BOAT TEST BENETEAU ANTARES 36
A modern fitout, great handling, and the latest common rail-diesel engines bring Beneteau’s Antares 36 cruiser right up to speed, reports DAVID LOCKWOOD
We were pressed for time, which isn't unusual when you have a boat these days. By the time you have checked the weather, packed the bags, prepped the picnic, readied the crew, loaded the car and then the boat, peeled off the covers, topped up the water tanks, disconnected the shorepower, completed your pre-departure engine checks, and warmed them donks, too much precious leisure time has ticked by.
But the French boatbuilding goliath, Beneteau, appears to be well aware of this fact. For decades, it's made a range of ready-to-roll production cabin cruisers that require little more than a baguette, a bottle of something, and a cast of the lines. They range from fetching little 20-foot cabin cruisers with diesel engines all the way up to a 52ft trawler - the Antares flybridge cruisers slotting in with 9.0 and 13.8-metre model designations.
In today's turnkey powerboat world, the new Antares 36 (a rework of the Antares 11) can be considered an obliging boat. With twin 260hp common rail-diesel engines, it's fast but no guzzler. With a bowthruster, even the novice can decamp with ease. And thanks to its easily managed exterior, and interior, it's not a high-maintenance proposition. A quick hose, tug on the covers and you are heading home on a high.
Pressed for time, I leapt aboard the Antares 36, checked with the skipper in the flying bridge, unhitched the mooring lines from bow to stern and, with the tweak of the bowthruster and a touch of port engine, we were idling clear of the marina. The cockpit and decks are safe to get around and the boat's just a nice size for a husband-and-wife team.
I swung the fenders aboard, closed the transom and saloon doors, climbed the ladder, and assumed my position on a lounge on the bridge. Quick as that, we were pottering down the no-wash zone towards the wilds of Sydney Harbour. However, the French Antares 36 is a worldly boat and one could just as easily be gadding about the Gold Coast, moseying around Melbourne, or ranging out to Rottnest. The formula for success remains the same.
Beyond your flights of fancy, the Antares 36 is foremost a family boat. To this end, it was a real delight to find the boat was already provisioned, the beds made, fuelled in readiness, and with enough grub for a weekend fling with the kids in tow. Prepared as such, you can make snap decisions and be out and about in no time. And given the amenities, you can comfortably stay over and make a weekend or holiday of it.
While single-level sportsyachts are gaining popularity, you can't go past a flybridge for views. The Antares 36 has upper and lower helm stations, allowing you to drive the boat in all weather and circumstances, but in busy Sydney Harbour the bridge is the bomb. As ferries crisscrossed our bow, passenger ships berthed nearby, and water taxis, tourist boats and so on carved a path, one felt very much in control overseeing and anticipating things from the bridge.
The skipper gets a starboardside pedestal seat before a moulded dash-pod with recessed engines gauges and, in this case, Raymarine C90 GPS chartplotter and ST70 multifunction repeater screen, plus sports wheel, trim tabs, optional Maxpower bowthurster and electronic engines controls. You can operate the windlass from the bridge, too, and, I'm supposing, there's a spotlight control for finding your mooring at night.
Views also stretch back through the ladder hatch to the port side of the swim platform, which will assist with docking. But perhaps due to the angle of the midday sun, on some runs there was annoying reflection in the thermoplastic windscreen up front and the central stainless steel support strut. Maybe that strap-type strut can be reduced in size in future?
Crew are treated to a U-shaped lounge - the upholstery appears to have improved - that doubles as a lunch setting around a moulded table and, to make the Antares 36 even more socially adept, there was an optional fridge drawer nearby. The big double 1.95m x 1.40m aft sunpad on the bridge will also come in handy for kicking back.
With a bed and fridge in the bridge, plus a bimini top for shade, you can cruise in comfort but also use the elevated platform as more than just a driving station. A low-profile radar arch or targa adds to the styling and, sans cushions, the bridge is easily hosed out at the end of the day.
