Used boat expert Nick Burnham picks out four of the best boats under £50k from the likes of Sealine, Haines, Fairline and Princess…
The buoyant (if you’ll pardon the pun) used boat market remains a seller’s dream, with many boats reported sold before they even get listed. Good news for sellers, hard work for buyers. And those writing used boat articles!
Nonetheless we’re rather pleased with the selection of four secondhand craft we’ve found, which demonstrate rather aptly just what a wide spectrum of options are available when choosing the best boats under £50k.
It’s fair to say we’ve covered most of the bases.
Four of the best boats under £50k
Launched originally as the S23 in 2002 (the badge change to S25 was simply to reflect the actual length of 24ft 7in), this model was always intended to act as a stepping stone into the Sealine brand.
So much so, in fact, that when the boat launched, Sealine offered a buy back scheme where owners could get their money back if they part exchanged against a larger Sealine within two years.
However, it was only against the full list price of the larger Sealine, and back in the Kidderminster days (Sealine is now owned by Hanse) discounts were more commonplace, so it wasn’t quite as generous as it sounded.
Away from the figures, the S23/S25 stood up well as a boat in its own right.
As an introduction to the brand, Sealine ensured that the quality of fit-out was the equal of its larger boats, so although the layout was typical (dinette forward converting to a double, heads opposite the galley and a transverse double berth beneath the cockpit), the interior quality was a step above the norm at this size.
Side decks or a wide beam cockpit, you can’t have both at this size because the beam is usually constrained to 8ft 6in (in this case 8ft 2in) to allow for trailering.
Where some rivals opted for walk-through windscreens, Sealine went for proper side decks, eking back a little space by making them asymmetric (the starboard deck is 8in wide, the port a paltry 4in).
As a result, the cockpit is a little tight, with seating for six – two at the helm plus twin double seats facing each other across a table.
The S23 versions got the venerable Volvo Penta KAD 32 170hp, but this later S25 gets the much newer D3-160, five-cylinder diesel.
We eked 30 knots out of a KAD boat on test, and the D3 should be similar.
The seakeeping on these is actually pretty good for a small boat, with a decent ride and sharp handling.
Trim tabs are a must for keeping it on an even keel however, a corollary of a tall boat with a narrow beam.
Sealine S25 specifications
LOA: 24ft 7in (7.5m)
Beam: 8ft 2in (2.5m)
Draught: 2ft 11in (0.9m)
Displacement: 2.5 tonnes
Fuel capacity: 227 litres
Engine: Volvo Penta D6-160 diesel
Contact: Burton Waters Boat Sales
You might have heard the (possibly apocryphal) story of the family who hired a Thames cruiser for a fortnight and were assured that, in the event of any mechanical problems, the boatyard would come to their aid.
Sure enough, a call came in after ten days reporting a blocked pump. “Where are you”, asked the yard? “Calais”, came the answer!
Apocryphal or not, boatbuilder Haines decided to extend the reach of its river orientated fleet when it introduced the Haines 31, calling it a ‘coastal’ boat suitable for inshore cruising when it launched the sedan version.
This is the aft cabin flybridge version, which was popular with inland hire fleets, particularly in Ireland where low bridges are less of an issue.
Both versions have a forward cabin (vee berths on this model, an offset double was the alternative) and a U-shaped galley opposite the heads on the lower deck. The main deck saloon is also similar on both models, with the helm to port and an L-shaped settee to starboard.
The difference is further aft – the sedan features sliding doors out to a cockpit on the same level, whereas on this flybridge version you head up steps to an aft deck or down another flight to the aft cabin, complete with double bed and an ensuite heads.
In common with most aft cabin boats, the aft deck is high and exposed, although it offers a great view. But the benefit over an aft cockpit layout (apart from that aft cabin of course) is that it’s an easy three steps up to the flybridge.
Two engine options were offered, a single 60hp Nanni was standard, with a maximum displacement hull speed of about 8 knots. The larger 90hp Perkins alternative squeezed out an additional (and largely irrelevant) extra knot.
We tested a Haines 31 Sedan back in 1996, reporting that ‘she punched through a large chop quite easily, considering her rather boxy shape’.
