As a professional yacht delivery captain and sailor for nearly 50 years, I am often asked by new sailors, “What is the best sailboat on the market?”. This, of course, is a question everyone wants to know. My usual reply is, “The best boat on the market is the boat you will realistically use that you feel comfortable sailing.”
In order to select the best boat for you, is to truly and honestly assess what you will really use the boat for the majority of your time. So many people think they need a big boat that’s built for long range blue water sailing when they’ve yet to sail outside the local waters. To seek such a boat would probably quickly disappoint you.
I have owned boats of all types, power, sail, paddle… In all honesty, the majority of my time on my boats was always spent doing local trips, weekenders, and overnights to local destinations. I spent many nights at anchor or at a marina enjoying time with family and friends. Less than 10% of my time was spent doing a long distance overnight or multi-day trip in blue water (on my boats at least!).
I was asked to do an honest assessment of the Jeanneau 490 Sun Odyssey I recently delivered over 1200 track miles from Ft. Lauderdale to St. Thomas. I spent 90% in blue water and 10% nearshore. During those 8 days I spent offshore, we sailed on all points of sail, in various conditions from near gale force winds and 8-10′ seas and flat calm conditions.
Our first day was spent crossing the Gulfstream toward the Bahamas in 20kt Southeast winds. It was a lumpy close hauled ride, to say the least. We discovered that it is best to beef up the interior cabinet latches in this type of pounding. We managed to shore up the cabinet and drawer latches quickly. One thing I can say, I have sailed many Jeanneaus over many rough seas, through gales and can tell you without a doubt the hull and rigging on these yachts can take a pounding!
Later in our journey, we had an unfavorable wind shift causing us to close haul and tack to windward. I was impressed with how close to the wind we were able to sail and make good speed even in sloppy conditions offshore. We beat close hauled for nearly two days. I was convinced we would lose more than a day during this time, but surprisingly we made good progress to windward until we got more favorable winds as we dipped into the trades.
Our sail into the islands was fast on a close reach at over 8-10kts. in 6-8′ seas and 15-18kts. of wind. We arrived on schedule in the islands. One of our traditions upon reaching the Caribbean is to stop for a “swim call” for all hands. We anchored at Christmas Cove near Great St. James Island. This is where the 490 was in her true element! We dropped the massive swim platform and opened up the cockpit to a very comfortable open and breezy, shaded space for having our celebratory libations and a much-deserved swim in the clear, warm waters of the Caribbean!
The walk around, open continuous side decks from the cockpit at the helm to foredeck gave us plenty of room to walk without obstruction or awkward climb over the seat backs to the foredeck. We decided to see how the sunbeds worked in the cockpit and opened up the seats which turned the cockpit into a nice sunning/napping area. We brought up whatever was left of our provisions from the galley and had a great meal alfresco while
watching the other cruisers swim, play and sail about.
Overall, this is what the Jeanneau 490 was designed to provide! She’s tough offshore, some tweaking of the interior cabinets before a crossing, and she’s solid and tough as nails. A fun, spacious enjoyable cruising layout made for maximum accommodation for both fast, solid sailing performance offshore, then, relaxing in the harbor on the hook or in a marina.
Our time aboard had finally come to an end and we brought her to her new charter base at Virgin Islands Yacht Charters at Compass Pointe Marina. I have no doubt there are some happy charter customers that have taken her around the islands and lived quite comfortably during their explorations! We sure have come a long way since Sir Francis Drake plied those waters!