"Mid Size Power Boats" - Buyers' Guide by David Pascoe

Island Gypsy 40



Island Gypy 40
This the first mainland China import we've reviewed, built by Jiang Hua in She Kau, PRC and imported by Kong & Halvorsen under the Island Gypsy trade name. The style of the boat is a flying bridge sedan, but it is built on a modified trawler style hull. Defining my terms for you trawler afficiandos, "trawler style" means that she has a deep, full midsection with the rabbet line angling up toward the stern, and a prominent keel. "Modified" because it does not have the full depth of a true trawler. Our subject boat was exceptionally well maintained.

Why someone would choose this mismatched combination of hull and style is a bit beyond me, but there it is. Fitted with a pair lf 3208 Caterpillars rated at 375 HP each for a total of 750 HP, it cannot make use of all that power. More about that in a minute.

The general design and layout of this boat is one that many people find very convenient. The cockpit is moderately large and deep, with the bridge deck extending full over it and capable of being enclosed with soft enclosures. The bridge is very large with seating for 8 comfortably. The salon is moderately sized with a galley up arrangement with lots of windows, including a front windshield which, of course, makes it difficult to air condition in the south even with sun screens fitted. On a 92 degree day, the inside temperature wouldn't go below 85 with two 12K BTU Cruisair units going full blast. There's just a bit too much window glass for a southern boat.

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Forward is a two stateroom layout with single head and stall shower. The guest stateroom has upper/lower berths with enough space to turn around in, although the bunks are only 72" long. The single centered double berth in owner's stateroom has access along the sides of the berth so that you don't have to crawl on hands and knees, head first to get into bed. There's a tangle of doors in the short companionway, but you have to put up with that sort of thing in this size boat.

Overall, the egonometrics are quite good and I had little trouble with bumping into or falling over things. The traffic pattern is a straight line slightyly off to the starboard side, so in an emergency you can go charging right down the center isle unimpeded. That's a factor I consider critical to good design. The lower helm station will appeal to a lot of northerners, and so will the sliding door next to the helm. Keeping the water out here is the only problem. Sliding doors tend to leak, and this one did.

Unlike so many other oriental imports, this boat has properly designed aluminum window frames, and the lack of water damaged paneling around the windows proved the point. Heavily anodized and not corroding. The sliding salon door was the one sore point; the two doors are too narrow, had no catches to stay in the open position (you had to use a hook) and you have to open both to enter if you don't want to turn sideways.

The wood work inside is teak veneers and solids for trim. The teak plywood is oriental,  very thin and grain checks badly when it gets wet. Its quality doesn't appear all that good. The fit an finish is acceptable but not great.

The electrical system is well designed and uses all American components except for the wire. The wiring installation is very neat. There are two panels, one AC, one DC, but the AC panel is located on the forward face of the lower helm seat base with only 14" between it and the helm panel, making it very difficult to reach this panel. Strictly a hands and knees job. I will never understand why builders always put panels down on the floor. The batteries are mounted in nice, covered fiberglass boxes.

The engine room space is adequate even with the iron fuel tanks there, and overall fairly neat and uncluttered. Yes, the tanks are iron and mounted right in front of the hull side engine room vents. Oops. We could not see what was happening to the back side of them, but the rust trails pretty much tell the story. Reaching the front and outboard sides of the engines requires pulling the hatches up. The thru-hull valves were all proper marine sea cocks, but then they botched it by brazing 90 degree elbows onto them and the strainers. The brazing is not galvanically compatible, so you can guess the result . . . .corrosion and leakage. Eventually they will break off. The exhaust system uses very heavy exhaust hose, hydrolift fiberglass mufflers, but unfortunately Chinese stainless steel elbows are attached to the tops of the mufflers. You know the story there. The aluminum diamond plate decking makes a wonderful impression on your hands and knees. Ouch.

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Your basic Chinese stainless steel. Metal fittings should never be encapsulated in fiberglass, but the through hull fittings on this boat are.

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In addition to a poor planing angle, this boat throws a huge bow wave. If you want to go fast, you need a planing, not trawler hull.

The waste tank is stainless steel. Yike! Kiss that goodbye. So were the water tanks, but get this: they are soldered with LEAD and have screws holding the baffles! Good luck with lead in your water tanks, folks. Might as well add a little mercury, too.

