Semi-displacement motor boats: 4 of the best on the used boat market

Nick Burnham picks out four of the best semi-displacement motor boats on the market that deliver on this compromise hull form

Boats are a mass of compromises. A perfect example is the hull shape. The best shape for space optimisation at any given length would be a rectangular box. Of course that’s also the very worst shape for seakeeping.

What you need to cleave waves offshore is the exact opposite, something as long, narrow and pointed as possible to reduce wave impact to a minimum. But as if that were not enough, our beleaguered naval architects have to consider hull form.

A full displacement hull that sits fully immersed tends to give the best low-speed efficiency and seakeeping but is hampered by a low hull speed. As an example, a 30ft waterline length displacement hull tops out at about 7.5 knots.

If you want speed, you’ll need a planing hull which creates dynamic lift with speed and skims across the top – great for velocity but not very comfortable in choppy conditions. But there is a third way. A semi-displacement hull gives enough lift to overcome displacement hull speed limitations but doesn’t skim over the top like a planing hull.

Four great semi-displacement motor boats

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Elling E4

Built: 2008
Price: £345,000

There’s a YouTube video of an Elling E4 being rolled though 180 degrees, complete with Elling Yard director, Anton van den Bos, strapped into the helm seat. You can actually observe the angle of the roll from the dangle of his tie on the internal camera!

Once completely inverted, they let the straps go, at which point the boat instantly rights itself, much to the relief of Mr. VDB! This, is no marina queen, this is a serious Category A Ocean class offshore boat.


Despite the heavy focus on serious offshore capability, it still feels like a luxury boat inside thanks to lashings of beautiful high-gloss cherry woodwork. There’s a fully enclosed wheelhouse on the main deck, and a decidedly sailboat vibe to the lower deck layout. The owner’s domain is at the back beneath the aft deck, and there’s a generous saloon with the guest cabin forward. A third cabin with a pair
of bunks is located aft to starboard.

High-gloss cherry interior still looks the part on this serious Category A offshore cruiser


Neptune Marine deliberately kept the air draft to a minimum, making this boat work as well in the inland waters of Europe as it does offshore, so there is no flybridge or aft deck helm position, just the cockpit area on the aft deck and then side decks forward. As a result, apart from being a
nice simple layout, it’s also a very good looking boat.


It’s not a conventional twin-engined boat, although it does actually have two engines. Rather than the usual pair of motors sharing propulsion duties that you normally find in a 50ft offshore boat, this one
has a centrally mounted Volvo Penta D6 435hp which gives it about 17 knots flat out, plus a back-up D1 39hp get-you-home unit. The result is fantastic fuel economy. The owner reckons on about 1nm per litre at a 7-knot cruise.

Aft cabin layout ensures good privacy for both the owners and their VIP guests


We tested an E4 in some fairly challenging sea conditions, concluding that: “These conditions proved the point that it’s nigh on impossible to get the E4’s deep, fine bow sections to slam unless you take to launching off short, steep waves at full speed with
the intention of landing on the flatter sections amidships”.


LOA: 49ft 0in (14.9m)
Beam: 13ft 11in (4.2m)
Draft: 3ft 11in (1.2m)
Displacement: 17 tonnes
Fuel capacity: 1,500 litres
Engine: Volvo Penta D6-435 diesel engine
Contact: Ancasta

Beneteau Swift Trawler 35

Built: 2019
Price: £290,000

The Beneteau Swift Trawler 34 was one of those sweet-spot boats that was just right, making it a sales success with over 400 sold and a tough act to follow. Very wisely, the Swift Trawler 35 is a careful evolution of that boat, riffing off all the good points and gently massaging a few of the rough edges to create a worthy successor.


Perfect examples of that evolutionary massaging can be found throughout the interior. The basic layout remains the same with two cabins on the lower deck – an owner’s cabin forward with a central double bed and a guest cabin with bunks to starboard opposite the heads – but upgrades abound.

That forward owner’s cabin now sports a lower bed and hull windows for more light and a better view and the curtained off shower in the heads has been banished in favour of proper shower doors.

Head up to the main deck and again, the basic premise is the same – a traditional trawler yacht layout of helm to starboard with a galley alongside it to port and a sofa aft opposite a sideboard. But the door next to the helm is wider, the windows larger and a useful seating perch has been added in the galley area.

U-shaped galley next to the helm is designed and located for cooking under way


The biggest change to the outside, beyond a gentle but effective restyle, is the split and hinged transom that opens out the cockpit to the bathing platform, beach-club style. The mast is gone, and with it the ability to hoist a tender onto the flybridge, but there’s plenty of space aloft, plus a second alfresco helm position of course.


Beneteau stuck with the big single 6.7 litre Cummins diesel, which puts out 425hp through its shaft drive. We maxed out at 19 knots at 3,000rpm on test with this engine but drop it back to an economical 8 knots at 1,600rpm to achieve a 14lph fuel burn and a near 400-mile range.

