Our resident used boat expert Nick Burnham picks out four deck saloon cruisers from Beneteau, Jeanneau, Jersey and Nimbus
I’m a committed sportscruiser fan (some simply say that I should be committed) but on a hot sunny day, cruising down the coast in the fresh air, warmed by the sun and cooled by the breeze, completely in touch with the elements, there’s no better sensation in the world.
However, despite my enthusiasm for open cockpits and sea breezes, even I can see the benefits of an enclosed deck saloon in the UK on the other 360 days of the year. And never more so than right now as we slip screaming and kicking into winter’s chilly embrace.
So if you have more sense than me and favour enclosed deck saloons, a snug inside helm and the ability to go boating comfortably year round, here are four boats you might consider while I contemplate putting my boat into hibernation until the sun decides to poke its head out again next spring.
Beneteau Antares 30S
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With 90% of the Beneteau Antares 30s being supplied to the UK wearing a flybridge like a hat since its introduction in 2009, the 30S deck saloon version you see here is a rare bird. But it’s not without merit – there’s less to clean, it has sleeker lines and a lower centre of gravity for increased stability. Its single shaft drive diesel engine also makes it simple to maintain as well as reliable and economical.
Considering its 30ft length, the space and facilities that Beneteau has squeezed into this pocket cruiser are quite remarkable. There’s a centreline double berth in the forward cabin plus a second cabin with two adult-sized bunk beds opposite a perfectly decent heads.
To achieve this, the galley has been located in the saloon opposite the dinette, itself augmented by a forward facing seat next to the helm. On this particular boat, an upgrade from the usual cherry wood to lighter Apli walnut adds a dash of extra style to the interior.
On the outside, pulpit rails that extend right back to the cockpit as well as high level grab rails make it easy to access the side decks. The cockpit has an L-shaped seat and a transom door through to the bathing platform.
Beneteau launched this boat with a Yanmar 380hp engine, switching to Volvo Penta when the Yanmar motor ceased production and installing the chunky D6-370 instead. Topping out at about 25 knots, it’s well able to run at a 20-knot cruise, entirely sufficient for most owners.
That single shaft drive makes low speed manoeuvres potentially challenging, a situation nixed on this boat by the simple remedy of bow and stern thrusters, giving the ability to power both the bow and stern sideways when required. At speed that shaft drive configuration and conventional rudder make it a steady cruising companion, tracking straight and true.
LOA: 33ft 6in (10.2m)
Beam: 11ft 1in (3.4m)
Draught: 3ft 1in (1.0m)
Displacement: 4.7 tonnes
Fuel capacity: 375 litres
Engine: Volvo Penta D6 370 370hp diesel
Lying: Port Solent
Contact: Clipper Marine
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The innovative Jeanneau NC11 was built with practicality and usability in mind; Nick Burnham discovers how it stacks up as
Why the clever Bénéteau Antares 30 makes a great secondhand buy
In 2010 Jeanneau launched the NC11, an 11m deck saloon boat. NC stood for New Concept and the idea was to take on the Scandinavians at their own game with a practical, clever deck saloon boat – exactly the sort of boat the Scandis do so well. Knowing that as good wouldn’t be good enough, Jeanneau threw a plethora of clever features at it and then followed it up with this a year later, the smaller NC9. It might have been more compact, but it was no less cunning.
The cleverness starts as soon as you slide the triple saloon doors and discover they open both ways, allowing the aft saloon settee backrest to flip, giving sheltered seating looking out over the cockpit. The forward settee on the other side of the dinette table pulls an even cleverer trick, somersaulting through 90° to give raised forward-facing seating next to the helm and beneath the optional glass sliding roof developed with Webasto.
On the lower deck, two cabins give sleeping for four, and just to prove that the smart thinking runs throughout, the central double in the forward cabin has a lateral removable section so you can shorten the bed to create more floor space during the day.
Asymmetric side decks mean a wider (and deeper) deck to port, accessed directly from the helm via a sliding door. In the cockpit, the entire rear seat slides on tracks, allowing you to choose between greater cockpit space or a larger swim platform.
A Volvo Penta D4-260 was the only diesel option at launch. When we tested it we achieved 27 knots, which should allow for a relaxed 20 knots at 3,000rpm at a relatively parsimonious 34lph.