Haines 31 specifications
LOA: 31ft 0in (9.5m)
Beam: 11ft 6in (3.5m)
Draught: 3ft 0in (0.9m)
Displacement: 7 tonnes
Fuel capacity: 545 litres
Engine: Nanni 62hp diesel engine
Location: River Thames
Contact: Val Wyatt Marine
Fairline Targa 29
The thing that strikes you first about this Fairline Targa 29 is just how right it looks.
Given that the design dates back almost 30 years to 1994 when it launched as a Targa 28 (the Targa 29 followed in 1996 – exactly the same boat except for the extended swim platform), it’s clear that Fairline got the proportions spot on, an impressive feat in a sub-30ft sportscruiser with standing headroom inside.
It must have helped that Fairline didn’t try to cram too much into this model. The layout is basically the same as pretty much any sportscruiser over 22ft, with a U-shaped dinette forward that converts to a double berth, galley to starboard, heads to port and a mid cabin.
By using this layout in a near 30ft boat, it feels light and airy and there are some neat touches like the door between the heads and the mid cabin that creates an ensuite and the way that the two single beds convert to a double.
The Targa 30 that replaced this model got a small sunpad above and forward of the transom, but on the 29, the seating extends right to the aft end of the cockpit, making for a more spacious dinette.
The cockpit is split-level, the forward section being a raised ‘driving’ area with a bench seat next to the helm. It gives great visibility as well as more headroom in the mid cabin below.
Most of these boats got a pair of Volvo Penta KAD 32 four-cylinder diesels. This one is a little unusual in that it sports a pair of Volvo Penta 4.3-litre V6 petrol engines.
Performance is broadly similar, with a mid 30-knot top end, but they’re super smooth and emit a great howl under full load, albeit at the expense of higher fuel consumption.
A wide beam limits the need for trim tab action, this is a stable boat at rest and at speed. Dry too, with excellent spray management.
But the most obvious trait is the excellent ride, especially considering that this is a sportscruiser rather than an out-and-out sportsboat.
Fairline Targa 29 specifications
LOA: 29ft 8in (9.1m)
Beam: 10ft 2in (3.1m)
Draught: 3ft 2in (1.0m)
Displacement: 4 tonnes
Fuel capacity: 400 litres
Engines: Twin Volvo Penta 4.3GS petrol engines
Location: Cala D’Or
A 41ft flybridge Princess for the price of a top-end Volkswagen Golf? There has to be a catch. Well, you do have to be prepared to take on an older boat. In this case, one that is over 40 years old. But the good news is, they built them simple and they built them strong in those days.
Take the throttle and shift controls for example; no fancy fly-by-wire here, just good old cables. You move one end of it and it moves the other. Inevitably older boats require a little more love, but if you’re reasonably practically minded, this is a huge amount of boat for the money.
It’s an aft cabin layout, meaning you’ve got circa 40ft of accommodation here. Right at the back, the aft cabin has a pair of single berths either side of a vanity unit plus an ensuite.
Head forward and you’ll step up to a spacious saloon with a very period helm station, complete with huge vertical wheel. And on the lower deck forward you’ll find the galley, another heads and two more cabins – a double forward and cross-over beds in cabin three. A refurbishment has brightened up the interior of this example.
At over 40 years old (this model actually launched in 1978) I think we can term this boat a classic and find joy in its bolt-on bathing platform and stainless steel radar arch.
Canvas dodgers around the aft deck provide a little shelter and twin bimini tops have been added to create shade from the global warming that hadn’t been invented when this boat first launched.
Volvo Penta TAMD60 diesel engines should give about 250hp depending on which version – modest by modern standards but boats are far more voluminous these days, so you’re probably looking at a mid 20-knot top end and high teens cruising speeds.
John Bennett designed these and most other early Princesses so its seakeeping was pretty well regarded by the standards of the day.
Princess 41 specifications
LOA: 41ft 2in (14.7m)
Beam: 13ft 0in (4.0m)
Draught: 3ft 0in (0.9m)
Displacement: 9 tonnes
Fuel capacity: 1,182 litres
Engines: Twin Volvo Penta TAMD 60 circa 250hp diesels
Contact: Southampton Waters Yacht Sales
First published in the June 2022 issue of MBY.