Big windows and a side door next to the helm ensure the saloon feels bright and airy


We punched an ST35 through a steep short chop in a stiff breeze and found it a solid performer, if understandably wet in those conditions.


LOA: 37ft 0in (11.3m)
Beam: 13ft 3in (4.0m)
Draft: 3ft 10in (1.2m)
Displacement: 9 tonnes
Fuel capacity: 800 litres
Engine: Cummins QSB 7 425hp diesel engine
Contact: Ancasta

Broom 430

Built: 2014
Price: £414,995

Broom began making boats in 1898 and went on to garner a reputation for solidly built aft cabin cruising boats. In latter years some felt the designs were becoming rather staid and old fashioned. This 430, launched at the Düsseldorf Boat Show in 2014, was Broom’s attempt to redress this issue.

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At launch, if you were able to lead an existing Broom customer inside the 430 without revealing what it was, it’s unlikely they would guess. The layout might feel familiar but the interior design certainly wouldn’t. Broom had brought Graham Warren, formerly head of Targa design at Fairline Boats, aboard to bring the boat up to date.

The layout remained the traditional aft cabin set-up with the owner’s cabin beneath the aft deck, guest cabin forward, saloon on the main deck, and the galley down and forward, but the sharply styled and beautifully lit interior was a quantum leap from Brooms of old. There were three layout options: a longer main deck, a lower deck dinette or a larger split galley.

Pale colours and light woods are a far cry from Brooms of old and still look good today


It was the same story on the outside. The concept remained true to Brooms of old, with the helm on the aft deck (negating
the need for a lower helm), but now there were sweeping steps
in the stern quarters, funky hull colour options and an optional GRP hard top. But practicality remained key. The side decks, for example, sweep low as they extend forward, making this an easy boat to side board from a pontoon, unlike many aft cabin boats.


The twin Volvo Penta D6 370hp diesels fitted to this boat were the mid- range option – twin 330hp and twin 435hp motors were also available. We achieved about 25 knots on test with the twin 370hp engines.

Aft cabins have rarely looked as big, modern or stylish as this one on a late model 430


Considering that it is a semi-displacement hull, the most surprising thing about this boat is just how dry it is. Beyond that, it’s a typical Broom through and through – rock solid and dependable out at sea.


LOA: 43ft 3in (13.2m)
Beam: 13ft 11in (4.2m)
Draft: 3ft 6in (1.1m)
Displacement: 13 tonnes
Fuel capacity: 1,300 litres
Engines: Twin Volvo Penta D6-370 370hp diesel engines
Contact: Parker Adams Boat Sales

Northman 1200

Built: 2021
Price: £249,000

Although still fairly new to the UK, Polish builder Northman actually dates back to 1995 when the company started a charter business. In 2007 it built its first sailing boat, a Maxus 33, followed in 2016 by the Nexus range of motor boats. But this 40ft 1200 was its first Northman-branded, launched in 2018.


It has a deck saloon layout, and bifold doors do a great job of melding the aft cockpit with the saloon in good weather. The galley has been positioned directly behind the starboard helm opposite a long L-shaped settee, which frees up the lower deck for an impressive three-cabin, two-heads layout.

Practical touches include large sliding saloon windows, a door next to the helm for easy access to the starboard side deck and a sliding hatch in the ceiling. Clearly, airflow will never be a problem. The owner’s cabin forward on the lower deck is a particularly generous size, with plenty of floor space.

Smart saloon belies its budget pricing. Sliding windows and helm door are a boon too


There are a couple of neat details on what is otherwise a smart but conventional looking motor boat. One is a thick rubbing band built into the hull at pontoon height. If it were calm and you were gentle, you could even tie up alongside briefly without deploying fenders. There’s a little seating area up at the foredeck but what’s really nifty is the set of steps built into the forward port corner of the windscreen that grant access to a sunbathing area built into the saloon roof. Interestingly, Northman also now make a flybridge version with the same unusually situated steps meaning that there is no space compromise in the cockpit.


Northman fits single engines from 57hp through to the Yanmar 4LV250 250hp motor fitted to this boat. Top speed is about 13 knots, with eight knots a sensible cruising gait, but the really impressive figure is low speed economy, because at five knots that Yanmar is supping just three-and-a-half litres per hour.

The forward owner’s cabin is one of three cabins on board are both doubles.


A straight shaft drive and rudder set up make for easy low-speed handling while Vetus bow and stern thrusters take the sting out of docking.


LOA: 40ft 3in (12.3m)
Beam: 11ft 6in (3.5m)
Draft: 2ft 4in (0.7m)
Displacement: 8.2 tonnes
Fuel capacity: 500 litres
Engine: Yanmar 4LV250 250hp diesel engine
Contact: BJ Marine


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