Espresso 40 Review

Issue: August 2006


Brewed in New Zealand, this gal roasts the competition.

It’s not what a boat does that matters, but the way it does it. The essence of this boat is not its configuration, but the way it moves through the water.

This is essentially a simple boat. It has two cabins, a huge galley and bathroom and a big dinette under the coach roof. It has enough of everything, but not too much of anything, and is a serious lesson in what a well-designed hull can do when it’s not carrying a block of flats on its shoulders.

Dave Tuke conceived the Espresso 40 a few years ago in New Zealand. Designers and builders around the world have tried similar marriages of traditional styling with modern construction techniques and power plants and they have had varying levels of success. Sometimes they got the worst of both worlds, instead of the best.

Dave commissioned Bill Upfold to do the design. “The hull has a fine entry, developing progressively to 18-degree deadrise amidships then fairing through to 14 degrees at the transom and has slightly convex sections,” says Bill.

“The most unusual feature is in the chine area. There is a moulded-in spray rail in the topsides just above the chine, which fairs in and disappears aft just forward of the transom. As this is clear of the water when the vessel is at rest, it eliminates chine slap, but still gives an extremely dry ride when under way.”

What Bill says about that chine is true. The small bow wave is turned down immediately. And at anchor there is no ‘slip-slop’ of water, which keeps you awake. (Well, it keeps me awake.)

The bow lifts a tiny amount during the planing transition. In fact, this is one of those hulls where a lightweight combines with low shaft angles, and presumably some other alchemy only the designer knows about, to virtually eliminate a change of hull attitude when moving from rest to fully planing. From the cockpit it seems as if the boat jumps forward with no noticeable lift anywhere, like a high-speed displacement hull. Visibility from the helm position remains panoramic, with no intrusion from the bow. Hulls with lower deadrise angles at the stern, which have staged a bit of a comeback in recent years in boats similar to the Espresso in style, tend to lift their bows more and the bow can get in the way of the helmsman’s vision.

The boat shown here is powered by a single 440hp Yanmar diesel, good for 28 knots. You can have two 315hp Yanmars; both configurations have shaft drive. The third option is a single 285hp Volvo Penta with sterndrive.

“All models have the bow thruster, so for simplicity and easy maintenance, this installation (the single 440) would be my choice”, says importer Jerry Hendrey. 

The shaft-drive boats have trim tabs, which I forgot about because they weren’t needed. The Espresso’s configuration is simple. A story on the Espresso website uses the term ‘picnic boat’, but this is unfair as it suggests the accommodation and appointments limit it to the role of day boat. Which is not so.

In the bow is the owner’s cabin with a double vee berth. The next boat to land here from New Zealand was fitted with an island double, made possible by moving aft the forward bulkhead and stealing a little space from the galley, which it can easily afford.

The galley is on the portside, opposite the bathroom. Aft of the galley is a transverse double berth. The extended cockpit features a big dinette and a helmsman’s seat. Aft of this is the open cockpit, with plenty of seats. That’s all folks. And for my money, it’s all the boat I really need.

The owner’s cabin has hanging a locker and plenty of storage. Immediately aft of the bulkhead is a wet locker. Aft of this is the bathroom, which is huge, featuring a separate shower area with a curtain, a long, long vanity with a Corian-style bench top, plus an electric toilet.

The galley, too, is long. The stove is seriously big; a four-burner affair with grill and oven. The bench top is in a Corian-style material. The fridge is a bar-sized unit mounted in the pedestal for the helmsman’s seat, so it serves both galley and cockpit.

There’s an icebox under the cockpit seat on the starboard side. By Aussie standards this isn’t a lot of fridge, but it may be enough.

The dinette is big, almost three quarters of a circle in plan, around a big table. The pedestal is fixed but importer Jerry Hendrey says there’s no reason why it can’t be given a sliding pedestal. He also reckons that with an aft awning fitted, bodies could sleep on the cockpit seats.

We had a trip on the Espresso on a windy, choppy day, but the big hull barely noticed the conditions. Jerry reports that on a trip from Sydney to Pittwater into a big nor’easter and a 3m plus swell, the Espresso had no trouble handling the seas at 2200rpm and 15 knots, using 29lt per hour.

On the return trip (south) with a light following wind, 2400 revs brought 27-28 knots at 42lt per hour. “On a rough run with spray and a bit of rain around, you need to use the clears or spray can be drawn forward into the cabin,” says Jerry. 

Exhaust gases in the cockpit are no problem as the exhaust exits above water at rest and below water when running, meaning gases are discharged well behind the boat. There’s nothing else to report about handling this boat. It feels like a runabout, not a 40-footer, because that’s how it behaves. The hydraulic steering is well geared and well weighted. It feels great.

The cockpit/cabin (whatever you call the area around the helm station and dinette, under the coach roof) was stuffy when running into the sun late on a hot day, but Jerry can fit hatches to improve the ventilation here. He will also fit cleats amidships, needed on the average Australian marina.

I suppose you either like this style of boat or you don’t. If you acknowledge that you don’t need a lounge room, dining room, a wide-screen television, air-conditioning, an iPod link and all the junk you are going afloat to get away from, you will like the Espresso 40. The Espresso goes well and its hull behaves itself beautifully.

It provides just the right amount of comfort for people who want to enjoy the outdoors. Why go boating if it’s not to enjoy the outdoors ? Putting a priority on junk, which insulates you from the outdoors, is foolish. You might as well stay at home.

The hull and cockpit are a composite construction using E-glass and polyester resin, with a balsa core. The painted non-skid pattern deck features a varnished teak toe-rail, an anchor locker moulded into the foredeck with a hinged hatch and chrome-plated brass half round rub rail on teak belting.

She has four 150mm stainless steel mooring cleats and four varnished teak handrails on the pilothouse top and cabin. There are four fixed elliptical portholes on the forward cabin sides, three forward fixed pilothouse window and two pilothouse side windows.

The varnished teak pilothouse and cockpit features a varnished instrument pod, dash and teak coamings and coaming caps and a black steel spoked wheel with varnished wood rim.

A single 440hp Yanmar diesel with shaftdrive powered the test boat. Options are twin 315hp Yanmars and single 285hp Volvo Penta with sterndrive.

With three people onboard the Oscar 40 cruised effortlessly at 23 knots.

LOA: 12.2m
BEAM: 3.9m
WEIGHT: 5200kg
FUEL: 650lt
PRICE: $601,298 (Base)


+ Easy to handle; Simple to maintain 
– Small fridge