Four more used boats under £50k from October 2019
Windy Tornado 31
Windy threw the textbook away when it launched the Tornado 31 in 1997. A conventional (but good looking) boat from afar, once you get up close you notice some unusual thinking, not least the aft section of cockpit and central helm position. Underpinning these new ideas were core Windy values of quality and seakeeping that we know and love. It ran for seven years.
Windy’s latest weekender at this size, the Zonda 31, offers a very focused fixed double bed and a loo in the compact cabin, it’s basically a low-roofed ensuite bedroom. The Tornado 31 cabin, although still compact, was a little more traditional, with a dinette forward, the gorgeously styled table dropping to create a double berth. There’s a galley opposite the loo and room for two more to sleep on a double that extends back beneath the cockpit.
Outside, the Tornado swaps places with the Zonda, the latter offering the more traditional layout of a large sunpad aft. The Tornado by contrast has a completely open area behind the main cockpit. The idea was to create a versatile space that owners could use for any number of things. For instance it would be fantastically useful for storing a rolled-up inflatable tender, SUPs, wakeboards, fishing gear or even diving equipment.
Further forward, the central driving position is unusual but pleasing, putting the helmsman right in the centre of the action.
There were a staggering nine engine options, petrol and diesel, single and twin, from Mercruiser and Volvo Penta. The twin Volvo Penta KAD 32 170hp four cylinder engines fitted to this boat were extremely popular and give about 32 knots. Windy later offered the option of twin KAD 44 260hp engines, which pushed the speed up to 40 knots.
Epic — it’s a Windy so you already knew that. But while the 40-knot top end of the larger motors is tempting, many people familiar with the marque reckon the smaller engines give a better balanced boat than the heavy six-cylinder 44s.
LOA: 30ft 10in (9.4m)
Beam: 9ft 10in (3.0m)
Draught: 3ft 0in (0.9m)
Displacement: 3.3 tonnes
Fuel capacity: 530 litres
Engines: Twin Volvo Penta KAD 31 170hp diesels
Contact: TBS Boat Sales
The name of this Finnish built boat comes from the company’s strong association with Yamaha. As ever with Finnish brands, all-weather ability and clever design come as standard — if it works at their northern latitudes it should be brilliant here. And it is — a sub 8-metre boat with a diesel engine, an inside helm, sleeping for up to five (just) and a comfy cockpit. It’s even trailable. What’s not to like?
The key component of the Yamarin 74C is its deck saloon layout, rare on a 7.5-metre boat. There’s a decent separate loo just inside the sliding door, a dinette that will convert to a short double berth (the forward backrest tilts aft to create forward facing seating next to the helm) and a compact galley with a diesel powered ceramic hob.
Hinge the foredeck access ladder out of the way and you’ll find a decent-sized double berth tucked into the bow and another very useful single berth further aft beneath the dinette. It’s a packaging masterclass and a real plus for bigger parties.
Despite all that interior, there’s a surprisingly decent cockpit with an L-shaped seat around a small circular table. Side decks are narrow, but you can head inside and up through the opening windscreen for a safer route forward. The wheelhouse even has a solid sliding sunroof so you can bring the outside in or stand with your head through the roof for better visibility or just to get the wind in your hair.
The engine is a Yamaha, naturally. In this instance a single ME372STI pushing 165hp through a sterndrive for about 30 knots.
Capable, rather than inspiring. When Motor Boats Monthly tested the boat back in 2007 it nevertheless reported favourably that the 74C corners well with little slip or cavitation.
Merit points in the test report were also awarded for the super-smooth Hydradrive leg. The Yamarin 74C is a smart, sensible boat for smart, sensible cruising. That was the conclusion back in 2007 and it stands true today.
