Our resident used boat expert Nick Burnham runs the rule over 4 long-range explorer yachts that would make a great purchase on the secondhand market...
During April our local harbour authority’s Facebook posts focused on disapproving comments about the occasional person using their boat during the strict lockdown period.
And rightly so: unless you’re a fisherman or a pilot, it was hard to justify a boat trip as ‘essential travel’. It’s just a shame that their tone had to be passive aggressive sarcasm rather than a more professional approach.
But much as we all tut disapprovingly and obediently in response, it is hard to deny the attraction of just slipping away from the madness for a day, a week or a month on a boat. No matter – we’ll just have to wait.
Once this is over of course, we’ll be able to do exactly that, and an explorer yacht would be perfect for the job. Here are four to consider making the great escape in.
Nordhavn build incredibly rugged, genuinely go-anywhere vessels that have far more in common with small commercial ships than the typical marina fodder. And what’s great is that this ethos echoes throughout the entire range, from the globe-straddling and spectacular N120 to 43-footers like this one, which remains every inch the ‘little ship’.
As soon as you step inside the Nordhavn 43, you’re left in no doubt about its intentions. From the sturdy handrails built into the ceiling to the fully equipped galley complete with dishwasher, trash compactor and multiple fridges, this is a boat that’s designed to just keep on going. Incredibly, it’s an impression that only builds as you head forward.
Steps lead up to a proper wheelhouse with a Stidd seat facing an imposing and comprehensive helm station set slightly back from the reverse sheer windscreen. Doors either side lead out onto the decks and a companionway forward drops you down to the lower deck where you’ll find two cabins, both ensuite.
The outside follows the ‘little ship’ ethos completely. There’s a small cockpit aft and a walkway to starboard that leads to steps up to the bridge deck. Head around the front to discover a proper protected Portuguese bridge and if you follow that around to the port side you’ll find a walkway back past the bridge to steps to the boat deck where a crane sits ready to launch the Williams 325 tender. From here you can access the flybridge with its external helm and two more of those Stidd seats.
Nordhavn boats are all about seakeeping and range, not speed. The Lugger 1066T2 main engine develops a lazy 160hp for a top speed of about 10 knots and cruising at roughly eight knots. The payoff is range – about 3,000 miles from its 4,500 litres, 10 times a typical 43ft planing boat. A Yanmar 3YM30V wing engine provides a ‘get you home’ back-up.
A strictly displacement hull is designed to simply muscle through whatever you can throw at it.
Length: 43ft 0in (13.1m)
Beam: 14ft 10in (4.5m)
Draught: 5ft 3in (1.6m)
Displacement: 27 tonnes
Fuel capacity: 4,542 litres
Engine: Lugger 1066T2 160hp diesel
Contact: Nordhavn Europe
Many boat manufacturers talk the talk, but it’s fair to say that Tony Fleming, founder of Fleming Yachts, walks the walk. His ethos was to create boats that could go almost anywhere, and then he took one of them and went almost everywhere. The boat he chose was a Fleming 65 called (appropriately) Venturer in which he went as far as Alaska.
Traditional teak greets you as you pass through the saloon doors. It’s a practical layout with a large, well-equipped galley at the head of it so food can simply be passed across rather than carried up stairs. Like the Nordhavn, there’s a proper separate wheelhouse a few steps up ahead, and it contains a great little snug as well as the two big comfortable helm seats. The lower deck includes three cabins. The larger twin guest cabin includes two Pullman berths, taking sleeping to four.
It’s an absolute joy to be able to open a side gate and step straight from pontoon level to deck level. The aft cockpit is left mostly open for freestanding furniture, and wide, well-bulwarked decks on either side lead forward past the wheelhouse to a Portuguese bridge and workmanlike foredeck. The flybridge is a great size and shaded by a fixed hard top.
About half the boat is given over to a spectacular engine room and lazarette, something that really matters if you take your cruising seriously. Twin Cummins QSL 9, 405hp engines should give a top speed of about 13 knots, cruising at 10-11 knots.
“Driving a Fleming is rather like driving a Bentley, whatever the speed it’s a dignified affair,” we reported when we tested a Fleming 65 in 2007. Noise levels were particularly impressive. On that occasion the sea conditions posed little challenge, but a glance at the knife-like forward sections suggest that rough water handling should live up to the boat’s reputation.