The ability to plane right down to the low teens allows the NC9 to punch through big seas at lower speeds. With a single outdrive it turns quickly and predictably too.
LOA: 30ft 11in (9.4m)
Beam: 10ft 4in (3.1m)
Draught: 2ft 11in (0.9m)
Displacement: 4.8 tonnes
Fuel capacity: 300 litres
Engine: Volvo Penta D4 260 260hp diesel
Contact: Salterns Brokerage
If this boat looks a little familiar, it’s because the Jersey 30 started life as the Arvor Guernsey 28 before the moulds were taken over by Fibre Classics and more recently Landamores, who built Oyster yachts for many years. Over that time it’s been refined from a simple sportsfishing boat into the rather smart deck saloon craft seen here.
Two central doors in the aft bulkhead double fold flat against the sides to completely link cockpit and cabin when the weather is good, or shut out the cold in the winter to allow the central heating to do its stuff.
An L-shaped seating area in the nicely trimmed saloon faces a galley concealed in the sideboard behind the helm seat, while on the lower deck an open-plan arrangement has two double berths plus a separate heads with an electric sea toilet and shower.
The exterior profile is wonderfully classic without ever looking old fashioned or twee. Glossy maroon topsides segue into convex tumblehomes aft and a teak grated bathing platform. Above the stainless steel rubbing strip, the superstructure is well proportioned with practical features like wide side decks, solid grab rails and chunky cleats.
This is from the Fibre Classics era so isn’t as lavishly equipped or fitted out as the Landamores version but it still looks the part.
The Jersey 30 was offered with a range of engines spanning 80hp to 250hp, giving a potter-friendly 8 knots with the smallest motor through to a very respectable 20 knots offshore.
A single shaft drive swings a large propeller sunken back into a semi-tunnelled hull. The deep forefoot extends down and aft into a long shallow keel that aids directional stability and offers some protection to that propeller. A bow thruster helps overcome the lack of options available to single-shaft drive pilots in close quarters.
LOA: 31ft 2in (9.5m)
Beam: 9ft 8in (3.0m)
Draught: 3ft 1in (1.0m)
Displacement: 4.3 tonnes
Fuel capacity: 250 litres
Engine: Vetus 4.80 80hp diesel
Contact: Val Wyatt Marine
Very possibly the most sensible boat in the world, the Nimbus 280 replaced the 27C upon launch, but just like that boat it combines compact, manageable dimensions with offshore capability and tops it off with a roomy adaptable cabin that opens to the elements in summer and closes up snugly during the winter. At sub 30ft and fitted with a single shaft drive engine, even the running costs should be sensible!
Huge wrap-around windows with sliding sections, slim mullions and sliding glass roof panels make the interior a bright, airy place with the option of easily bringing the outside in or shutting it out, depending on the climate.
The forward of the two double seats facing each other at the dinette flips and raises to give forward facing seating next to the helm, creating five forward facing seats underway.
On the lower deck, the forward dinette of the 27C is gone, replaced by a more comfortable permanent double berth but the single quarter berth further aft remains.
A deep, well protected cockpit leads forward to narrow but useable side decks as Nimbus prioritises interior volume over deck space. The 280 gains a flatter bathing platform than the boat it replaces, plus a raised arch above the deck saloon to lift radar and VHF antennas.
Super-simple shaft drive, the shaft protruding from the trailing edge of a small keel, helps to keep the maintenance costs down. It’s connected to a Volvo Penta TAMD 31 150hp diesel engine, which gives a cruising speed in the high teens.
Scandinavian boats are always a good bet in the rough stuff and Nimbuses are no exception. The 280 will put its head down and punt its way through a decent chop, big wipers keeping the screen clear.
That long keel and single shaft drive aids directional stability at the expense of close quarter manoeuvrability. The bow thruster fitted to this example is an essential feature.
LOA: 27ft 9in (8.4m)
Beam: 9ft 4in (2.8m)
Draught: 3ft 3in (1.0m)
Displacement: 3 tonnes
Fuel capacity: 200 litres
Engine: Volvo Penta TAMD 31P-A 150hp diesel
Contact: Clarke & Carter