Our resident used boat expert Nick Burnham picks out four of the best boats under 50ft on the market right now that offer lots of interior space in a manageable length.
Space – the final frontier, according to a popular sci-fi TV show. For boat manufacturers, space means something else – sales. Examine the development of family boats over the last decade or two and you’ll see a huge push toward maximising volume.
Decks have got higher as topsides stretch to the sky and boats have got wider to accommodate trends such as full-beam owner’s cabins even on boats below 50ft. These days, boats are floating apartments first, offshore ships second.
Which is fine, it’s clearly what the customer wants, but there is another way. So this month I’ve found you four of the best boats under 50ft that pack in the space without looking like a slimming club visit is long overdue.
Picchiotti Tigress Mk2
The Picchiotti shipyard in Italy originally built commercial and military vessels before branching out into leisure boats. The original Picchiotti Tigress was launched in the 1970s and was designed to offer the best of British offshore seaworthiness and Italian style.
The yard commissioned Commander Peter Thorneycroft, designer of the Nelson range of boats, to come up with a semi-displacement hull that majored on seakeeping. What it didn’t major on was space, which is why in 1982 the beamier Tigress MK2 was born.
An aft cabin layout plus that extra beam creates spacious accommodation the full length of the vessel. The owner’s cabin is aft and stretches the full beam of the boat due to the en suite heads being positioned just forward of it. The saloon is a decent size despite having the lower helm forward to port.
On the lower deck forward, there’s a well proportioned galley, the day heads and two guest cabins, a vee-berth cabin and a further cabin with split level berths positioned at 90 degrees to one another.
Despite being 40 years old next year, this is still a purposeful-looking boat. The exterior helm is situated on the aft deck rather than having a flybridge, which keeps the height down.
Indeed the radar arch is also hinged to lower air draught, making the boat surprisingly useful for inland waterways.
Sabre Tooth 1 is a great name for a Tigress, especially one fitted with a pair of Sabre 320hp engines. We tested one of the first boats back in 1983, recording 23.5 knots flat out and a pretty comfortable 20 knot cruise.
There is more than a hint of the Nelson stable in the hull form, with a fine entry and a lot of flare to the topsides.
A knuckle runs the full length of the boat in a bid to reduce spray, but there’s no getting way from the fact that semi-displacement hulls power through big waves rather than surfing over them, displacing plenty of water in the process. However, ultimately the pilot boat ancestry shines through – the Tigress is a great sea boat.
Picchiotti Tigress Mk2 specifications
LOA: 45ft 9in (13.7m)
Beam: 13ft 9in (4.2m)
Draught: 3ft 9in (1.2m)
Displacement: 16.5 tonnes
Fuel capacity: 1,680 litres
Engines: Twin Sabre 320hp diesels
Contact: Boat Showrooms
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There are a few similarities with the Picchiotti Tigress, most notably in the heavy-weather semi-displacement hull and in the fact that the beam was stretched beyond that typical for this size and style of boat.
Also like Picchiotti, Aquastar has commercial roots, building heavy weather boats for pilots, customs and harbour masters, evident in the chunky D-section rubber fendering around the gunwales.
There’s a heft and solidity to the polished cherry woodwork that marks Aquastar out as a British builder (the boats were built in Guernsey in the Channel Islands). A rather lovely, slightly spiralled staircase leads you down into the saloon.
Head aft and you’ll drop down to a lower deck owner’s cabin, the size and square shape of which feels more like a bedroom.
Head forward and you’ll discover a dinette opposite the galley instead of a third cabin, although the table drops and this area curtains off to create occasional sleeping if required. The day heads is here too, and a fore cabin with cross-over vee berths.
Perhaps the most noticeable aspect of the exterior is the ease of boarding amidships – it’s one single step up onto the side decks, and not a particularly high one at that!
From here it’s an easy stroll to the bow, or head aft where three steps lift you to the aft deck. It’s surprisingly sheltered, with a large hard top from which canopies hang. Three more steps lift you to the flybridge over the saloon, again well sheltered by high sides.
A pair of Volvo Penta TAMD 75P diesels producing nearly 1,000hp between them lift the top speed past 20 knots, but the semi-displacement hull means that a happy cruising speed can be anything from 5 knots to 15 knots.
Aquastar offered a 48S variant which had the hard top and fin stabilisers. This boat came with the hard top, and stabilisers have been added.
