Gib' Sea 41

by Greg Jones

Blue Water Sailing
February 2003


 

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A WELL-MADE, SWEET SAILING FAMILY CRUISER

When I arrived at the fuel dock in the Newport, R.I., harbor, I learned that the Gib’Sea 41 we were going to take to Annapolis, Md., some 400 miles away, was not yet available. Another magazine for sailors was onboard testing the boat, but the whole process would only take an hour, after which we could head offshore for the Blue Water Sailing boat test.

The wind was blowing up half a gale, right on the nose as we headed out Narragansett Bay. We could have set the sails, tacking back and forth with water pouring heroically over the deck, but our destination for the night was Block Island, 25 miles away and so directly upwind from us it was as though there was a huge wind machine mounted at the entrance to Great Salt Pond.

This 41-foot masthead sloop is Gib’Sea’s latest addition to their fleet, fitting neatly into the perceived marketing gap between the 37 and the 43. The 41 was introduced at the 2001 Paris Boat Show, with the first one launched in La Rochelle, France, in May of 2002. The boat we sailed was hull number four, the boat used for the American debut of the design and star of the Gib’Sea exhibit at the Newport International Boat Show.

The 41 was designed by J & J Design, a Slovenian firm with a long list of familiar yachts to their credit. They have drawn boats for everyone from Bavaria to Jeanneau to Dufour and several boats for Gib’Sea.

Wave-bashing out of Narragansett Bay we were at the last stages of the flood tide, with slack water perhaps two hours away, so there wasn’t much current to buck, but there was 35 knots of wind and the waves. We managed to make 5.5 to 6 knots at 2,400 rpm, and while there may have been the chance for another knot or two (the hull speed calculates to 8.34 knots) if we rang up the engine room for another thousand revs, the price would have been less comfort and a lot more water over the bows. As we turned more to the south, the wave pressure lessened somewhat and the wind ceased to be directly on the bows so we nudged the single-lever engine control and kicked up the revs to 2,600, giving us 7.1 knots, ample evidence of the easier sea conditions.

It was a day to be thankful for being on a sailboat. To both sides of us powerboats leaving the Newport show were making their way out of the harbor. They were making a few knots more than we, but they were launching off waves like flying fish and hitting the troughs with a sound that carried over a quarter of a mile of open water. The skippers didn’t look comfortable. They were standing up, holding onto the wheel and being thrown from side to side as they made their way out of the harbor. The eerie glow in the cockpit was probably from their white knuckles. Onboard our Gib’Sea, life was much more mellow.

We did hit the wave troughs with a thud now and again, but the Gib’Sea 41 is built with offshore seas in mind. The design carries a Category “A-Ocean” rating from the CE, their highest offshore rating. Briefly, the boat must be designed for extended, self-sufficient offshore voyages with winds in excess of Force 8 and wave heights in excess of 13 feet.

Entering Block Island’s Great Salt Pond things calmed down considerably, and after a bit of looking around we chose an anchorage in 12 feet of water. Then I discovered that the boat needs something to hold the chain other than the large cleat placed beside the chain locker. It’s fine for a rope rode, but this boat was set up with 3/8-inch chain, powered out and in with a Lofrans electric windlass. Not a serious oversight, easily remedied, and part of the checklist resulting from a sea trial.

The galley is to port, amidships, and directly across from the dinette, in the manner currently popular in European boats. The double sink is at the forward end of the galley, and while it functioned well from a workflow standpoint, we prefer sinks to be as near the centerline as possible to ensure ease of draining on either tack.

The sinks are of a good size, square in shape, measuring 13x9x8 and 13x13x8 inches. We don’t like round sinks, having had dishes become nearly stuck in them on other boats, and the square shape obviates that problem.

The refrigerator, by Frigoboat, kept things nicely chilled with no freezing cold spots in either of the two boxes. It only drew four amps, quite economical considering it chilled a box 18.5x16x10 inches and another with slightly less volume, with four inches of insulation on the sides and two inches on the top/opening lid.

