Timeless elegance, design classic, object of desire, take your pick, for all apply to the subject of this month’s MBY used boat feature, the Princess 23M…
In build: 2002-2009
Price range: £800,000-£950,000
Star quality: High-speed cruising in considerable style
Fortunate enough to enter production in the boom years before the Great Recession – the worldwide economic crisis which began in 2007 – the Princess 23M was conceived at a time when any thoughts of cost were well down the list of the boat builder’s priorities.
Consequently, the 32 examples of this formidable craft currently scattered around the globe embody a style and grace now largely consigned to history.
That said, it could also be argued that the Princess 23M looks pretty much like a regular 75ft flybridge cruiser when viewed from the outside – we even said as much when MBY tested the boat back in 2006.
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But in this model, the flagship of its day, Princess Yachts very much hid its luxurious light under a bushel, reserving the boat’s considerable allure and charm for the owners and their guests who would be cruising in it.
The opulence of this boat hits you bang between the eyes the moment its electrically powered patio door swishes open to reveal the saloon.
Quite simply, it’s from another era – but don’t take that as meaning it’s dated, it’s not. There’s plenty of natural light, and sensuous materials combine with soft curves and colourways to produce a visual feast along with exceptional levels of comfort.
The Princess 23M’s saloon is little short of a dream from a Golden Age – take off your shoes for the full walking-on-cotton-wool effect!
Compared to the more minimalist, pared-back interiors of many of today’s boats, the Princess 23M is a gift which keeps on giving.
For whichever way you turn from the saloon – you can go forward, up, down or aft – luxurious treats await.
We began our walkaround of Lucky Ash – a 2003 Princess 23M owned by Andy Hobbs and currently being offered for sale through Boatpoint Hamble for £880,000 – in the cockpit.
It is immediately apparent that although a sizeable craft, this is also an intimate one, with neatly composed spaces defining each area.
The airy aft cockpit, for example, features an eight-seater table for al fresco dining. It is also home to an optional docking station with controls for the hydraulic bow and stern thrusters, engines and anchor, and a stairway leading up to the flybridge.
Behind the aft cockpit, a full-beam bathing platform gives access to the lazarette and one of two entrances leading to the crew cabin, laundry and engine room, the other entrance being off the starboard side deck.
Move forward along either side deck and you arrive at the foredeck, where a standard sunpad and four drinks holders await.
Lucky Ash is run as a charter vessel by Andy, and is coded for a maximum of eight paying passengers.
That means plenty of room for everyone, for as a leisure craft the Princess 23M is RCD rated for up to 16 people.
While some of those guests would doubtless be chilling on the sunpads, the remainder would likely be found on the flybridge.
Here, two wraparound seating areas – one to port of the double helm seats, the other amidships complete with its own table – provide ample space for seating and entertaining.
The flybridge also houses a barbecue, fridge and wet bar, and a crane which also spans the bathing platform.
From the flybridge, a second, elegantly curved internal stairway leads back down to the saloon. We’ve said it once, but it’s worth repeating just how sumptuous this saloon is.
From its leather sofas to the formal dining area to the cosy seating booth alongside the helm, the impression is of a collection of inviting separate spaces wrapped up into a warm and welcoming homely whole.
Central to the saloon is the galley. At first sight, this appears to be modest in size but has been cleverly designed to contain a full range of appliances so that catering for large groups isn’t an issue.
When the time comes to call guests to dinner an electrically controlled shutter can be raised to conceal the galley from view.
Access to the Princess 23M’s accommodation area is via a companionway adjacent to the helm.
Here, four cabins await, arranged around a central corridor. To aft is the full beam owner’s cabin with double bed, dressing table, a settee, a walk-in wardrobe and plenty of storage.
In addition to a marble-topped washstand and lavatory, its ensuite features a bidet, a shower and a bath-cum-hot tub. The second double cabin is in the bow and between this and the master stateroom lie two twin cabins.
All cabins have ensuites, with the starboard twin ensuite also having an entrance onto the central corridor, giving the option of using it as a standalone day heads if required.
To the rear of the vessel lies the final below deck area containing the crew cabin, laundry and engine room. The crew cabin has two berths plus its own washroom and the laundry contains a washing machine and a tumble dryer.
The engine room offers good head height, affording easy access to the twin behemoths which power the boat forward at speeds of up to 38 knots.
Princess Yachts offered four shaft-drive engine installations for this boat; twin 1,360hp MAN V12s, as fitted to Lucky Ash, two 1,500hp MTU 10V 2000 M93s or a pair of Caterpillar C30s or C32s rated at 1,570hp and 1,675hp respectively.
For those of us who still think in feet and inches, the 74ft 11in overall length of the Princess 23M takes it to within a few feet of the 24m limit above which a fully qualified captain becomes a legal requirement.