Again, the ride can get wet when it’s rough, but this is a confident performer, having commuted several times from the UK to the Med, straight across the Bay of Biscay.
Aquastar 48 specifications
LOA: 48ft (14.6m)
Beam: 14ft 9in (4.5m)
Draught: 3ft 11in (1.2m)
Displacement: 15.5 tonnes
Fuel capacity: 2,200 litres
Engines: Twin Volvo Penta TAMD 75P 480hp diesel engines
All of the boats featured have aft cabins in order to maximise interior volume – except one. The Sealine F46 launched in 2009 and replaced the Sealine T47. And despite being an aft cockpit layout, the space inside is vast.
Huge wrap-around windscreens with slim mullions and large side windows exaggerate the feeling of space as you step inside the Sealine F46, but it’s not an illusion, there is masses of space in here.
And it’s the same story on the lower deck. Those huge windscreens create an atrium feel to the galley and dinette that greet you as you step down to this level. A third cabin was an option, but most buyers opted for the dinette.
Sealine split off the day heads and shower – one to port and the other to starboard as you head forward – and there’s a decent double berth in the fore cabin.
Further space has been eked out aft of the galley, where a full beam owner’s cabin, complete with en suite, occupy the space below the saloon. Headroom is a little compromised in places, but there’s no shortage of footprint.
Outside, wide side decks, a generous cockpit and a large flybridge that reaches full beam to the transom ensure that there’s no shortage of space here either.
All F46s were fitted with twin CMD QSB5.9 diesel engines producing 480hp each, and all got Zeus pod drives, which link via a joystick to give ‘cheat’ levels of close-quarter handling (in part, it’s the pods that create so much space as they allow the engines to live beneath the cockpit floor).
Top speed in perfect conditions is about 30 knots, so figure on an easy 22-knot cruise, although it’s possible to drop this down to 15 knots and still stay on the plane.
It’s no sports boat, but those pod drives imbue the F46 with direct and positive steering, and 15 tonnes of displacement combined with the ability to plane at comparatively low speeds mean that the F46 is more than capable of punching gently through even the most challenging conditions.
Sealine F46 specifications
LOA: 48ft 2in (14.7m)
Beam: 14ft 8in (4.5m)
Draught: 4ft 0in (1.2m)
Displacement: 15.5 tonnes
Fuel capacity: 1,500 litres
Engines: Twin Cummins CMD QSB5.9 480hp diesel engines
Arguably the oldest builder of boats in the UK, Broom dates back to 1898, when Charles John Broom began building sailing cruisers at the yard in Brundall on the Norfolk Broads and carried on building motor boats here until production finally ceased a couple of years ago. The Broom hire fleet still operates, and dates back to 1912.
What Broom became renowned for was aft cabin cruisers. Boats like the Broom Crown date back to the 1970s so by the time this 44 came along in the early 1990s, it’s fair to say that the company had the hang of it, not to mention a reputation for solid high-quality craftsmanship evident in the boat you see before you.
With the helm on the aft deck, the saloon is a no-compromise zone of plentiful seating divided into lounging and dining areas. The galley features a full-sized washing machine and is opposite cabin three, with its bunk beds. Vee berths make the most of a large forward cabin, but as ever, it’s the aft cabin that steals the show – a true bedroom away from home.
Intriguingly, Broom offered the 44 with an enclosed pilothouse on the raised aft deck and a cockpit behind that. We give it top marks for weatherproofing, even if it is a little anti-social. Which is why most of these craft went out with the layout you see here – the entire aft deck is open beneath its retractable canopies, putting the helm in touch with everyone else on this deck.
Twin Volvo Penta TAMD 61 306hp or TAMD 71 380hp engines were available, but we tested the boat with a similar pair of 370hp Sabre 430L engines to this boat, which should make the 28 knots we achieved with full water and fuel tanks a realistic goal – subject to a few lost ponies over the years.
“Surprisingly agile” was how we described the Broom 44, noting “full lock at full chat produces perfectly balanced turns and a three-boat- length turning circle”. Calm conditions prohibited a thorough test of the seakeeping abilities.
Broom 44 specifications
LOA: 44ft 8in (13.6m)
Beam: 15ft 3in (4.6m)
Draught: 4ft 0in (1.2m)
Displacement: 21.5 tonnes
Fuel capacity: 1,727 litres
Engines: Twin Sabre 430L 370hp diesel engines
Location: Penton Hook
Contact: TBS Boats
First published in the November 2021 issue of MBY.
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