We spent the past two days stepping down companion ways, poking our heads into small crawl spaces to check out engines, pushing buttons on drawers, pulling on latches to lockers to evaluate storage space, and quite frankly most of it was a blur as we zombied through the halls of Boot 2020.
All told, we saw fine examples of many brands: Allures, Alubat/Ovni, Amel, Bavaria, Discovery, Elan, Garcia, Hallberg-Rassy, Jeanneau, Najad, Oyster, Sirius, Swan, Wauquiez, X yachts, and perhaps a few more that don’t readily come to mind.
How did we get here? Let me back up a bit.
Although living in Southern California gave us plenty of access to step onto any size of production boats such as Beneteau, Catalina, Hunter, and Jeanneau, we discovered we had limited opportunities to evaluate any other boats without some investment in research.
Around the time of the Annapolis boat show, Andrew had suggested the idea that we consider going to Boot 2020. For the uninitiated, Boot is the largest boat show in the world and it is held annually in Dusseldorf in January.
I remarked that it may be premature, and that we might want to see if there were any other boat shows in North America we could attend instead of going all the way to Dusseldorf to attend Boot 2020. In my mind, I was evaluating the value proposition of spending for example $2,000 towards sailing classes or chartering boats or going to Europe, and from my vantage which was conservative, I still felt as though we were a long way toward a boat purchase.
We let the Boot 2020 idea go, until I saw that the Moody DS41 was premiering at the show. I was enamored with the idea of a deck saloon after seeing the Moody DS54, how protected and safe the deck is especially in light of the fact that I want to incorporate our two cats into our sailing life, but I was intimidated by her size. I’m 5’2” and I was skeptical that I would be able to see over the cabin of a 54’ Moody. Since I was interested to see one at 41’, I checked in with Andrew once again. And so even though I had just about made up my mind to go, I asked:
“What did you have in mind when you suggested Dusseldorf?”
He replied that it would be a fun vacation going to Europe, going to Southampton and check out the Southerly yachts. Then, maybe afterward go to France and look at some Ovni boats there, followed by spending a couple days in Dusseldorf at the boat show.
Bear in mind that we had been watching youtube videos voraciously every night, both sailing lifestyle and technical videos, captured by owners of Southerly, Bavaria, Valiant, or Hallberg-Rassy. While many of these youtubers would provide a boat tour, the videos lacked the ability to validate build quality or have an impression of space and live-ability during passage-making or at anchor. We had also been scanning the used sailboat online markets, and we found few opportunities to step on any of these boats in any marina near where we lived.
In short, it seemed a natural conclusion to go, and so here we are now.
After arriving Saturday evening, we had dedicated three days in Dusseldorf to attend Boot. We zombied through the first day on little sleep.
The first hall we came through had a large Bavaria presence and even larger crowds waiting. We picked up several brochures and made a mental note to return when they were less busy. Then, we continued on to Hall 16, which featured all the brands we wanted to see.
The first boat we stepped on was a Hallberg-Rassy 57, which premiered at the show. While we were impressed with the engine room (accessibility, size and layout), the use of overall space and build construction didn’t seem to stand out beyond what we would see in production boats. To use a furniture analogy, production boats are to Ikea as custom builds are to Design within Reach.
Following that, we stepped onto a Jeanneau 410, Discovery 480 and Najad 395 AC. I really appreciated the build quality of the Discovery and particularly liked the forecabin layout that the owner chose. The Jeanneau didn’t have any standout qualities and the Najad unfortunately was only marked in my memory because my shoes were stolen.
I kid you not.
Generally one is given a choice when at a boat show. You may take your shoes off and walk about the boat sock-footed. Alternatively, you could wear a soft bootie over your shoes so as to prevent tread marks or scratches on the floor.
I had decided to take my shoes off each time, including our brief visit on the Najad. So when we stepped off and had a look around to claim our shoes, mine were nowhere to be found.
