IN THEIR WORDS
Sylvia and Stanley Dabney have been liveaboards for 15 years and have logged more than 60,000 sailing miles, from the East Coast and the Caribbean to Alaska and Hawaii. Not only did the couple do all of this in the same boat, they wouldn’t trade their 1975 Valiant 40 for anything.
The Dabneys — owners of Offshore Atlantic Yachts, a Florida broker specializing in bluewater and liveaboard vessels — have been involved with the cutter-rigged sailboat since it came off Robert Perry’s Seattle drawing board in 1973. After helping market the boat in its early years, they had the chance to live the cruising life — and they knew exactly which boat they wanted.
“We needed a boat suited to long-term, short-handed sailing without any limitations as to destination,” says Stanley Dabney. “It had to be a performance passagemaker, a boat that sailed well and had some speed.”
The Valiant 40 was that boat.
Perry combined tradition — the double-ended shape and the cutter rig — with innovation, using a skeg-hung rudder and fin keel in designing the hull. The resulting shape combines seaworthiness and performance with a roomy liveaboard interior, says Dabney. “Perry’s hull shape has never been changed,” he says. “That’s a testament to its design. It gives you a comfortable ride with little pounding. And there’s a lot of flare in the bow, so it’s a dry boat, too.”
As for speed, Dabney says they’ve hit 12 knots at times. “Once in particular, coming back from Hawaii,” says Dabney. “And we’ve sailed 200-mile days.” The couple’s fastest ride came on Chesapeake Bay, when the boat registered 14 knots.
The Valiant 40’s interior is functional, too. Dabney says the oversized U-shaped galley is easy to cook in. “You can wedge yourself right in there when she’s heeled over,” he says. The double quarter berth (and storage lockers) make up their “master cabin,” located in a spot that’s handy to the cockpit, the galley and the chart table. “That’s probably the thing we like most about the interior, that big quarter berth,” he says.
The Dabneys prize the boat for its easy handling and seaworthiness, too. “It’s a true cutter, so it can be tacked with the mainsail,” Dabney says. “The twin headsails give you lots of options, and the small sails are easy to work with. And the Valiant has a flat foredeck and wide side decks, so it’s easy to get around on.”
Dabney offered two examples of the Valiant’s seakeeping abilities. “We were sailing off [North] Carolina when a front came through, complete with snow,” he says. “We set a double-reefed main and staysail and were just banging along in 40 to 45 knots of wind. The boat will go through anything with that sail combination.”
On another passage, they were hit by what he believes was a microburst, which spun the boat 180 degrees and knocked it over on its beam ends, Dabney recalls. “It came back up, and we kept right on going,” he says.
That’s the kind of experience that breeds confidence in a bluewater sailor. “No one really knows why these boats behave so well,” says Dabney. “I guess there’s a certain amount of voodoo in yacht design. The Valiant is not real jazzy or flashy, it just works.”
The Valiant 40 layout reflects the straightforward tastes of its era. It starts with twin V-berths forward that can be turned into a single with an insert. Its single head (with a shower) is to port, just aft, with hanging lockers and shelves to starboard on both sides of a short passageway. This opens into the main saloon amidships, laid out in the popular configuration of the time with fore-and-aft bench seats and a center table that folds against the forward bulkhead. The bench seats double as berths, and there’s an extra pipe-style berth that can be folded down on the port side.
The mast extends from the coach roof through the cabin sole to the keel step, aft of the table. Moving aft, the large, U-shaped galley is on the port side, at the foot of the offset cockpit companionway. Standard gear originally included a three-burner stove, double sink and space for an in-counter icebox. Across the way to starboard is the nav station, with chart table, shelf and storage space.
One of the uncommon features of the layout is the double quarter berth to port, aft of the galley. Designed as a convenient sleeping area for offshore cruisers, it’s close to the companionway and the nav station. The interior is well-ventilated by four ports on each side of the coach roof, a forward deck hatch, and the sliding cockpit hatch.
Valiant 40s aren’t exactly easy to find. Only 200 were built before the boat went out of production in 1992, and their owners don’t seem to get rid of them. An Internet search, however, did turn up a handful.
A 1977 model in California was listed for around $112,000 with a 40-hp Westerbeke auxiliary diesel, new standing rigging, new genoa with roller furling, two-
burner stove, microwave/convection oven, refrigeration, autopilot, GPS, electronic charting, and VHF radio. Another West Coast boat — a 1979 model “well cared for” with a new diesel, full sail inventory, and laid out for offshore cruising — was priced at around $120,000. There were a few East Coast boats, as well. A 1980 model for sale at around $140,000 in the Chesapeake Bay area is listed as “offshore equipped,” with new wire rigging, hydraulic backstay, and midboom sheeting, along with such amenities as air conditioning, reverse cycle heating, watermaker, three-burner stove, and oven. A 1980 model in the Annapolis area was listed for $135,000, with a teak interior and teak and holly sole, rod rigging, twin wire headstays, a staysail stay, and full canvas, including a dodger. Nav gear includes a GPS, VHF, radar and a wind generator, and the fully equipped galley has a three-burner stove and oven combination.