Cheoy Lee Shipyards of Hong Kong was one of the first molders of fiberglass boats in Asia, constructing sailboats for export to the US in the early 1960s. It introduced its first model, the Bermuda 30, in 1963. By 1965 it offerred 11 different models.
The company enjoyed a reputation as one of the better builders of offshore boats, characterized by traditional designs and the extensive use of wood. Teak hulls were offered as an option, decks were usually planked with teak, spars were Sitka spruce, and interior joinerwork was all teak.
Though the company developed a reputation for building solid hulls and decks, like many Asian builders of the period it also had a reputation for manufacturing lower quality accessories—winches and other stainless steel and bronze components were fabricated in the company’s shop, and were considered inferior to mainstream US and European hardware because of a tendency to corrode.
One Californian went so far as to order a boat delivered without mast, rigging, or winches so he could install higher quality gear.
Wiring systems also were prone to corrosion, especially those on exterior lights, so owners are often frustrated in attempts to maintain functional circuitry.
Naval architect Raymond H. Richards was commissioned by Cheoy Lee to design the Offshore 41, which replaced the classic Phil Rhodes-designed Reliant 40 in the company’s line-up.
Richards first established himself as a corporate designer in Seattle. In 1961 he became the first architect to design a fiberglass hull that met Lloyd’s construction standards. He was responsible for 10 Cheoy Lee designs, including the 39, 32 and 38-footers, and several Ranger and Pacific sloops.
By the time he accepted the commission for the Offshore 41 in 1972, he had abandoned the rigors of the corporate world for private practice, and moved to Avalon, on Catalina Island. These days he operates from a studio in Newport, California, where he has designed, among other vessels, a commercial passenger boat called the SWATH (Small Water Area Twin Hull) that is characterized by buoyant, sub-surface struts that produce a smooth, stable ride.
The Offshore 41 was conceived as a 40-footer but grew to 40′ 11″, just 2″ longer than the Reliant, but with a significantly different underwater shape.
“We were looking toward a more updated offering, both in style and performance, giving only a slight nod to the now infamous IOR,” Richards said of the re-design.
It was offered in sloop, yawl, and ketch configurations, though the sloop is the best performer of the three. Sail area for the sloop is 833 sq. ft., compared to 863 and 880 sq. ft. for the yawl and ketch, respectively. The sail area/displacement ratio (SA/D) for the sloop is 17.5, typical of cruisers of this vintage; the SA/D is 18.1 for the yawl, 18.4 for the ketch.
The displacement/length (D/L) ratio of 275 is on the high end of the moderate scale, and the ballast/displacement ratio is 41%. Richards describes the boat as being “stiff as a church.”
A radical departure from many cruisers of this era was the design of the keel. The traditional full keel was replaced by a 6′ deep cruising fin in which the forefoot is cutaway. The rudder is attached to a skeg.
The first boats were commissioned in 1972, and the production run produced about 100 boats.
The Offshore 41 was designed to meet Lloyd’s specifications, and Cheoy Lee marketed it as meeting that standard; however, “there was not a Lloyd’s inspector on the premises during construction,” Richards said.
Hulls of the Offshore 41 are solid fiberglass that Richards says are heavier than designed.
“They (the builders) took a lot of license with the drawings,” he said, describing a trial-and-error method of adding layers of fiberglass and resin until the boat floated on its designed waterline. The process may have inadvertently produced a thicker, heavier hull than intended.
Richards’ lamination schedule for the hull was not followed by Cheoy Lee, he said, instead calling for six plies of 2-ounce mat and an additional six plies with widths graduated to produce a taper at the hull/deck joint. It is unusual not to use woven roving, which builds up thickness much quicker than just mat. In any case, Richards said that Cheoy Lee assured him the boat was built to Lloyds standards.
The deck, cockpit and cabin sides were cored with mahogany encapsulated with skins comprised of two layers of 2-ounce mat. The deck was overlaid with 3/8″ teak planking.
“The hull/deck joint is an inner facing flange forming a shelf onto which the deck was laid in wet mat and through-bolted,” Richards said. “The joint is a combination of resin and mat to prevent leaks. The teak toerail, rabbeted to take the thickness of the deck, is bolted through the deck and shelf. This is a method I created with the Pacific 30 and have used ever since. It has proved itself in both labor saving construction and structural integrity.”
The company replaced solid fiberglass stringers he designed with “joinerwork flats and aprons,” so berths and cabinetry act as hull stiffeners. Veteran owners of bluewater boats related no problems with hull flexing or oilcanning.
Bulkheads are “dropped in and bolted to related webs and floors, and bolted at the tops of the floors and glassed to the hull.”
The bottom consists of a molded grid system that provides structural support for the hull, framework for flooring, and a cavity for the internal keel. Ballast is an 8,700-pound slurry of lead and concrete; the top of the keel also functions as tankage for 50 gallons of fuel, small for extended cruising. Owners report fuel consumption of less than 1 gallon per hour with the Perkins 4.108 turning at 2,500 rpm. As a consequence, an optional 40-gallon fuel tank was offered under the cockpit. Water tanks are below the cabin sole forward of the engine and in tanks port and starboard aft of the galley.
In typical Richards fashion, the engine was mounted below the cabin sole amidships on solid fiberglass beds. Though that’s an excellent location for keeping weight out of the end of the boat, the arrangement is criticized by several owners, one of whom complained that, “The flywheel brings up bilge water and requires the construction of a metal shield to prevent continuous starter and alternator malfunctions.”
Like many boats of this era, the Offshore 41 was susceptible to blistering on the bottom and rudder. Owners report blisters ranging in size from “quarter-sized blisters I repair every spring,” to “several larger than my hand on the rudder that required a $2,500 repair.”
