Beneteau First 235 Review - Page 3
Bateaux Nr 346, March 1987

Attention to details

Three rather steep steps give access to the cabin interior. We measured nearly 1m70 under the plexi hatch - the architect could hardly go any higher without seriously affecting both the aesthetics and the performance of the boat. This height allows working in the galley or dressing up for foul weather without needing to bend over too far. Sadly the ladder is too steep to allow sitting down when working the galley, which would have been ideal.

The L-shaped galley can be considered as outright luxurious if compared to other boats in the same size range and dating only a few years back. The sink has a fixed icebox as neighbour. We would have preferred a removable icebox, which would have been very practical for day-trips. The crane of the water pump is a bit short, and the gimbal of the stove is not operative when sailing on port tack. These irritating details show a certain lack of thoroughness from the larger boat builders for the lower end of the market, whereas one would expect a better finish on a boat that costs a good 15k$.

The F235 has a double berth under the cockpit. The mattress is of a decent size for two adults, but the access to the aft cabin is quite narrow and will complicate its use by larger crewmembers. One wonders how things would look if the partition between the aft and main cabins were removed altogether. This being said, the aft cabin is a true paradise for smaller kids, which will quickly turn this into their own kingdom. The portlight in the transom supplies enough light, but an opening portlight on the cockpit sidewall would be welcome for better ventilation.

The other innovation of the F235 is the merger of the head with the nav station. When using the area for navigation, one simply opens both partitions and uses the head cover as a seat in front of the sliding chart table. The table has no drawer, but this is not a huge drawback for shorter cruises, which would be typical for a boat of this size.

To use the head one simply pushes the chart table away and closes the partitions, creating a reasonably sized head compartment. Under the chart table you can find the battery compartment. There seems to be no ventilation in this area, although the proximity of the companionway solves the problem by good weather.

On the very first drawings of the F235 a large storage space was planned forward of the U-shaped settee. On the production model this storage area has been replaced by extending the front cushions, which reach nearly all the way to the bow. When one lowers the table, the net result is a reasonably sized double berth. With the aft berth allocated to the kids, this new layout seems much more logical, although it does sacrifice a large storage area.

Which brings us to the weaker point of this layout, where storage space is acceptable for a long weekend cruise but rapidly becomes insufficient for longer ventures. According to the manufacturer, the layout was dictated by the typical use of this kind of sailboats. We also noted the use of touches of wood panelling to dress up the cabin roof and facilitate the access to the deck hardware fasteners.

Since each inch of cabin height is critical, there is no space for a bilge. Only the area under the table is covered with floorboards covering the keel bolts. The use of light-coloured chestnut wood and relatively large windows contribute to a quite luminous interior. There are no curtains in the standard equipment, but a few Velcro strips can easily fix this. A 45Ah battery feeds four interior lights. In the absence of a fixed engine, one will need to foresee a small charger to reload the battery.

For true sail fans and for others…

On balance, the F235 truly seduced us with its qualities. Fast, adaptable and easy to handle, it will please true sailors who will enjoy steering the boat without too much physical effort. Adding an outboard engine will not impact the overall performance too much (compared to an inboard layout), even if the engine slightly drags in the water when on port tack. Thanks to its sleek hull the F235 only requires little engine horsepower. Since it needs very little wind to start under sail, the use of the engine will typically be very limited anyway.

The working decks are a bit limited by the bulk of the cabin trunk, but the cockpit is of a generous size - a key benefit on any outing. The F235 is the first sailboat of its size benefiting of a degree of cabin comfort typically found only on much larger boats. It combines a reasonable degree of privacy with well-dimensioned cabin areas. We could of course fault the designer for having foregone some storage space, but the boat would certainly lose part of its brio if loaded to the gills.        next page


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