1971 Nautor Swan 40

When choosing a boat, it always comes down to a ‘feeling’ you get about it, doesn’t it? You can look at boats on the internet all day long, but until you have actually been on the vessel, there is no way to know if it’s the ‘right’ boat for you. If you have read any of my other boat ‘reviews’ you’ll know that I focus mainly on the livability issues of a boat, and sometimes that seems a little unfair because, after all, a boat is meant to be sailed.

A hull that turns heads.

The sailing ability is why we were very excited to see this 1971 Nautor Swan 40. Not many Swans come on the market in this area, and they are known for being well built and excellent sailing boats. They are fast, they are sexy. They turn heads. I was so excited to see this boat that I had dreams about it the night before; dreams of a roomy vessel with lots of wood, a responsive helm, cavernous spaces below. I awoke thinking ‘My God! I think this will be our boat!’. Alas, dreams are not as easy to interpret as all that. The dream turned out to be one of bitter irony.

First off, this is an absolutely beautiful boat in terms of its lines, as one would expect of a boat designed by Sparkman and Stevens.  The exterior needs some sprucing up (after all, this boat was built in 1971). The fiberglass is crazed in a lot of areas but nothing one would not expect. This boat is well loved and maintained. The owner showed us the boat and his pride in the vessel is evident.

Close up of the deck of the Swan 40

The non-skid could use touching up. Again, nothing big here, and this is how people bond with their boats: by working on them. This kind of thing would have nothing to do with our choice of vessel, and anyone looking at this boat seriously should expect to find such cosmetic issues in an older boat.

Since we’re looking for boats to go blue water cruising, I’ll mention that this Nautor Swan 40 has a seaworthy companionway that would go far in protecting the boat’s interior from big waves. There is an interesting bar in front of the helm which I assume is to help the helmsman step over the traveler without holding onto the wheel. I don’t particularly like this set up with the traveler, but that is only a matter of opinion and I might like it fine after I got used to it.

The owner said that the cockpit sole grates were from an old 1880’s schooner. That’s so cool! That kind of thing really gives a boat character.

The set up for the traveler in the Swan 40

Inside is where this boat really gets interesting. The interior is just beautifully crafted, something for which Swans are known. The cabinetry is first rate and the wood is lovely, giving the interior of the boat a warm glow. Everything is in very good condition. Also, we looked at this boat in the pouring rain. Really. It was a very rainy day. I did not see any leaks, and the boat smells like a dry boat should smell.

So it’s hard for me to understand why the boat didn’t ‘feel’ right to me. It felt small on the inside, sort of like being in a submarine. This boat is not like some we’ve looked at where it felt like they took a larger boat and crammed it into a smaller space. Nothing like that. And on paper, this boat is 10″ wider at the beam than Moonrise. That’s probably where my dream of ‘cavernous spaces’ came into play.

Maybe it’s the table causing the problem in the salon?

There is plenty of headroom, as you can see in the photo. Mike is 6 feet tall. But the settees are very narrow, and the walkway between them and the table is also narrow. Possibly it’s because of the table, a necessary feature in a boat, but one that frequently gets in the way when not in use. I know it sounds trite, but I really do want to have wide, comfortable settees since most of the time in the boat will be spent at anchor somewhere. I figure passages are going to last 4, maybe 5 weeks at the most before we are anchored out. I recognize the value of good sea berths, so it would be nice if the settees could be adjustable, as I’ve seen in some boats. Perhaps they are in this boat, but we didn’t ask about that. If the owner sees this, perhaps he will let us know and we can add that information later.

Will you just look at that woodwork? Beautiful! I do like the rounded companionways. No sharp edges!

Then there is the v berth. I’m beginning to wonder why the v berth in our Cal 34 is so big because we’re finding precious few boats that have this amount of room in the forward cabin, regardless of whether they have two cabins or not. This v berth would be very difficult for me to get into and out of without a stepladder, which is not a good feature for me. It’s also pretty small for two people who like to have a little space when they sleep. If you haven’t already figured this out, sleep is extremely important to me. I must have it. And frankly I cannot sleep cuddled up with anyone. Neither can Mike.

