With the introduction of its smallest decksaloon model, has Moody defined a new genre of 40ft cruisers? David Harding sails the Moody 41DS
Whatever your opinion of decksaloons, there’s something extremely civilised about being able to walk ‘inside’ from the cockpit, staying on the same level and looking out through big windows.
Of course decksaloons are nothing new, and they come in all shapes and sizes. The one on Moody’s 41DS, however, is likely to win new converts, including people who might otherwise be tempted by a catamaran or even a motorboat. Opening to the cockpit via a push-and-slide door, it gives you a virtually uninterrupted 360° view of the outside world.
You have the galley immediately next to the door, with a large hatch opening to the cockpit for extra light and ventilation. Descending to the depths to put the kettle on will become a distant memory.
Moody’s newest decksaloon model is all about inside/outside living space – and a lot of each. A hard top covers the cockpit forward of the wheels, the centre canvas section sliding away so you can sit in the sun if you choose. Naturally you have a bathing platform at the stern and there’s also a seating-cum-lounging area in the bow, creating a sort of forward cockpit.
And down below? Well, the Moody is truly cavernous. Bill Dixon’s team drew a boat with plumb ends, high freeboard, full forward sections, near-vertical topsides, a broad stern incorporating a soft chine, and the beam carried well forward, creating a vast volume for the interior designers in Germany to play with. It has been used to create a supremely comfortable interior for a couple with occasional guest or second couple.
No attempt has been made to squeeze in extra berths or cabins, so the Moody boasts living space and stowage on a scale few boats of this length can match.
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Form following function
If the first time you see the Moody is from the bow, your eye will inevitably be drawn to the broad flat stem with its hard corners. That aside, there’s nothing particularly out of the ordinary about the hull shape in the context of a modern voluminous cruising yacht.
The full bow sections will more than accommodate the small loss of buoyancy from the bow thruster in its tunnel and support the weight of the optional 100m of stainless steel anchor chain, not to mention a full water tank under the berth in the owner’s cabin. Helped by the broad stem, a deep forefoot allows the bow thruster to be mounted well forward for maximum effect.
Staying below the waterline and moving aft, we find an L-shaped iron fin keel of moderate proportions giving a draught of 2.25m/7ft 5in. That’s unless you pay extra, as had the owners of Aurelia, our test boat, for the 1.85m/6ft 1in alternative. Propulsion is via a saildrive well forward of a single deep rudder.
Back above the water, fold-down boarding steps neatly incorporated into the solid stainless steel tubular guardrails help you scale the topsides. The sunken side decks are protected by high bulwarks and extend all the way to the bow – just as on the original Moody 45DS that we tested back in 2008.
Overhead is a deck-stepped double-spreader rig of high-fractional configuration. It supports a self-tacking jib and a mainsail that, though slab-reefing as standard, is almost invariably going to be of push-button in-mast persuasion, as on our test boat.
Moving towards the stern you find twin wheels with seats right aft. The forward lower section of the cockpit sole is on the same level as the deck saloon’s. By now, with 15-20 knots blowing across a gloriously sunny Solent, I was keen to leave the marina behind and see how this voluminous shape behaved at sea.
Life on the ocean wave
As you’d expect of a modern yacht with a bow thruster (and the option of a stern thruster), manoeuvring presented no particular challenges. That said, windage would inevitably be a factor in a breeze.
In open water the 57hp of Yanmar pushed us along quietly and smoothly, 1,500 rpm giving 6.3 knots and 2,100 rpm 7 knots. Hinging up the cockpit sole reveals the engine set in its smooth, wipe-clean moulding and with a good amount of space all round. Additional access is from the front, via the decksaloon.
You have a choice of helming position under power or sail. Standing at the wheel to see over the coachroof might initially seem the obvious approach, though you will have a blind spot immediately forward of the bow unless you’re well over 6ft tall. Much of the time it’s better to look through the windows (all in toughened glass) from one of the helm seats.
Structural advances have allowed pillars to become smaller and window area much larger than would have been possible only a few years ago, so your visibility is largely unrestricted if you sit down.
The biggest challenge can be reflection in the glass, especially if you’re on the starboard side and facing the double layer of reflections from the open door slid across inside the aft end of the saloon. It helps to move around periodically, both from side to side and to alternate between standing and sitting. I found it useful on occasions to stand on the helm seat for a totally clear view over the coachroof – a position that’s unlikely to feature in Moody’s book of good practice.
Setting sail is straightforward enough (more on that later). A Seldén Furlex 304 is standard for the self-tacker, as is the pair of electric Lewmar 45 primary winches. You can use the port one to furl or reef the jib if you need to.
With the main fully unfurled too and a few tweaks made, we settled down to beat into a breeze that ranged between 12 and 22 knots. At its upper end this was probably as much as the boat wanted under full sail, but the flat water gave us options that wouldn’t have been on offer in a seaway and we were perfectly comfortable most of the time.
This is a boat that definitely likes to be sailed ‘full and by’ in the old parlance: sailing deep enough to keep the log reading in the mid 6s felt best for VMG and gave us a tacking angle of within 85° on the compass. Matching the polars might have been easier with the help of a folding prop instead of the fixed three-blader.
For a boat of this nature it was a creditable performance, even allowing for the near-ideal conditions. Elvstrom’s FCL laminate upgrades from the standard Dacron sails are undoubtedly worth having, not least because the greater stability of the fabric allows the mainsail to carry a larger roach.
