need them. How much time does a sailor spend in a quarterberth anyway—besides sleeping, that is? Not much. I’ll take the module any day.
My test sail consisted of a delivery from Portsmouth, New Hampshire, to the Annapolis boat show with the boat’s owner: none other than SAIL’s own cruising editor, Charles J. Doane, who has named his boat Lunacy, after his daughters Una and Lucy. Despite the fact we had to burn a fair bit of fuel to stay on schedule, we still got in some good sailing, especially between Buzzards Bay and Long Island Sound. Close-reaching with the breeze in the high teens we clicked off 7-plus knots with ease. As the wind built into the low 20s, the helm became a bit much to handle. But as soon as Charlie put a reef in the main, we were back on rails.
Equally impressive was the boat’s motion through the swells. At the time, some enormous rollers from Hurricane Maria were making landfall, cresting dramatically in toward shore and creating some rather impressive conditions in general. Lunacy, however, took it all in stride. Not only that, but her motion was at all times both easy and forgiving, with no slamming or whipping about—the definition of a seakindly boat that takes care of its crew.
Later that same day, things got especially hairy as we entered The Race at the eastern end of Long Island Sound with nearly 20 knots of breeze going forward on us and blowing against the incoming tide. But while the helm loaded up a good bit in the puffs, the rudder never once broke loose, thanks in large part to the aforementioned daggerboards. All in all, a great boat for logging some serious miles. The boat’s Code 0 will also be an invaluable asset sailing off the wind.
This is a big boat, the rudder is on the small side, and those daggerboards won’t do you much good when close-quarters maneuvering. That said, we had no problem getting in and out of a fairly tight slip at Brooklyn’s One 15 marina in a fairly stiff crosswind. Bottom line: this is not a boat for casual sailors, and part of being a sailor is being able to maneuver this kind of boat. A bow thruster is available as an option. Maxing out the throttle yielded 2,800 rpm and 8.3 knots of boatspeed. On our delivery, we usually had our 55hp auxiliary ticking away at around 1,800 and the boat moving along at about 7 knots.
The Boreal is an extremely well-made boat specifically tailored to take you pretty much anywhere in the world. To that end, it’s more than up to the task of everything from battling big seas to navigating a thin-water estuary. I hope Charlie takes me sailing with him again soon!
LOA 47ft 9in LWL 38ft 2in BEAM 14ft 1in
DRAFT 8ft 1in (board down); 3ft 4in (board up)
DISPLACEMENT 27,230lb (loaded)
SAIL AREA 1,074ft (main and genoa)
FUEL/WATER (GAL) 160/200
ENGINE 55hp Volvo Penta D2
BALLAST RATIO 30
SA/D RATIO 19 D/L RATIO 220
What do these ratios mean? Visit sailmagazine.com/ratios
DESIGNER Jean-Francois Delvoye
BUILDER Boreal SARL, Minihy-Treguier, France, boreal-yachts.com
PRICE $555,780 (base price) at time of publication