One of the reasons we looked at this vessel was because in the photos it appeared to have a second cabin. Technically I guess it would but, again, photos are deceiving. The port quarter berth, which is counted as a ‘cabin’, is not one for the claustrophobic. Again, it would be a good quarter berth in a big sea, but getting in and out of that space is not for the faint of heart. The headroom is lower than it looks in the photos. You have to crouch down to get into the space, and then there isn’t room to even turn around. I didn’t bother to go inside that space.  If I don’t want to bother getting into a space when I’m looking at a boat, that’s a sign to me that I don’t feel too comfortable with it because I am not at all shy about crawling into boat spaces and basically pulling the interior apart.

One of the quarter berths I can’t really count this as a ‘cabin’.

This boat has an awesome chart table just to port when you enter the salon.


Beautiful chart table with drawers.  The access to the port quarter berth is behind this chart table. Can you believe how beautiful that wood is?

There is a cabinet between the chart table and the quarter berth area. You can see the low access better in this photo. It comes about up to my chest.

Interestingly, I didn’t photograph the galley. It was small, L shaped, and adequate but not a focus of the design of this boat. There is another small access aft of the galley that leads to the second quarter berth and because it’s there, reduces the amount of space available to devote to a proper galley.

In the end, while this is a lovely, well kept boat, it’s not the boat for us. I already knew that this boat was one that was designed for performance and not necessarily comfort. Now I have a better idea of what that means. We would probably love to sail this boat, but living on it would be a challenge. It’s just hard to find a boat that can do both well. There are probably things I could change about the interior of this boat to make it more livable, but I would hesitate to change anything in a Swan. I mean, really, take a look again at that beautiful woodwork. Cutting into that would be a little like sacrilege, I think. Some boats you can remodel, but my gut feeling is that a Swan is not one of them. Not if you want it to hold its value.

Can you say ‘well organized’? Scenes like this generally imply a well-kept boat.

So my dream was not to be. This is a boat that is probably great when you are in the open sea with big swells and you want solid, small areas where you are not going to be slung around. It’s probably also great when you want to get somewhere faster than other boats.  In our search for the right kinds of compromises in a boat, we may have to give up some performance in order to get the livability we require. Someone is going to love this boat on first sight. Hopefully this review will help that person find this worthy vessel. The boat is listed on Yachtworld for more information.




22 thoughts on “1971 Nautor Swan 40

  1. I am loving these reviews! I get to look and browse through all these different boats even though I’ve never seen them.

    You do a great job with your review and pictures! I look forward to them everytime.

    I can’t wait to see the review of the boat you end of getting, unless of course that is Moonrise and of course that would be fine:)

  2. I really like looking at boats, even though we haven’t bought one. I think these reviews have helped a couple of boats sell, which is cool. We get a lot of views on these pages. I would like to continue doing them even after we decide on a boat, maybe collaborate with some brokers. They show me a boat, I review it from a livability perspective. I try to give information people would not get on Yachtworld.

    • I think it’s a great idea. I really like reading about them. The pictures and descriptions give me ideas about my own boat. I like that you can just scroll down to see the pictures and you don’t have to click through a million of them. Please always keep it scrolling!

  3. I have a boat just like that one! Yes, the settees pull out to make a wider berth and it seems the women especially, like that. But I agree, the boat is narrow and a wider boat would be much better to live on. I use my boat for sailing and live in a house. The boat is a good sailor and has a comfortable motion at sea. If you would like to come for a sail just bring lunch.

    • Fabulous! Thanks for finding the review. I love it when people who own these boats chime in. Where are you located? We would certainly love to come for a sail on a boat like that, and lunch would definitely be on us.

  4. I live in West Seattle and the boat is moored in Des Moines. Have you heard about SSYC? (Seattle Singles Yacht Club) I’m a skipper there and take people out for the fun of it. Because I’m master of my own time, any time is fine with me. You pick a suitable day!

  5. Well, we can’t turn down an offer like that! We’ll email you when we get a break in this constant rain and see what you like to eat. Sounds like a great time.

