First-time owner John Raynor wanted an easy-to-handle yacht that he could relax on with family and friends. Has his Beneteau Oceanis 35.1 measured up?
Beneteau Oceanis 35.1: one of the best family cruisers
For John Raynor, sailing is a way to get away from the pressures of work; unlike his other hobbies, it’s a non-competitive pastime.
‘For me, ownership is not about trying to push the envelope. It’s about being a pleasant place for us; family or friends.’
As a first-time skipper, he wanted a yacht that was manageable without being too scary, while his wife was more interested in the caravan comfort aspect.
‘I hankered after buying a boat because I liked the idea of being a skipper and wanted to be more in control of my own destiny,’ explained John.
‘We thought we could wait until we’d got the money and put off the idea until my wife and I were older; but then we thought maybe it won’t ever happen. We decided to bite the bullet, give it a go, and see whether we enjoyed it or not.’
John, who has been sailing for over 10 years, began looking at older yachts, but because it was during the COVID-19 lockdown, there was little on the second-hand market ‘just manky old things hanging around in boatyards.’
Those that were in good nick were snapped up within hours; he thought buying second-hand was a non-starter.
Then, John’s father-in-law, offered to help out with a loan. Suddenly, John was able to look at a different price point for new or nearly new boats.
A leap of faith
John’s wife spotted the 2018, lifting keel Beneteau Oceanis 35.1 on the internet.
Dreamtime was in North Wales and looked to be well equipped, and a lot of boat for the money.
One buyer had backed out because of the COVID-19 lockdown; John and his wife saw her online the next day.
‘Because we were in lockdown, we couldn’t visit it. We got the broker to take loads of pictures, and loads of videos, and ended up getting a survey done remotely; all the things that ‘they’ tell you not to do, we did. As soon as the lockdown finished, we got in the car and drove five hours to Wales, and here she is. It’s got everything we wanted and more, which was a big surprise.’
John then looked into how to get Dreamtime closer to their home in Surrey. It would cost thousands of pounds to transport her over land and thousands of pounds for a delivery skipper and crew.
Then he thought: ‘I have mates who know how to sail. Let’s make an adventure of it.’ So he did.
One of John’s friends is an experienced skipper and is now a surveyor; he did a thorough check of Dreamtime after noticing both the VHF and Windex were both loose.
‘He checked the rig while he was up there. One thing that almost caught us out was the D-shaped chainplate on the deck; it had lifted about 3mm from the deck and wasn’t caught by the initial survey.’
Now, after sailing her back from west Wales to Gosport, local sailing around the Solent, and a few trips to Dorset and back, John has become an adept skipper and he handles her well.
Evolution of the 35
The Beneteau Oceanis 35.1 is a progression of the Oceanis 35, a good option if your budget won’t stretch to the Beneteau Oceanis 35.1.
The updated version included a line on the hull to show off the hull chine, the additional option of an L-shaped galley, and doing away with the removable forward bulkhead in favour of double forecabin doors.
Both boats share the same 9.97m/32ft 8in hull, which is beamy, and has twin rudders; it has recently been superseded by the Oceanis 34.1.
In practice, he hasn’t always found it necessary as ‘hard over, it’s not long before you get steerage. As long as you keep it in mind that you might miss a little bit at the beginning, she’s really easy to handle.’
Like all twin rudder boats, you are reliant on water flow over the rudders rather than prop wash. It is sailing when the twin rudders earn their money.
One of my criticisms when I tested the new Beneteau Oceanis 35 for Yachting Monthly in August 2015 was that it felt like helming ‘through treacle’; the wheels of that boat were stiff and robbed any feeling, so it was a welcome surprise to find Dreamtime’s helm was free, light and responsive, even with a full season’s worth of growth on the bottom.
It was a late October day when we sailed Dreamtime, but it could have been an early summer’s day on the water, were it not for the wind that ranged from 18 knots at the start of the sail and had faded to 10 knots by the end.
For the photoshoot, John was sailing Dreamtime singlehanded and opted for a conservative sail plan of two reefs in the mainsail and a few rolls of the genoa; by the time I joined him, the breeze had eased and we were able to unfurl the genoa and gradually shake out the reefs.
