I had a client once who had a serious offshore sailboat we were selling. He called me up one day and asked if I would look for trade possibilities for a 50 Beneteau. I was surprised at his choice and told him trading would be doubtful especially because of the uniqueness of his yacht. He explained, “Well, I have a family of 4 kids now, and we really do not need a serious offshore cruiser. I can see us daysailing and going to the Bahamas. We do not need more. And the accommodations and amenities of the Beneteau 50 are very attractive to us.” I could see his point. He had carefully thought out what realistically his family’s cruising years would be like and chosen a boat to match.
In 1884, Benjamin Beneteau, a French shipwright, founded a boatyard at Croix de vie, France. Here, they built wood trawlers and sailboats. In 1964, Benjamin’s grandchildren Annette Beneteau Roux and Andre Beneteau started building fiberglass sailboats. In 1976, Andre Mauric designed 30-footer that kicks off their successful First series. These First series were great, quality offshore-able boats. In 1986, Beneteau opened a factory in Marion, South Carolina to build boats for the USA. Here, Beneteau started to focus more on quantity and the charter trade. In four years, they built 1,000 boats at the SC factory. In 14 years, they produced 3,500 yachts at the factory. One of the most success production-charter yachts they developed was the 50 Beneteau. This prolific Bruce Farr design has been the queen of Mooring’s charter fleet for over decade. Today, Madame Annette Beneteau Roux continues run Beneteau Yachts and focus on charter production.
I had a chance to head over to Moorings at Lauderdale Marine Center to preview for a client two early 2000’s charter 50 Beneteaus for sale. Often as they upgrade their fleet, Moorings has a few for sale in Fort Lauderdale. They were docked side by side. At first the most noticeable difference was the dodger and bimini on one was off. Interestingly, one had a wood caprail while the other had the regular aluminum rail. Both had wood handrails forward. These Beneteaus are not all plastic and metal. The wood was left unvarnished.
The 50 has a powerful raked bow and moderately high cabintrunk that runs far aft. The long cockpit runs from the center to far aft and opens via a little door to the swim platform. She is more an aft cockpit yacht. She has 2 portholes below deck and 6 along the cabin on each side with a thin molded strip through them. These portholes give her a French flair unlike the parade of lumbering looking cruisers. Her waterline length is 45’5″ compared to 50′ overall length consists of the small 5′ bow overhangs. No one questions the skill of Bruce Farr, the designer of these Beneteaus. The stern aft barely slopes up leaving great access for swimming.
Up top, both 50’s were rigged with dual backstays – not split – meaning two backstays came down from the masthead. These days most builders have one stay that comes down and splits at about 10 feet above deck. The shrouds are mounted to interesting inboard mounted chainplates. I am not a fan of the midboom sheeting with the traveler is mounted in front of the cockpit. Underneath, she has a sharp fin keel and skeg hung rudder. They come in shoal of 6′ and deep 7′ versions.
Construction and What to Look For
The inboard mounted chainplates secure to tie rods down below to the hull. Beneteau mass produces these at their Marion, South Carolina factory and balances quality and cost. They use fiberglass liners to stiffen the hull. The hull is solid glass with a balsa cored deck. The hull-deck joint is the quality bulwark style. The mast is keel stepped enclosed below in a wood cover. The keel is external cast iron. For private owners, Beneteau made an owner’s version. This owner’s version has a single head and stateroom forward instead of the port starboard berths with forward heads. This layout is more attractive for cruising with a family – not to mention these version are non-chartered yachts.
The deck has molded non-skid for good traction on a single level deck. The chainlocker forward has two doors and separated compartment. Just aft, the windlass is mounted higher for the chain to clear the locker doors. The side decks are easy to navigate with the inboard mounted chainplates to powerfully strong deck fixtures that use tie rods to distribute forces below. Stanchions on the cabintrunk give good security. There are 2 hatches aft, 4 amidships, and 5 forward. The fifth forward most opens into a forecastle for sail storage. Four dorades are on deck with 2 forward and 2 aft.
All the lines route to the cockpit. The jib enroul fair-leads over the cabintrunk through to the cockpit. The cockpit is large from amidships to the stern. She has dual steering stations with the master station starboardside. The seats are comfortable to sit in and lean back against the stern pulpit. You can easily brace your feet against the helms. Visibility is easy seating or standing. The seating forward of the helms is long and the cockpit table a foot bar to brace against. The companionway sill is a good foot and has 2 slats that close her off. Sternmost the swim platform has one level and a small centerline stepdown. A lazarette starboardside has a drainage hole.
Beneteau is known to have a million different variations of a model. The two I previewed were Moorings charterboats with the same four stateroom and head layout. The 2 heads forward use the faucets a shower and sump below. The port and starboard staterooms aft are separated by paneling that can be removed. The two pieces of paneling slide out of tracks to combine them into a single stateroom. The main saloon has a dinette portside and galley starboard. The navigation station used the port settee for seating. Aftmost are the two remaining staterooms each with a private head and low headroom under the aft cockpit.
Engine and Underway
I was surprised to see that one of the 50’s had a Yanmar. These specifications on both showed 85 HP Perkins engines. Both had high hours from their chartering days although they were not too old. The engine access is great from both sides through the aft staterooms and the companionway. While some might question Beneteau’s quality, Bruce Farr is an undisputed king of racer-cruisers. These Beneteaus can sail. And despite the quality concerns, you will find them around the world. No doubt a Hylas or Oyster is stronger built, but you do not necessarily need that kind of robustness although it is comforting to have.
The Beneteau 50 is a perfect Caribbean boat – that’s what they designed her for. She is meant for chartering fun, to be used hard, and to sail fast. For a family, you will not find more value conscious yachts than these. And it is proven that Beneteaus designed for passagemaking are able world cruisers. The situations where you need tank like construction are few are far between and usually avoidable by smart sailing. Three 50’s are in Fort Lauderdale at the moment from $219,000 to $159,000. A owner’s version in Northern Florida is asking $199,000.