San Juan 40 IPS

The new San Juan 40 with Volvo IPS drives makes a great boat magnificent.

San Juan 40 IPS

If the San Juan 40 shown here looks a little familiar, well, don’t think you’re going crazy. The 40, which grew out of the popular 38, has now evolved even further with a new deckhouse and the use of Volvo IPS drives. These replace the conventional shaft drives on other San Juans. The IPS system had been under consideration by San Juan Yachts for some time, and the company used the economic slowdown as an opportunity to retool and perfect the new installation. (We reviewed the shaft-drive version of the 40 in the March 2009 issue. See the performance comparison below.)

The Volvo IPS drives are a win-win for both owner and builder. They are easier to install for the builder (once the initial tooling is done), which helps reduce cost. They also require fewer parts, not the least of which are, ahem, shaft logs, packing glands, exhausts, raw-water intakes, mufflers, propeller shafts, steering pumps, rudders and rudder shafts, tie rods, and struts, plus bow and stern thrusters. How can you not love IPS?

All of those features pale in comparison, however, to the improvement in handling with the one-handed joystick that allows the boat to move sideways as well as diagonally. And, with the optional positioning system, a GPS-linked computer will hold the 40 within just six feet of any position desired.

It doesn’t take long to fall in love with the 40. The starting point is the Greg Marshall hull, which is as slippery as it is sweet. The perfect sheer line that blends into a gentle tumblehome at the transom is clearly drawn from Down East lobster boats, but the lines are softer and a bit more retro. Simply put, this is a pretty yacht from any angle.

Everywhere you look is perfectly finished teak under fathoms of Epifanes varnish — clearly a specialty of the craftsmen of San Juan Yachts. Every piece of teak is hand-selected to match perfectly, and the joinery is distinguished by splined and mortised joints and invisible seams.

When it comes to engine access, the two covers lift easily to reveal each engine, and the more compact IPS drives allow an optional Northern Lights 5 kW genset to have its own compartment under the center of the cockpit. The hatch opening is large enough that you can step into the bilge to reach all sides of the power plant.

I have to note that all of the construction details are textbook examples of how to do it right. Accessible, repairable and secure: Other builders could learn some lessons from San Juan’s boatwrights.

No amount of poking around in the crannies or bilge will prepare you for the sheer delight of the San Juan 40 IPS under way, however. It is such a joy to run that I found myself struggling to maintain my serious boat-tester face, when what I really wanted to do was giggle.

Getting away from the dock is actually fun. A touch of the IPS joystick moves the yacht sideways from the dock, and once in open water, I had to stop to play with the system. You can literally make the San Juan 40 IPS dance … spinning, crabbing and even going forward or backward with ease.

When we settled down for normal operation using the wheel, the feel was light but positive. Our 370-horsepower IPS drives gave us about 35 knots, which is ample for most conditions, although you can opt for the 435-horsepower Volvo IPS 600s, which should push you to 45 knots.

Off Anacortes, Washington, we were able to run through some tidal rips with steep-faced seas, and the San Juan 40 slid through them like a well-honed knife. Taking 10 percent off the top rpm gives her a comfortably long-legged cruising speed of about 30 knots, while sipping fuel at just 22 gallons per hour.

Trying out the optional positioning system, we put the boat beam-on to the wind and just upcurrent from a large and rather nasty buoy that was showing a wake from the current. With the system engaged, we held position easily without worrying about our dark hull grinding on the rusty can. Backing into our slip, the IPS joystick made short work of holding the boat while we got the lines and fenders secured.

The San Juan 40 IPS is one of those rare yachts that just feels right. Designed for efficiency, speed and beauty, she is built by a company that cuts no corners and takes pride in exceptional workmanship even where you can’t see it. I thought it was tough to improve upon the original 40, but after running the IPS version, I realize I was wrong.

LOA: 40'7"
Beam: 12'2"
Draft: 2'6"
Displ.: 18,000 lb.
Fuel: 300 gal.
Water: 80 gal.
Deadrise: 17 degrees
Engine Options: 2 x 435-hp Volvo Penta IPS 600 diesels
Engines Tested: 2 x 370-hp Volvo Penta IPS 500 diesels
Base Price: Upon request

San Juan Yachts, 360-299-3790; sanjuanyachts.com