World’s coolest boats: Mk 1 Princess 45 is one of the few genuinely cool 80s boats

Each month we pick out an iconic boat that can lay claim to the title of world’s coolest boat. This month, we take a closer look at the Mk 1 Princess 45.

At first glance, it might be hard to understand how this mid-1980s flybridge cruiser follows the WallyPower 118 and Miami Vice Wellcraft Scarab onto the sub-zero end of MBY’s Cool Wall, but allow me to elucidate, because this vessel is an absolute icon.

Princess Yachts, or Marine Projects as it was then known, began in 1965 almost by accident. Three ex-Navy officers, fresh from a Broads hire boat holiday, decided there was a market for boat hire in the South West.

Unable to afford a new boat, they purchased hull and deck moulds and built their own. The charter business failed (mostly because the boat kept getting stuck in the wrong place due to bad weather, meaning it wasn’t back for the next hire), but the boat was sold for a profit and a new business was born.

For the first 15 years Marine Projects built a range of mostly John Bennett-designed motor cruisers that stretched from 25ft but barely cracked 40ft.

When Volvo Penta introduced its 7-litre straight six 70 Series engine, the company embarked on its largest boat ever, based around a pair of those motors and with a design speed of 25 knots, the Princess 45.

It was the yard’s first commission for Bernard Olesinski (the 30DS was the first Olesinski Princess, but that was a design he took to them).

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Hull number one hit 26 knots, but it was the seakeeping that was most impressive. Our former sister title Motor Boats Monthly joined a boat show delivery run from Plymouth to Southampton.

After a brief photo session (during which, at times, only the radar arch was visible to the photo boat), the crew set off.

To quote the article “We were on autopilot most of the time, eating sandwiches and drinking coffee, yet never once was the Princess 45 caught out. As a lesson in fast-boat handling, it was salutary”.

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Even the interior has a certain retro chic about it and can easily be updated

A huge success (the original build rate of one boat a month tripled within a year), the boat opened up the Mediterranean market for Marine Projects.

Three years later the Princess 55 was launched and five years later, the Princess 65. Princess Yachts, as we know it now, had arrived, and it had arrived aboard a Princess 45.

Princess 45 specifications

LOA: 47ft 3in (14.4m)
Beam: 14ft 1in (4.3m)
Power: Twin 270hp Volvo Penta TAMD70
Top speed: 26 knots
Years in production: 1982–1991