Caliber 40 from Caliber Yachts fits the bill as a couple’s boat for blue water cruising.
Many soon-to-be blue water cruisers look for a good couple’s boat that would be a strong and reliable platform, is easy to manage but can carry all that is needed for a long term adventure and that won’t break the bank. With parameters like that, the Caliber 40 comes to mind and it’s unique in that it’s a boat that (with modifications) has been built over several decades and is a proven performer.
Design, Construction and Performance
There are two flavors of the Caliber 40 available on the used boat market today. The Caliber 40 and the Caliber 40 LRC (Long Range Cruiser) which I will discuss as one basic design with some key differences. The McCreary brothers, now based in Clearwater, Florida, started the company as a garage boat builder in 1979 with the first of the series, the Caliber 28, appearing in 1981. During the eighties, a full line of cruising boats was developed and in 1991, the Caliber 40 made the scene with the LRC version still being manufactured today.
The design is a very attractive cutter with a bowsprit and a bobstay that get the ground tackle well away from the bow during anchoring. The boat has a straight sheer and a reverse transom with a small but very handy swim step and a boarding ladder. The deck of the 40 is cored with marine plywood rather than with foam or balsa and the layup of the hull is solid fiberglass which accounts for some of the 21,600 lbs of displacement. The Caliber 40 has a fully encapsulated, elongated fin keel that has an iron and concrete ballast of 9,500 pounds. Her ballast to displacement ratio is a very respectable 44% which is good to find on a boat intended for bluewater use. The rudder is skeg hung for protection and tracking and her waterline is just over 32 feet.
The Caliber Yachts marketing team has named and trademarked every step of their design and construction process including steps that are good but basically conventional to boat building procedures. The Quad-Seal Deck to Hull System™ is very well done and bonds the deck with a combination of through-bolting, 3M 5200, copolymer tape and good placement of the rubrail and the aluminum toerail. The Integral Strength-Grid System ™ refers to the bonding of the fuel and water tanks to the structure of the hull which not only creates a double bottom effect, but also strengthens the boat and helps spread the loads evenly over the hull. With the exception of the heads, no liners or molded pans are used in the construction and the result is a fairly stiff boat.
“Reinforced Impact Zones” at the forward waterline and the forward edge of the keel are extra layers of fiberglass applied to spots that are likely to suffer damage on impact with floating or submerged obstacles. There is also a watertight bulkhead in the bow, but more on this later.
The design is a moderately heavy displacement cruising boat so it takes a bit of wind to get her going. However, like most cruising boats of this class, sailing 5 – 5.5 knots in 10 – 12 knots of wind on a beam reach is not bad and can provide 140 mile plus days in the tradewinds. Although the sheeting angles have been tightened as the tracks have been brought inboard, sailing to within 60 degrees of the apparent wind can be expected. Although the boat will kick around in heavy seas, it will do so no more than other cruising boats and it will remain fairly comfortable in big waves as well as big winds.
Cockpit & Rigging
The T-shaped cockpit is roomy and good for entertaining, but also deep and safe at sea with three large cockpit drains and high back rests. There are two lazarettes, one for the propane tank and a good sized, self-draining space for storage on the other side. There are also cut outs in the deep coaming sides for extra storage of smaller items or radios. The freshwater shower is perfect for a quick rinse on the swim step. The Caliber 40 has two vents and six hatches and two dorades to provide good ventilation. I noticed that for a bluewater boat, the cleats and chocks could be larger and the standard #48 Lewmar primaries seem to be undersized as well. The anchor locker forward is accessible via the deck and is conveniently divided.
The single spreader, keel stepped rig is easily managed by a couple or by a singlehander. The inner forestay can be removed and secured at the deck near the mast, or can accommodate a roller furling staysail that, along with the running backstays, will be very useful in a big blow. The main is fully battened with two deep reefs, the rigid boom vang was standard, and all lines are lead aft so a short-handed crew can raise and lower the sails and reef from the cockpit. Chainplates are connected to the deck and through-bolted to the bulkheads and access to them is quite good down below.
