Not far from the infamous North Sea, up the River Orwell towards Ipswich along the eastern coastline of England’s county Suffolk lies Fox’s Marina. It is here that the Oyster Group has established its headquarters, here that completed hulls are brought overland from a laminating facility in Wroxham to be outfitted and commissioned by Oyster’s carpenters, craftsmen and riggers. The boats range from 42 feet to over 80, and they are built to relentlessly meticulous British standards. We’ve been aboard a 55 footer (Cruising World, January 1995) and a 48 footer (CW, May 1995); most recently we had the opportunity to check out the new Oyster 45, and as anticipated it was a first-class experience.
Designed by Holman and Pye in collaboration with the in-house consortium at Oyster, the 45 was developed to succeed and replace the popular 435 of which more than 60 have been built. The directive was to ratchet up both the accommodations package and the performance potential of the earlier vessel.
Noteworthy attributes include a graceful high-aspect sailplan, a center cockpit, and Oyster’s signature “Deck Saloon” cabin configuration. The deckhouse is raised in a subtle fashion, preserving aesthetically the boat’s low profile while enabling the interior to become open, airy and vast. Fixed wraparound windows of stout 9mm tinted glass admit plenty of ambient light and add to the sensation of volume and space. It all comes together in the saloon, a remarkable area as cheerful as it is elegant.
Construction is to Lloyds-approved specifications, featuring a solid, stringer-reinforced GRP hull laid up by hand according to a carefully articulated laminate schedule, plus a balsa-cored deck sealed with Sikaflex along an in-turned flange and fastened mechanically with 6mm stainless bolts. The standard keel is what Oyster calls their “High Performance Bulb,” cast in antimony-hardened lead and fastened externally to a heavily reinforced keel stub. The rudder consists of a foam-filled fiberglass blade hung on a solid stainless stock and protected by a stainless-reinforced skeg. The rig by Selden is a two-spreader masthead sloop affair with a Hood Seafurl jib furler and a conventional-hoist main sporting full battens.
Systemswise, the 45 is a model of mechanical and electrical installation, all of it easily accessed and carefully organized. A standard 59-horsepower Volvo pushing a saildrive unit sits amidship beneath and behind the companionway; you can get to it from the galley on the port side or from the “workshop/wetlocker” to starboard, and everything from the solenoid and starter to the fuel filters, from the injectors to the oil dipstick, is readily at hand. Fuel and freshwater tanks are made of fiberglass and located beneath the saloon sole. Pumps and plumbing are set up for easy serviceability. The electrical scenario is fastidiously executed, featuring a 12-volt DC house feed from paired Varta deep-cycle 6-volt batteries 20-hour-rated at 230 amp-hours, plus a separate 88-amp-hour 12-volt battery dedicated to engine starting.
The interior is finished in the owner’s choice of teak, cherry or American white oak. You really can’t say too many positive things about the level of craftsmanship and joinerwork here. Everything is fitted to a fare-thee-well: Drawers and doors close snugly and latch tightly; items such as headliners and the upholstery are slick and tasteful. Accommodations include a master stateroom all the way aft with a double berth, built-in settee and private head with shower. In the bow is a V-berth double, a guest stateroom with upper and lower bunks, and a shared head with shower. The main saloon, airy and spacious as noted, includes a large L-shaped dinette to port opposed by a settee and nav station on the starboard side. Lee cloths are fitted for overflow sleeping or sea berth usage; in all, the boat sleeps eight with cabins for six. The galley is tucked in on the port side just aft of the dinette and outboard of the companionway, secure in a seaway and convenient to the living quarters and cockpit.
We spent a delightful 24 hours aboard the 45 highlighted by a jaunt down the south Florida coastline from Fort Lauderdale to Miami. In breezes of 11 to 15 knots true, she carried steady speeds to weather in the 6- to 7.3-knot range. We were able to sail to within 30 degrees of apparent wind. Under balanced trim, the boat finds a groove and goes, with a steadfast loping motion through swells and terrific response at the Whitlock-engineered helm. She is in all respects a great sea boat — exceptionally strong, well behaved in ocean conditions, comfortable to be aboard, and designed with deep sections for a smooth and powerful ride.
None of which deviates from Oyster’s firm reputation as a builder of refined bluewater cruising yachts. Oysters voyage all over the world and they are a noteworthy presence at transoceanic cruising rallies on a regular basis. For a look at British boatbuilding at its best, hop aboard an Oyster 45 and prepare to be impressed.
Oyster 45 Specifications:
- LOA: 45’10” (13.98 m.)
- Hull Length: 44’4″ (13.51 m.)
- LWL: 38’0″ (11.58 m.)
- Beam: 14’0″ (4.27 m.)
- Draft (std. deep): 6’6″ (1.98 m.)
- Draft (opt. shoal): 5’5″ (1.65 m.)
- Ballast: 11,590 lbs. (5,256 kgs.)
- Disp: 35,000 lbs. (15,837 kgs.)
- Sail area: (100%) 886 sq.ft. (82.3 sq.m.)
- Mast above DWL (w/instr): 62’0″ (18.9 m.)
- Ballast/Disp: .33
- Disp/Length: 285
- SA/Disp: 13.24
- Fuel: 120 gal. (454 ltr.)
- Water: 168 gal. (636 ltr.)
- Holding: optional
- Auxiliary: Volvo MD22 4-cyl 59-hp
- Cabin headroom: 6’7″ (2.0 m.)
- Designer: Holman & Pye
- Base price: $609,185
5 Marina Plaza, Goat Island
Newport, RI 02840
Fax: (401) 846-7483