There are plenty of cool boats out there, but only the world's coolest boats make it into our hall of fame. Here are the icons who have made the cut so far...
Each month our resident expert of cool Nick Burnham picks out an iconic boat that can lay claim to the title of world’s coolest boat.
What makes a boat cool can very enormously from boat to boat. We’ve featured a world speed record holder, an iconic TV series star, an incredible superyacht and one of the most important models from the back catalogue of one of the most prominent British manufacturers.
The list below is a work in progress, so if you have any suggestions, e-mail them to email@example.com – be sure to give your reasoning with as many superlatives as possible!
12 of the world’s coolest boats
The world’s coolest classic motor yacht
Thunderbird is what happens when you combine an obsession with aircraft, the heady days of the 1930s and a LOT of money. George Whittell was an eccentric San Francisco tycoon who, in the mid-20th century, owned about a third of the land in the Tahoe basin and 27 miles of the lake’s shoreline.
He built a beautiful lakeside home called Thunderbird Lodge; kept a pet lion called Bill and a pet elephant called Mango; owned a variety of aircraft including a DC-2, outfitted for his private use; six of the rarest Duesenberg motorcars; a 145ft superyacht and this legendary 55ft sportsyacht, Thunderbird.
Commissioned by Whittell specifically for Lake Tahoe to go with the estate he was building there, Thunderbird was designed by the famous naval architect John L. Hacker, built by Huskins Boat Works in Bay City, Michigan and delivered in the summer of 1940.
The coolest James Bond boat
A young naval architect called Alan Burnard was employed to evolve a Ray Hunt deep-vee design into a single-engined 23ft motor cruiser called the Fairey Huntress.
Launched in 1959, it was followed a year later by the 28ft Fairey Huntsman. Similar in concept, the extra length gave it even more elegant lines and created space for twin 145hp Perkins diesel engines.
Both the Huntress and Huntsman soon found fame on the big screen, starring alongside Sean Connery in the Bond movie From Russia With Love.
The coolest Hollywood boat from the 00s
Boat dealers are used to unusual requests from clients but ten windscreens made out of sugar glass and a complete spare set of cockpit upholstery was a new one to Martin Payne, head of sales and marketing for Hunton Powerboats.
The call came in September 2003 from Marine Team, a New Zealand company specialising in aquatic scenes for movies. Their researchers had seen the Hunton RS43 on the cover of the August 2003 issue of MBY and decided it would be perfect for a movie they were working on.
Set in Africa and starring Matthew McConaughey and Penélope Cruz, Sahara featured a boat chase in which a high performance luxury boat was being pursued by military craft.
Supermarine Swordfish 36
The Aston Martin of the sea
Supermarine Swordfish. Just the name alone secures this boat a berth in the MBY coolest boats hall of fame. Roll it around your tongue one more time, “Supermarine Swordfish”. Delicious. But the name is merely an amuse bouche. There is so much more.
“I wanted to create an Aston Martin of the sea,” David Skellon, the man behind this incredible boat, once said. “I wanted a boat that was powerful, fast, extremely high quality, capable of handling some proper weather and wrapped up in a drop dead gorgeous package. A modern Swordsman and a true motor boat.”
The Swordsman he’s referring to is, of course, the seminal Fairey Swordsman built by Fairey Marine in Southampton between 1964 and 1974, and so the naval architect he approached was none other than Alan Burnard, designer of those 1960s Fairey classics.
World’s coolest modern-classic boat
Unlike the Supermarine Swordfish, a boat heavily inspired by the 1964 Fairey Swordsman, the Levi Corsair was not inspired by its 1963 namesake. It is actually the same boat. And you can still have a new one built to order.
There are detail differences, the coaming that wraps around the back of the cockpit is slightly higher, the original square-cornered windscreen frame is now a sweep of curved stainless steel, the pulpit rail is slightly higher and slightly longer and… and that’s about it.
The low coachroof, wide side decks and gorgeous sweep of sheer line are exactly as per the original; this remains one of the coolest and most beautiful boats on the water.
Hollywood’s coolest boat
Michael Bay’s 2005 sci-fi thriller movie The Island was about a group of people isolated in a compound, they’re told, due to nuclear fallout. As the film progresses, we learn that these people are in fact clones of wealthy individuals, created for organ-harvesting should it ever be needed.
