The Malo 46 generally turns heads wherever she goes but does she live up to her blue-water promise? Rachael Sprot went to find out
Malo 46: A head-turner with blue-water promise
You can tell a lot about a boat from its midships cleat: does it have a good lead, is it as substantial as the bow cleats, does it even have one?
When photographer Nic Compton stepped on board Malo 46, Wimsey, for the photoshoot in Dartmouth, it was the first thing he remarked upon: ‘Nice midships cleat. You’ll want a photo of that, won’t you?’
We both agreed, this boat means business.
It wasn’t the only thing that helped her make a good first impression though: there’s a removable inner forestay, proper dorade vents with protective grab rails and a stainless-capped rubbing streak to name but a few.
The Malo 46 initiates a predictable reaction from cruising sailors. ‘Ooh,’ they inhale, ‘lovely boat,’ they exhale, followed by a starry-eyed silence as the atolls of the Tuamotus come to mind.
There’s no doubting she’s a lovely boat, but at the price of a small house, she’d better be, hadn’t she?
And if you spend two years living on a boat because you sold your house to buy it, loveliness will only get you so far.
What you really need for ocean sailing is a boat that’s comfortable, kind on the crew, easy to maintain and seaworthy.
So, I’m donating £5 to charity for every use of the word ‘lovely’ in this review and committing to the strictest standards of scrutiny.
Of the heavyweight Swedish cruising yachts, the Malo 46 has some of the nicest lines. It helps that she’s got the extra length, which allows an elegant sheer without compromising too much internal volume.
They came with either a ‘Classic’ counter stern, or the ‘Standard’ reverse counter with a sugar scoop.
The former has extra deck space and more locker storage, Wimsey is the latter.
The Malo 46 started life as the 45. Dan Hills, of DFD Marine Ltd, the main UK broker, explained that ‘because it was such a good hull, Malo used it for a few models.’
With a new coachroof and other cosmetic improvements it became the 46, and it’s currently in production as the Malo 47, with the Classic stern configuration only and a stainless bow platform.
Only 40 hulls have been made, which means they’re hard to find and hold their value well.
As you step below the hand-finished mahogany interior radiates warmth, yet there’s plenty of natural light from deck hatches and portlights.
The snug, U-shaped galley is offset to port of the companionway.
Unlike many boats of this size, where the galley is tucked down one side of the cockpit, here it’s forward-facing, meaning the pot-washer can still hold a conversation with those in the saloon after dinner.
The fridge is small for a boat of this size, but there’s a decent freezer.
Despite being a big boat, the layout is well-compartmentalised, making her feel secure at sea.
Call me old- fashioned, but the trend for open-plan living is best kept on shore.
Opposite the galley there’s a standard-sized heads compartment with all the usual mod cons.
I was dismayed to find that the black-water tank had no access without dismantling the heads, though. Bilge access was also minimal throughout.
Hatches are positioned over the pertinent bits, but you might want to invest in an electric driver before checking your keel bolts.
The generous nav station on the starboard side has a proper chart table for laying out your ocean passage charts and pilot books, and there is space beneath for all the usual publications.
There’s also a dedicated chart drawer lower down for the rest of the folio – very nice.
However, there’s not much to hold you into the nav seat on starboard tack.
For those of Viking extraction, you might be able to brace a leg across to the galley unit, but for those of us with more compact proportions, you’ll need Velcro underpants.
It’s surprising how much time you spend in the nav station on an ocean crossing: getting weather reports, sending emails, chatting on the SSB and monitoring all the systems.
If you’re running a business remotely, as many circumnavigators do, not having an ‘all- weather’ desk to work at could be frustrating.
What the nav station could do with is one of the saloon armchairs instead.
First introduced by Hallberg-Rassy, the three-piece suite approach to saloon furniture caught on in Scandinavia.
The armchairs are divisive though. Comfortable? Yes. An indulgent waste of space? Possibly. With a drinks locker nestled between them, it’s hard not to imagine cosy nights at anchor with a wee dram in your hands and something fluffy on your feet.
For those of a more Puritanical bent though, there’s a standard bench seat version available. This would give more storage behind and underneath.
