Boat Review: Outbound 52

On January 25, 2008 I joined Phil Lambert of Outbound Yachts aboard hull number one of his new Tim Kernan-designed Outbound 52 in Norfolk, Virginia. Planning to be at February’s Miami Strictly Sail boat show, Phil needed to get the boat south. With only three short trial sails on Chesapeake Bay under the 52′s keel, this was to be the first real offshore test for this new design, which is the big sister to the Outbound 44 and 46. Also aboard were Skip Pond and Tom Brinkley, Outbound Yachts East Coast representatives.

Passages around Cape Hatteras during winter are never to be taken lightly. It was a brilliant, sunny, yet cold afternoon as we cleared Little Creek harbor and sailed around Cape Henry in a 15-knot northwesterly wind. After rounding Cape Hatteras, we opted for the coastal route south, which kept us well inside the north-flowing Gulf Stream current. Strong southerlies forecast in the Florida Straits on the 29th encouraged us to make time, so we agreed to motorsail anytime boat speed fell below seven knots. Our trip took exactly four days and we logged 780 miles at an average speed of 8.2 knots.

With an in-mast furling mainsail, roller furlers on the staysail and headsail, electric winches, and all lines led to the cockpit, this boat is easy and fun to sail. Modern high volume hulls with high aspect rigs reward active sail handling. Controlling heel angle and balance results in fast, relatively level sailing.

I am delighted to report that performance has not been paid for by sacrificing livability and comfort. Close hauled under main and genoa in 14 knots of true wind, boat speed exceeded 8 knots. Approaching Cape Fear on our second night out, we furled the genoa, unfurled the staysail and reefed in two battens of mainsail as westerly winds gusted into the high twenties. For eight hours we gave the boat a nice wash down test while beating into short, steep seas. The boat handled the seas solidly and with an easy motion.

As morning dawned, veering winds allowed for eased sheets and more sail area. Beam reaching in 18-knot winds, we flew along at speeds between nine and 10 knots. The following morning found us southbound off Jacksonville, Florida, in 20-knot northwesterlies. With six-foot, gentle following seas the boat surged ahead showing her ability to comfortably sail for days in trade-wind conditions.

Tom Drives Downwind

The standing rigging, running rigging and deck hardware are nicely oversized and well suited to the worst conditions a world cruiser might experience. A tall, triple-spreader Selden mast is keel stepped. Spreaders are swept slightly aft; this is enough for rig stability while still allowing the main to be eased for deep running. Like most contemporary designs, she has a large mainsail with smaller genoa and staysail. Both the staysail and genoa are bent on fixed Furlex furlers. All sails are Hood Vektran. The main has five full-length vertical battens. Having spent time offshore with various mainsail furling systems, I’m sold on “good” in-mast systems with vertical battens. Sail shape is acceptable while the ease of use can’t be beat. A track and rigging for a whisker pole is standard although a pole was not aboard for our trip. Had we been able to pole out the genoa we would have spent less time motorsailing downwind. A Selden Rodkicker solid boom vang with lifting spring and 10-to-1 purchase is controlled from the cockpit.

The smallest member of a mature cruising couple would have no difficulty standing night watch alone while reefing and trimming sails from the well protected cockpit or descending just three steps below to the galley for hot tea, all while his or her shipmate sleeps soundly just feet away in the sea cabin.

Clean and uncluttered decks enhance this yacht’s appeal. Buyers looking for a low maintenance exterior will appreciate the use of attractive lines and high quality, polished stainless steel fittings instead of a reliance on varnished teak trim for aesthetics. This boat has just enough exterior teak to break up glossy surfaces. A wide teak cap rail sits atop three-inch high bulwarks. I believe this to be an ideal height for bulwarks—high enough to provide secure footing in a seaway while holding minimal water aboard. In Ft. Lauderdale, while docking in a strong cross current, we missed the presence of a hull side rub rail. A factory installed rub rail is available.

From a functional, hydrodynamic and aesthetic perspective, this boat has a very nice stern. Under both power and sail water flowed freely from the transom with absolutely no squat. Boarding from either dinghy or dock will be easy with two lower full width steps and one inset upper step—all overlaid with teak decking. After cruising and living aboard a center cockpit boat with a similar reverse transom, I’m convinced that no sensible cruiser should choose a traditional overhanging transom unless it is equipped with an attached platform.

The quantity, design and quality of custom polished stainless steel fittings aboard this boat are remarkable and well suited for the boat’s intended blue water cruising mission. The stern quarter wraparound mooring cleat/base fitting is exemplary. All mooring cleats are 12 inch-long stainless steel castings with studs welded to their bottom leaving no visible fasteners. An outboard motor lift fits into integral stern pulpit sockets on either side.

