With no previous boating experience, other than occasional trips on friends' vessels, 50-year-old Ian has no preconceptions about the type of vessel he is loooking for.

With no previous boating experience, other than occasional trips on friends’ vessels, 50-year-old Ian has no preconceptions about the type of vessel he is loooking for. Dr Ian Freed lives in St Albans, Hertfordshire, but is in the process of buying a holiday flat on the South Coast and wants a boat he can use for day trips with friends and family, and the occasional overnight trip with his wife Lynn.

Completely new to boating, he doesn’t have a firm idea about the style of craft he needs, so long as it has plenty of outside space and a cuddy cabin with basic galley facilities. To save on berthing costs at Brighton Marina, he would like it to be less than 21ft long.

He doesn’t particularly want it to be “fast and flash”, but nor is he ruling out the possibility of a sports-cuddy if it’s practical. Ideally, his wife Lynn would like a separate toilet compartment, but he realises this might be a stretch too far given his budget of £25,000.

Good start

Since he has no preconceptions about makes or models, we help him narrow his options down by guiding him towards one example of each of three different types of craft which we think could suit his requirements: a pilothouse sportsfisher, a walkaround sports-cuddy, and a true sportsboat. We start off with a visit to the Arvor stand, where James Barke of Essex Boatyards shows us round two of the company’s new models. We have a look at the 215 first, but quickly move over to the 190 model, which seems to offer most of the bigger boat’s attributes in a slightly more manageable package, for £21,950.

Ian is impressed by the Arvor’s standard equipment list, which includes a full electronics package of chartplotter, GPS receiver, fish-finder and VHF as well as fenders, warps and an anchor. And he reckons the live bait box in the transom, with its automatic seawater pump, will be perfect for keeping his drinks cool.

The economical 85hp Nanni diesel engine, with its three-year warranty, also apppeals to the good doctor’s sensible side. But there is no provision for a freshwater system, and he’s not sure how his wife will feel about the less than private portable toilet tucked under the vee-berths.

Questions of style

We move on to look at the Four Winns 205 Sundowner. Although it is very much in the sportsboat mould, its slightly chunkier lines and practical detailing almost qualify it as a mini-sportscruiser.

Ian is immediately smitten by the looks and feel of the helm, and he’s pleasantly surprised by the amount of space in the cuddy cabin and the neat little cockpit dinette.

“It’s really stylish, and feels so much sportier than the Arvor,” he tells us. “The kind of thing I’d love to invite my friends onto for the day.”

But he’s concerned about the thirst of the 4.3-litre petrol sterndrive, and the on-the-water price of £27,240 would be stretching his budget.

Finally we take a look at Karnic’s new range of walkaround sports-fishers (see page 48), to see whether this might be the ideal halfway house between the other two boats. The 2250 model comes in bang on budget at £25,000, when fitted with a 115hp four-stroke outboard engine.

It ticks all of Ian’s boxes, with its under-helm galley and pressurised freshwater system, and Paul Reed of dealers Yellow Penguin says he is prepared to fit a full sea toilet in place of the standard cassette system. But the styling just doesn’t click with Ian, so we decide to move on.

Clear thinking

We point Ian in the direction of some rivals to the boats he has already seen. Jeanneau’s Merry Fisher 625 and Cap Camarat Walkaround get appreciative nods for their colourful style and attractively finished cockpits, while the Monterey 218 LSC gets a look in, not least as the winner of our recent sports-cuddy comparative test.

We even stop off for a glance at the Landau 20, with its desirable separate toilet compartment, but when Ian returns to the MBM stand after some thinking time, his mind is all but made up.

“I made a mental flow chart of all the things I wanted from a boat, and the Arvor came closest to fulfilling my needs,” he confides.

“I went back for a second look, and James offered to throw in the teak-effect floor, a gas cooker and even a freshwater system to help seal the purchase. “I am now 99% sure this is the boat for me, and I’ve put down a deposit subject to a sea trial. It may not be the most stylish boat in the world, but the dealer’s helpful attitude is reassuring and I feel the Arvor is a good first step into motorboating.”

We can’t argue with that.