Sargo 31 Explorer used boat report: A compact and comfortable go-anywhere cruiser

Our resident used boat expert Phil Sampson explains how to find a good Sargo 31 Explorer on the secondhand market and what features to look out for…

In build: 2010 – current
Price range: £200,000 – £330,000

Surprisingly, many used boats are offered for sale without the degree of preparation most prospective purchasers would reasonably expect. Unpolished hulls, scruffy covers and unloved interiors are all far too common in a marketplace where the asking price is often in the hundreds of thousands of pounds.

But not so in the case of the Sargo 31 Explorer featured here, a 2020 model with just 80 hours on the clock, being offered by Sargo Boats UK’s sister company, Marco Marine based in Hamble Point.

From its Coppercoated hull, polished prop, freshly antifouled outdrive and stern thrusters to its gleaming anthracite-coloured hull and an interior featuring, among other things, a dining table you would happily eat your dinner off without plates, this boat is in tip-top condition throughout, which is as it should be given its £300,000 (VAT paid) price tag.

MBY has featured a run of used boats from the Nordic region this year (the Nimbus 335 Coupe and Grandezza 34 OC being two other recent examples), and this month the spotlight falls on another quality product from Europe’s northernmost outpost.

In the case of Sargo, home is the Finnish town of Kokkola. Located on the shore of the Gulf of Bothnia around 500 kilometres north of Helsinki, this is where carpenter Edy Sarin began building boats back in 1967.

Today, run by Edy’s three sons and a daughter, Sarins Båtar offers a range of 11 boats including five Sargo Explorers with lengths of 28, 31, 33, 36 and 45ft. Unsurprisingly, given where they come from, Sargo Explorers are built to cope with whatever the weather decides to hurl at them.

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That means a robust, ruggedly constructed deep vee planing hull topped by a super-solid pilothouse that’s cosy in winter but incorporates two full-height sliding doors which help keep it cool in summer.

Those doors are also a boon to single-handed operation, which again dovetails into the Nordic way of life as many Finns use their boats for commuting to work. According to Sargo Boats UK’s Richard Poulson, Sargo’s all-weather nature is also a big plus point for UK buyers.

“We’re finding that people are buying them so they can use them all year round,” he confirms. “Often it’s people who have had boats for a long time coming back down the boating scale. They just want something that’s safe, easy to use, still has a turn of speed, and is reliable.


Boats built before 2018 have an aft-facing cockpit bench recessed into the wheelhouse

“We also have buyers who are looking for something that’s safe for their kids or grandchildren. But the common factor is that they use their boat year round. Money’s obviously tight and they don’t want to have a boat they can only use in the summer.”

Ben Allen, who owns a similar Sargo 31 Explorer to the one featured here and is currently in the process of trading up to a Sargo 36, agrees: “It’s a robust boat that looks after you in rough weather,” he says.

“I did a huge number of hours in my Sargo 31, around 100 a year, so was using the boat all year round. In fact, my favourite ever trip in it was out to Newtown Creek in the Solent in February in the snow. The heating was on and it was completely comfortable – and I was the only boat in the creek!”

Sargo 31 Explorer interior: A safe place

Safety is another word associated with Sargo and we can see why – the Sargo 31 has some of the best walkaround decks in a boat of this size.


Later boats have a longer wheelhouse with a smaller bench seat and an aft door

There’s plenty of width, the bulwarks are around thigh-high and the guardrails (finished in powder-coated black as standard with chrome as an option) are far sturdier than the 22mm gauge ones commonly used by boatbuilders.

But, of course, this super-safe approach means compromises elsewhere and that comes in the width of the pilothouse, which is on the snug side for a craft of this size.

While there is little Sargo could do to address the width issue, it did increase the volume of the superstructure in 2018 when it introduced its current generation of 31s. It did this by extending the length of the pilothouse further aft and adding a door into the cockpit.


The wheel and lower dashboard tilts for more comfortable driving when seated

“That saw the boat’s popularity suddenly grow massively,” comments Richard Poulson. “They also use CAD [computer-aided design] to make the most of the space inside the boat.

“The 31s have got two cabins, and in the saloon area you can drop the table to form another double if you want. You get a full galley as well, which is extremely well appointed for a boat of this size.”

There’s no denying the galley is a tour de force, not just in terms of what it offers – a three-burner hob, one-and-a-half bowl sink, oven, fridge and a decent amount of storage space in the case of our review boat – but also with regard to its build quality.


Comprehensive galley is hidden under a wooden worktop when not in use

From the heavy duty wood and metal units to the beautifully crafted woodwork of the worktop, which lifts up on gas struts to reveal the hob and sink, the finish and attention to detail here is deeply impressive.

Quality throughout

Opposite the galley is the dinette, where the quality theme continues. Its sturdy wooden table is surrounded on three sides by faux suede-covered seating with enough room to comfortably accommodate four adults.

When converting to an extra berth the table lowers on a heavy duty electrically operated leg originally designed for outdoor use. The backrest of the dinette’s forward seat also flips over to create a forward-facing navigator’s seat when under way, while the rear seat hinges upwards to provide access to the boat’s second cabin.


Second cabin is accessed through a lift-up cushion at the aft end of the dinette

Across from the dinette, the helm station is an exercise in neat-and-tidy Nordic functionality. It’s ergonomic too, for not only does the single bolstered seat slide backwards and forwards but the entire panel housing the wheel, throttle and key controls tilts up and down so that they are equally comfortable to use when standing or seated.