Because they are clones, they experience dreams based on lives they have not lived. One of them is a clone of a famous yacht designer, and so his dreams are of superyachts.
The studio needed the most dramatic, the most outstanding, the most iconic superyacht on the water to illustrate this, and so, of course, they chose the Wallypower 118.
Miami Vice Wellcraft Scarab 38KV
The coolest TV boat
In a move that rivalled Decca famously turning down the Beatles (its executives apparently citing that guitar bands were on their way out), Wellcraft said no to Universal Studios’ request to supply a boat for a new cop show called Miami Vice.
So for series one of a show that quickly became the biggest hit of the 1980s, a Chris-Craft Stinger 39 was the power boat of choice for fictional undercover law enforcers, Crockett and Tubbs.
Quickly realising the monumental mistake they’d made, Wellcraft execs made Universal Studios an offer they couldn’t refuse and from Season Two onwards, a Scarab graced the dock at Bayside Marina in Miami alongside the boat Sonny Crockett lived aboard, an Endeavour 42 sailboat called St Vitus Dance.
Mk 1 Princess 45
The coolest production boat
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.
The coolest 1960s boat
The history of Riva dates back to 1842, when a storm on Lake Iseo in Italy devastated the local fishing fleet. A young shipwright called Pietro Riva worked hard, repairing many of the vessels and earning the respect of the locals in the process.
It was on the back of this that he opened his own boatyard, and Riva was born. The yard continued to flourish under Pietro’s son Ernesto, who introduced boats powered by internal combustion engines, creating large passenger and cargo boats.
Serafino Riva shifted production from transport vessels to motorboats in the late 1920s and early 1930s, building successful racing boats. But it was his son Carlo Riva who turned the company into what it is today.
In the 1950s, Carlo had admired the wooden Chris-Craft motorboats in the USA and felt that there was a market for high quality luxury motorboats in Europe.
In 1962 he introduced the Riva Aquarama, putting the Italian brand on the global stage. The name was based on the Cinerama panoramic cinema screens popular at the time, echoed in the beautiful curve of the stainless steel-framed windscreen.
The coolest superyacht
The question I’m asked more than any other is the perhaps inevitable “if you had unlimited resources, which boat would you own?” And the answer is always the same, Silver Fast. The brainchild of German industrialist Guido Klass, Silver Fast is no follower of convention.
Where most superyachts are tall and beamy in order to maximise internal volume, leading to ‘wedding cake’ tiers of decks, Silver Fast is low and slender, like an arrow. The intention was to major on speed, seakeeping and efficiency, and it certainly does that!
Of course, selling a concept that flies in the face of convention is never easy, which is why Klass built the yacht first before seeking a buyer. He built the Silver Yachts shipyard, too, in Australia, where there is great experience in building large fast aluminium boats, albeit normally for commercial use.
The coolest raceboat
The irony is that when disaster struck on Coniston Water in January 1967, both Bluebird K7 and its owner and pilot Donald Campbell were already world speed record holders. Son of the legendary Sir Malcolm Campbell, who died of natural causes in 1948, Donald had big shoes to fill.
His father had claimed nine land speed records and four water speed records, culminating in a 141.74mph run on Coniston Water in 1939 in Blue Bird K4 – a propeller-driven hydroplane.
Fiercely patriotic, Donald feared that the USA was about to field a faster boat, and bought back Blue Bird K4 (it was sold when his father died) in an attempt to push the record for the world’s fastest boat out of reach.
Unable to gain the necessary boost from the modified K4, Campbell commissioned a new, more advanced jet-powered hydroplane in 1953 called Bluebird K7 to challenge the record, now held by the American Slo-Mo-Shun IV.
Art of Kinetik Hedonist
The coolest wooden boat
Designed by the Serbian builder Art of Kinetik’s in-house stylists, those utterly sensational looks are, in part, down to the materials used.
This is not your run-of-the-mill GRP cruiser. Its frame is made up of solid mahogany ribs and stringers covered in two layers of marine ply and one of mahogany reinforced with Kevlar and epoxy below the waterline.
The resulting sandwich is resin-infused with 15 coats of high-gloss varnish, creating a look that you’re just not going to achieve with plastic. It helps that the focus of this vessel puts art before pragmatism.
To submit your suggestion for the world’s coolest boat, head over to the MBY forum.