The requisite boarding platform, central swimladder, and hot/cold handheld shower look after swimming needs, while wide and safe rail-backed walkaround decks lead to the bow, an outdoor zone with two-person sunpad. It really is a safe boat to get around on.
The self-draining cockpit is big enough to hang out around a lose table, with an L-shaped lounge built into the transom, a couple of rodholders, and small moulded hardtop above from which you could mount an aftermarket Euro-style awning for extra shade.
Underfloor, the lazarette reflected the fact this was an owner's boat. There was a deflated roll-up tender, small outboard on a bracket, and fishing gear, as well as the optional 4kW generator, strainers and fuel filters for the gennie and the primary engines.
About the only thing I would do differently at design stage is consider mounting above-decks cleats in place of the more traditional hawsepipes and below-deck cleats. With taught lines, the latter were a tad fiddly to use and, really, no one is going to worry about fouling a fishing line on a pleasure cruiser like this. Crew will appreciate easily accessed big cleats above deck.
Although the engines are located beneath the saloon floor, insulation keeps noise at bay. However, you need to remove the dinette table and its screw-in pedestal leg to access the starboard engine. This is a tad time-consuming in respect to the idea of going boating on a whim. That said, as the engines are paired, the oil dipsticks are on the centreline and accessible from the one easy-lift central floor hatch.
You can therefore lift the one hatch, dip the oil, cast a quick eye about the engineroom to make sure there are no leaks, close the hatch, open the lazarette hatch, and check the strainers and fuel filters, before setting off. Every other trip, I'd make the effort to open the second floor hatch and look around the starboard engine to make sure things appear sound. There are also access hatches through the aft cabin to the belts on the starboard engine.
Getting outboard of the engines isn't so easy, but that's hopefully a job for the mechanic during periodic servicing. But as I've said before, I'm not keen on the use of marine ply as mounting (not structural) boards in the lazarette. You might also consider getting a teak cockpit floor laid locally rather than the factory doing it - one I know of has mild-steel fixings rusting through the teak.
Moulded ceiling liners and easy-clean surfaces reduce maintenance. Although carpet is an option in the saloon, go with the laminated option. I do like the ambience that Beneteau creates indoors, even if the joinery is production-standard CNC router-cut veneered ply (with solid beading where appropriate). A European company called Alpi makes the veneer, sustainably apparently, using a fruit-tree coloured finish in this case.
Basically, the vibe is not altogether dissimilar to a European apartment, with plenty of glass for connectivity. The big saloon doors and sliding windows also help with bringing the outdoors in, and vice versa, but the boat had optional air-con - we do live in a year-round boating climate. Headroom is 1.92m at the very least.
Immediately to port is the wet bar with grog locker and coffee-making facilities including cappuccino machine at the ready. A Sony flatscreen TV above here faces the L-shaped lounge and dinette opposite. There is a two-seater lounge to port, within arm's reach of the wet bar, whose bases detach as stools and boost dinette seating to six.
With the galley up, this is a great entertainer. When not using the must-have rail-mounted barbie, everyone can converse, cook, eat and watch a movie together. There are curtains if privacy is needed by day, otherwise the surrounding glass frames the views and reminds you are on a boat.
Galley amenities include a big sink, two-burner gas stove and oven - considering the generator, I would order the electric cooktop option - and 80lt dual-voltage fridge. The fridge was loaded with bacon and eggs, Tim Tams and more. As I said, it's a family weekender ready to roll. And with a family of four, the 320lt of water is about right for a long weekend away at least.
The lower helm, opposite the galley, allows you to gad about while the coffee is brewing and that breakfast is being prepared. Regular boaties know that early-morning starts are the very best for passagemaking. Beat the wind and waves and eat en route.
When it comes to catching 40 winks, later on the anchor, there are two cabins and one bathroom, with the option of a saloon settee bed using the dinette table as an infill.