It would also give a second sea berth in the saloon, if it wasn’t for the fact that the nav station eats into its footprint.
So, given that you wouldn’t gain a full-length berth, you might as well enter into the spirit of Nordic hygge and pack your carpet slippers.
The saloon table is a thing of beauty. It unfolds from the corners as elegantly as origami, twists 90° to account for the fact that there’s now a corner where there was once a straight edge, and locks into place.
It’s a good indicator of the beautiful standard of joinery on board and achieves full marks for both loveliness (£10) and practicality.
The black tank issue is not yet redeemed, however. The horse-shoe shaped seating is luxurious. There were four of us on board and there was plenty of room for extras.
An infill turns it into a double berth, increasing sleeping capacity to eight. There isn’t a huge amount of stowage space in the saloon though.
The Malo 46 is narrower than her competitors and the price for her svelteness has to be paid somewhere.
Forward of the main bulkhead is the master cabin, flanked by a heads compartment on one side and a shower room on the other.
Separating out the ablutions was one of the main selling points for Sophia and Andrew.
They’ve both done ocean crossings on fully crewed yachts where the two heads were shared between 12-20 people!
Apart from the fact that you walk through the saloon to get there, the separate wet-room is a superb place for bulky, wet objects such as sodden foulies.
The master cabin is, well, lovely (£15 and counting). There’s good locker space and neat bunk-side tables.
You could even sit up to read a book in bed if you make use of the bunk light and cushion at the foot end, though it would be tight for two.
The drawback isn’t the cabin design, but its location. The bow’s a noisy, bumpy place to ride out a gale at anchor, or even moored in an exposed port for that matter.
On the other hand, to achieve an aft cabin of this grandeur would mean having a centre cockpit, which many people don’t like.
Even on a 46-footer you have to compromise somewhere. The two aft cabins are almost symmetrical doubles below the cockpit.
The seats above them open giving ventilation if needed, or access to bulky items if you’re using one side as stowage.
Generous locker space will accommodate two people’s-worth of gear.
An alternative arrangement with twin bunk beds on one side is also available and might be more suitable for families or offer more flexible stowage arrangements.
The Yanmar 110HP engine is a good choice for long-distance cruising: they’re well respected and spares are straightforward to source.
It’s a common rail fuel system which makes it more efficient and reliable.
The previous owner had re-engined with an 80HP version and the propeller pitch needed adjustment, so we couldn’t make a fair assessment of performance.
Engine access is adequate for coastal sailing, but disappointing on a boat with big cruising ambitions.
It’s a tight squeeze to access the sides of the engine from the companionway, the oil dipstick is barely visible and you need a screwdriver to take off the front of the compartment for access to the alternator and raw water pump.
If you put too many obstacles in the way of routine checks they happen less frequently, and things like a leaky shaft seal on the pump-housing might remain undetected for longer.
What works well, however, is the mounting of the racor and coolant tank above the engine.
They’re at eye height so any contamination or changes of level will be quickly spotted.
It’s also a good support structure for a full cockpit canopy to protect you from the elements, whether tropical or arctic.
Or you can put a conventional sprayhood between it and the windscreen.
The sheet is led back to a winch on the starboard side of the cockpit, just within reach of the helm – another plus point for shorthanded sailing.
Unlike other modern yachts which carry their beam all the way aft, the Malo has a finer stern.
This gives the cockpit a secure feel – you’re never far from something to brace against.
Deep coamings add to the sense of being well-protected but it’s also a big enough space to host sundowners in.
More stowage for small, daily items would be useful: there are only two cubby holes, one of which is necessarily taken up by the main halyard and furling lines which run down the port side of the coachroof.
The lazarette under the helm seat has a wonderful locker.
The whole helm seat raises up to give exceptional access, and the space easily accommodates awkward items like sails and a tender.
It was already full, though, and the Classic version with the counter stern would be better at accommodating long-term cruising gear.
On the foredeck the anchor stows neatly into the stem.
I was dubious about this feature but it functioned really well on the three occasions that we used it. It also means there’s less chance of the anchor damaging spinnakers when they collapse, or other boats when parking goes wrong.
The chain locker was not easy to access though, so you wouldn’t be able to flake the chain into it.