The lazarette is huge and deep enough to almost sit up straight. Everything is easy to get at, but I do have a couple of complaints. First, there is a door in the aft bulkhead, followed by the fact that the rudder installation is not right. The distance between hull bottom and rudder carrier is only about 8" and the shafts are 2" diameter. If you hit something with the rudders, there is not enough support there and they are going to tear through the bottom. You don't want 2" shafts on the rudder; you want them to be small enough that they will easily bend so they don't tear the bottom out. That brings up the point about the door in the bulkhead. Wouldn't you prefer that the bulkhead was water tight?  I mean, if you tore one of those rudders out, wouldn't  you want the hull flooding limited to one compartment? Me too.

The hull of this boat is well framed and the decks seemed solid enough, although I couldn't find out what the deck core was. The deck is glassed to the hull. As usual with Chinese boats, there is excessive use of chopped strand mat throughout the hull interior. You won't find a trace of woven fabric anywhere, just mat. And the inside surface is as rough as a cobb with those nasty little fishhooks sticking out all over. The inside glass work is very sloppy.

If the interior glass work is bad, the exterior glass work is atrocious. Less than 8 years old, this boat has been painted more than once. The surfaces of the house sides are like washboards, and blisters are popping up all over. The hull sides aren't much better. Despite the faux plank seams, bulkheads were standing proud and there were several flat spots where the curved surfaces had dimpled. Much of this is the result of a bad mold. But when the boat was lifted on a travel lift, the slings noticeably compressed the hull sides.

If the inside of the hull is loaded with mat, you can pretty much be sure that there are too many layers of the stuff on the exterior too. In keeping with that, this hull had blistered badly, and numerous attempts to stop the blistering had failed miserably. Prick the bottom anywhere with a sharp knife and fluid would run out. There was only one coat of paint on it, so the latest repair work had been done only about a year ago. Yet the bottom laminate seemed adequately thick and we found no problems there. We've since seen two other IG40's in boat yards, both of which also had horrendous blistering problems. On one, chine extensions had been added to attempt to get the hull to perform better. Apparently it didn't work because they were tanking them off.

The performance of this boat was the real sore spot. With 750 HP trying to drive a trawler style hull up on plane, the steering was just plain freaky. She hit up to 17 knots downwind, but would not track straight and the best the autopilot could do was hold it +/- about 25 degrees in near calm water at 2400 RPM. Manual steering wasn't much better; in nearly calm water, the boat wandered all over the place and I had to work the wheel hard. Putting it into even a gentle turn and she'd heel way over . . . . to the outside of the turn, causing the passengers to hang on for dear life. The handling ability was just plain awful, and the small fiberglass rudders didn't help matters any. The rudders are very thick (about 2") and heavily rounded on the edges. Not only do they offer a great deal of resistance, but are hydrodymanically wrong. In higher seas this boat is nearly uncontrolable.

The boat has huge 48" trim tabs but working them resulted in no change of speed, and not much change in the angle of attack.  The hull squats and pushes a large bow wave, pointing up another reason why one shouldn't try to push a trawler hull at planing speeds. The owner had been diddling with propellers since the ones on the boat didn't match specified size in the owner's manual.

Its hard to figure why a builder would take basically a trawler hull and try to make a fast boat out of it. But here you have it. Maybe they didn't know what would happen Thing is, I know they have a couple of good naval architecture schools in PRC. Maybe they didn't get to attend. Weren't members of the Party. Something like that.

While one might be able to live with the bad fiberglass work and a bottom that's errupting like the bubonic plague, no one should put up with handling faults as serious as this. Once again, all that sweetness of appearance and a nice, low price that hides a world of hurt. No wonder there are currently so many for sale on the market. We counted seven.

Posted July 11, 1998

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David Pascoe is a second generation marine surveyor in his family who began his surveying career at age 16 as an apprentice in 1965 as the era of wooden boats was drawing to a close.

Certified by the National Association of Marine Surveyors in 1972, he has conducted over 5,000 pre purchase surveys in addition to having conducted hundreds of boating accident investigations, including fires, sinkings, hull failures and machinery failure analysis.

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