I recently spoke with a woman who was seeking recommendations on manageable, mid-sized, used cruising sailboats that would be appropriate for her and her husband. Their kids are grown and with the exception of having the occasional guest onboard, they were looking for a good couple’s boat that would be a strong and reliable platform for some local as well as extended cruising. The Caliber 40 LRC came to mind.
Design, Construction and Performance
There are two flavors of the Caliber 40 available on the used boat market today. The Caliber 40 and the Caliber 40 LRC (Long Range Cruiser) which I will discuss as one basic design with some key differences. The McCreary brothers, now based in Clearwater, Florida, started the company as a garage boat builder in 1979 with the first of the series, the Caliber 28, appearing in 1981. During the eighties, a full line of cruising boats was developed and in 1991, the Caliber 40 was introduced with the LRC version soon after.
The design is an attractive cutter with a bowsprit that gets the ground tackle well away from the bow during anchoring. The boat has a straight sheer and a reverse transom with a small but very handy swim step and a boarding ladder. The deck of the 40 is cored with marine plywood rather than with foam or balsa, and the layup of the hull is solid fiberglass which accounts for much of the 21,600 pounds of displacement. The Caliber 40 has a fully encapsulated, elongated fin keel that has an iron and concrete ballast of 9,500 pounds. Her ballast to displacement ratio is a very respectable 44 percent, which is good to find on a boat intended for bluewater use.
The Caliber Yachts marketing team has named and trademarked every step of their design and construction process including steps that are good but basically conventional to boat building procedures. The Quad-Seal Deck to Hull System is very well done and bonds the deck with a combination of through-bolting, 3M 5200, copolymer tape and good placement of the rubrail and the aluminum toerail. The Integral Strength-Grid System refers to the bonding of the fuel and water tanks to the structure of the hull, which strengthens the boat and helps spread the loads evenly. With the exception of the heads, no liners or molded pans are used in the construction and the result is a fairly stiff boat.
Reinforced impact zones at the forward waterline and the forward edge of the keel are extra layers of fiberglass applied to spots that are likely to suffer damage on impact with floating or submerged obstacles. There’s also a watertight bulkhead in the bow, but more on that later.
The design is a moderately heavy displacement cruising boat so it takes a bit of wind to get her going. However, like most cruising boats of this class, sailing five to six knots in 10 to 12 knots of wind on a beam reach can provide 140-mile-plus days in the tradewinds. Although the sheeting angles have been tightened as the tracks have been brought inboard, sailing to within 50 degrees of the apparent wind can be expected. The boat will kick around in heavy seas but not more than other cruising boats, and it will remain fairly comfortable in big waves as well as big winds.
Cockpit & Rigging
The T-shaped cockpit is roomy and good for entertaining, but also deep and safe at sea with three large cockpit drains and high back rests. There are two lazarettes, one for the propane tank and a good sized, self-draining space for stowage in the other. There are also cut-outs in the deep coaming for extra stowage of smaller items. The freshwater shower on the swim-step is perfect for a quick rinse and will be appreciated in the tropics. The Caliber 40 has two vents, six hatches and two dorades, for good ventilation. For a bluewater boat, the cleats and chocks could be larger and the standard #48 Lewmar primaries seem to be undersized as well.
The single-spreader, keel-stepped rig is easily managed by a couple or by a single-hander. The inner forestay can be removed and secured at the deck near the mast, or can accommodate a roller furling staysail that, along with the running backstays, will be very useful in a big blow. The mainsail is fully battened with two deep reefs, the rigid boom vang came standard, and all lines lead aft so a short-handed crew can raise and lower the sails and reef from the cockpit. Chainplates are connected to the deck and through-bolted to the bulkheads and access to them is quite good down below.
Layout & Accommodations
The Caliber is a modern two-cabin design with 6’2” headroom throughout. The interior layout resembles that of the Passport 40, starting with a spacious head and separate stall shower forward. Continuing aft, the master stateroom has a Pullman style offset double to port with lockers and plenty of stowage to starboard. The saloon features a 6’2” L-shaped settee to port that converts to a double berth. There is also a straight settee to starboard and a very useful dinette table that folds down from the bulkhead, to join both settees to comfortably seat six for dinner.
The galley is to port with a double sink inboard, and a two-burner stove and oven plus a top-loading refrigerator outboard. There is a second (small) head to port that is accessible from the saloon or the aft cabin. The outboard-facing nav station is next to the galley. Some owners have installed a Lexan divider between the galley and the nav desk, to protect the station from whatever may be splashing around on the stove. For taller boaters, the nav station to be a tight squeeze.
Systems & Mechanical
Engine access to the standard 50 HP Yanmar is fairly standard. The top step of the companionway ladder opens easily to provide access to the top of the engine for quick check on the belts, oil, and coolant. The entire companion way box may be removed for access to the Racor, the raw water strainer, and the entire front of the engine. Additional access is via a side compartment in the aft cabin. The standard Yanmar will power the boat at approximately six knots at 2000 rpm cruising speed, or seven knots at the 3000 rpm maximum.
Batteries on the Caliber are carried far aft and behind the engine, and access, mostly via the lazarette or the aft cabin, is not great. It would behoove an owner to invest in gel cells or other maintenance-free type batteries, because the difficulty involved in periodic water checks on standard wet cells may result in deferred maintenance—and that’s never good.
Tankage on these boats is where some of the key differences, strengths, and problems lie. The Caliber 40 LRC was introduced in 1994 and the primary innovation was the substantially increased fuel capacity. Caliber realized that a passagemaker with 46 gallons of fuel would rely on favorable wind conditions, so they added another 160 gallons. There are two fuel tanks and two water tanks, all aluminum, on the centerline under the cabin sole, plus a holding tank forward.
There have been problems reported with the holding tank. The early boats carried a 110 gallons, integral to the boat and under the anchor locker. When combined with ground tackle and chain, this makes for a tremendous amount of weight forward and an alarming amount of sewage to carry on a boat of this size. The holding tank served the aft head as well, which left long hoses under the cabin sole to fill, clog, and smell.
Additionally, the holding tank formed the watertight bulkhead mentioned earlier and it was glassed to both the deck and the hull at the bow. Unfortunately, the screens in the tank vents clogged easily if they were not cleaned regularly, and several owners reported creating suction and a vacuum as they pumped the head – one so serious, it caused a messy delamination of the hull in one case. These screens were also used on the water tanks, which could leave a pump running dry as it operated against a vacuum in the tank. Be sure to inspect the hull around the holding tank when considering a used Caliber, and check all the screens.
Currently, there are several used Caliber 40s and 40 LRCs listed on Yachtworld. Selling price on the 40s moves between $143,000 and $159,000 but the more recent LRC versions are listing at $75,000 to 100,000 higher.
LOA: 40’ 11”
LWL: 32’ 6”
Beam: 12’ 8”
Draft: 5’ 1”
Displacement: 21,600 lbs
Sail Area: 739 sq ft
Fuel Tankage: 46 gallons/212 gallons LRC
Water Tankage: 156 gallons/179 gallons LRC