She has single-line reefing that can bind, even though John ensures all the blocks are running free.
The mainsheet is taken to the coachroof winch rather than the helm, but Dreamtime has a B&G autopilot so this is less of an issue.
Her performance wasn’t as good as it could have been; we were late in the season and the hull had end-of-season growth.
Fouling can affect a yacht’s ability to point as well as her speed.
Having sailed the deep keel 35, I wasn’t expecting Dreamtime to point to 32-35º as the deep keel 35 did. Instead, she made 35-38º.
On the wind, at 60º and 90º Apparent Wind Angle (AWA) with 13-15 knots apparent she was making over 5 knots (one reef and full genoa).
Only as we went around to 120º and 11-13 did the speed drop below 5 knots and by the time we went dead downwind the apparent breeze was less than 9 knots as she made 4.3 knots.
Under power, her 30hp Yanmar engine was making 4.4 knots at 2,200rpm; as a comparison, the Oceanis 35 with her clean hull and 21hp Yanmar 3YM20 made 4.8 knots at 2,000rpm.
Neat and clever spaces
Dreamtime’s cockpit is remarkably clear and clutter-free, thanks to her Harken 40ST genoa winches outboard of the wheel binnacles, her overhead arch (an option from new), and the rope bags for all the coachroof lines.
The twin wheels are set aft and well outboard, and the side deck helm seat is raised, all of which improves visibility forward.
The latter also keeps the helm’s bum and helm dry from water on deck.
There is space for a chartplotter and instruments at the wheels and the engine controls are to port.
Four layout versions were available from new, in a combination of one or two double aft cabins, and an L-shaped galley (to port) or linear galley down (to starboard).
I felt the twin double cabins robbed too much cockpit stowage when I sailed the Oceanis 35 in 2015, and it was good to see Dreamtime’s first owner thought the same.
Dreamtime has a single aft cabin and an L-shaped galley; I think it is the best layout.
Down below, this layout is the gift that keeps on giving.
The aft cabin has a berth the size of a tennis court; well, a super king-size bed at least, and you gain one of the most practical features you can find down below on yachts; a shower compartment that is completely separate from the heads.
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Anyone who has sailed with someone who showers at the swiftness of a sloth will see the instant benefit of having a separate shower room, especially with only one head onboard.
Not only does it free the heads when someone is showering, but it also keeps the floor dry.
There is a pull-out shower in the heads compartment, but if she were mine, anyone using it would find themselves in that cockpit locker.
Opposite the heads is the galley. It is a little small but it means it doesn’t come out very far into the main saloon.
You can brace or sit on the companionway steps and still reach for pots and pans; you could add a galley strap to cook or work at the single sink.
The fridge is a reasonable size but its lid is the biggest area of work surface.
There’s plenty of stowage with pot lockers, drawers and bottom-hinged lockers; the work surface is also surrounded by nice high fiddles.
As this is the lifting keel version there is the eight-point winch fitting protruding through the saloon table top.
It operates the keel mechanism; 100 turns will lower or retract the blade into the long short keel stub.
The mast compression post makes a good handhold at the aft end of the table. It also gives an indication of how far forward the saloon is – or how far aft the mast is.
Either way, Beneteau has been clever with space and while the seating at the forward end of the saloon narrows to 33cm/1ft 1in, and is best for children, the saloon has a great feeling of space, especially with her large hull windows and the double doors to the forward cabin open.
To starboard is the aft-facing nav station and fold-up chart table. When it’s folded, and the infill added as long as no one needs the chart table while it is occupied, it makes a good 2.13m/7ft berth.
Cleverly, the infill is the 42cm/1ft 4in seat back from the opposite seat. It was nice to see a soft closure to prevent the table from slamming closed and there was a locker above the table for books and almanacs.
It’s not the biggest of chart tables and it lacks fiddles but it’s a place a navigator can call their own.
A feeling of spaciousness
Beneath the seat cushions, Dreamtime’s previous owner had added latch bolts to secure the bunk lids in place.