We also had the optional outer forestay and a genoa on an electric furler. Given factors such as the Moody’s high windage and the modest spread of sail with the self-tacker, extra canvas would be welcome in under 10 knots or so. Instead of a genoa, you might favour a lighter sail designed for greater wind angles if you reckon on motoring upwind in light airs anyway.
Since we were enjoying moderately fresh conditions, we waited to unfurl the genoa until the wind was approaching the beam, and then surged along with the log nudging over 8 knots at times.
In terms of general obedience, the Moody was not found wanting. The rudder is big enough to maintain grip beyond what would be considered normal angles of heel for a boat like this, unlike on some earlier Moodys that have been known to spin round and face whence they came with little provocation.
Helming positions are comfortable from windward or leeward, giving good sight of the jib’s luff, and the feel through the Jefa steering is positive. Our test boat had the optional Carbonautica composite wheels, a well-worth-having upgrade from stainless steel.
Given the nature of the boat, it would be churlish to moan too much about particular aspects of the performance and handling. Nonetheless, as it’s designed to – and does – sail, a few observations are worth making. Visibility of the headsails when you’re furling or unfurling them from the cockpit isn’t great. It’s is a function of enjoying the protection of a decksaloon and a hard top: you can’t have it all ways.
Managing the rig
Colour-coding the lines, led aft through tunnels to the clutches and winches forward of the helm stations each side, would make life easier. On our test boat they were all white with variations of black and grey fleck.
As for sail trim, a self-tacking jib will always twist open too far when the sheet is eased. Similarly, a mainsheet taken to a fixed point close below the boom (such as on top of the coachroof) will also lose its downward component. At times when sailing upwind we felt like de-powering slightly.
Dropping the traveller would normally be one of the first steps if you had one. Easing the mainsheet with this arrangement will principally twist the sail open even if you crank the vang on hard, and is a de-powering tool to be used in moderation. Realistically with the Moody, reefing the mainsail to the first batten will probably be the answer.
Still in the cockpit and looking at other aspects, perhaps my biggest grouse is the all-too-common absence of stowage for small items – binoculars, phones, drinks and so on that you want to be able to grab without having to dive into one of the cavernous lockers either side beneath the cockpit seats (and you have to be very careful not to trap any lines near the hinges when you close the heavy lids again).
These lockers contain the two diesel tanks and leave copious amounts of space for everything else, while the liferaft lives just above the static waterline in the stern, below the helm seats, and would be easy to slide into the water with the bathing platform lowered. A hatch in the stern gives access to the inside of the transom and is often awash, so you would want to be sure that it seals as it should.
Moving forward, the recessed side decks are easy to negotiate but there’s nothing to stop green water running aft all the way to the cockpit. On the leeward side it should flow straight out through the stern. If you get green water on the weather deck, it seems likely that some of it will end up in the cockpit’s lower section. Drains here should get rid of the water, though its arrival might come as a surprise to people who weren’t expecting to get wet feet.
In the decksaloon we find the galley along the port side, a chart table forward to port (with the optional third helm station on our test boat) and a large seating area around the table to starboard. Spend another £2,500 or so and you can lower the table at the push of a button to create an extra double berth or large lounging area. Mahogany joinery is standard, the golden oak on Aurelia being among the options.
Lifting the sole board in the galley reveals steps down to the ‘cellar’, a utility area complete with space for a washing machine and a second fridge as well as stowage and access to some of the electrical systems. On the whole, access to the essential systems seems good throughout the boat, partly because of the general and very welcome lack of cramming. Interior mouldings are used sparingly and much of the interior is formed by the joinery, allowing access to the outer hull.
When you go forward from the decksaloon and drop down a level, you find the main electrical panel to starboard by the steps, protected by a hinged door.
Straight ahead in the full bow is the master cabin, complete with semi-island berth. There is stacks of stowage and hanging space, an abundance of natural light, more than generous headroom and a spacious en-suite heads and shower. As standard, this heads is shared (via an extra door) with the guest cabin to starboard. I suspect most owners will choose the additional heads to port in a space otherwise used for walk-in stowage.
The guest cabin can have a double berth, twins, or twins with an infill for a double conversion. As the pictures show, the overall styling is modern without being garish and the detailing and quality of finish are hard to fault.
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It’s fascinating to see how Bill Dixon and Moody have developed the decksaloon yacht since the Eclipse range of the 1980s and 1990s. The changes in 30 years are quite remarkable. As for the question of whether the Moody 41DS is a lifestyle cruiser, the answer has to be a resounding ‘yes’. In some contexts such a description might be seen as a euphemism at best. In this case it’s what the boat is – simply and unashamedly. This is a boat for people who, whatever their boating background, want to spend extended periods aboard, most probably in port or at anchor much of the time. Purists, performance sailors and bluewater yachtsmen would be unlikely to give it a second glance unless planning a major change of direction in their sailing career. By contrast, it will provide a lot to think about for those who might alternatively be considering a catamaran or a motorboat for the space, one-level living and sheltered cockpit. So calling it a lifestyle cruiser is anything but an insult. It’s not that this boat won’t perform respectably well under sail, because it does, or that there’s any reason why it shouldn’t complete the ARC and sail home again too, because it could. It’s just that the Moody’s purpose and its strengths lie elsewhere, and its ‘strengths elsewhere’ are pretty impressive.