Passport 40

Because this is a blog about a Passport 40 sailing yacht, most of our focus will be directed to that particular model of Passports. For some information about other models of Passport yachts, see our page on Other Passports.On this page, we discuss the history of the Passport 40, its designer, and some of its notable features. Much, but not all, of the information on this page comes from the excellent book Yacht Design According to Perry.

In 1978, Robert H. “Bob” Perry was a 30-s0mething yacht designer with roughly six years of experience behind him, including the design of some iconic sailboats (e.g., the greatly admired Valiant 40 and the popular Tayana 37). In response to an inquiry he received from a Taiwanese company (whose letterhead read “Yacht Builders, Frozen Foods, Eel Farms”) about designing a 40-foot sailboat, Bob said that he’d provide a design for a fixed price of $10,000. Thinking that the request, which was based on the recently-completed Freeport 36 design, couldn’t have come from a serious company, he was surprised when he received a check for $9,500 that promised the remaining $500 upon delivery of the design.

Passport Yachts was, at the time, a company owned by Peter Hoyt and Wendel Renkin. Its first boat was the Passport 42 (designed by Stan Huntingford), a double-ender built at the Tamsui Miracle boatyard. But the inquiry had come from the King Dragon boat yard just outside Taipai. By the time work actually began on constructing the boat Bob was asked to design — that boat that would become the Passport 40, or “P40” — Hoyt had left Passport Yachts and Renkin was left to deal directly with “Big Lo”, the owner of King Dragon. The first few Passport 40s were built at King Dragon, but they became so popular that a new boat yard, Hai Yang, was built nearby specifically to manufacture the Passport 40. (King Dragon then went on to build boats for other manufacturers, notably Hans Christian.)

Renkin and Perry seem to have an interesting, and amiable, relationship as Bob’s design was translated into a manufacturing process. For example, Renkin insisted on “guiding” (i.e., dictating) some design elements that Bob resisted to some degree. In particular, Renkin insisted on the hull-to-deck joint including steel buried into the FRP (fiber-reinforced plastic, a/k/a fiberglass) so stanchions and other deck-edge fittings could be tapped directly into the plate. While it made for a very watertight joint, it also would make it difficult to retrofit new components to boats by their future owners. Renkin’s influence also ensured that Passport 40s were rather heavy boats, which may have increased some costs, but significantly increased the durability of the boats…so much so that (I believe) all 148 P40s that were manufactured are still sailing today.

Bob’s description of the Passport 40 says that the hull length is “actually 38.21 feet…with a [length-to-beam ratio] of 3.12.” He designed it with almost no overhang aft and a shortish overhang at the bow with a very slight concavity to allow “some gentle flare”. A conventional transom rake was chosen to maximize cockpit space (although this was to be reversed in the later P41 and P43), while a long, thick fin made up the keel of the boat. Because of cost reasons, iron ballast was chosen, but the thickness of the fin keel made it possible to place the ballast very low for good stability.

Interestingly, Bob says that the boat was never intended to be a true cutter, although quite a few P40s have a second forestay that gives the ability to fly a second headsail. He believed that pushing the mast back, as a true cutter design would have required, made a boat too difficult for most non-racing cruising sailors to balance easily. He also chose a design that incorporated a relatively short mast. That, in turn reduces the sail-area-to-displacement ratio to about 13:1, which helped ensure its popularity in windy sailing areas such as San Francisco Bay.

The result, as everybody who has owned or sailed on a Passport 40 knows, is a boat that is quite pleasing to the eye, is easy to sail, has a gentle disposition, and makes an almost-ideal cruising boat. P40s have crossed oceans many times and have circumnavigated at least a few times.

I’ve had the pleasure of meeting Bob once in person (at the annual Perry Rendezvous held each year on the Olympic Penninsula of Washington state in the USA) and speaking to him on the phone a few times. He is a rather charming man, holding strong opinions but listening respectfully to others, and unfailingly helpful when asked about the Passport 40 of which he is (justifiably) proud.

The Blue Book of Boats cites the following information for the Passport 40:

LOA: 39’5″
LWL: 33’5″
Beam: 12’8″
Draft: 5’9″
Displacement: 22,771 lbs
Ballast: 8,500 lbs
Sail Area: 931 sq. ft
Fuel capacity: 128 gals
Water capacity: 135 gals

As suggested above, the displacement value is rather optimistic. Real production boats probably displaced 25,000 or more. The sail area, fuel capacity, and water capacity all have varied depending on exactly when the boat was built and what the purchaser requested.

John Kretchmer, editor of the Used Boat Notebook, wrote a widely-read review of the Passport 40 that was published in the March 2004 issue of Sailing Magazine. Kretchmer has also published a video review of the P40 (actually, of hull number 117, Fathom) on YouTube. He has a great deal of positive information and opinion in both the written review and the video.

Kretchmer’s reviews point out some of the most significant variations among the P40s that were produced. The most important variations (in my opinion, that is) are:

  • Some boats were built with a V-berth in the forepeak, while others were built with a head in the same location.
  • V-berth boats incorporat a head with separate stall shower just aft of the V-berth. Boats with the head forward have a pullman-style berth just aft of the head.
  • Some P40s were built with a U-shaped settee surrounding a dining table in the main saloon, while others have an L-shaped settee in the same location.
  • A large variety of engines were put into P40s.

Kretchmer especially likes the cockpit of the Passport 40, along with the bulwarks, the lifeline stanchions, the location of the chainplates, and the stability of the boat under sail. He calls the P40 “a sports car in the guise of a cruising boat” :)

Here are a couple of images from the original Passport 40 sales brochure:

The brochure cover

Interior drawing of the Passport 40

Hope you enjoy this summary of a great boat!


(Additional information about the Passport 40 may be added in the future.)

2 comments to Passport 40

  • Jim and Kathy Watson

    Jim – We got our Passport 40 (#116) in Feb 87, lived aboard for 7 yrs while preparing to go cruising. Left Seattle in Sept 94 and spent 5 yrs cruising Mexico, El Salvador, Costa Rica, Panama, the Galapagos, Marquesas, Societies, Cooks, Samoa, Tonga, NZ, Hawaii and back home. The boat took good care of us and we were sorry to part with her, it’s a great liveaboard and cruising boat – Jim

  • We love the Passport 40. We had a great adventure on the boat, we survived a few hurricanes, our doughter was born on it. Ah! All the good memories…

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