The seating is comfortable and the hull windows are the right height for me; at 1.78m/5ft 10in. T
he lighting is good, although all the lights are individually switched, which can be a faff unless using the master switch. There is also good LED strip lighting within the window area.
Beneteau has used an injection moulded deck which gives a neat overall finish but also leaves the mouldings for the different layouts visible, and the access panels are held in place with plastic-covered screws, which some might not like.
Moving forward, through the double doors, is the forward cabin. The cabin has a large hull window on each side.
Like the hull windows in the saloon, they’re large at 79cm x 22 cm/2ft 7in x 8in and just the right height to look out of when lying on the 2m/6ft 7in long vee berth.
At its widest, the berth is 1.75m/5ft 9in; at shoulder width it is 1.4m/4ft 5in. If you’re the owner, you’ll occupy the vast aft cabin.
Although it lacks the hull windows and hanging locker, it has a sleeping area that at its smallest is 1.73m x 2.02m/5ft 8in x 6ft 7in, but increases to 1.98 m/6ft 6in wide outboard.
Overall that’s bigger than a super king-size bed, on a 33ft yacht!
The finish is not the neatest, especially around the headlining; all the plastic screw covers create a lot of visual distractions.
Without the hull windows, the cabin is a lot darker than the rest of the yacht, but given its purpose, it’s not a bad thing.
Beneath the berth are the water tanks and batteries. The fuel tank is beneath the sole in the cockpit locker, aft of the shower compartment.
The separate shower compartment is practical, with curved, easy to wipe surfaces, and being right next to the companionway it can even be used as a place to get wet oilskins off, or as a hanging locker to allow them to dry without causing grief to anyone wanting to use the heads.
‘I’d love to sail round Britain just to explore different places. It’s one of the reasons why we were quite glad to have a newer boat. Hopefully, there’s less that’s going to go wrong,’ explained John.
‘At the moment, we’re playing, and we’re happy just sailing within our capabilities, pushing the boundaries and doing a little bit more each season. But we don’t have grand dreams of going across the Atlantic or anything like that. We’ll leave that to others,’ he added.
For that kind of sailing the Beneteau Oceanis 35.1 is a smart choice.
Beneteau’s yachts have always been strong family-focused cruisers and the 35.1 is no different. In fact, I think she’s one of their best, especially with this layout.
Expert opinion on the Beneteau Oceanis 35.1
Ben Sutcliffe-Davies, Marine Surveyor and full member of the Yacht Brokers Designers & Surveyors Association (YDSA) www.bensutcliffemarine.co.uk
The Beneteau Oceanis 35.1 is a reasonably well structured vessel with quite a clever internal pan lining.
It is important to check the methacrylate glue system is intact and not separated from frames when looking at the internal structure arrangements.
I have had several within the range where some tabs have separated from grounding or overloading incidents that are not build issues so check them carefully; I’ve also come across flexing of the side decks most noticeably under the port holes areas.
Check the bonding paste around where the internal hull is relived for skin fittings; if it is detached, it could indicate the start of structural issues.
The veneers of the plywood cabin sole boards can chip easily, so check the condition.
A typical issue with many production craft is the sealing and supporting of her stanchions; on the Beneteau Oceanis 35.1 the twin pushpits to each side do get overloaded if items like a raft has been hung on them, I regularly find aft cabins with damp linings as a result of a leaking stanchion or push pit bases.
The cockpit has inlaid teak; be aware that it’s not particularly thick and depending on how it has been looked after, may need replacing.
The drop down transom works well but the support cords regularly get trapped and can become damaged. Check for wear or slackening off on the steering cables.
The sail drive hull seal in the engine should be replaced within the required manufactures servicing schedules, though many aren’t!
Alternatives to the Beneteau Oceanis 35.1
Dufour 382 GL
With a hull length of just under 36ft, the Dufour 382 GL offers more interior volume than the Beneteau Oceanis 35.1.
This model of Dufour was also available with a similar layout; a single aft cabin, an L-shaped galley, a huge heads compartment and a cockpit locker.
But one of the most striking similarities is the double doors to the forward cabin.