We had engaged the help of the Najad reps who were mortified and thus eager to help to rectify the situation. After searching thoroughly and with little success, we had all but given up: Andrew found out that a nearby hall in the boat show had vendors who sold a variety of clothing, accessories and even shoes.
So, bootie-footed, I followed Andrew to the hall and after turning down the first few stalls, I bought a new pair of shoes. These seemed more appropriate for marine life than the black soft suede driving shoes that I had worn on the trip. We closed the loop with the Najad reps, who were relieved but probably happy to get past this awkward situation. I really do wonder if it was intentional or not, but I guess we’ll never know.
2020 40′ Sirius DS
The next day, with more energy after a full night’s rest, we had a more productive time looking at boats. Once again, we entered Hall 17 and stood at the top of the stairs to stow our jackets away in a backpack. We scanned the massive hall and noticed a sailboat, which appeared to be outfitted with many passage-making amenities, including: radar, windvane, and solar. We had never heard of the brand before, but given our first appointment was a half hour away, we thought we would check her out.
Game changer found at Boot 2020
The Sirius 40 DS is a custom-built boat in Plön, Germany. The Sirius Werft boatyard is family-owned and has operated in the traditional boat building business for 50 years.
Her deck saloon layout is designed with a consistent eye-level in mind, meaning there is an ease of communication with crew and helmsman whether you are sitting outside in the cockpit, sitting in the settee in the saloon or standing in the galley preparing a meal.
The height of the cabin allows for visibility over to the bow while standing and through the windows when seated, which is especially important to me standing at 5’2″.
So much care went into the layout, including:
- The helm has a small wheel, which can pivot from port, center and starboard to increase visibility and maximize usable space.
- The seats built into the stern pulpit are sturdy and comfortable while also extending the size of the cockpit.
- High combing to help keep you inside the cockpit and feel safe during passage-making
The lazarette has not only a tremendous amount of storage space but there is also organization designed accommodating the following:
- hang all your extra coiled lines so that they can dry
- 5-6 large fenders can be stowed
- 2 additional tanks in a dedicated gas locker
- plastic bins on a shelf to stow other gear
It was such a nice surprise to see how much thought went into the design as it speaks to how an owner would use the boat.
Other First Impressions
That attention to detail extended throughout the boat, from stern to bow. I’m not sure that I can (or should) describe all that I saw. Perhaps some random highlights that come to mind:
- I liked the glass companion-way door. Not only is it asymmetric in its placement allowing a larger C settee configuration in the interior, but the fact that it is glass allows more light into the cabin space as well as allowing visibility to the instruments behind it.
- In the interior, there is storage for days! Every possible nook has a drawer built into it, whether drawers under the steps, a hanging locker behind the nav station, or a workstation under the settee. Everywhere you turn there is a pleasant surprise of how much room and organization can be created.
Needle in the Haystack
If you have 20 minutes to spare, please check out the full tour of the Sirius 40DS by Torsten Schmidt. She is a stark contrast to 90% of the boats on the market today, which seem to be modern boats built for a charter market of weekend parties and entertaining in marinas. The Sirius 40DS is a boat built for live-aboard, blue-water cruisers, and of all the boats we had seen on the first day, she was by far my favorite.
She was also the boat for which all future boats were being compared to as we stepped onto the Amel 60, the Swan 54 and so many other boats on the second day of the show. While the Garcia Exploration 45 blew my mind in terms of hull construction, I still kept the Sirius in the back of my mind as I evaluated storage options, because while she is 40’ on the outside, she feels 47’ on the inside.
It’s like magic!
All in all, attending Boot 2020 was a worthwhile trip. We got the chance to evaluate many boats in a short period of time and especially come across a few surprises. We have a better understanding of ourselves, our needs and what we want out of a boat.
Now as we return to the states, we can evaluate the older used boats like the Taswell or the Tanton-designed s/v Rachel J Slocum in light of what we’ve seen here at Boot 2020.