Our initial skepticism that the linear arrangement of the galley would not work well in a seaway, with nothing to brace against while cooking, proved groundless, however. In the center of the saloon is a dining seat, under which is stowage. This seat has a sturdy wood brace at just the right place. There is also enough room to pass by the cook, potentially a problem with a galley not tucked into its own U-shaped area.

The various drawers and lockers all opened using a latch that requires sticking your finger in and pushing a lever. We have sailed with this type of latch before, and never overcame the fear of a wave knocking us sideways with our finger securely stuck in the hole. The hole is bigger than some we have seen, and probably less prone to a problem but this is something we would change.

The chainplates are (just barely) accessible behind the settee cushions, tucked up under what might be called the beam shelf. A 7/8-inch stainless steel rod carries the tension, with all adjustments topside, preventing the rod from working in a seaway and inducing leaks.

We had planned to leave before sunrise the next day, but at the hour when we expected to see a glowing promise on the eastern horizon all we saw was a thick gray cloud, with visibility of just over a boat length. I the catalog of pleasures, there is little to rival the delicious feeling of returning to a warm berth in the guise of prudent seamanship.

Two hours later, with the fog cleared enough to make out the harbor entrance, we were up on deck taking in the anchor. The design of a good anchor well, while neither difficult nor secret, does take up a lot of space. An anchor well for chain should be narrow and deep in order to prevent chain castles from forming, but that is a shape hard to come by when designing the interior spaces of a boat. Designers like to use the triangular area immediately aft of the bows, and that results in an anchor well that is rather more wide than deep. It’s a shape that works well enough for rope, but necessitates a careful eye when taking in the chain. A capsized chain castle will almost always foul when running out, and setting your anchor with a breeze piping up isn’t the time to sort out a fouled chain. This is not necessarily a criticism of the Gib’Sea as it is characteristic of most of today’s boats.

The cold front which had brought the unsettled weather and winds had stalled out and evolved to an occluded front just north of us, and in its wake was the morning’s fog, followed by the winds veering from southeast to northwest at 6 to 10 knots. Upon clearing the entrance we rolled out the 115- percent headsail and the mast-furled main, and, with both sails drawing nicely, shut off the engine.

The engine noise wasn’t bad at all, but there is still nothing to compare with the whisper of wind against sail and the soughing of water past the hull. We were tucked up pretty close to the wind, just under 45 degrees apparent, and making 4.9 knots through the water in eight knots of true wind. The helm was easy, feather-light, with just over a spoke of weather helm. The cable steering terminates in a quadrant easily inspected under a hatch beneath the helmsman’s set. We set the emergency rudder, discovering it worked best with the arm set to face aft; like nearly every emergency tiller we have used, steering with it would require either the services of an Olympic wrestler or some means of mechanical advantage.

The steering was accurate, smooth, with no slack, and the seat-to-wheel distance allowed for legroom and the ergonomics seemed well conceived. A number of comfortable positions are possible, something hard to evaluate within a few minutes at a boat show or, for that matter, during an hour-long boat test.

Not bad for a family boat, I thought. When Dufour bought the Gib’Sea company in 1998, Gib’Sea had not exported boats to the U.S. since the 1980s, and the brand name was virtually unknown here. At first, Dufour thought about marketing Gib’Sea boats under the name Dufour 2000. The original French company, Gibert Marine, was well known in Europe and even though the Dufour Gib’Sea bears no resemblance to the first Gib’Sea boats, Dufour kept the name.

Gib’Sea boats are made on the same production line in La Rochelle where Dufours are built; they are the family boat side of the Dufour line. It’s a “family cruiser” as opposed to a “performance cruiser,” according to Dufour, and I suppose that defines the difference as well as anything.