Under sail, Wimsey handled like a dream. She’s light enough to get going in 6 knots of true wind, but heavy enough to dismiss a bit of wind-over-tide chop.
She purred through the overfalls off Start Point like a Rolls-Royce, oblivious to the fact that we were an hour late for slack water.
Owing to her 138% genoa we couldn’t test the limits of her pointing ability, but under full sail in 17 knots apparent, she made 6.5 knots at an angle of 48°.
As we freed-off she made over 7 knots close-reaching and would have done more if the wind hadn’t dropped to 13 knots apparent.
The next day we flew downwind from Salcombe back to Dartmouth, making a comfortable 8 knots under a conservative sail plan.
Wimsey has a mast- mounted spinnaker pole and removable sprit for a cruising chute, which covers pretty much all the bases for downwind sailing.
It won’t take Ben Ainslie to push her up towards the hull speed of 9.5 knots.
She’s a joy to sail, and a fast, comfortable passage-making boat.
Like many people planning serious offshore cruising, Sophia and Andrew would have preferred a true cutter rig, but the removable inner forestay allows for a hank-on staysail so that you can work to windward in strong winds.
They weren’t keen on the roller furling main either, but as Sophia pointed out, when you’re buying second-hand you can’t dictate the spec.
Below the waterline there’s a substantial fin keel which is long enough to keep the draft down to little more than 2m, and a part-skeg for the balanced rudder.
She has a hearty 39 per cent ballast ratio and AVS of 128° which is above the requirement for Category A vessels.
The hull and deck are sandwich construction with a balsa core, which gives a superb strength-weight ratio.
The hull and deck mouldings are bolted and bonded together. Longitudinal and transverse bulkheads are laminated directly to the hull – rather than the cheaper tray-matrix construction.
It’s a belts-and-braces approach which, combined with high levels of Swedish craftsmanship, gives Malo their reputation.
However, the costs of maintaining a yacht like this should not be underestimated.
Gorgeous though they are, the acres of 12mm teak on deck are a ticking time bomb. The financial and environmental costs of replacing them are high.
The balsa-cored construction is another thing which is expensive to rectify if water gets in.
There’s no point taking a boat like this if you aren’t committed to keeping it in good condition.
A boat which took painstaking craftsmanship to make will require the same approach when it comes to refits and repairs.
Given Sophia and Andrew’s meticulous approach, I think Wimsey is in safe hands.
Blue-water cruising yachts are a highly prized asset which, given the right care and attention, will help multiple generations of sailors achieve their dreams.
Would she be a good boat to sail around the world? Well, she really is lovely (£20).
If anyone would like to lend me a Malo 46 for 18 months, I’d be delighted to investigate further…
Expert Opinion on the Malo 46
Ben Sutcliffe-Davies, Marine Surveyor and full member of the Yacht Brokers Designers & Surveyors Association (YDSA)
The Malo 46 hull is reported to be balsa core above the waterline and solid core below.
New owners were given the option of reinforcing the hull and deck with either balsa core or Divinycell, a type of foam.
Both have the potential of moisture ingress but wet balsa can be far more serious once moisture has been absorbed.
It is important to know which was used, especially if extra fittings have been secured to the deck.
The yard used solid-core laminate where high load fittings were secured to the deck, which does prevent issues.
You also need to look closely at the condition of the teak.
The quality of material used at the time of build was high, and it was all hand-laid, so much depends on how well it’s been maintained.
Watch for wear and deep grooving to the strip planking.
I have seen issues with the use of an encapsulated alloy flat bar for deck fittings using stainless-steel fastening. Over time, this can start some galvanic reactions to the threads.
The engine and drive on the craft I’ve surveyed had an Aqua Drive connection.
These reduce the need for a perfect shaft alignment but do need to be looked at carefully for the amount of wear.
The engine normally came with a turbo. Careful use is required in order for these to last.
Oil drips from the air filter is a good warning sign of developing issues. Try and see the engine used under load.
Check the lower bearings of the skeg-supported rudder for wear and whether the lip seals are used, as they need to be replaced every seven years.
Alternatives to consider
The Hallberg-Rassy 46 set the benchmark for blue-water cruisers in this size range.
