Our resident used boat expert Nick Burnham picks out four of the best outboard boats on the market from the likes of Axopar, Botnia, Galia and XO.
The last service on my 362hp Mercedes Benz SL400 (not a marque noted for parsimonious running costs) came to £537.72.
That included loaning me another Mercedes car and cleaning the vehicle inside and out. The last service on my 260hp boat engine and drive cost £1,711.30, and I didn’t get another boat to use or the valet.
‘Ah, but it’s a boat, see’, is an excuse that might hold more water if it weren’t for the fact that a full service on a 300hp Mercury Verado outboard engine costs £360.
Add in better packaging, the ability to tilt the entire unit clear of the water and no diesel bug fears and the surge in sales of outboard powered boats is no mystery. They’re fast too – properly fast.
The Axopar range has enjoyed phenomenal success for such a relatively young brand. Its very first model, the Axopar 28, was launched less than eight years ago at the Helsinki Boat Show in 2014 but is now a ubiquitous sight in almost every marina in Europe.
The larger Axopar 37 launched a year later, sharing the same brand values of practicality, seakeeping, accessible performance and competitive pricing. Although both models have now been replaced with updated MkII versions, the originals are still as desirable as ever and remain a sought after buy on the secondhand market.
There were three distinct versions of the Axopar 37 at launch. The T-Top was an open boat with (as the name suggests) a short T-shaped hardtop providing shade and something to hang the canopy from.
The Sun-Top version actually gets a longer hardtop, but an opening section lets the sun shine in. And then there is this, the Cabin which, you’ve guessed it, has a cabin.
In fact they all get a cabin below deck, complete with double berth and a couple of seats, one with a sea toilet beneath it. The Cabin in the name refers to the enclosed deck-level wheelhouse with sliding doors either side.
Inside you’ll find the helm position with a dinette behind, giving all-weather comfort for skipper and crew.
On the outside, there’s a sunpad up front over that forward cabin, and back aft a wet bar directly behind the wheelhouse and ahead of three seats across the transom.
In fact there was a further choice here, as an alternative version featured a raised sunpad back aft instead, with a further sleeping cabin beneath it but no wet bar. However, this boat has more outside space and storage.
Twin 200hp outboards were the base motors, and they’re good for 40 knots apparently. However most went out with the twin 300hp upgrade that this boat has.
A pair of Mercury Verados, they’ll gift the boat 47 knots if our test of a similar boat in Mallorca is anything to go by.
The twin- stepped high performance hull proves more than a match for both the power and the resultant speed. At 41 knots in choppy conditions, we reported it was so smooth it felt like it was doing half that speed.
Axopar 37 specifications
LOA 36ft 9in (111.2m)
Beam 10ft 10in (3.3m)
Draught 2ft 9in (0.8m)
Displacement 3.4 tonnes
Fuel capacity 770 litres
Engines Twin Mercury Verado 300hp outboard engines
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Botnia Targa 25.1 GT
Any doubts about the take-up of outboard engine power are quickly vanquished by this boat. Few manufacturers are more traditional than Botnia.
No slaves to fashion, the Finnish company has simply turned out ever more honed versions of a basic design that dates back to its 25 model of 1984, the first Botnia Targa ever put into production.
Like the original Land Rover, there is no styling as such, the look is simply a product of functional design.
The interior is classic Botnia – an upright wheelhouse with a reverse sheer windscreen and lashings of teak. Access, as ever, is via twin sliding doors and the wheelhouse doubles as a living space, complete with drop-down dining table and a tiny galley alongside the helm.
Lift the centre section of the bench seat aft, and you’ll find a small cabin with two single beds that burrow forward beneath the wheelhouse.
The boat has a walk-around layout with a bow cockpit ahead of the wheelhouse and deeply bulwarked side decks leading aft. It’s only when you reach the stern that two big outboard engines ring the changes, meaning the full-width bathing platform is no more, leaving just a small area either side of the outboards.
The other big change is beneath the aft deck. Lift the floor and you’ll find batteries, switches and lots of room for things like paddleboards, which you’d struggle to stow on the inboard version.
Performance with the outboards is both instantaneous and strong. We recorded a 44-knot top end when we tested it with a pair of 200hp Mercurys, but equally impressive was the 10 seconds it took to reach 30 knots.
Botnia didn’t just slap on a pair of outboards and proclaim the job done – the hull was remodelled to suit the Mercury powerplants.