The stateroom forward on the Antares 36 gains in volume from the hull's flared bow. Behind the sliding door is an island double bed measuring 2m x 1.5m, hanging locker, opening portholes and escape hatch with insect screen. The timber lining adds to the salty feel, while a TV lets you enjoy a movie before lights out.
Guests get an aft starboard cabin with single beds that convert with an infill to a 1.95m x 1.55m double bed or rumpus room. Opening portlights help with fresh air, but there is headroom only at the foot of the bed, where you'll find another TV. A hatch leads into the utility and plumbing space, home to batteries, hot-water service, holding tank and more. I presume the batteries are AGM types for no one will maintain them here otherwise.
Offering 1.98m headroom, the bathroom is nicely styled with moulded white surfaces, chrome fittings, timber accents and aquamarine splashbacks. You shower over the electric marine head, a saltwater number, but a nearby opening portlight should dry things out before too long. A skylight adds to the airiness, while the waste-tank gauge is where you can see it. Once again, the 88lt tank will do for a long weekend.
AWAY WE GO
The hull, with balsa-cored sides and decks, is described as a semi-floating lower hull with a bell-vee bow and side stabiliser skids. But forget the translation manual, it's a modified-vee hull with a rounded stem or entry, big reversed chines giving an almost gullwing-stern profile, and pronounced spray rails.
More importantly, the result is a boat that is eager to get on top off the water, efficient to run at low to high speeds, whose forefoot slices the waves for a smooth ride, with an amazingly dry ride thanks in part to the big, flared hull. The performance really is a strongpoint of the badge and, after crossing the heads with a beam-on breeze, the windscreens were still perfectly dry.
The boat planes at 2250rpm and 10kts, maintains a low-speed cruise of 13.5kts at 2500rpm, and holds 16 to 17kts at 2750rpm with the tabs raised to about the halfway position. Cruise speeds were recorded at 19 to 20kts at 3000rpm and 21 to 22kts was very pleasant at 3200rpm with the boat running free. Top speed was about 25kts.
You can get the boat with twin 300hp Volvo Penta D4 diesels, but the above figures with the 260hp variants would do me. After all, 19 to 22kts cruise is a nice speed whereby you reel in the sea miles but don't break your boat or crew. And with common rail injection, no smoke, small fuel bills, and twin-screw handling with delightful electronic shifts, the boat was also fun off the wheel.
Beneteau is a huge multinational boatbuilding giant making greater inroads into the luxury boat world. What it does is provide a boat for the market, at different price points, that suits people's needs at just about every stage of their lives.
But the Antares 360 is a boat with very broad appeal. Big enough to spend serious time aboard, yet small enough to manage yourself, you could step up or down to this handy cruiser.
Some of the finishing details could be refined, but the price of these French boats is retreating all the time as production efficiencies are realised. Furthermore, the local importer is big on service and support. All of which should mean more time for pleasureboating. Hooray!
Specifications: Beneteau Antares 36
PRICE AS TESTED
$498,500 w/ twin 260hp Volvo Penta D4 diesel engine, and factory-fitted and dealer options
4kW generator, air-con, Raymarine electronics, teak cockpit, sunpad mattress, second and third LCD television, windlass, bowthurster, flybridge bimini and fridge, and more
$429,000 for standard model w/ twin 260hp Volvo Penta D4 diesel engine diesel engine
Material: GRP fibreglass hull w/ balsa coring and decks
Type: Hard-chine modified vee
Length overall: 11.37m
Max. draft: 1.00m
Weight: 7076kg (dry)
Berths: Four plus two
Make/model: Volvo Penta D4
Type: Four-cylinder diesel w/ common rail injection and turbocharging
Rated HP: 260 at 3500rpm
Gearboxes (make): Twin Disc
Props: Four-blade bronze
Jones Bay Wharf,
19-21 Lower Deck, Suite 90,
26-32 Pirrama Road,
Pyrmont, NSW, 2009
Phone: (02) 9518 6977
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