It has won praise from all sides: reviewers and owners alike, with more than 130 made.
Built about a decade earlier than the Malo 46, there are many similarities between the two, including a partial skeg-hung rudder and long-ish fin keel.
They’re two tonnes heavier, which is not necessarily a bad thing for long-term cruising, and one tonne of that is in the keel.
Owing to her heavier design weight, she’ll probably be better at absorbing the extra stores required for ocean sailing.
The sail area is increased proportionally, so performance shouldn’t be compromised much, although a comparison of the polar diagrams suggests it will take a bit more wind to get her moving than the Malo 46.
There’s more than 30% more fuel capacity and 25% more water capacity, so you’d cope with more days at sea if necessary.
That said, one came fifth overall in the 2019 Atlantic Rally for Cruisers, sailed by a young family.
Slab reefing was standard, although some have in-mast furling.
The centre cockpit is small compared to aft cockpit yachts, which makes for a secure space at sea but less room for entertaining in port.
It’s well-laid out: the double-ended mainsheet has a winch on either side of the helm, just where you need it.
There is a hard-topped hood available, although this might be best suited to high-latitude sailing where you need the shelter, than for the tropics, where you want the breeze.
There were three layouts available, including an armchair option. The master cabin is aft rather than forwards thanks to the centre cockpit.
The mahogany interior and teak decks are beginning to sound a bit ubiquitous in present company!
There’s a palatial engine bay with easy access.
They’re a bit more affordable because of their age, although you’ll have to snap one up because they tick all the right boxes.
At the performance end of the spectrum, the sleek lines of the Sweden 45 promise a more exhilarating sailing experience than the other Scandinavian cruisers apart from Swan.
Since 2008 Malo and Sweden Yachts have been under the same umbrella company, Sweden Yachts Group.
Sweden Yachts was originally set up to create the 1976 Swedish America’s Cup challenger, Sverige, and the Sweden 45 certainly has some thoroughbred DNA.
With a deep fin, bulb keel and spade rudder, it is 10% lighter than the Malo 46 and the mainsail is 25% bigger.
Below decks there’s the ‘standard’ mahogany interior, master cabin forward and two doubles aft.
There’s less workspace in the galley than the Malo 46 and the fridge is built into one of the lockers above.
This is more user-friendly in port – there’s no rummaging in a bottomless pit for the butter – but you’ll need good hand-eye coordination when opening it at sea.
The cockpit is a great space but might feel exposed in heavy weather.
The huge, elk-hide covered helm means you can sit to leeward watching the tell-tails whilst you sail past your competitors.
Those setting off across the Atlantic may want to make modifications such as adding a spinnaker pole and a removable inner-forestay.
I suspect the powerful, fully battened mainsail will be a handful on long downwind passages, albeit huge fun if you can keep up with the pace.
She’s a bit racy to be a blue-water cruiser, but the build quality is there and she’ll be more than capable of ocean crossings if sailed sympathetically.
If you crossed all three other boats together, you might end up with the Najad 460.
Like the Rassy, it has a 15 tonne displacement, centre-cockpit, and master aft cabin.
Like the Sweden it has a slightly flatter forefoot with spade rudder, deep fin and bulb keel and a big mainsail.
Like the Malo 46, smaller production runs allowed for interior joinery and construction standards that are a notch above the rest.
And if the standard fit out isn’t sophisticated enough, there’s the Aphrodite version with mahogany coachroof, wooden wheel and interior which looks like you’ve stepped into a classic wooden yacht.
The stand-out feature of the Najad is the aft cabin: there’s lots of natural light, the island bed has a proper headboard at the aft end where you can both sit up and read.
The engine bay is another triumph: it’s practically an extra cabin, giving unrivalled access for servicing.
The saloon has slightly less seating than the Malo 46, but it’s probably a price worth paying for space in other areas.
There are several layout options which offer single and twin bunks which is very useful on ocean crossings where additional crew don’t often come as couples.
Running backstays mean you can set her up as a true cutter rig if you want to, maybe even converting the removable inner forestay into a permanent one.
The spade rudder will be a detraction for some given the prominent role steerage problems play in abandonments.
However, as far as living on board and sailing goes, she is snapping at the heels of her competitors.
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