Bruckmann 480

A true motorsailer that balances both sides of the equation.

October 4, 2007

I wonder why motorsailers aren’t more popular. These yachts promise the world-motoring as well as they sail; sailing as well as they motor. That’s a 200-percent boat-giving the owner 100 percent of what he expects from both her roles.

Although this theory makes sense, it often fails in the transition to reality. The Bruckmann 480 succeeds where other motorsailers have flopped, and I was able to prove this not long ago in Narragansett Bay. Designed by Mark Ellis, perhaps most well known for his Nonsuch line of catboats and the Niagara series of cruising sailboats, the 480 counts among her ancestors the Northeast 40. The connection between the two yachts (Cabo Rico builds the 40) lies with Jim Eastland of Eastland Yachts in Essex, Connecticut. He guided both of them into existence.

From the conception, Eastland and Ellis set out to capture the look and feel of a relatively traditional sailboat and the New England style of motoryacht. If we lop off the rig, we create a profile that’s quite a lot like that of the many motoryachts derived from the traditional New England bass boat. Erasing the pilothouse from the profile gives us a picture-perfect conservative sailing yacht. Adding another 4 or 6 feet to the length on deck, leaving the beam as is, would give us a more elegant structure, but the 480 looks great as she is.


We can quarrel all day long about the “look of motorsailers in general, or the 480 in particular, but the proof of their value lies in the performance and accommodations. I sailed the 480 in true winds of 5 to 12 knots, depending on where in Narragansett Bay we happened to be, and seas of less than 2 feet. Reaching at about 60 degrees to an apparent wind of 15 knots, our GPS showed 9.5 knots speed over the ground-almost a full knot faster than her theoretical hull speed at a speed/length ratio of 1.34. Under power, she easily cruised at 9 knots and exceeded 10 when we pushed her.

Ellis got the shape and numbers right. He reduced the overhangs to a minimum in keeping with the aesthetic guidelines agreed upon by him and his client. Within this relatively long waterline, he distributed the volume to reduce wave-making resistance, and he drew a broad, flat run to prevent the 480 from squatting excessively as the speed exceeds an S/L of 1.34. Ellis refers to her hull form as “balanced, as indeed it is.

Sailors who are used to seeing tall fractional rigs and lots of roach in the mainsail may scoff at the 480’s short masthead rig, but it perfectly suits her purpose. Keeping the sail plan reasonably low and spreading the area fore and aft gives the rig a lot of power but keeps the heeling forces in check. The combination of short rig and generous beam gives us a boat that doesn’t heel very much. Sailors who feel obligated to switch to a trawler because the family doesn’t like boating on its ear should take heed. In-boom furling for the main and roller furling for the headsail are standard.


We find the most serious dual-purpose-inspired compromise in the 480’s appendages. Ellis had to limit the draft to 6 feet to compete with the motoryachts of comparable length. A 50-foot motoryacht has a draft of 3 to 5 feet. The 480’s keel has a short span and a chord length of about one-third the hull’s LWL. A fence at the tip reduces speed-robbing vortices, and hydrodynamic sections provide adequate lift. If you expect a yacht of this type to sail to windward with a Farr 50, you’ll be disappointed. On the other hand, the 480 will reliably sail at 7 knots and 40 to 50 degrees to an apparent wind speed of 15 knots. When you want to point higher and go faster, fire up the 140 hp Yanmar.

Her steering is quick and reasonably communicative: I counted three turns from full lock to full lock. Like the keel, the rudder is shallow but gets its effective area from a long chord. It mounts to a substantial skeg, which also shelters the prop. Ellis gave the 480 a large aperture to make sure the propeller gets plenty of solid water to chew. Right forward of the skeg, he’s taken a bite out of what could easily have been a full-length keel with the rudder hanging off the after end. The gap reduces wetted surface area and lets the 480 turn more quickly than she would if the keel were full length.

Before you sign for a long-range displacement motoryacht, take the family aboard the 480. If the accommodations don’t charm them, maybe the time has come to get a daysailer for yourself and leave the family ashore. Bruckmann finished the interior of the 480 I sailed in the L. Francis Herreshoff tradition of white panels trimmed with mahogany. Satin varnish on the mahogany softens the overall ambience, inviting casual use of the living spaces. High-gloss varnish always makes me feel as though I shouldn’t touch the wood, robbing me of the sensual pleasure a well-found yacht should provide.


A delightfully open arrangement plan lets visitors absorb the whole interior at once. It immediately feels right-spacious and cozy, bright in the common areas and subdued in the private ones. The barrel-shape chairs opposite the settee/dinette turn the saloon into an intimate conversation area. Raise the table to feed a party of four. If the weather’s great, those four folks may eat at the folding table in the cockpit.

Amidships and down three steps from the saloon is one of the finest spaces on any yacht-the galley on the port side and the library opposite. The forward edge of the pilothouse bisects this area athwartships, so both share natural light from the windows above. The inside helm hides the library from prying eyes in the saloon, making the area feel a bit like a cocoon. A soapstone-and-bronze solid-fuel fireplace, nestled against the forward bulkhead and atop the cabinet housing the washer/dryer combo, wrapped its presence around me as though it were a loving parent.

Oh, for a good book and a wee dram of the single-malt on a chilly evening as I curl up on the settee opposite the fireplace. A corner-shape bench hard against the bulkhead adjacent to the fireplace holds my laptop, writing things, checkbook and bills to be paid.


Books-some read, others waiting for the mate or me to read the first time, and a few looking toward a second or third go-round-fill the shelves behind the settee above my head. The mate slides an apple pie from the oven and sets it to cool on a rack atop the Corian counter. Night falls early, so we retire to our stateroom in the bow. We’ll read and chat until sleep overcomes us. If we’d had guests, they would occupy the stateroom on the starboard side opposite the heads. The heads flank a common shower, which is large by sailboat standards. An intimate couple may object to the over/under berths in the guest cabin, but they should feel fortunate to be on the 480. So, they stifle the impulse to whine.

Back to reality. Juggling the exchange rate between Canadian and U.S. dollars helps Bruckmann offer this exceptional yacht for a base price of about $770,000. The price includes quite a lot, but expect to spend another $100,000 for a fully dressed example.

Contact: Bruckmann Yachts, (905) 855-1117; [email protected];


More Yachts