Our resident used boat expert Nick Burnham picks out four of the best aft cabin boats from the likes of Fairline, Broom and Hardy…
Offering as much cabin space as possible within a given length has become the most obvious way to a boat buyer’s wallet. It’s why side decks that used to be waist height are now head height – if the result is an extra ensuite or a bigger galley, then it’s a sale.
The funny thing is that manufacturers found a great way to maximise volume years ago, and then they (mostly) all stopped doing it. Aft cabin craft don’t stop at the saloon doors, they carry on right back to the transom. Big names were building them, like Princess (435), Fairline (36 Turbo) and Broom (pretty much everything).
Now only niche builders like Haines and Hardy carry on. Why? It fell out of fashion and innovations like V-drive gearboxes and IPS pods means the engines now occupy the space that cabins did.
All of which makes these used aft cabin boats worth a look.
4 of the best aft cabin boats
Fairline 36 Turbo
When I win the euro multi-millions and need a surefire way of creating a small fortune by starting off with a large one, I’m going to start a business building modern versions of all the classic British boats that have us old guard saying “ah, they don’t make ‘em like that anymore”.
From Princess’s back catalogue I would have the 266 Riviera and the original (1980s) Princess 45. From Sunseeker the Tomahawk 37 and the Renegade 60 and from Fairline I would exhume the Targa 33 and one of these: the Fairline 36 Turbo.
The big news, as is so often the case with aft cabin boats, is the sheer amount of space on board. It’s important to remember that back in the 1980s when this boat launched (this is one of the last), boat model designations were based on the hull length which didn’t include the (bolt-on) bathing platform.
So a modern equivalent would likely have a moulded-in bathing platform which would be included, making it a 40. But even so, it really is quite palatial in here. The best part is undoubtedly the owner’s cabin back aft – a big square room with a double bed and an ensuite.
Guests are banished to the opposite end where there is a vee berthed cabin in the bows and the day heads and galley are up here too. The saloon splits them, this boat featuring a modified layout to give a small booth-style dinette.
It was a great looking boat when it launched and the 36 Turbo is still a pleasingly proportioned and stylishly handsome boat. The raised aft deck means that it links easily with the flybridge via a couple of moulded steps.
Fairline offered this model with a pair of Volvo Penta TAMD 41 200hp engines, perhaps with an eye to inland use. You don’t want those, you want the upgraded TAMD 61 306hp engine option fitted to this and most other 36 Turbos that nudged 30 knots when new.
Shaftdrive, Bernard Olesinski-designed hull – if you’ve been reading this article for long enough you’ll already know that it’s a winning combination.
Length: 36ft 6in (11.2m)
Beam: 13ft 4in (4.1m)
Draft: 3ft 4in (1.0m)
Displacement: 9 tonnes
Fuel capacity: 1,055 litres
Engines: Volvo Penta TAMD 61 306hp diesels
Location: River Thames
Contact: TBS Boats
Article continues below…
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Cara Marine 18M
Based in Carrigaline in County Cork, Cara Marine’s stock in trade was heavy-duty offshore pilot and patrol boats. So when the company turned its attentions to the leisure market, the result was always going to be something special.
Almost every other aft cabin craft utilises the big square aft hull sections to create a big square owner’s cabin. Not here though, you’ll find the owner’s quarters up in the bow. At over 60ft long and 16ft wide, there’s plenty of space for a really decent ensuite cabin up front, and it leaves room for two cabins and the day heads on the lower deck back aft.
There’s a fairly spectacular galley that runs the full beam of the boat and with no lower helm (the only helm position is on the aft deck), that leaves space for a large saloon on the main deck.
An aft deck helm is not unusual with this type of boat; what is unusual is adding an open-backed wheelhouse to protect it. On a smaller vessel this might look clumsy, but this boat is easily long enough to absorb the additional height.
It puts all of the outdoor living space together, protected by a wraparound coaming that can link to the hardtop roof via removable canopies.
You’re probably starting to realise that plenty of free thinking went into the design of this boat, and we’re not done yet. The usual place for engines on this type of boat is beneath the raised main deck saloon.
Not here. Instead they’re right at the back, behind the accommodation. Open a hatch in the deck and you’ll be able to drop into an engine room containing a pair of Caterpillar C12 704hp diesels which give about 28 knots flat-out.
The reason those engines are right aft is because they’re effectively huge water pumps! This boat is jet drive, sucking water from under the boat and firing it backwards.
