Back in the day, after Cruising World launched in the mid-1970s, a steady helping of rugged, well-built cruising boats—from a collection of British builders that included Westerly, Nicholson, Oyster, Contessa and many others—frequently appeared in these pages. Personally, I was most attracted to the Moody line, perhaps because one of its frequent naval architects, Angus Primrose, was a close friend of the magazine’s publisher and a regular contributor. Plus, having been founded by boatbuilder John Moody in the early 19th century, Moody struck me as the quintessential English shipyard.
Moody began to produce fiberglass sailboats in 1965, with Laurent Giles and Bill Dixon joining Primrose as the principal designers. During the next 30 years, Moody launched 39 models and knocked out more than 4,000 yachts, a notable run that concluded in 2005, when production ceased.
In 2007, German marine conglomerate Hanse Yachts AG acquired the brand, and any concerns about the new landlords taking it all in a completely different direction were quickly put to rest when it named Dixon as the designer for all its new models.
Which brings us to the accomplished master’s latest creation, the inspired Moody DS41 (the initials stand for “deck saloon”). Excuse me while I gush, and please pardon the cliché, but the DS41 is solid proof that a seasoned dog like Dixon, who drew the lines for one of the more interesting new boats for 2023, still has some fancy tricks up his sleeve. Indeed, as a member of our most recent Boat of the Year judging panel, I joined my colleagues in unanimous agreement while naming the DS41 the year’s Best Full-Size Cruiser.
Oyster may have been the company most responsible for the deck-saloon frenzy of this century’s early aughts, but Dixon has taken the concept to a fresh new level, borrowing elements from the contemporary catamaran craze to produce a monohull that shares several traits with modern cats.
For starters, with its nearly 14-foot beam and walkaround deck, it’s a wide, accessible platform that’s easy to negotiate. Sliding patio doors open to a spacious cockpit with a retractable sun awning that can be open or shut depending on conditions. As with a cat, those doors, when opened, allow a seamless transition from the saloon to the great outdoors, essentially creating a single-level open floor plan on the main deck. Forward, a sun pad on the foredeck (with an adjustable headrest) converts to a bench seat. It’s hard to believe that this is all happening in a 41-foot footprint.
To my eye, it’s a quite good-looking vessel. At the pointy end, the plumb bow maximizes the waterline length and is home to a pair of headsails: a code-zero-type reacher on the forward stay and a self-tacking jib on the after one. A trio of hull windows rests under a substantial bulwark, capped by an impressive stainless-steel handrail. The low-slung coachroof has a wraparound window and is carried well aft in service of the aforementioned cockpit awning. The obligatory hard chines are barely noticeable with everything else going on, but they are responsible for the wide beam that’s carried well aft, as well as the generous interior volume. The twin wheels (with a pair of rudders) are positioned well aft and outboard, permitting easy egress between them to access the drop-down teak swim platform. (Did I mention that all this is contained within 41 feet?)
The saloon is well-thought-out, with a straight-line galley to port facing an L-shaped settee and dining table to starboard. Just forward of the galley is a navigation station that included, on our test boat, the optional autopilot and engine controls for inside steering and operation when the weather turns funky. It’s a wonderful feature that should be at the top of the list of additions for any owner.
On the lower deck, there are a quartet of interior layouts, all of them two-stateroom configurations (this is a couple’s boat, I’d say, with room for occasional guests). The master stateroom forward is the centerpiece of all four accommodations plans, while the guest stateroom can be configured with twin berths or a double. A wide choice of colors for the hull and upholstery are available, and the interior furniture options include oak, teak, and mahogany.
My fellow Boat of the Year judge Ed Sherman was equally smitten by the details: “The boat was equipped with all high-end Victron electrical gear and done to a high standard. I particularly liked the nearly 1-inch-round handrail that takes the place of traditional lifelines around the entire deck. Because the engine is under the cockpit sole and pretty much isolated from the interior deckhouse, our sound test while motoring was among the quietest in our group at 60 decibels at 2,000 rpm while making 6.8 knots, and 66 decibels at 2,400 rpm while making 8.3 knots.”
Collectively, what blew us judges away was something unexpected: the stellar sailing performance. “I expected this boat to sail like a typical motorsailer, i.e., not so well,” Sherman wrote. “Boy, was I wrong.”
Judge Mark Pillsbury seconded that sentiment: “The most surprising aspect of the Moody DS41 wasn’t the near-360-degree view from the saloon or the creative use of interior space. … No, it was the sailing performance, which had us clipping along at 8 knots in about 13 knots of breeze.” A nod here goes to the team at Quantum Sails, which delivered the superb inventory on our test boat.
Truthfully, however, what sealed the deal for all of us was that the new owner of the Moody DS41 that we sailed was on board for our sea trials, and his joy was infectious. Jim Eisenhart is a vastly experienced California sailor who’d decided it was time to move over to the “dark side” and purchase a trawler for what may well be his last boat. But the combination of that inside steering station and easy, fantastic sailing was too hard to resist.
And he was clearly quite pleased with his decision. As well he should be. The Moody DS41 speaks to the sailor in all of us.
Moody DS41 Specifications
|SAIL AREA||924 sq. ft.|
|ENGINE||57 hp diesel|
|DESIGN||Dixon Yacht Design|