“Family cruiser” it may be, but it’s still a solidly built boat, with the hull laid up by hand using isophthalic resins with Aramid reinforcement in the fiberglass. The outer hull layer is solid glass, using NPG resins for osmosis prevention, and the floors are laminated to the hull structure. The deck is balsa cored, reducing weight above the waterline.

The underbody profile has a fairly constant radius from stem to stern, with an epoxy-coated, cast-iron bulb-fin keel and a semi-balanced spade rudder, made of closed-cell epoxy foam. The keel is worthy of mention, with its flattened bulb having a long, distinctive trailing edge, possibly making it a very efficient kelp catcher when motoring in reverse.

The bow is nearly plumb and distinguished by what Gib’Sea calls the “Dolphin Nose,” a term which may be a literal translation from the French. The short bowsprit has a cutout in the center and a split forestay chainplate, made of what may be best described as a stainless steel plank. The anchor, a 35-pound. Delta plow, rests with its shank through the split portion of the forestay chainplate. The chainplate is then attached to the upper portion of the stem where it serves double duty as a chafe guard for the anchor and a solid attachment point for the forestay. We liked the system, and were able to check its ability to withstand strain at wide angles of pull as the boat yawed in the winds while we were anchored in Great Salt Pond.

Looking aft, the twin backstays provide easy access to the sugar-scoop stern, and a swim ladder folds neatly down from the transom. The waterline is just below the lower edge of the transom, and I noticed no propensity for annoying noises from waves slapping against the stern when at anchor.

With a wide, low-deadrise hull shape, there was some pounding when working hard to windward, but there was no shuddering in the hull. It felt solid, secure, and the heavy hull lay-up schedule provided good sound insulation. I have been in boats where the sound of water rushing by, magnified by large, unsupported hull sections, was so noisy as to give rise to dreams of sleeping under a waterfall, but the Gib’Sea 41 provided a quiet refuge from the sea.

The boat exhibited high form sta-bility when on a reach, and the transition from form-resisted heeling to ballast-resisted heeling was gradual, coming in at just under 20 degrees of heel. We rarely saw that much heel, however, even with winds of 25 knots, and the boat gets high marks for comfort in a seaway. The pounding is an inevitable byproduct of the broad, flat hull shape, and if you want over 13 feet of beam, carried quite low in the hull, then that is the price. After spending five days living aboard, eating, sleeping and spending off-watch time in the comfortable saloon, it is a trade I was quite willing to accept. The wide beam is always with you and any pounding is transitory. The beam/length ratio is a very modern 3.16, and the beam is carried well aft. The beam in the aft cabin is equal to the beam at the forward bulkhead separating the saloon from the V-berth.

Trimming the Gib’Sea’s sails is vastly simplified by a clever visual marking system on the clew of the headsail. A reinforcing loop of nylon webbing is set at an angle that should, when the car is set properly, be in line with the sheet. It’s well thought-out, and we found that setting the car by eye and experience resulted in a near-perfect coincidence with the guide. On the headsail and main are three blue circles, indicating the reef points, simplicity itself: Roll in the sail to the mark and you have a repeatable reefing point.

With an increasing number of sailors purchasing a 30- or 40-footer as their first boat, aids such as this will ease their learning curve, and Gib’Sea is to be commended for making life that much easier.

Under more moderate conditions, the Gib’Sea made six knots in 8.3 knots of true wind at 45 degrees apparent, slowing to 4.5 knots when we squeezed up to 40 degrees. In 10 knots of wind, we tacked through 90 degrees, but it was faster and tidier when we went through 95 degrees. The roughly 15-degree sheeting angle is determined by the track running directly aft of the stays. Running the headsail inside the stays is prevented by the presence of the lower shrouds.

Heaving-to was easy, and worked best with the headsail rolled to the second reef and the main sheeted a few degrees to leeward. The boat calmed down, resting against the wind, with a nice long slick to windward. We succeeded on the second try, after finding we needed to reduce headsail drive. The range of yawing motion where the boat stayed hove-to was acceptably wide, and I would feel quite comfortable going below with the wheel tied down and the sails set. Going below in a seaway I wanted a handhold immediately upon reaching the saloon sole, but it was a far reach to the first one. Except for that, handholds were well placed, and on deck the aluminum toerail, coupled with a good handrail on the deckhouse, made moving about quite secure.