The benefits are a very shallow draft and superb manoeuvrability (the RNLI selected jets to drive its latest 45ft Shannon Class rescue boats for this very reason). Add in RCD Category A (Ocean) rating and it’s quite the package!
Length: 61ft 4in (18.7m)
Beam: 16ft 1in (4.9m)
Draft: 2ft 7in (0.8m)
Displacement: 27 tonnes
Fuel capacity: 3,280 litres
Engines: Twin Caterpillar C12 704hp diesel engines
Contact: Berthon International
We really couldn’t have an aft cabin used boat feature without including a model from Broom. Broom Boats were the absolute doyen of the aft cabin cruiser; from the Ocean range back in the 1970s right up until they ceased boatbuilding in 2018.
This model replaced the Ocean 34 and was built from 1998 to 2005 before evolving into the Broom 365 and the Broom 370.
With no lower helm, the entire length of this boat is given over to frankly palatial amounts of accommodation for a 35ft boat. There’s a vee berth cabin forward for guests, along with the day heads and a pretty decent galley.
A couple of steps up bring you to the saloon but, as ever, it’s when you continue aft that the real payoff comes. Back here you will find a huge square owner’s cabin with a central double berth and a very generous ensuite.
Losing the internal helm has been made possible by putting a really well-protected external helm on the aft deck. There are big windscreens, wraparound coamings and canopies to protect this area.
In fact it feels more like a sportscruiser layout. Visibility is great due to its raised position but the air draft is kept lower than a flybridge boat.
CL stood for ‘coastal’, and Broom offered this boat with a variety of engine options right up to a pair of 190hp Yanmar diesels, which gave it 20 knots. But many were built with a single engine for gentler inland use.
Volvo Penta and Nanni were available, but the Perkins M135L fitted to this boat was the most popular option, giving a river-friendly nine knots maximum and four to six knots while cruising.
Andrew Wolstenholme designed this one with a long keel that protects the propeller and adds useful low speed directional stability plus a large rudder that gives plenty of ‘bite’ for tricky river handling.
It’s quiet too, with that engine buried deep beneath the saloon sole. The result is a versatile and extremely comfortable boat well suited to inland life as well as offering some coastal ability.
Length: 34ft 10in (10.6m)
Beam: 12ft 6in (3.8m)
Draft: 3ft 2in (0.9m)
Displacement: 7.5 tonnes
Fuel capacity: 820 litres
Engine: Perkins M135L 135hp diesel
Contact: Boat Showrooms
Aft cabin boats come in all sorts of shapes and sizes, as this Hardy 42 Commodore demonstrates. A ‘trawler yacht’ style, rather than a typical motor cruiser with a full-beam aft deck, it features a deeply bulwarked walkaround side deck that encircles the aft cabin coachroof.
You might expect that walkaround deck to impinge on the aft cabin. But though you are aware of it as it pulls the window line in, Hardy has been quite clever about building furniture that slips beneath those decks, so the lack of headroom in this area is far less relevant.
Unlike the previous three boats, all of which had access from the aft deck into the saloon, the Hardy has twin sliding doors on either side that allow access to the side decks. It’s a less direct route but it comes with big advantages for ventilation as well as gifting the helmsman a more direct route from the lower helm to the foredeck.
The galley is down on the lower deck forward and the forecabin has a vee berth as expected, but Hardy has also squeezed in a third cabin with a single berth.
Having squeezed the aft deck in a little, you might expect it to be a less useful space but in fact there’s a pretty decent U-shaped dinette up here, surrounded by canvas wind dodgers. And those walkaround decks are seriously useful for crewing duties.
With its semi-displacement hull, rather than a full planing design, you might expect some trade-off in speed in return for enhanced rough weather capability. But in fact, when we tested a 42 Commodore with slightly smaller 420hp engines back in 2003, we still managed to achieve a very credible 26 knots.
This is the big news. Another Andrew Wolstenholme design, it has deep vee forward sections and a long keel to give the boat serious offshore capability. And with no planing ‘hump speed’ needing to be achieved, it has a very wide cruising speed band. There’s a good reason why the RNLI uses these Hardy 42s as its crew training boats.
Length: 42ft 0in (12.8m)
Beam: 14ft 4in (4.4m)
Draft: 3ft 10in (1.2m)
Displacement: 13 tonnes
Fuel capacity: 1,728 litres
Engines: Yanmar 6LY2-STE 440hp diesels
Contact: Fox’s Yacht Sales
First published in the April 2023 issue of MBY.
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