There’s something rather enjoyable about compiling a selection of practical classic boats up for sale, writes Nick Burnham
I’ve been in the industry so long that many of the current so-called old-timers are often boats I saw back in their first flush of youth so it’s great to see that many of them are (also) still going strong.
It’s also fascinating to look back along the timeline of some major manufacturers and see what they were building in those earlier days, and how the ethos of ancestry influences (or doesn’t influence) current thinking.
With this in mind, I’m bringing you a dash of déjà-vu with a Bertram 25 that you might have seen before; one of Sealine’s early flybridge boats; a very sporty number from Sunseeker; and a pragmatic Fairline.
Sunseeker 37 Tomahawk
The very first sentence of our Tomahawk 37 review was ‘ABSOBLOODYLUTELY marvellous!’ It rather gave the conclusion away, but then one look at this boat and the conclusion is forgone anyway.
A Don Shead-designed hull gives it race pedigree and it looks like it’s doing 40 knots while still in the dock. Age, it’s fair to say, has not withered it.
The Tomahawk 37 is an out and out high-performance craft, and the interior echoes similar sized and similar concept muscle boats from the USA of the era with a double bed narrowing to a point right at the bow, a horseshoe of seating and a compact galley aft opposite an equally compact heads.
It’s the interior of a boat designed to be perfect on the outside whatever the subsequent compromises inside, but it actually works well for weekending and you can always refresh the upholstery.
Outside is where the gains are made – the boat looks sensational. In fact I’d go as far as to say that there probably isn’t anything made today that looks quite this good.
The cockpit is kept low to the benefit of aesthetics and centre of gravity, so there’s a big sunpad over the motors and then you drop down over the rear bench seat into the cockpit with its pair of rotating bucket seats forward.
Performance is what this boat is all about. The twin 7.4 litre Mercruiser petrol engines churn out up to 330hp. When we tested this boat with twin 330hp engines we achieved 45 knots and cruised at 35 knots (at which speed the engines were burning an impressive 128 litres an hour).
Best of all is how the Shead-designed hull handles the sea. We took it out into the rough and found it would cruise comfortably downwind at 38 knots.
After 10 miles we turned around and braced ourselves for a slow, wet and uncomfortable bash upwind. We couldn’t have been more wrong – to our pleasant surprise, within a few minutes we’d eased back up to 38 knots in complete comfort.
LOA: 36ft 8in (11.2m)
Beam: 10ft 6in (3.2m)
Draught: 3ft 7in (1.1m)
Displacement: 5.5 tonnes
Fuel capacity: 780 litres
Engines: Mercruiser 7.4 litre 330hp petrol engines
Contact: Sunseeker Brokerage
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Sealine 305 Statesman
Launched in 1986 as an evolution of the Sealine 30, one of the many interesting things about the Sealine 305 Statesman is that it was designed by the company’s Managing Director (and founder), Tom Murrant.
It’s hard to imagine the MD of a large boat-building company getting his pencils and drawing board out these days. Back in the day it was the flagship of a range that started at 18ft – another sign of the times.
Sealine created two distinct layout options for this boat (another rarity these days). This boat has a double berth offset in a forward cabin and then an L-shaped galley on the lower deck opposite the heads.
Step up to the main saloon to discover a single helm seat to starboard with a sideboard behind it and a large sofa stretching along the port side
The alternative layout moved the galley up to the saloon, utilising the sideboard area, which left space for a second cabin on the lower deck with a double berth underneath the saloon.
The 305 was a very sharp-looking boat when it launched, and it still looks good today – well proportioned with neatly angled saloon windows, although the dark grey hull band dates it.
Sealine invented flybridge stairs but this boat predates that so access is by a ladder. Scale it and you’ll find seating for four as well as the upper helm.
Sealine fitted this model with petrol and diesel engines, all twin sterndrive installations. Conveniently, we tested it with both – a pair of 130hp diesels (200hp diesels were also offered but were considerably heavier) and a pair of 210hp petrols.
Predictably, the diesels were more economical – at 20 knots they used 40 litres an hour (the petrols used 60lph). However, the petrol engines were noticeably quieter and faster too – 33 knots versus 27 knots.
We took the 305 out to be tested in a Force 4 and reported that she was sensitive to outdrive and trim tab position, but that once she was mastered, “the boat coped well with the seas, in all directions”.