The vertical Maxwell 2200 anchor windlass has both a capstan and chain wildcat. Two heavy-duty stainless steel anchor rollers are fitted with half-inch diameter “keeper” pins. Many cruisers incorrectly believe these pins are used for securing the anchor. Their primary purpose is to keep the anchor rode from jumping out in extreme pitching conditions. Just aft of the bow rollers is a muck trough: when washing the anchor chain, mud will flow overboard rather than running down the deck. Bow and stern wash downs are plumbed for both fresh and sea water, as are the heads below. Stainless steel handrails are mounted along the coach roof on each side. I found walking around the entire deck, even in a confused sea, to be easy.

Many companies rely on large interior spaces, at the expense of storage, to help them sell boats at boat shows. Buyers are left to add deck boxes or use bunks for gear and stores. The Outbound 52 has ample storage both on deck and below.

Two large quarter lockers with full-size hatches are located aft. The lids have gaskets and gutters. To port, a large propane locker just forward of the quarter locker holds two 20-pound gas bottles. A huge bow locker is all the way forward. Two anchor rode bins are nicely designed.

With such a high aspect, balanced rudder placed well aft, this boat steers like a race boat yet has surprisingly good directional stability. A four-foot, leather-covered, Whitlock dual-spoke helm connects to a Mamba mechanical steering system providing tight, friction free control. On watch I frequently switched off the autopilot to hand steer. The helm takes three turns from hard over to hard over and I felt no perceptible feedback. Phil stated that with first boat sea trials now complete, it is clear that this boat does not need the steering power recommended by Lewmar/Mamba for other cruising yachts of this size, so gearing is being re-worked to fewer turns, making the boat even more responsive and fun to drive for sailing purists. Also conveniently mounted on the Whitlock steering pedestal are: the Sidepower bow thruster control, Ritchie Globemaster compass, single lever engine control, anchor windlass control, navigation/deck light switch, Icom VHF ram microphone, 12V outlet and engine instruments.

Outbound 52 Salon

During this winter trip’s wet, cold, lumpy conditions we all appreciated the low, sheltered, secure center cockpit. Aft of and wrapping from primary to primary winch, the coaming is wide and inlaid with teak decking—a very comfortable place to sit with great visibility. Seatbacks are 16 inches high and ergonomically angled. The forward settees measure 70 inches long and 18 inches wide: adequate for sleeping and lounging. A hard dodger with opening center window is fitted on this boat. A 10-inch deep well in the forward cockpit sole allows one to stand under the hard dodger. A watertight, hinged hatch in the sole opens immediately above the engine and will be appreciated while doing engine service in the tropics.


Anyone with pets, small children/grandchildren, bad hips, or possessing the wisdom to know a ladder need not be a ladder will appreciate the companionway on this boat. It’s an easy 45 inches from the companionway lip to the saloon sole. The three wide, contoured steps are fitted with raised hard rubber non-skid strips; a hidden, stainless framed, smoked acrylic washboard pulls up for use in rough conditions; and, additional smoked Lexan washboards are provided for storm conditions.

Mechanical and electrical systems have nicely installed, well chosen components. Access for service is excellent. The main engine is a 110-horsepower Yanmar 4JH4-HTE turning a 22-inch diameter Max-Prop through an Aquadrive system and PSS drip-less shaft seal. Motoring in calm waters at 2,700 rpm, we made 8.4 knots through the water. Top speed under power exceeds nine knots. I would expect economical cruising at around 2,300 rpm and 7.5 knots. With 250 gallons of diesel aboard, this boat should motor a thousand miles at 7 knots.

The engine room is located below the cockpit sole with primary entrance through the sea cabin. There’s just enough space to stand inside the door. Also located in the engine room are: genset, bronze sea strainers, fuel and water tank selection manifolds, dual Racor fuel filters with vacuum gauge, and a 12-gallon stainless steel Seaward water heater. Additional engine access is through a hatch below the companionway and access panels beneath the galley sink.

All tanks are fiberglass. Water tanks are integral to the hull to maximize capacity. Fuel tanks are built on space-conforming male molds outside the boat. After pressure testing, the four fuel tanks are installed below the saloon sole. Large inspection plates with sounding rods are fitted in each tank top. A Tank Tender system is used for level monitoring. Placing the tanks below the sole not only puts the weight in the right place, but also opens up space under the settees and bunks for massive storage. Holding tanks are fitted outboard, high up, beneath the deck edge in each head—no macerator pump needed.

Modern cruising yachts need power. This boat’s electrical system does a nice job of meeting these demands. Many boats of this class have both 12-volt and 24-volt DC systems. Phil wisely chose to avoid this complexity. House batteries are AGM and mounted in fiberglass boxes below the saloon sole. A dedicated starting battery is located under the companionway. Wiring is well organized, tinned, multi-strand boat cable that is run in trays and nicely labeled.
A custom AC/DC panel with a hinged Lexan cover is located to starboard of the companionway in the sea cabin. The Mastervolt Whisper 8-kW genset was very quiet and easily handled all three air conditioning units, battery chargers and microwave oven at the same time. Two 30-amp shore power connections are located both forward and aft. In addition to the stock 80-amp alternator, a 180-amp Balmar alternator is mounted forward of the engine and properly driven with two belts. A Balmar Max-Charge regulator controls this alternator. Charge state is monitored by a Xantrex battery monitor. A Mastervolt inverter/charger with remote control panel is also standard equipment.

