Issue: December 2003
The big story in the European production yacht market in the past five years, muchtrumpeted in the yachting press, has been the growth of the pilothouse cruiser . The second-biggest story has been the steady increase in average overall length of the production yacht. All of this means that, in many ways, the production cruising yacht market has grown around the Buizen 48, a fully-equipped pilothouse cruiser, which has been around since 1991. Eddie and Fritz Buizen’s company Mastercraft Marine are now working on hull number 25, which means output has averaged more than two a year.
The Buizen 40, of similar configuration to the 48, was introduced in 1996, and the company is now working on hull number 11. That is a surprising number of pilothouse cruising yachts, each of them worth quite a bit of money, to be built by an Australian company into a limited market. The evidence shows that the Buizens got quite a lot right in the first place. Eddie Buizen is happy to point out that, in selling such a yacht, ‘if you get the ladies on side you are 75 per cent of the way there’. When it comes to sorting out a comfortable cruiser I’d back the ladies every time.
Women try to make sailing easier and more comfortable. Blokes, if left to their own devices, will forget or ignore the comfortable bits. Eddie’s premise confirmed the Buizen’s layout pilothouse layout, well-organised galley and saloon, comprehensive sail handling systems to make the boat easy for couples to sail, even retired couples (it is no coincidence that one 48 is called Prime Time). The Buizen 48 looks right. Naval architect Paul Stanyon drew the hull and gave it a fin and flared/bulb keel and a spade rudder, which has a shallow skeg for extra support.
The company literature calls the boat medium displacement and a fiddle with the calculator shows a displacement/length ratio of around 226, which is, indeed, a moderate figure. The Buizens have a couple of recommended layouts but owners are free to specify their own requirements within limits particularly as to how the bow area is arranged. The saloon incorporates the internal helm station, a refuge for the skipper in bad weather as the steering station includes a joystick control for the autopilot. Visibility is excellent through the 12mm toughened glass.
People are concerned about the big windows, says Eddie, but we’ve had 40s and 48s come through very bad storms, including waves breaking over the coachroof, without problems’.
Aft of the saloon there is a guest double cabin on the port side and a smaller cabin to starboard, which houses a berth and the nav station. Some people fit the washing machine in here; one owner deleted the single berth in favour of a workshop. The portside double cabin never changes. The galley is forward and down three steps to the lower level, immediately below the forward windows so there is plenty of light. You can exercise your own discretion here, too, in detailing. One had the microwave below the two-burner cooktop so it could be gimballed; another preferred a stove here, and the microwave at eye level. The master cabin is in the bow. One layout shows a guest cabin on the starboard side with stacked bunk beds. The boat photographed here dropped that in favour of a lounge area incorporating two lounge chairs and a wall-mounted TV. Interior trim is in teak, lots of it, reflecting the company’s beginnings, which was the supply of interior fit-out kits for the boat building industry.
After building some 70 boats with in-mast furling (including the earlier Zeston range) the Buizens have done 10 recently with inboom mainsail furling. Eddie reckons the new systems work fine as long as the boom’s angle to the horizontal plane is precisely set, and not a lot of tension is applied to the halyard. They use the Brisbane-made Furlboom and Leisurefurl from NZ. Masts are by local man Phil Bate. We saw two 48s on our visit. The boat shown here is cutter-rigged; the 130 per cent genoa is power-furled and the staysail is on a manual furler. Runners are there to support the mast when the staysail is used in a blow and can be tacked down in a number of positions.
The other boat is a sloop; a removable forestay can be set up to steady the mast in a sea. There are two sets of spreaders with continuous diagonals, which can, of course, be adjusted at deck level. The primary winches are powered. Standard auxiliary power is a 100hp Yanmar or Volvo; more power, or less can be specified. The Yanmar on the test boat was quiet and very smooth. The engine room, beneath the salon floor is big enough to work in, and includes the generator and optional air-conditioning systems.
Eddie says the company has tried all the available propeller systems and currently uses the Tristream four-blade stainless steel folding prop, made in Melbourne. A beautiful prop, works very well with no vibration, says Eddie. The auxiliary engine runs a shaftdrive. For our test sail we were up against it because the weather went bad, we had to postpone and the boat had to leave for Fremantle by a certain date. The afternoon before she was due to leave the delivery crew had decided to go around the top, because a relentless series of fronts made the southerly route unappetising we took her out and found almost no wind.
All I can say is that the 48 moved surprisingly well in ghosting conditions and tacked without hesitation, a procedure that involved part-rolling the genoa so that it eases through the gap between inner and outer forestays and then unrolling it again. The photographs show there was no discernible bow or stern wave though sails are drawing and the boat is moving steadily in the right direction. Then the wind stopped, dead. There was none, not negotiable. Pack up and go home. The Buizen 48’s Sail area/displacement ratio, the real measure of horsepower, is a bit lower than the average production cruiser/racer (as it should be), but is on a par with boats of similar configuration (such as Beneteau’s Wauquiez 48 pilothouse model) so there should be nothing wrong with her all-round sailing performance.
The only locally built boat like the Buizen 48 a semi custom pilothouse yacht is the Binks Farr 51 Pilothouse from South Australia, but that is a different boat in both style and execution, a lighter hull with a less traditional interior. The Buizen 48’s styling is timeless, and designer and builder obviously got the numbers right in the first place. The boat has not dated, because it looks right, because of the flexibility in layout and because technological improvements in electronics, hardware and deck gear can be accommodated (as in the transition from mast furling to boom furling) because each boat is virtually a one-off.
In the world of increasing mass-production and short model life it is nice to see success derived from a hand-made craft built to order. It is nice to talk to Eddie Buizen about his boats because he has great affection for them. He enjoys the teak with which his boats interiors are trimmed. I comment that the colours of the 48’s Burmese teak trim are well matched. There is always a bit of difference between the solids and the veneers, he says, but that’s the beauty of timber.