A modern classic performance cruiser turns 20
It is hard to believe that the Outbound 46 is 20 years old. I remember meeting the inspiration behind the boat, Phil Lambert, at the Strictly Sail show in Oakland California the year he launched the design. As it turned out, the concept was a success and he has been selling and building the boats steadily ever since. And, he has been tweaking the design and details all along the way.
The 46 we know today started life as a 44-footer. It was designed by noted race-boat designer Carl Schumacher to be a fast, easy-to-handle couple’s cruising boat that was capable of crossing all oceans in comfort and speed. The hull is not as beamy as many modern production boat designs and beam does not carry all the way aft. Instead, the bow and stern are well balanced so when the hull heels it does not shift the buoyancy aft affecting the pressure on the rudder. Instead, the hull remains in balance which makes it very easy to steer, either by hand or with the autopilot.
As a voyaging boat, the original design was given both large fuel and water tanks and lots of storage areas. The tanks are under the main cabin sole, which gets all of that weight low and improves stability and motion in a seaway. This frees up the space under the bunks and the settees in the saloon for dry storage.
The third feature that Lambert required in his new design is a working shop where the tools and spare parts are kept, a vise can be mounted and where an owner can maintain all of the boat’s machinery. This got tucked into the starboard quarter under the cockpit seat and is entered through the shower stall in the aft head. Putting a shower stall in a 44 footer was something of a novelty 20 years ago but is considered standard today.
The hull is solid fiberglass so it will never delaminate and can be repaired easily anywhere in the world. The keel is molded with the hull with internal ballast so there are no keel bolts to sheer. There is a collision bulkhead forward which forms the large double chain locker; there is enough room in this locker for two full anchor rodes of 300 feet each. There are places along a world cruise where you have to anchor in 100 feet of water, so 300 feet of chain is necessary.
Over the years, feedback from owners and the evolution of cruising boat design has given Lambert the impetus to make steady changes and improvements to the original design. The largest was the addition of a sugar scoop transom, which transformed the 44 into a 46. The addition of the optional hard dodger in the cockpit is another step toward making the boat great and comfortable in all sailing conditions. If you are standing a night watch alone, being able to tuck yourself inside the hard dodger will make life a lot better.
The cockpit is fairly narrow and quite deep as compared to modern production boats, which makes it safe and dry in high seas conditions. And it means there is only a single wheel instead of the now common twin wheels.
For ease of handling and efficiency, the 46 comes with a cutter rig that offers a small overlapping genoa on the inner forestay and a larger genoa or reaching sail on the head stay. The head stay and large geona tack down to the stainless steel bowsprit that doubles as the anchor roller. A free-flying reacher or asymmetrical chute can be flown from the tip of the sprit.
The boat comes with a standard Sparcraft mast and a slab reefing mainsail. This is foolproof and offers the simplest and most efficient rig configuration. But, Outbound can provide an in-mast furling mainsail or an in-boom furling system if that is what you want. Since the 46 is designed to be a couple’s boat, the in-mast option makes a lot of sense while the in-boom option might add just a tad too much complexity in a boat that is bound far from rigging shops and boat yards.
The accommodation plan has the owner’s suite in the forepeak with a big centerline double bunk and enclosed head and the sink positioned just out side the head compartment. This change to the position of the sink enabled Lambert to take the forward holding tank from beneath the dinette and install it in a raided compartment in the head where it can gravity drain without the need of long, smelly hoses and pumps. This is a big improvement which also frees up a lot of storage space.
The guest cabin is aft on the port side and has a large hanging locker and storage space for a couple. The idea here is that couples often take along a third crew when making passages or even a couple so that is the space they need. Then, when cruising some exotic region, the couple will invite friends and family for a week or two.
The 46’s galley is an excellent seagoing galley that has been designed so a cook or bottle washer can always brace a hip when at sea so he or she can use both hands to cook and wash. The sinks are nearly on the boat’s centerline so they will drain on both tacks and there is plenty of counter space for preparing and serving meals; plus, the centerline counter will make a great bar when entertaining.
The chart table across from the galley is a proper nav station where you can mount all of your instruments and communications. The table is large enough for a ChartKit. This will also serve as a home office where you can set up a laptop and communicate with those at home.
The head just aft of the chart table is huge and has a large separate shower stall. Being at the foot of the companionway, the head and shower will make an excellent wet locker when sailing in rainy or rough weather.
The dinette will seat six and cross from it the bench settee has a small fold down table that will be good for glasses of even playing board games. Both the settee and the dinette will make good sea berths. Rigging lee cloths to these would makes sense.
One of the first things you notice when you enter climb down below is that there are hand holds everywhere. The boat is meant to go to sea where it can get bouncy. You need to hold on and on the 46 this will never be an issue. You are never more than an arm’s length from a hand hold.
For 20 years, the Outbounds have been built in China in a traditional way. The interior fit and finish is classic varnished teak and solid wood cabinets and doors with varnished teak ceilings against the hull. This look is warm, traditional and classic yacht style. The large windows add brightness but you still know you are down below in a proper yacht.
If you are cruisers looking for a proper performance cruising boat that is beautifully balanced under sail, easy to sail and fast, then the Outbound 46 might be just for you. And, if you are looking for a cruising that has been thought through from your cruising perspective, you might not find one in this size that fits your needs better. Have a closer look here.