LOA: 24ft 3in (7.4m)
Beam: 8ft 6in (2.6m)
Draught: 3ft 6in (1.1m)
Displacement: 2.1 tonnes
Fuel capacity: 185 litres
Engine: Yamaha ME372STI 165hp diesel
Contact: One Marine
Sunseeker Thunderhawk 43
Designed by powerboat racer and designer Don Shead, the Sunseeker Thunderhawk 43 hull was based on a Class 2 race boat called Rejuga. It has a sleek narrow hull with a deck moulding to suit – long and low, graced by a perfect sweep of stainless steel windscreen frame. There’s also a slender forward raked radar arch.
When it was launched it was utterly stunning and the years have been kind, the Thunderhawk segueing into an elegant classic that still cuts a dash.
Of course the cost of that slim, sleek, low profile is paid for inside — don’t expect much accommodation. What you get is a double berth right in the nose that requires a scramble over the semi-circle of dinette to reach. Privacy extends to a couple of curtains. But there’s a separate heads with shower and a compact galley. It’s all you need for a couple to overnight in comfort.
The cockpit is no wider, but of course headroom is no problem. And actually there’s a fair bit of space, with a very social 270° sweep of seating and twin drop bolster seats at the helm. Back aft, a huge raised sunpad stretches back across the engine space. This boat has the optional foredeck pulpit rails, which make access forward far more reassuring.
Sunseeker fitted a range of engines. Twin Volvo Penta or Mercruiser V8 petrols from 330hp-420hp and two diesel options, twin Volvo Penta AQAD 41 200hp or a pair of Sabre 370hp. This particular boat is fitted with twin MerCruiser 496 MAG HO 425hp petrol engines that were new in 2003 and have run for 350 hours.
The broker claims 48 knots, which seems entirely realistic against Sunseeker’s claim of 54 knots for the 465hp engines when the boat was new.
Here’s where that super-slim race hull pays off. The Thunderhawk has the agility and the sheer ability to really make the most of that performance, slicing through wave tops and cushioning the landing when you do get airborne.
LOA: 44ft 0in (13.4m)
Beam: 11ft 0in (3.3m)
Draught: 3ft 10in (1.2m)
Displacement: 7.3 tonnes
Fuel capacity: 780 litres
Engines: Twin MerCruiser 496 MAG HO 425hp petrol
Contact: Waterside Boat Sales
Hardy Mariner 25
British-based Hardy’s reputation for rock-solid build quality extends to its smaller boats, including this neat Mariner 25 (not to be confused with the Hardy 25). It’s a manageable size, has good accommodation and a hull shape that works well inland and offshore.
The small wheelhouse is fitted with two bucket seats with a great view out. Rear doors allow you to enclose this area or run with them fully open (or anywhere in-between) and the sliding roof slid back on sunny days. On the lower deck a large dinette converts to a double berth, there’s a compact galley and heads, and a further single berth extends back under the cockpit, taking sleeping to three or providing a great place for bags.
Take a walk around the deck for that authentic ‘little ship’ feel created by deep bulwarks, high pulpit rails, sturdy handrails and wide side decks. It makes for a very safe working environment too. Back aft, a very deep cockpit connects with the cabin, the cutaway transom allowing easy access to water or tender. The shaft drive layout creates room for a lazarette.
Single 170hp or 230hp Yanmar shaft drive diesels were offered plus a Nanni option. The larger 230hp is the one to have unless the boat is purely for inshore duties. With the larger option, expect low 20 knots maximum, with comfortable cruising at 16 knots. Service access is okay but not brilliant, an acceptable corollary of a small boat with a shaft drive layout.
With a deep forefoot, planing hull and small keel, the hull works equally well punching into a head sea (although it can pick up some water if it’s rough enough), running fast in calmer weather or pottering up inland rivers.
The only mild criticism is that a small boat plus shaft drive puts the engine directly under the wheelhouse. It’s not oppressively noisy, but you’re aware that it’s there. An optional bow thruster gives more options in close quarters (and can be retro fitted).
LOA: 25ft 0in (7.6m)
Beam: 9ft 7in (2.9m)
Draught: 2ft 0in (0.6m)
Displacement: 4 tonnes
Fuel capacity: 219 litres
Engines: Yanmar 4LM-STE 230hp diesel
Contact: Precious Marine
First published in the October 2019 edition of Motor Boat & Yachting.