The toerail was solid, except for an opening amidships and at the extreme fore and aft ends, something we felt to be an oversight. Oval openings in the toerail have such a variety of uses, from snatchblocks for preventers to tying up the dinghy, that this would be a modification we would make fairly soon after taking possession of our new Gib’Sea 41.

As you arrive in the saloon from on deck, the nav station is directly to starboard, in our two-head version. There is a three-head version, but the price for the added plumbing is that the nav station becomes a table added aft of the starboard settee.

To port is the head, with an enclosed shower and sufficient in both size and comfort. Forward of the head is the galley, with the dining table across from it. The V-berth, with its own head, is 6’9” long and just as wide at the big end and large enough at the “footsie end” for two people (or four feet) to sleep in comfort. The head door is 18 inches wide and 5’6” high, with a sill high enough that even when showering underway no rivulets of water escaped to the cabin. Surrounding the V-berth is a shelf, quite large at the aft end, tapering to single-book size forward. There is a dressing seat to port, with stowage amply provided by shelves, drawers and a closet. We slept in the V-berth, even underway, and found the padding sufficient for a good night’s rest, and the length was more than adequate for our 6’2” frame to stretch out.

The nav station has a proper table, measuring 23x37 inches, big enough for a proper paper chart—seen by some sailors as a touch of atavism made superfluous by the use of electronic charts, but a prudent mariner will not rely on only one means of navigation. Charts can be stowed in the usual manner under the chart table, and the 24x23x2-inch volume will keep folding to a minimum. There is room aplenty on the bulkheads surrounding the nav station for a proper electric navigational suite, and the wiring is easily accessed with the large opening panels. Our boat was outfitted with a Furuno GP 1650 chart plotter, and an Autohelm ST 60 nav instrument suite, with an Autohelm ST 6000 autopilot, and the installation of the chart plotter left room for more gear, such as a radar screen.

Aft of the saloon are two cabins, with the port cabin having its own attached head with shower. The berths are large, 6’9” long and nearly five-feet wide, running fore and aft, and thus suitable for sleeping while underway. An opening portlight, placed on the transom, gives good airflow, with two more opening ports in the deckhead and the hull for those warm tropical nights.

Large shelves measuring 13x10x23 inches are against the hulls as is a hanging locker. As with the V-berth, there is also stowage beneath the sole.

Engine access is very good. The entire forward end of the engine is visible when the companionway is raised on its pressurized gas piston, and the two aft cabins have openings allowing engine and steering access.

After 400 miles, we found the Gib’Sea 41 to meet nearly all of the requirements for a family cruiser, even for extended offshore passages. It is solid, comfortable and evidences a design team familiar with the requirements for an offshore boat.

At 41 feet, it is squarely in the size range that is fast becoming nearly standard with today’s cruising families or couples. With all lines led aft to the cockpit, it is suitable for shorthanded sailing, and there are only a few minor tweaks we would make, most of them mentioned in this article, which we would make to transform this well-equipped cruiser to “our” boat.

LOA 41’6”
LWL 35’8”
Beam 13’1”
Draft 5’8”
Air draft 52’6”
Displ. 17,680 lbs.
Ballast 5,292 lbs. (steel)
Sail Area (100 percent) 653 sq. ft.
LPS 125 degrees
Ballast/Displ. 30 percent
Displ./Length 173
SA/Displ. 15.4
Pounds per inch immersion: 1,673
Fuel 42 gal.
Water 150 gal.
Auxiliary 50-hp Nannie; as tested, optional 56-hp Yanmar (55-hp Volvo also available)
Designer J & J Design
Base price $159,133 (two heads); $162,109 (three heads)


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