The teak interior is elegant and shows excellent craftsmanship and detail. This is a semi-custom boat; other woods and interior arrangements are available. Built in a time consuming, traditional method, all furniture and bulkheads are glassed and tabbed to the hull and deck making for a strong and stiff structure. Bilge areas are sanded baby-bottom smooth and sealed with grey flocoat. Large limber holes drain water to the deep keel sump. The hull is solid fiberglass and a cast lead keel is bolted onto a substantial keel stub. The cabin sole is wonderful: a three-sixteenth-inch thick layer of solid teak and holy is glued on top of epoxy sealed marine plywood. Each sole panel locks into place and secures with a flush-mount locking handle.

The saloon was my home for this voyage since I berthed on the port settee. Excellent sight lines out the four large fixed side windows will help those below enjoy the changing scenery. Headroom measures six feet, six inches. To port is the dinette with a seven-by-four foot settee. To starboard is a five-foot, eight-inch long settee. Forward of this settee is a nicely detailed liquor cabinet with a wineglass cabinet above. Despite the openness of this space, I found plenty of good handholds for moving about at sea. To starboard of the companionway is a forward facing navigation station with top-opening chart table and ample vertical surfaces forward and outboard for mounting electronics.

Outbound 52 Sea-Cabin

On land it might be called a bonus room; I like the sound of “sea cabin.” Located to starboard of the companionway and stepping down six inches below the saloon, this space serves many purposes. Outboard is a wonderful sea berth. Skip Pond, a seasoned offshore sailor, claimed this berth. At six foot six inches long and 21 inches wide, a crewmember with wide shoulders would enjoy four more inches of width. This could easily be added with a pull out. Lifting up the mattress reveals a stainless steel work bench.
Outbound 52 Galley

To port, the galley is down six inches and well connected to the saloon. Galley headroom measures six feet, five inches. While Tom did the lion’s share of cooking, I managed to test the galley while heating stew, making snacks and doing dishes. It’s well laid out and very functional at various static and dynamic inclinations. A gimbaled Force Ten three-burner stove with crash bar and microwave oven will take care of cooking needs. Refrigeration is located outboard and forward in two high, front opening and two lower, top opening boxes. Two top opening freezer boxes are aft of the fridges. Frigoboat refrigeration (one freezer and one fridge) systems with keel coolers are used. A deep, double stainless steel sink is inboard and freely drains overboard on all angles of heel.

One big center-cockpit layout advantage is the ability to provide a nice master stateroom aft. Entered to port through the galley or to starboard through the head, this cabin is truly spacious. A centerline berth is six feet, six inches long and five feet wide. The bunk itself lifts on gas springs and hinges to access a very large storage bin with plenty of space for a spare folding dinghy and extra sails. A dressing settee is to port of the bunk while a chest of drawers with fold-over writing desk and mirrored cabinet above is to starboard. I can see this desk being used for a private office.

The aft head is to starboard and equipped with a forward facing Techma electric head. Most surfaces are of glossy white fiberglass with varnished teak trim: easy to keep clean yet elegant. Forward is a separate shower stall entered through bifold smoked Lexan doors aft or through a forward water resistant door. The Splendide 2100 vented washer-dryer is housed behind a smoked Lexan door inboard.

A forward passageway is to starboard and down six inches from the saloon. During our trip, I found no issue with these small six-inch steps. With cognizance, these short steps became second nature and a minimal inconvenience in exchange for the added tankage and saloon visibility provided.

The forward stateroom rivals the master cabin on most aft cockpit yachts. The centerline bed with padded headboard measures six feet, six inches long. A large storage bin and bow thruster motor are accessed by lifting the bunk on hinges and gas struts. We all agreed that the forward head and separate stall shower will make a spacious primary head for a liveaboard couple.

After five days aboard this boat I’m impressed. Phil Lambert has indeed accomplished his mission of building a yacht with offshore performance and liveaboard comfort. Tim Kernan’s design is both fast and easily handled over a wide range of conditions. The market is well stocked with boats that look nice. Thorough examination of the Outbound 52 reveals a boat of world-class quality reaching beyond what’s visible. Storage space, living space, sailing performance, maintainability and good looks are all nicely balanced. I see owners of this boat appreciating its design and construction more and more with time of ownership—the true test of satisfaction.

LOA 52′
LWL 47’10″
Beam 15’4″
Draft 7’6″
Sail Area 1,312 sq. ft.
Disp. 40,000 lbs.
Ballast 14,000 lbs.
Water 225 gal.
Fuel 250 gals.
SA/Disp: 18.35
Disp/Length 160

Outbound Yachts
Newport Beach, Calif.
Phil Lambert

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