Layout & Accommodations
The Caliber is a modern two-cabin design with 6’2” headroom throughout. The interior layout resembles that of the Passport 40 starting with a spacious head and separate stall shower forward. Continuing aft, the master stateroom has a Pullman style offset double to port with lockers and plenty of storage to starboard. The saloon features a 6’2”, L-shaped settee to port that converts to a double berth. There is also a straight settee to starboard and a very useful dinette table that folds down from the bulkhead and out to join both settees to comfortably seat six for dinner.
The galley is to port with a double sink inboard, and a two-burner stove and oven along with a top loading refrigerator outboard. There is a second, and very small head to port that is accessible from the saloon or the aft cabin. The outboard facing nav station is next to the galley. Some owners have installed a Lexan divider between the galley and the nav desk to protect the station from whatever may be splashing around on the stove. At 5’ 5”, I found the nav station to be a tight squeeze. Taller boaters will have a trouble finding a place for their legs or using the station for extended periods of time.
Good light is provided by fourteen stainless steel, opening ports that are designed for offshore work and the boat is finished in nice, hand-rubbed teak with good storage below the settees.
Systems & Mechanical
Engine access to the standard 50 HP Yanmar is not bad for an aft cockpit boat. The top step of the companion way ladder opens easily to provide access to the top of the engine including a quick check on the belts, oil and coolant. The entire companion way box may be removed for access to the Racor, the raw water strainer and the entire front of the engine. Additional access is via a side compartment in the aft cabin. The standard Yanmar will power the boat at approximately 6 knots at 2000 rpm cruising speed, or 7 knots at the 3000 rpm maximum. It is projected that the LRCs, with their increased fuel capacity, have a range of 1,484 miles.
Batteries on the Caliber are carried far aft and behind the engine, and access, mostly via the lazarette or the aft cabin, is not great. It would behoove an owner to invest in gel cells or other maintenance free type batteries because a periodic water check on standard lead acid cells would probably end up being put off due to the inconvenience and this could lead to problems.
Tankage on these boats is where some of the key differences, strengths and problems lie. The Caliber 40 LRC was introduced in 1994 and the primary innovation was the substantially increased fuel capacity. Caliber realized that a passagemaker with 46 gallons of fuel would rely constantly on favorable wind conditions so they added another 160 gallons or so. There are two fuel tanks and two water tanks, all aluminum, on the centerline under the cabin sole and both have separate delivery systems which is well thought out in case there is contamination of either water or fuel.
There have been problems reported with the holding tank however. The early boats carried a 110 gallon holding tank, integral to the boat and under the anchor locker. When combined with ground tackle and chain, this makes for a tremendous amount of weight forward and an alarming amount of sewage to carry on a boat of this size. The holding tank served the aft head as well which left long hoses under the cabin sole to fill and potentially clog.
Additionally, the holding tank formed the watertight bulkhead mentioned earlier and it was glassed to both the deck and the hull at the bow. The key to the problems were the screens in the tank vents that clogged easily if they were not cleaned regularly and several owners reported creating suction and a vacuum as they pumped the head – one so serious, it caused a messy delamination of the hull. These screens were also used on the water tanks which could leave a water pump running dry as it operated against a vacuum in the tank. Be sure to inspect the hull around the holding tank when considering a used boat and check all the screens. You may be able to contact Caliber Yachts for replacements or information on the construction of a particular model year.
Caliber 40 LRCs are still built in Florida today. These later models are the same basic design but they have benefited from owner and dealer feedback, much of which Caliber Yachts has taken to heart. The selling price on the 40s moves between $143,000 and $159,000 but the more recent LRC versions are listing at $75,000 –100,000 higher. With some clever modifications to carry extra fuel, the Caliber 40 provides a lot of value for a couple that is looking for that strong, seaworthy and easily sailed boat to take them to paradise.
Specs for Caliber 40 and Caliber 40 LRC
Designer: Michael McCreary
LOA: 40’ 11”
LWL: 32’ 6”
Beam: 12’ 8”
Draft: 5’ 1”
Ballast: 9,500 lbs
Displacement: 21,600 lbs
Sail Area: 739 sq ft
Fuel Tankage: 46 gallons (212 gallons LRC)
Water Tankage: 156 gallons (179 gallons LRC)