To the left of the helm, the companionway has bifold doors and a bifold wooden hatch that when closed creates a natural place to lay out charts. Further to port, another section of the worktop hinges up to reveal a storage locker large enough to stow large format Admiralty charts and other bits and bobs.

Sargo’s designers have even found space to fit a drop-down TV, phone storage container and a pair of drinks holders into the helm area as well. Accessing the owner’s cabin and the heads is a matter of unfolding the companionway’s doors and hatch and descending two steps to a small lobby with a storage locker to port.


Forward vee berth can be filled in to create a good-sized double berth

To starboard is the heads, a compact wet room with a toilet and a washbasin with a pull-out showerhead tap. The primary cabin is in the bow and features modest storage and a vee-berth with an infill to make a double.

As mentioned earlier, entry to the second cabin is underneath the rear dinette seat, which tilts forward to reveal three steps down into a space which, somewhat surprisingly, is large enough to accommodate a full size double bed.

There’s not a huge amount of headroom down here but who’s complaining in a boat this size? And so to power and performance. Various propulsion options – single Volvo Penta D6s or twin D4s – have been offered on the Sargo 31 Explorer over the years.


Single or twin sterndrives allow you to choose your preferred balance of performance, efficiency and redundancy

Our review boat was equipped with a single D6 sterndrive rated at 400hp. To help with manoeuvrability, the boat has a bow thruster and locally fitted twin stern thrusters, one either side of the outdrive.

Ben Allen opted for the more powerful 440hp D6 variant in his Sargo 31: “It’s quick,” he says. “It tops out at around 38 knots, which is good fun because people don’t expect a boat that looks like that to go so fast!

“The seakeeping is really good too. It’s sporty – you can really crank it over. On full lock you end up looking through the window in the roof – that’s how much it leans – it just grips and turns and off you go!”


The backrest of the dinette flips over to create a forward-facing navigator’s bench

Sargo 31 Explorer: Our verdict

In common with its rivals, which include the Botnia Targa 32 and Nord Star 31+, the Sargo 31 Explorer offers a lot of performance and practicality in a relatively compact and extremely capable package.

It has the ability to go almost anywhere at any time of year, transporting its passengers safely and comfortably even in conditions other boat owners might baulk at.

Sargo has also done a fine job of overcoming the size limitations of a relatively narrow pilothouse, so as long as you don’t expect Princess levels of space and luxury, potential buyers will find plenty to justify our review boat’s £300k price tag.

Sargo 31 Explorer specifications

Type: Pilothouse cruiser
Designer: Sarins Båtar Oy Ab
Hull type: Deep V planing
RCD category: B
LOA 32ft 8in (9.96m)
Beam: 10ft 10in (3.3m)
Draft: 3ft 5in (1.05m)
Air draft: 4.05m or 3.25m with folding arch and radar fitted
Displacement: 5.1 tonnes
Fuel capacity: 500 litres
Water capacity: 120 litres
Top speed: 38 knots (440hp engine)
Fuel economy: 2 litres per nm @ 27.1 knots (440hp engine)
Range: 200nm @ 27.1 kn with 20% reserve (440hp engine)


Annual fuel burn: 1,458 litres (based on 25 hours at 27.1 kn and 25 hours at 5.9 kn)
Mooring: £7,100 for an annual marina mooring on the Hamble River downstream of Bursledon bridge (based on £710 per metre)

Surveyor’s report

Sargo has carved out an impressive reputation with its no-nonsense, heavily built range of pilothouse boats and the Sargo 31 Explorer has no trouble living up to it. The example I surveyed was a total pleasure for me to dig deep into the build, both as a surveyor and as a professional seafarer.

The finish, even in hidden areas, and the attention to detail was very impressive. The sea trial was also an absolute joy and I am confident it will prove a lot of fun for any new owner, whether pottering or undertaking a cross-Channel dash in a blow.

The one I viewed was fitted with twin Volvo Penta D4 300s and reached a maximum speed of 37 knots, with fast cruising of 25 knots at 2,500rpm in a choppy sea. The hull form is quite deep vee and the twin outdrives provided speed and stability with the handling of a sportsboat.

Safe walkaround decks with high gunwales and handholds are a major hallmark of this boat and provide a reassuring feel for all on board. Given the solid build quality and limited availability, prices are likely to remain high. Points to note when considering buying:

  • Given the bulletproof feel of the boat, there is a risk of over-exuberant use by unsympathetic owners so inspect deck/superstructure radii for stress cracking from heavy pounding in a seaway. Likewise the window rebates and cockpit/deck joints.
  • Check the Volvo servicing history, not forgetting heat exchanger cleaning and crankcase breather filters. A thorough sea trial should highlight potential issues here.
  • Duoprop outdrives require strict maintenance routines, so check all service records and anode wastage rates.
  • Ensure all the opening door, window and hatch slides and seals are clean and well lubricated to ensure ease of use.

These are robust and powerful fast cruising boats. Provided you find a good example, and you are happy with an outdrive driven boat, you are likely to be delighted with its feel on the water.

– Chris Olsen, Olsen Marine Surveying

What’s on the market?

Price: £300,000
Date: 2020
Engines: 1 x Volvo Penta D6 400hp
Lying: Hamble Point
Contact: Marco Marine

Price: £229,000
Date: 2015
Engines: 2 x Volvo Penta D4 300hp
Lying: Falmouth
Contact: Red Ensign

First published in the November 2023 issue of MBY.

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