Few boats would merit a glance from a savvy, experienced skipper looking to consolidate the best qualities of his performance cruiser and his motoryacht into just one boat.
Someone might even ask: “Are you kidding me? Can you do that?”
Enter the Oyster 495.
As the smallest yacht the company has developed from concept since 2005, the 495 is rigorously detailed. It is true to the heritage of a builder where a 50-footer has become the entry-level model.
For this latest raised-salon offering, Oyster created a new facility in Hythe, on the Southampton shores of southern England. The aim is to build 12 boats a year, and sales to date suggest that this figure is not overly ambitious.
I encountered Genevieve, the well-traveled Hull No. 1, in Southern California, where the boat had been delivered to the owner in Santa Barbara after being shown extensively in Europe. She was purchased to replace a performance cruiser and a powerboat.
First impressions count, and the 495 makes a great one. If you’re switching over from a different brand, forget about bringing along your plates and glassware. All of that is provided, with subtle logos and fitted stowage. Mood lighting is available at the touch of a button. The TV raises and disappears with another button. In the guest stateroom forward, hatches overhead open in opposite directions. The queen berth in the owner’s stateroom could be a boat-show sales tool, but the cabin top is equipped for the lee cloths you will need when the boat is doing what it is meant to do: go places.
To that end, an aluminum mast with electric furling is standard, but Genevieve is equipped with a Seldén carbon rig with in-mast electric furling and a hydraulics package including a mainsheet, vang, outhaul, backstay, and in-boom ram. In operation, it was whisper-quiet.
The twin wheels offer clear sightlines from secure footing, along with command posts that have buttons to deploy and furl sails, and to adjust everything adjustable without straining a finger or risking a hangnail. Lewmar EVO primaries are handy, just outboard of the helm stations. Optional dual thrusters make everyone a hero going and coming to the dock, and smaller items such as pre-rigged preventers speak to that shadowy concierge who seems to have been everywhere.
With four of us aboard, the cockpit was more than generous. I imagined many sociable scenes to come as the sails came out. The Yanmar saildrive was so quiet, it had to go off for me to even notice it had been on. Put that down to sandwich insulation glued, not screwed.
The breeze was single digits, not enough to make the boat light up under a 105 percent jib, and we were dragging a wide transom and two rudders. Nevertheless, it was enjoyable sailing. I also appreciated seeing the cabin house square to the seating, to make a comfortable backrest looking aft, stretched out on passage. Rounding the forward backing the way some manufacturers do may work when you’re not going anywhere, but what is a boat for?
The cockpit is laid out to walk on a single level back to a full-beam lazarette, which has ample stowage and access to the steering, backstay, exhaust and seacocks. Step back farther, and you are stepping down a reverse transom to a shower and an electronically operated swim platform. When the boat is stern-tied, that will be the boarding ladder.
Belowdecks is bright, with close attention to ventilation. The opening coachroof windows in the salon will delight passengers in a tropical anchorage with the breeze wafting through. Batteries and tankage are centered under the salon sole, focusing the weight where it belongs. A U-shaped galley, two steps down to port, places most of the cook’s needs at hand in a space where it will be easy to brace underway, and the cook is not isolated from crew and guests. The twin sinks are on centerline for efficient drainage.
The saloon table lowers to bed height for those who are overblessed with kids or grandkids, and the step-down nav station is separated but not isolated. A swing-out computer screen is here, along with CZone control and monitoring instead of fuse panels. A freezer is abaft the nav station, where it won’t see a lot of traffic unless it’s stocked with ice cream for those kids.
Opposite the nav station, twin doors open wide to an engine compartment thoughtfully laid out to be serviced without provoking naughty words. Clear labeling matters, and I liked seeing the Panda generator within a sound-insulated compartment.
All the way aft, the owner’s stateroom has 6 feet, 4 inches of headroom, a sofa, cedar-lined lockers, escape hatches, and Oyster’s signature vertical portlights for a special view of the world. Forward of the salon is a cozy over/under double that shares a head and shower with the bright and airy forward stateroom. Nowhere above or belowdecks does the level of fit-and-finish fall short.
Oyster describes the hull as an “overspecified laminate resin structure with a combination of stringers and frames for extreme strength and durability.” I believe it. Genevieve had the L-shaped standard keel and a draft of 7 feet, 5 inches. A shoal-draft keel is an option.
Lunch waited ashore, creating an opportunity to observe how magically the sails disappeared and how comfortably the boat motored at 9-plus knots. It’s replacing a powerboat, remember. There was also a moment to demonstrate that, under power, the Oyster 495 will spin in its own length. That gave me a grin too.
Oyster 495 Specifications
|SAIL AREA||1,291 sq. ft|
|ENGINE||110 hp Yanmar (saildrive)|
|DESIGNER||Humphreys Yacht Design|