Ben Curtis talks us through his 47-year-old Fairy Huntsman 28 with an impressive racing pedigree in this owner's report
When I started scouring the market for classic motorboats in 2001, good quality Fairey Huntsman 28s were in short supply, so I began my motorboat love affair with a very nice Huntress 23.
Like so many first time motorboat owners I quickly found that I wanted a bigger boat. Through the Fairey Owners Club I was already in touch with Dave Johnson, who was rebuilding his Huntsman 28 Playtime II in a tent at Universal Marina on the Hamble.
I really wanted one of the boats with Cowes-Torquay race history and Playtime has one of the best track records of all, having won trophies with Charles Currey at the wheel and raced by Peter Twiss.
When a Fairey Swordsman 33 that David liked the look of came up for sale, I sold the Huntress and Bought Playtime II and David bought the Swordsman. He has since moved up to a Triana Tantarella, while I have kept Playtime for nearly 12 years.
I gave up work and sold my car to fund finishing Playtime and getting her afloat; it took me 10 months.
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At the time we did the deal Playtime was in a million bits. Most of the major woodwork was complete, the engines were rebuilt and in the boat, but there was still a lot to do.
Dave and I agreed a price and a plan for him to complete a specific set of jobs with three-stage payments along the way.
He completed them on time and I had access to the tent to start the work from the beginning. It’s a risky way to buy a boat but it worked out well for both of us.
Playtime is Lloyd’s registered, I don’t recall at what point we handed over the registration to me, clearly neither of us were too worried about it at the time.
I didn’t have a survey done at the time, as the boat was in a million bits and it was plain to see what needed doing and what didn’t. I spent a morning checking the wooden structure and couldn’t find any rot.
When it came to launch in April 2002 I asked David Hopkins to carry out the survey for me as the underwriters required this prior to going afloat. David gave her a clean bill of health.
She went in the water on 14 April 2002 and immediately started leaking, I fired up and took her round to the late Fairey Doctor, Peter Foulkes at Burseldon.
A quick lift-out showed a screw was loose, so Peter fitted a wooden plug and bigger screw, we launched the following morning and all was fine.
My wife Lorna and I live in Hamble and currently keep the boat in Hamble Yacht Services at Port Hamble.
Playtime lives in a tent in winter, the yard guys there bend over backwards to make room for the tent each year and Cliff the dock master keeps a watchful eye on her for us.
Let’s be clear, this isn’t a cheap hobby. It comes at a price, but we’ve concluded that boating the way we do it offers great value for money as long as you make regular use of the boat.
Twenty-five nights on board, numerous days out and evenings onboard add up to a lot of time on the boat, it’s a major part of what we do together.
I have a separate account for the boat and deposit £500 in there every month, it pays for all the boat running costs even including the overnight mooring fees and meals ashore and all the costs of the summer week on board.
The hot moulded Fairey hull is incredibly tough and requires minimal repair. The plywood deck and bulkheads, and the mostly mahogany scantlings do require more work and of course a lot of paint and varnish.
Mechanically the original T6.354 Perkins were 100% reliable for 11 years and this year we have replaced them with a much newer pair of Sabre Perkins M265TIs which at 240hp give us a remarkable 38 knots.
By the time this is published she’ll be on the market. I feel the need for two cabins so we can take family and friends away with us.
It’ll be a Huntsman 31 or Swordsman 33 – you see, the Fairey fire still burns brightly in me. I loved every minute of it and don’t regret a penny.
- Incredibly tough hot-moulded hull allows for a 38-knot top speed
- Plywood decking and mahogany scantlings require plenty of upkeep
Playtime has done everything I have wanted her to do; she’s a perfect classic motorboat for two people to dash around the Solent.
Top speed: 38 knots
Engines: Sabre Perkins M265TI / T6.354
Fuel capacity: 90 gallons (410 litres)