Buying a boat: We help MBM readers choose the craft of their dreams

The former yachties - Paddy & Sue Bartholomew budget £80,000.

The former yachties – Paddy & Sue Bartholomew budget £80,000

After many happy years’ sailing, Paddy and Sue are now looking for something a little more manageable, but equally traditional, in which to enjoy their approaching retirement.

Our final new boat hunters, Paddy and Sue Bartholomew, have nautical experience by the bailer-load, having been the very proud owners of a Cornish shrimper for the past 10 years. But now priorities have changed, and their first motorboat beckons.

After much talk of feel, form and finance, Sue begins to encapsulate the style they are looking for.

“What I think we are after is a gentleman’s cruiser, with the majority of space going to the exterior, something with a traditional edge but still with modern amenities.”

It emerges that a large comfortable cockpit which does not isolate the helm is a must, and then Paddy goes further.

“This will be a boat we plan to keep, so it must be something we can live with and use for the next 20 years or so. It must be a comfortable passagemaker and overnighter, and be capable of a turn of speed. After all, if we are changing over to power we might as well reap the benefits.”

Just as we begin to fear that we might be looking for a teak-clad 30-knot displacement cruiser, this concern is dispelled by Paddy’s realistic thoughts on performance.

“Having come from a world that passes by at 4 knots, something in the order of 15 knots will do us nicely,” he says.

With the budget set at up to £80,000, we are on our way. jammy dodger

In a market dominated by speed and style, our search should not be troubled by ‘woods for trees’ syndrome, and we are confident we have a good shortlist of boats to lay before Paddy and Sue.

This confidence lasts only as far as our first viewing, of the Cygnus DS25. We expect the highly specified show boat, at £60,000, to appeal on both style and price, and all is going swimmingly until Sue introduces us to her ‘jam sandwich’ test, which any true contender will have to pass.

Essentially, this concerns whether a boat is grandchild-proof, finding out what damage might be caused by dropping an upturned morsel of afternoon tea on the upholstery. The DS25 fails the test, being a little too smartly finished for its own good.

Strawberry conserve spills aside, the Cygnus appeals aesthetically but its helm is thought to be just a little too cut off from its cockpit seating. Never mind! The next two boats are our trump cards.

Neck & neck

First we stop off to look at the inordinately pretty Seaward 25, a semi-displacement cruiser capable of up to 25 knots. Its teak decking, long and deep cockpit, wide side decks and traditional feel clearly appeal to Paddy and Sue.

The engineboxes for the twin Yanmar diesels make comfortable, sheltered seats or sunpads for lazy weekends, a large bathing platform is perfect for Sue to go swimming from, and the cabin, galley and toilet are well up scratch. Although the show boat’s helm is enclosed, discussions with Seaward’s Barry Kimber soon reveal that the pilothouse could be opened up. The price tag of between £76,947 and £85,047, depending on the size of the engines, is pretty much on budget.

But the next boat we see, the Sea Saga 29HT, fits the bill equally well. Although the HT stands for Hard Top, this is in fact a new open version of the existing wheelhouse model. For cockpit space it is hard to beat, as seating for a small army is luxuriously laid out in the gentleman’s cruiser style, awash with teak.

Below decks, there are two cabins and a proper toilet/shower compartment, which would extend Paddy and Sue’s cruising horizons and their capacity to invite guests on board.

The boat’s spaciousness and personality quickly make a good impression. Paddy likes its proportions, and Sue declares it to be the prettiest motor cruiser she’s seen. However, with a single 170hp Yanmar diesel, good for 15 knots of comfortable, semi-displacement cruising, the price starts at £98,171.

“The boat is exactly what we want. It fits all our requirements and is certainly worthy of the price,” Paddy sighs. “But it’s moving away from our budget.”

Now, where have we heard that before?

Sharper focus

Our last stop is to view a boat Sue is keen to appraise, the Hardy Mariner 26. With a starting price of around £80,000, it certainly looks promising.

“It looks a good sturdy boat, definitely up to the jam sandwich test,” Paddy comments, “but the interior/exterior ratio is slanted against our needs. We just don’t think we would be getting the same boating value, as we would with the Seaward or the Sea Saga.”

It is clear that these are the couple’s two favoured marques, but Paddy and Sue leave the show with some further research and some thinking still to do. Just to add some spice to the mix, other models in the respective ranges are late entries into the equation.

A sea trial is booked on the Sea Saga 29’s smaller sister, the 26, which offers much the same layout but at a price more in keeping with the Bartholomews’ budget. And, although the Seaward 25 is still very much in the frame, so is its little sis, the 23!

So, there are no handshakes on a deal this time. But eye-opening viewings and narrowed options still make this a helpful shopping expedition. No-one ever said buying a boat was easy.


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