These effectively extend the saloon, and if you have children it gives them a place to retreat to without shutting themselves off from the family, although they can do that if they want to.
The Beneteau pips the Dufour on quality of finish down below – especially as both boats use an injection moulded deck construction method – but the large hull length pays off with better performance and a larger galley.
The Dufour is light and bright, with hull windows and large overhead skylights to give a sense of place when you’re in the saloon. The galley is noticeably longer.
It has more workspace, a larger fridge, with front and top access, and you also gain half a sink over the 35.1’s single sink.
The Dufour does have a few quirks though. For example, its switch panel is on the opposite side of the saloon from the small fixed chart table.
While the beam of the Dufour is larger by 13cm/6in, she has managed to retain a deep single rudder, so offers more predictable manoeuvrability in marinas.
Even so, she didn’t lose grip when I tested her in 2017.
The feeling on the helm was good and her performance was respectable, keeping over 6 knots on a fetch in 14-16 knots Apparent Wind Speed (AWS).
On deck, the Dufour’s cockpit is comfortable and works well. Like the Beneteau, she has twin wheels and the genoa winches are directly in front of the helm.
Unlike the 35.1 though, the mainsheet is taken to the windward genoa winch.
She also has a mainsheet traveller, as opposed to the fixed position on the Beneteau’s arch. The attention to detailing on the Dufour sadly lets her down.
She had a good layout, sailed well and was enjoyable on the helm, but I couldn’t overlook some of the ways the boat was finished.
The first of two offerings from designer Marc Lombard, the Jeanneau Sun Odyssey 349 is still in production after its launch in 2014, and for good reason too; she’s a cracking boat.
Built within hailing distance of the Oceanis, and part of the Groupe Beneteau, it’s unsurprising that both boats share many characteristics: a sub 10m/33ft beamy
hull with twin rudders and wheels, the option of a lifting keel, hull windows and double opening forecabin doors in the saloon, similar interior materials, galleys
and chart tables.
The big difference comes under the cockpit.
Whereas the Beneteau has rotated its only double berth 90° and extended the cabin, Jeanneau just kept its twin aft cabin arrangement with one side now the cockpit locker.
This does mean, however, that any owner of this layout will have a vast cockpit locker, but also lose out on a super king-sized berth and a separate shower.
Gripes aside, the Jeanneau is a great boat to sail; responsive on the helm with a good turn of speed, more so if one opts for the fat-headed mainsail.
She’s also easy to sail, with no mainsheet traveller or backstay, and the jib lead uses an adjustable low friction ring, rather than a track and car for the genoa.
Unlike the 35.1 and like the 382 GL, the Jeanneau has the mainsheet taken back to the helm which makes sailing her from the wheel much easier.
She does have lines taken across the top of the coaming, these are a tempting handhold when they shouldn’t be.
While it would have been tempting to add a similar boat, such as the Hanse 345 or 348, if you’re looking for a 35ish footer with more performance and bags of helm satisfaction, you’ll struggle to beat an RM.
Unlike the Hanse, she is also currently available with the option of a deep fin, twin keels or lifting keel.
The current incarnation of the RM 1060, the 1070+, is the latest evolution in a series that has spanned the last 20 years.
The 1060 came after the 1050, which is available for around £80,000. An advantage of not making boats out of moulds is that you can often tweak the design.
RM’s 1060 is more of a sailor’s boat and less of a family cruiser than the other rivals here.
Each design has different hulls, but they share a similar spirit, so your budget will define which model you choose. All are designed for those who enjoy sailing.
The cockpit layout is practical rather than child-friendly but they handle and sail wonderfully with either a tiller or wheel.
For a brand that builds plywood hulls, I’m always a little surprised by the lack of visible wood inside, most of what is there is painted in a contemporary colour scheme.
The interior is, however, comfortable, if a little utilitarian.
Where RM really scores is in the natural light that floods the interior.
Although wide-beamed with a spacious interior, ducking to get to the forward cabin and the smaller heads may be a compromise too far for some.
But for those who relish the feeling of water rushing by at a grin-inducing speed, it could be a price worth paying.