This month's theme is comfortable cruising boats. Initially this means size. We could argue that point, but volume and comfortable accommodations generally do go hand in hand.

The Oyster 485.

The Oyster 485.

Too much is made of light displacement. Certainly the highest speeds dictate lighter boats, with multihulls the obvious conclusion, but comfort, i.e. volume, requires displacement, as does tankage.

I've never met a sailor who didn't like Oysters. The cruising line, designed by Holman and Pye, is a beautiful example of moderate proportions. The new 485 evolved from the 461. It is actually built in the same mold with the stern extended. Look at the hull profile. Note the extended counter aft, with the accentuated reverse or hook in the run — an earmark of an extended hull.

The D/L ratio of the Oyster 485 is 318 — on the heavy side of medium for D/Ls. I consider 250 to be textbook medium displacement. I consider anything with a D/L ratio below 100 to be ultralight and anything more than 350 to be heavy. The performance benefit of the Oyster's displacement will be experienced in an upwind blow. It's one thing to blast off a wave on your ULDB with the sheets eased. It's another thing to turn that leeward mark and strap in for hours of bone-jarring pounding upwind. I am not saying the Oyster won't pound in some conditions, but the ride should be softer and far more comfortable. Generally, a heavier boat will be stiffer and a deep-chested forefoot will soften the impact when the bow comes down into the next wave.

The keel is a fin and bulb, with a total draft of 7 feet. The rudder is slightly raked and on a full skeg, and appears tucked well under the stern in this model, which I think is another earmark of an extended hull. Note the depth of this canoe body. This hull should provide a stiff and fast upwind ride.

The 485 has a small rig. The SA/D ratio is 17.46 and this is compounded by the boat's Stoway mast, which further reduces the effective area of the mainsail by eliminating roach. It won't be a light-air flyer, but there's more to light-air performance than just sail area. Sail area to wetted surface is important in light-air sailing. Heavier boats, in general, will have better sail area to wetted surface ratios than ULDBs. In fact, light-air has been the Achilles' heel of ULDBs, i.e., too much skin to drag through the water. A well-designed heavy boat can surprise you with its light-air speed. Remember the 12-meters?

The 485's layout is typical for this type of boat. There are three staterooms, with one of them rather contracted. The main saloon galley looks comfortable but I don't like companionway ladders; I prefer steps. However, the choice is simple: You either use a ladder and open up the saloon area or you use steps and impose their bulk on the saloon arrangement. At least this ladder is very attractively designed and executed.

All the Oysters are handsome. The look of this boat works well. The cockpit coaming is too low for my taste — it's about 9 inches high — but it blends in nicely with the top of this pilothouse. The cockpit is also on the small side, but additional cockpit volume would require further compromises in interior volume. It's a balancing act for the designer and some do it better than others.

Who couldn't pull into an anchorage feeling good in this boat?

A handsome cruiser for sailing in the comfort zone.

Boat Specifications
Shoal draft6'
Displacement37,550 lbs.
Ballast13,000 lbs.
Sail Area1,224 sq. ft.
SA/D ratio17.46
D/L ratio318
AuxiliaryPerkins M90 82-horsepower
Fuel144 gals.
Water198 gals.


SAILINGlogo-115This story originally appeared in Sailing Magazine, and is republished here by permission. Subscribe to Sailing.