Like all Botnias, the exaggerated flare of the bow does a great job of throwing spray wide, and even in big seas, high speed landings are rattle-free and confident.
Botnia Targa 25.1 GT specification
LOA 27ft 5in (8.4m)
Beam 9ft 5in (2.9m)
Draught 3ft 6in (1.1m)
Displacement 3.5 tonnes
Fuel capacity 420 litres
Engines Twin Mercury 200hp outboard engines
Contact Wessex Marine
Galeon seem to have come from nowhere. A decade ago we’d barely heard of them, today the Polish company sports a 28-strong range of inboard boats spanning 30ft to 80ft, and a completely separate range of 11 Galia sportsboats that stretch from 15ft through to 25ft.
In fact the company has been building boats since 1982 and employs over 1,000 people. It’s fair to say that we’ve heard of them now!
What drives Galeon products is innovation, and that philosophy extends into the smaller Galia range. The interior of the 700SD is pretty conventional, with a U-shaped dinette that converts to a double berth and a sea toilet built into a cabinet, but the way that the backrests double as infill cushions is pretty neat. Oak woodwork provides a classy finish.
It’s when you step up into the cockpit that the innovation shifts up a gear. The foredeck is completely flat, making this a great sundeck with cushions that spread right across it.
But lift those cushions and you’ll find a recessed track that allows the bimini top to disappear completely, and in the centre is a deck socket that allows one of the pedestal seats from the cockpit to slot in to create a fishing platform.
Back in the cockpit there’s an L-shaped seating area around a table and a small wet bar with a fridge and single-burner hob. Twin bucket seats at the helm swivel so the helmsmen can join the party when at rest.
The base 200hp Mercury provides close to 40 knots. By fitting a Mercury 350hp Verado you’ll turn this boat into an absolute flying machine! With this set up you should reckon on a 45-knot top end and a 40-knot cruise if you’re brave enough.
A 7m hull is likely to give agile handling but might struggle in big seas. It should be a fun machine and a great watersports tool.
Galia 700SD specification
LOA 23ft 0in (7.0m)
Beam 8ft 3in (2.5m)
Draught 1ft 10in (0.6m)
Displacement 2.1 tonnes
Fuel capacity 300 litres
Engine Mercury Verado 350hp outboard engine
Contact Approved Boats
XO 270 Cabin
Launched in 2013, the XO 270 was the third and, at the time, largest model in the Finnish yard’s range, and like its smaller siblings, its USP is a metal hull.
Built from military-grade aluminium, it’s designed for strength and durability, and it’s very much a product of Finland’s ‘no nonsense’ approach to boat building.
Available only as a wheelhouse boat, the XO 270 has a vertical wrap-around windscreen with mullions so thin that the roof almost appears to float above it.
Stretching out virtually to the edges of the hull, it creates a spacious practical interior with a dinette to one side and a helm to the other.
A galley unit behind the helm is a useful option, the small heads ahead of the dinette arguably even more helpful.
The dinette will convert to a double berth, and in fact there is a third ‘pipe berth’ just ahead of the helm that disappears forward beneath the bow cockpit seating.
XO also offered a “Front cabin” version of this boat, in which the bow cockpit is infilled with a foredeck, creating a cosy forward cabin beneath it.
The bow cockpit is accessed via an opening door, making this an easy and safe boat to crew. But perhaps of more interest is back aft.
The inboard version gets a small fold down seat facing the sliding aft cabin door and then a raised deck over the inboard engine.
Opting for the outboard version loses the requirement to house an engine here, thus increasing the size of this aft seating area considerably.
There’s another advantage to speccing outboard power – it creates space for a twin-engine installation. That gives the benefits of emergency redundancy of course, but it also gives the potential for more power.
Inboard diesel options were typically Volvo Penta D4 300hp or D6 370hp, with similar sized options from Yanmar. This boat has two 250hp Mercury outboards, giving an incredible 45 knots from its combined 500hp!
The deep-Vee and unstepped hull allows more trim, useful in large following seas.We’ve driven several of them and always been impressed.
XO 270 Cabin specifications
LOA 27ft 6in (8.6m)
Beam 8ft 6in (2.6m)
Draught 3ft 1in (0.9m)
Displacement 2.8 tonnes
Fuel capacity 340 litres
Engines Twin Mercury Verado 250hp outboard engines
Contact Wessex Marine
First published in the December 2021 issue of MBY.
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