Our Pretty Girl

Man O War Cay, Abaco Islands, Bahamas

Troubadour is a Beneteau Idylle 15.50 blue water cruising sailboat and she became our traveling floating home in October 2008 when we sold our home and our cars. Chris and I bought her in New Smyrna Beach, Florida, from previous owners Mark and Pat White. We moved aboard and lived amidst the dust and rust of a refit project for a full year. In January 2010 we set out for Lake Worth Inlet, Florida, where we spent six months; and then in June, we sailed away to the Abaco's.

What follows is the best review we have found on our boat. It is from a February 2010 article on the website Jordan Yachts (we’ve made a few changes to clarify specifics regarding Troubadour):

The Beneteau’s Idylle series are not the inexpensive plastic, bimbo boats of Mooring’s charter fleets today. These classic cruisers built in the mid 1980′s are teak laden cruising machines. I once talked to a client who mentioned slyly he had a 38′ boat currently. I politely asked, “What type of 38 boat?” He whispered embarrassingly, “A Beneteau Idylle. Are you familiar with the Idylle series?” Usually, people put out some esoteric, ancient sailboat design and expect you being a “yacht broker” to know everything. Well this time I was luckily. I proudly said, “Oh that’s when Beneteau made good boats!” He happily agreed, “Yes, I am embarrassed to say my boat is a Beneteau because everybody thinks of the current low-quality designs.” Another broker in-house concurred, “Oh yes, Beneteau made some great boats back then. I know it.” The Idylle series and the early First series are quality built Beneteau's as much as that sounds like an oxymoron. The Idylle series includes 34, 38, 44, and 51 foot designs. Beneteau produced the German Frers designed 51 from 1985 to 1987.

Troubadour on the hard, Ponce Inlet, FL, 2008

First impressions

The 51 Idylle is a Frers designed boat, and Frers always pens fast yachts. His Swan and Hylas racer/cruisers are some of the most beautiful, highest performance yachts of today. In the early 1980s, he had just left Sparkman & Stephens and was starting on his first Swan, Hylas designs. The 51 has an raked bow, classic sheer, and flat stern. It is odd to see a Beneteau without a swim platform. Her toerail is the perforated aluminum and the trunk cabin is low and racy with the well aft cockpit. Underneath she has a deep, 6’6″ fin keel and spade rudder. The propeller is half way between the rudder and keel. She looks sexy underway with her sharp, low cutting profile.

Troubadour, Marsh Harbour, Bahamas, 2010. Ready for cruising.

Construction and what to look for

These Beneteaus were built in France. The deck has a 2 inch balsa core. According to an owner, the hull is 1.5 inches thick at the waterline and goes to 3 inches below the waterline illustrating the heavy construction. The most common is the deep fin with a draft of 6′ 6″ feet. (However, Troubadour has a modified fin keel with a draft of 6’ feet.) They used multiple molded liners to stiffen the hull and create the interior structure which limit access to systems. Tankage is stainless steel.

A priority modification on Troubadour was to cut-away the longitudinal bulkhead
 that separated the forward staterooms and create a single master stateroom with a centerline king berth.

Almost all were sold on a purchase and charter basis by Moorings. They were run as bareboat charters as Moorings 51′s with the first arriving in April of 1985 to the Caribbean fleet. Generally, we say that 1 year in charter equals 4 years in private ownership. Chartered yachts are usually rode hard and put away wet because the charter operation is trying to make a profit which usually comes at the expense of the owner. The owner as a trade-off pays a lower purchase price. As a result, most of these Beneteau 15.5′s have been seriously refit or in need of one. Besides replacing the rig, repowering, and cosmetic cleanup, the most dramatic change is a combination of the port-starboard forward staterooms. The best choice is to strip out the staterooms, cut-away the longitudinal bulkhead that separates them and create a single master stateroom with a centerline queen berth. Ten Beneteau 15.5′s were owner versions with factory built centerline queens forward and two staterooms aft. The galley is amidships starboardside. 

A typical modified layout of the Beneteau Idylle 15.50
 with the creation of a single master stateroom with a centerline queen berth.

View of Troubadour from aloft during refit in Ponce Inlet, FL

On deck and down below

Aftmost in the cockpit the combing hinges over, back, and down. The combing turns into a swim ladder of sorts with open access from the stern to the aft cockpit. These are cutter rigged, aft cockpit cruisers. The forward most hatch leads to a crew quarters completely separate from the rest of the boat. These bulkhead separated crew quarters have a sink and toilet but no shower. The main interior is solid teak and teak veneer throughout giving her that classic, warm feeling. You feel like you are on a Najad or Hylas with the quality joinery-work and teak and holly sole. Although the Idylle 51 is a different animal from the Beneteaus of today, Moorings used her for chartering. The boat is obviously a designed charterboat with her common 4 stateroom, 4 head layout.

Troubadour's cockpit will comfortably sit 6 to 8 people.

On charter layouts forward most are 2 staterooms each with its own head and shower. In the center is a large saloon with a moon roof. A glass moon roof built into the deck lets overhead light in and does not open. A large galley with freezer and refrigeration is starboardside. Aftmost to port is the captain’s quarters with a berth and head with shower. The 51 has a unique interior perfect for chartering but not exactly the owner focus that you see these days.

The roomy galley outfitted with a new Kohler faucet.

Looking forward from the galley is the saloon on the left, and moon roof, center.
On Troubadour the engine is below the center settee/hassock.

The main interior is solid teak and teak veneer.
 Looking forward from the companion way on Troubadour.

Often owners modify the standard charter interior converting the two staterooms forward into a single owner’s stateroom with a centerline queen and a large head and shower. The aftmost stateroom becomes the guest stateroom (or additional storage area on Troubadour). But there is no way to really change that crew quarters forward into anything normal but a storage area. Of course, modifying the design into a vanilla production boat interior of today takes away from the uniqueness of the 15.50 Idylle.

Engine and underway

Along with the aft cockpit flip over swim ladder, saloon moon roof, and crew quarters, the engine access is up there on the unique features of this wonderfully different design. In the saloon, there is a settee portside and table with another seat area amidships. You can pull off this amidships seating arrangement, and below the teak structure is the engine. You have 360 degree, unhindered access to the 85 HP Perkins 4-236 that came standard. Designers love to put the engine here if they can get away with it.

You have 360 degree access to the 85 HP Perkins 4-236
(Troubadour repowered in 2009).

It improves sailing performance by getting the weight low and near the yaw, pitch, and roll axis of the boat. The performance is the prime attraction of the Frers Idylle. It somewhat depends on the keel with the deeper having superior windward performance. One owner writes, “Ours is the shallow type, but it sails well into the 30 degree wind angle only losing a knot from sailing in the 40 degree angle to the wind.” Frers always designs fast, flat bottom boats that can really sail. In fact, the Idylle has the same underbody as his 51 Swan design. If look at them out of water, you can hardly tell the difference. The Swan has a taller 70-foot rig instead of the 61′ bridge clearance of this sloop Idylle. (Apparently, as Charleston Spar underwent ownership changes the rigs began to vary widely on the boats built in the charter timeframe. We have a Charleston / Isomat 65’ foot rig.)


Beneteau has ruined the builder’s reputation with the flimsy, bimbo boats of their charter trade with Moorings. But, in the 1980′s, they were one of the finest builders in the world and yet again may be someday. There are 10 on YachtWorld currently ranging from $113,000 to $179,000. These high performance, amply accommodated Frers yachts are underrated racer-cruisers.

To find out  more about our refit of Troubadour click here: Troubadour
Or contact us by email: troubadourskipper@gmail.com


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