Length: 67ft 4in (20.5m)
Beam: 18ft 8in (5.7m)
Draught: 5ft 0in (1.52m)
Displacement: 47 tonnes
Fuel capacity: 6,435 litres
Engines: Twin Cummins QSL 9 405hp
Contact: Fleming Yachts
Sargo 25 Explorer
The fact that windscreen demisters are standard across the range from the smallest (this 25) upward tells you much about Sargo boats – you’ll find multi-million pound 70-footers that don’t have these.
Built in Finland by a family business started over 50 years ago by Edy Sarin and his wife Lillemor (who is still CEO) and now involving their offspring, all Sargo boats are serious no-nonsense, go-anywhere vessels that are used by police forces and rescue organisations as well as leisure users. The Explorer versions give the boats a little attitude via grey hulls, black rails, grey decks and so forth.
‘Functional’ sums up the interior. It mostly centres around the square-shaped wheelhouse with its hoop of seating aft and twin helm and navigator seats. A sliding roof augments the two sliding side doors. But actually there’s a double berth beneath that aft seat and the lower deck forward houses another double and the heads.
A true walkaround boat, the Sargo 25 is very easy to handle, even single-handed. One step from the helm takes you out of the side door onto well-protected decks that give easy access fore or aft. There’s not much in the way of creature comforts, though – these boats are about practicality rather than acres of sunbeds, but the aft cockpit sports rudimentary seating on three sides.
A range of single-engine options, all Volvo Penta D4, take you from the base 225hp version through the 260 to a 300hp version at the top end, with near 40-knot reach. But even the 225hp engine, which this boat has, is good for 33 knots. They’re economical too, with slippery, efficient hulls and equally efficient duo prop outdrives.
Category B (offshore) RCD rating is fairly rare in 25ft boats, but this one is rated as such. Sargos are built for going places, and being the baby of the range doesn’t change that.
Length: 25ft 7in (7.8m)
Beam: 8ft 6in (2.7m)
Draught: 3ft 4in (1.0m)
Displacement: 3.2 tonnes
Fuel capacity: 300 litres
Engine: Volvo Penta D4-225 225hp diesel
Contact: Marco Marine
Azimut Magellano 43
Azimut describes its Magellano range as hybrid boats, but for once the term doesn’t relate to the power system. In this instance, it refers to a hull designed specifically to run comfortably at low speed, yet still have the ability to reach higher speeds when required. They’ve proven popular, not least with the owner of this particular boat who, after clocking up just 29 hours, has already traded it in for a Magellano 53.
An early adoption of the now ubiquitous galley aft layout leaves plenty of room on the lower deck for a rather intriguing layout. The master cabin is forward and ensuite of course, and there’s a well proportioned guest cabin. But intriguingly, cabin three is a nod to the long-range cruising ethos of this vessel – you can choose for it to be fitted out as a huge storage area. On this particular boat, however, it’s been specified as a sleeping cabin with a single bed.
There’s a trawler yacht vibe to the Magellano 43, with wide deeply bulwarked walkaround decks and a radar mast that resembles a funnel rather than the usual goalpost. A dinette alongside the single helm seat on the flybridge makes for a sociable area under way, while the rear section has been left clear for free-standing furniture.
Cummins QSB 6.7 355hp diesel engines give a top speed of about 22 knots. But the point of the boat is to meander at low speed most of the time. Interestingly, when we tested the boat we discovered that the actual range remains exactly the same right down to 12 knots, but then doubles when you drop into displacement speed at 10 knots.
An upright stem and deep forefoot cut through head seas, and fuller forward sections dampen the roll at low speed. The result is a boat that feels natural at 10 knots, rather than like a greyhound waiting to be let off the leash. Much like a proper displacement boat then, but with far greater capacity for speed when it’s needed.
Length: 42ft 3in (13.0m)
Beam: 14ft 5in (4.4m)
Draught: 3ft 11in (1.2m)
Displacement: 13.6 tonnes
Fuel capacity: 1,680 litres
Engines: Twin Cummins QSB6.7 355hp diesel
Contact: Bates Wharf
First published in the August 2020 edition of Motor Boat & Yachting.