  6. Thank you very much for this review. This is very helpful. I have been looking at this boat for a long time now. I am a huge fan of S&S designed boats. I am in touch with the broker and will go and see the boat soon. What you mentioned about the space is what I have read in other reviews of the Swan 40.

    We are planning for a year or two of sailing away to the SouthPacific and beyond (I would not be looking at this boat if its main purpose was coastal sailing). It would be both used to cruise with my family (the two of us with one kid) as well as the occasional off-shore training course I plan to offer through the sailing school I run.

    I can’t wait to see the boat and see if I get that same “submarine” feeling. A friend of mine actually went to seen the boat already and said much the same thing you are mentioning.

    Again, thank you for your review and pictures you posted.

    Cheers, Chris.

    • Hi Chris, and thanks for stopping by to read the review! This was a beautiful boat and as they are so popular, I’m thinking not everyone will be as worried about the tight spaces as we were. I’m glad you are going to see it. It was an impressive boat and I always like looking at a boat that has been so loved. I hope you will stop by after you see the boat and post your thoughts on it. Lots of people read these reviews and I’d like to think that they might help match the right boat with the right owner by giving a more personal impression of the boats. Good luck with your plans!

  7. I finally saw the boat boat. Here is what I found:

    The long and the short I was not impressed (mainly with the outside, the inside looked good). However, I feel the boat would be a project (as so many) before she could go savely off-shore again
    The details (in no particular order)

    – no second jib halyard

    – wire halyard for the main

    – No spinnaker pole car

    – No running rigging back to cockpit, this wont be an easy fix: The coming in the cockpit will require makeing holes or other imaginative work to get lines back into the cockpit

    – Corrosion on shrouds (will all have to be replaced)

    – Wooden toe rail needs to be replaced (expensive!!)

    – Signs on water ingress on port side chain plate

    – No holding tank (and no obvious option where to put it)

    – Unknown engine brand (to me anyway)

    – As with most of the Swans of this vintage: Little tankage

    – Handrail on port side (on deck): Has been loose (with open screw holes for over a year: I know this because I saw a note in the survey about it made more than I year before me seeing the boat).

    The boat is still for sale – it’s been on the market for a while now.

    • Too bad it was more work than you were looking for. I imagine it is still a wonderful boat if someone wanted to put in the work for it. I hope it finds a new owner soon. It’s so hard to have a boat that sits on the market for a long time.

  8. Hi- Swans are wonderful boats at sea, a boat that won’t give up in a gale! The aft bunks are “quarter berths”, “pilot berths ar the outboard bunks in the saloon!

    • Chris,

      I just re-read the review and am really surprised she is still on the market. For a young couple or a single hander, the interior issues would be less important and the fun factor of such a performance oriented boat would put a smile on anyone’s face.

      Good luck finding her new owner

      • Hi Michael, the owner is actually a very knowledgeable marine mechanic working for Raven Marine in at Mosquito Creek Marina. They since bought a motor boat. Price is now at 65 k.

        • Wow, that is a sweet deal for that boat. Maybe we can mention it in a blog post to bring more attention to it. We get a lot of hits on this review, but putting it on the front page again will give it more attention. Thanks for the info.

    • That’s hard to believe. She is just a beautiful boat. But we personally understand how hard it is to find the right owner, even for a great boat.

  9. thank you for such a complete review. i live and sail in the BVI and have a hans christian 48. i was looking for an off season boat in the seattle area and came upon this one. naturally, the price is an eye catcher and she looks to be in ok shape. but my concerns were, as always with S&S designs, the below deck space and it’s usefulness as a living space. your review confirmed my fears and saved me a long airplane ride. these boats are club racers and are good for sailing and maybe an over night but not for long term cruising or living aboard. if you want a comfortable, seaworthy and reasonably good sailor look at the hans christian 33….an amazing small boat. the ones built by the hansa yard are the best ones…anything before 1989. my 48 was built by the same folks for me in 1987 and has proven to be an excellent vessel in all regards. thanks again for the review, bob

    • As a liveaboard, the Swan would not be our first choice but as a go fast cruiser she would be a great boat.

      I visited your site, sailbravura.com, and really like the Hans Christain 48. Finding a liveaboard as comfortable as that will be a tall order. That is a beautiful boat.

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