LOA: 30ft 2in (9.1m)
Beam: 10ft 1in (3.1m)
Draught: 2ft 10in (0.9m)
Displacement: 5 tonnes
Fuel capacity: 600 litres
Engines: Twin Volvo Penta 210hp petrol engines
Contact: Burton Waters
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Those of you with long memories and a loyal following of this ‘Find Me A…’ feature might be scratching your heads right now and thinking ‘haven’t you shown us this boat before?’
To which the answer is yes, it appeared in the June 2015 edition. But it’s a very different looking boat to the one we showed you in the magazine back then.
Essentially of course, it’s still the same classic 1960s Bertram with a racing pedigree – in fact, you can see it in action in the video below, being raced by a man sporting a yachtsman’s cap.
The big news is inside. Last time this boat graced these pages, the interior was stripped bare awaiting a refit. Now there’s a comfortable-looking dinette, a small galley unit complete with two-ring gas burner and even a toilet and sink in the heads compartment. It actually makes this old thoroughbred an entirely useable little cruiser.
On the outside, a much-needed cockpit canopy now shields a pair of recently added swivel seats for helm and navigator, and there’s a cushion aft over the engine box to create extra seating.
The outside of the boat has been left (quite rightly) mostly original with just a stainless steel and teak bathing platform added.
About the only thing going for the boat in its original state was the Yanmar 315hp engine. Or so it seemed. Sadly, after many years of inactivity it seems that the motor didn’t take kindly to strenuous exercise and protested in a permanent way.
So instead, the boat now sports a Mercury V6 TDI 260hp diesel. The broker reckons about 30 knots is the likely top end. It’s not yet been put to the test, but that sounds about right.
What hasn’t changed, of course, is the legendary Bertram hull. Designed by Ray Hunt, one of the godfathers of the deep vee performance hull (along with Sonny Levi), this is Ground Zero for almost every fast planing motor boat that followed.
LOA: 25ft 0in (7.6m)
Beam: 9ft 11in (3.0m)
Draught: 3ft 0in (0.92m)
Displacement: 3.8 tonnes
Fuel capacity: 418 litres
Engine: Mercury 260hp TDI diesel
Contact: Parkstone Bay Yachts
Fairline Mirage 29
Started by Jack Newington in 1963, Fairline was formed in Oundle on the banks of the River Nene. Its first new boat was a 19ft river cruiser and a 20ft version followed.
It was when Jack’s son Sam (who eventually took over the business and became ‘Mr. Fairline’) joined the company that the decision to make fast planing boats was taken.
The 25ft Fury was the first in 1971, then a Holiday 22 and a Vixen 19. In 1974 Fairline launched its two biggest boats, the Mirage 29 and Phantom 32.
Fairline built two versions of the Mirage 29; an aft cabin layout and the far more popular aft cockpit version you see here. There’s a separate cabin forward with vee berths (an infill converts it to a double) and a large dinette that creates a further two berths opposite a single berth/settee.
The galley and heads sit in the aft corners of the cabin. Big windows give a far better view than a modern, similarly sized sportscruiser.
The vast majority got an open-backed wheelhouse sheltering a pair of helm seats, while at the back of the boat a bench seat across the transom unfolded to double width to create sunbathing space.
There was an open cockpit version with just a windscreen (a folding canopy gave weather protection), but it was rare.
The Mirage was fitted with the ‘newfangled’ sterndrives, which put the engines right at the back of the boat (except the aft cabin version which had shafts).
Single or twin installations were offered, in petrol or diesel guise, giving a variety of options depending on whether the boat was to be used for inland cruising or offshore bruising.
Largest was a pair of AQAD 30 130hp diesels which gave about 20 knots. This boat has been re-engined with the newer ADP 31 150hp motors, so expect a knot or two more.
Relatively small engines for its size means that the Mirage has a relatively flat hull to help it plane easily. As a result head sea performance can be hard-going in rough weather but the flip-side is good fuel economy in flatter conditions and the ability to stay on the plane at lower speeds.
LOA: 29ft 0in (8.8m)
Beam: 10ft 1in (3.1m)
Draught: 2ft 9in (0.8m)
Displacement: 3.2 tonnes
Fuel capacity: 500 litres
Engines: Twin Volvo Penta ADP 31 150hp diesels
Contact: Lovell Yachts
First published in the April 2021 issue of Motor Boat & Yachting.