One owner told us that his boat survived Hurricane Hugo with substantial damage, “but the strength of the components kept it in good structural shape.”
Unless a used boat has been retrofitted with modern winches, turning blocks and rope clutches, skipper and crew will find themselves hoisting and trimming sails the old fashioned way.
Original equipment included four sheet winches in the cockpit and two at the mast for halyards. This arrangement is adequate for daysailors, but we’d place a high priority on moving halyards and sail controls to the cockpit for offshore work.
All three models of the boat have the same 9′ 11″, T-shaped, cockpit with the helm well aft of the winches, and mainsheet controls located on a traveler forward of the companionway. It takes several steps to move from wheel to mainsheet, which mandates a wheel brake or autopilot when sailing shorthanded.
The cockpit has 6′ long benches with 14″ high back rests, and a 24″ high “saddle seat” for the helmsman. The width of the cockpit, however, makes it difficult to find a comfortable position on the rail from which to steer. Richards’ design incorporated seats with an elevated lip that provides better leg support than a flat surface, and a sloped sole that allows the helmsman to stand upright when the boat is heeled.
“We were on the cutting edge of ergonomic designs,” he said.
Proponents of ketch and yawl rigs crow about the ability to balance a sail plan, and they are good on a reach. But the sloop remains the most efficient rig, certainly upwind. Add the intrusion of the yawl or ketch’s mizzen mast in a cockpit (that is best suited to six persons), and the sloop becomes even more appealing.
Wide side decks allow for easy movement fore and aft. A teak handrail on the cabin top and double lifelines provide a high measure of security. Both the bow and stern pulpits have double stainless steel rails.
The Sitka spruce main mast has conventional single spreaders while the mizzen has swept back spreaders.
Spruce masts on a used boat present three potential problems: they’re not as sturdy or weather-resistant as aluminum; they are prone to rotting at the base if water is allowed to stand; and, though they have eye appeal, they require varnishing at least once a year in most areas. One owner felt he had a new lease on life after coating the mast with Awlgrip; others told us they use white Z Spar enamel, which requires repainting every 4-5 years.
Teak decks also are a high maintenance item. Owners of the Offshore 41 say decks require frequent re-caulking; many reported leaks between the teak and fiberglass. And if the teak requires replacement, you’re looking at around 20 grand.
Compared to most cookie cutter boats with compartmentalized interiors, the 41’s interior has personality. Depending upon the size and age of the crew, it will either be ideal or totally unsuitable for extended cruising.
Richards designed an 18′ long, nearly wide-open cabin that provides sleeping accommodations for a crew of six, and seating for 6-8 at an 8′ diameter dinette.
Enclosed berths in the fo’c’sle are accessed by removing a panel in the dinette back. Berths are laid out in what Richards describes as a “toe-over-toe arrangement,” the port berth being higher than its counterpart, which eliminates the possibility of creating a second double berth. As an alternative, the space will work well for storage of tools, spare sails, and anchor rode, since the boat has no anchor locker.
“I saw the forward berths as a place to get a little private time away from the madding crowd, and for the same reason a place to read,” Richards said.
Also a bit unusual, especially for its time, is the skipper’s enclosed stateroom, located to starboard and aft of the head and saloon, which has a double berth to starboard and hanging locker.
Wide open quarter berths are located opposite to port; the lower serves double duty as a seat for the navigator; an upper folds out of the way against the hull when not in use.
All of the berths are at least 6′ 6″.
Because the boat was designed before the era of pocket-sized navigational instruments, the navigator has a large, hinged chart table on which to work. However, adding electronics may necessitate reconfiguration of a cabinet located outboard of the table.
Forward of the nav station, the galley is equipped with two stainless steel sinks, a gimbaled four-burner stove outboard, and a 11-cu. ft. freezer/refrigerator below a Formica counter. A cover fitted over the sinks increases the size of working surfaces to that of a typical small apartment, and there’s an abundance of storage cupboards and shelves.
The head is a one-room toilet and shower combination opposite the galley. Compared with more contemporary boats, it is smallish, though Richards describes it as having the “space an adult needs when he drops the soap.” The holding tank has a 50-gallon capacity.
Natural light flows in from eight ports and three hatches, doing its best to brighten the dark teak cabinetry and sole. Fresh air also circulates through two Dorades located over the saloon.
Performance of the Offshore 41 is a function of the rig, skipper’s ability, and condition of the sails. Owners of sloops told us that their boats perform to weather as well as similarly sized boats, and sail at 5.5-6.5 knots in 10-15 knots of breeze; owners of two-masted boats say they are slower.
The sloop also points higher than the ketch or yawls, tacking through 85°-90°, while the others will tack through 100°-110°, at best.
All agree that the best performance is achieved when sailing at 120° to the apparent wind flying a genoa, when speeds reach 7.5-8 knots in 10- to 15-knot winds.
She also tracks well. The skeg helps in this regard.
Owners log 150-mile days; in the 70’s that was generally considered the standard for bluewater cruising.
The Cheoy Lee Offshore 41 was conceived for use in offshore conditions, constructed to endure extended bluewater passages, and designed to provide a crew with comfort above and belowdecks. Though a typical used boat is at least 20 years old, we would consider a purchase with the following caveats: a) look for a boat with an aluminum mast or closely inspect a wood mast for rot and be prepared to maintain it; b) closely inspect the bottom for blisters and plan an annual inspection; c) closely inspect all electrical systems for corrosion and failures; d) carefully consider your crew requirements vis-à-vis the accommodations plan.
Boats sold new in 1977 for $63,500, FOB Seattle, and today used boats of that same year are selling for slightly more, depending upon upgrades and sails.
Raymond H. Richards, Naval Architect, PO Box 3271, Newport Beach, CA, 92663; 949/642-6592, email@example.com.