Perhaps one of the most delightful things about owning a boat is setting out on a breezy afternoon with only vague ideas of where you might want to go. Youre simply getting away for a while, and if you can do it with a touch of speed and excitement, well, that would be nice, too.
The Beneteau 393 is meant for just such days.
A scaled-down version of the 473, which won the award for the Best Production Cruiser Over $200,000 in Cruising Worlds 2001 Boat of the Year competition, this is the first completely new model to be built at Beneteaus recently expanded facility in Marion, South Carolina.
The choice of interiors suits different tastes. The two-cabin version, which we sailed, is the most practical for cruising. It features a large athwartship double berth tucked to starboard under the cockpit, a U-shaped galley to port, a navigation station to starboard, and, forward of that, a large bar and cabinet. A novel departure from the expected settee, the cabinet yields additional room for storage, but it occupies space in the saloon that might otherwise have served as a sea berth.
In the three-cabin layout, two fore-and-aft double berths stretch under the cockpit, the navigation station sits to port, and a fore-and-aft galley replaces the two-cabin versions bar and cabinet.
Both layouts feature a head and shower forward of a roomy double berth, a second head and shower aft, and seating for eight at a U-shaped dinette with an inboard bench. The ports and hatches offer excellent ventilation, although a pair of cowl vents would be welcome for wet passages. Three acrylic windows in the cabin top and six deadlights brighten the cherry-stained interior.
We sailed the boat in 17 knots of gusty, southwesterly wind on Narragansett Bay. Whitecaps and a rolling ocean swell greeted us off Castle Hill when we cleared the entrance to the bay. Hard on the wind, we were punching through the steep, tide-opposed waves at about 6.5 knots, yet the cockpit stayed surprisingly dry even without a dodger, which the boat is well set up to accommodate. The molded cabin liner and bulkheads bonded to the hull on all sides provided ample structural support. The hull shape, a fairly fine entry at the bow with a broad flat section aft, made reaching a blast.
The long genoa track and the traveler across the cabin top allow for precise sail trimming, with all lines led aft. Single-line reefing was quick and easy. The cockpits T-shaped layout makes it easy to scoot around the wheel and, at rest, offers enough room to host a small village for dinner, with a foldout table at the binnacle to spread the fare. One thing Id like to see in the cockpit is a foot brace along the centerline to make a windward seat more comfortable when beating. The boat handled exceptionally under power (a 40-horsepower Westerbeke), allowing for easy maneuvering in and out of the slip, despite the gusty winds in the harbor.
The biggest attraction of Beneteau is value. The companys streamlined production process makes for a very competitively priced 39-footer: $138,000 for the boat we sailed, which came with an electronics package. Not a bad deal for something you cant really put a price on: a windy day, a new boat, and no particular place to go.
Darrell Nicholson is a CW associate editor who spent 10 years sailing the Caribbean and Pacific aboard his own 32-footer.