That gives a good pointer as to whom Princess had in mind when it launched this charismatic motor yacht: “The kind of person likely to be attracted to this boat is someone who wants to enjoy and use it themselves,” says Andy Hobbs, who has owned Lucky Ash since 2013.
“To do that, you need two things: sufficient money, obviously, and – more importantly in my book – time. It works for me as I operate Lucky Ash as a charter vessel, and as captain I get to spend plenty of time aboard.
“It’s only worth investing in one of these boats if you have the time to use it – after all, what is the point of owning something like this if you only step aboard twice a year?”
Putting time aside, the subject of money leads us to a possible downside of owning a boat just inches short of being categorised as a superyacht.
“I budget £50,000 a year for my operating costs, excluding fuel,” explains Andy. “That’s realistic, but you also have to be aware that things wear out and on a boat like this everything costs.
“For example, there’s a motor which raises the saloon TV and to replace that costs £850 – you could pay less than that for a whole new TV at home!
“Regarding fuel, it costs me £6,000 to fill up the boat, and that fuel disappears at a rate of 500 litres per hour when running flat out.”
In answer to our question as to whether the boat has a sweet spot in terms of its cruising speed, Andy wryly answers that depends if you’re watching the fuel gauge or not.
“She is comfortable at any speed below 28 knots,” he adds. “I often run at 10 knots, at which point the fuel usage drops to 80 litres per hour.
“On the upside, you are at the helm of a wonderful boat. I’m a proud Princess owner and this one, my second Princess, has been a pleasure to own.
“I also believe it’s proving to be a good way of saving money, for right now the value of boats is increasing.
“And with a boat like this, it will hold its value as the design won’t get dated, unlike some other brands out there.” In terms of seakeeping, Andy assures us that with its Olesinski-designed hull the Princess 23M is as good as they come.
“But you can’t beat nature and I wouldn’t like to take her out in anything more than a Force 7, even less in a beam sea,” he says. “Strong side winds can also be very unpleasant with spray coming right over the flybridge.”
That aside, Andy – both as an owner and a potential seller – has nothing but praise for the Princess 23M. This is certainly not the sort of vessel to nit-pick about, as just about every conceivable detail has been thought through from the outset.
It’s a boat dressed to impress in every respect, and anyone who’s looking to invest in something that’s a quarter of a football pitch long – which could be an issue when it comes to finding marina space – could do far worse than turn their attention to one of the Princess 23Ms on the market today.
Princess 23M surveyor’s report
The Princess 23M has the virtues of being not only a very spacious and comfortable flybridge boat but also a genuinely quick performer, with up to 38 knots possible from the MAN 1400hp units.
Points to note when considering buying:
- Rarely over my 24 years of surveying have I found any major structural issues with Princess boats. These Bernard Olesinski-designed craft are more than capable in offshore conditions.
- Given that it is this quick, there is however potential for stress cracking due to over-exuberant use. Look for hairline cracks around the longitudinal hull chines, the windscreen mullions (internal and external), and the main stringer and frame-moulded sections.
- Check the operation of all the sliding glass and window sections.
- Ensure service history is up to date – including heat exchanger cleaning.
- Check fabricated exhaust sections and support struts for signs of leaks or any corrosion.
- A thorough sea trial is vital, with extended running at maximum revs to ensure temperatures remain within specs throughout.
-Chris Olsen, Olsen Marine Surveying
Princess 23M specifications
LOA: 22.83m / 74ft 11in
Beam: 5.71m / 18ft 9in
Draught: 1.62m / 5ft 4in
Air draught: 6.9m / 22ft 8in
Displacement: 51.9 tonnes
Fuel capacity: 1,280 gallons (5,819 litres)
Water capacity: 305 gallons (1,386 litres)
Hull type: Planing
RCD category: B for 16 people
Design: Bernard Olesinski/Princess Yachts
Fuel consumption: 500 lph @ 33 knots
Cruising range: 350nm at 10kn with 20% reserve
Annual marina mooring: £21,045 (inc. VAT) on the Hamble river (UK) downstream of Bursledon bridge
Fuel costs: 50 hours cruising at 10 knots would consume 4,000 litres
What’s on the market?
Engines: Twin MAN D2840 LE404
Contact: Boat Point
Engines: Twin Caterpillar CAT 32
Contact: Drettmann Yachts
Engines: Twin Caterpillar CAT 32
First published in the March 2022 issue of MBY.
In association with SETAG Yachts. Design and refit specialists SETAG Yachts bring luxury to the pre-owned market – by creating the bespoke yacht of your dreams, with no compromise. To fall in love with your boat all over again visit www.setagyachts.com or call + 44 (0)1752 648618 for more details.
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