Finnmaster Pilot 8 Cabin review: This seagoing SUV boasts sportsboat rivalling performance

A choppy sea trial proves worth the wait as we test drive the Finnmaster Pilot 8 Cabin in the Solent

Although the Finnmaster Pilot 8 made its debut at the 2018 Southampton Boat Show, the 2019 show was the first chance we had to test it and our patience was rewarded with some properly lumpy conditions in which to do so.

Like most of these small wheelhouse craft it does feel quite tall and beamy for its length but thanks to its Finnish origins it not only looks sportier than most, but it’s also uncommonly robust and well engineered. The mouldings are smoothly finished and heavily built, the stainless steel grab rails don’t flex and even the small fittings, such as hinges and latches, are chunkier than usual.

It’s also a supremely practical design with more lockers than you can shake a haddock at (I counted five in the cockpit alone), integrated fender holders, grab rails everywhere and three smart oval-section cleats down each side. There’s even a folding bench and a dedicated storage slot for the table so you can convert the cockpit from a leisure-focused space with sunpad or dinette to a bare fish-fighting arena.

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A flip over backrest allows the dinette bench to face both ways

You wouldn’t know it from the photographs but the wheelhouse is offset to one side to make space for an impressively wide, deep sidedeck to starboard. The flipside is that there’s only the slimmest of ledges to shimmy along if you do need to berth portside-to. More sunpads on the foredeck and a deep anchor locker with optional electric windlass further cement its role as an SUV of the sea.

It drives a bit like an SUV too, pounding its way through the chop in a robust if slightly heavy-handed way. A tall, beamy craft like this is never going to slice through the waves as cleanly as a deep-vee RIB, but despite the odd heavy landing it always felt safe, secure and strong enough to withstand it.

And because you are insulated from the action inside a clean, dry and if necessary, heated wheelhouse you can happily use it when open craft are still weather-bound or tucked up ashore for the winter.

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The pair of 150hp Yamaha outboards delivered plenty of mid-range punch and in flatter conditions would enable the Finnmaster Pilot 8 to give many a sportsboat a run for its money – even in lumpy seas and 30-knot winds we still clocked nearly 37 knots flat out.

On sunnier days the triple section sliding doors can be pushed aside to create a wide opening into the wheelhouse, and along with a side door by the helm there are twin overhead hatches allowing plenty of light and fresh air into the saloon.

Visibility is generally very good, although the windscreen is quite a long way in front of the helm with an overhanging brow that cuts off the view just above the horizon for taller people. The helm seat adjusts for reach but not height although there is a fold-down step that allows you to poke your head up through the hatch in calm conditions.

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Heated and enclosed wheelhouse means this is an all-weather boat

A small galley with optional diesel cooker and a fridge under the helm seat serves the dinette opposite, the front section of which has a reversible back rest allowing guests to sit comfortably facing forward on passage.

A companionway leads down to a small lobby area. This is open to the mid cabin but has doors leading off it to the separate forward cabin and heads compartment.

Both cabins enjoy plenty of natural light with beds that are just about wide enough for two adults, and although most people will have to stoop or sit on the toilet to shower, the heads is bright, well finished and large enough to move around in.

Price as reviewed:

£149,697 (inc. VAT)

Verdict

Overall this is an extremely likeable craft with the build quality and versatility to be used all year round for fishing, watersports or weekend cruising jaunts, and has just enough style to ensure it stands out from the crowd. If you’re looking for a compact family cruiser, there’s a lot to commend it.

Details

Starting price : £113,016 (inc. VAT)
LOA : 26ft 6in (8.40m)
Beam : 9ft 10in (3.00m)
Engines: 2x150hp Yamaha F150 outboards
Top speed on test : 37 knots
Fuel consumption @ 20 knots : 50lph
Fuel capacity : 410 litres

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