Nick Burnham picks out four of the best boats available for around £150k from the likes of Doral, Fairline, Sealine and Sunseeker…
That inflation is rising and interest rates are having to follow suit comes as no surprise to any of us with half an eye on the price of big ticket items like cars and boats.
It has always been possible to spend £50,000 on a mid-range Audi, it’s just that a few years ago you’d expect a fire-spitting Audi RS6 for that money, now it gets you an A6 2-litre diesel (and that RS6 costs an eye watering £100,000+!).
It’s the same with boats. Admittedly it was 1989 when I started in the industry and a twin-diesel 40ft flybridge Princess 388 was circa £100,000, but it wasn’t much more than a decade ago that a new Princess V42 was £250,000. Now you can pay that for a sub-30ft outboard-powered sportsboat.
As ever, solace is found in the used boat market where things feel a bit saner. This is what £150k buys you these days.
4 of the best used boats available for around £150k
Coupé-style boats which have an enclosed saloon on the main deck, usually with a sliding roof, are all the rage these days but as is so often the case, we can track back through Sealine’s history and discover that it was one of the first to offer the concept.
It launched the Sealine C39 back in 2002, selling 75 of them over the following five years. And as was Sealine’s wont at the time, the innovation didn’t stop with just the basic concept.
A big advantage with the coupé format compared to open sportscruisers is that, with a weatherpoof saloon on the main deck, you don’t need to provide a second seating area on the lower deck. Sealine took it a step further by positioning the galley in the saloon as well, freeing up the lower deck entirely for sleeping accommodation.
This means there is ample space for an ensuite owner’s cabin forward with a centreline double bed and a surprisingly generous guest cabin that runs transversely beneath the saloon plus a second bathroom that doubles up as a day heads.
Whilst the coupé shape is the defining characteristic, there’s plenty more to admire in the details. The C39 was one of the first boats to feature Sealine’s Extending Cockpit System (SECS).
At rest you can press a button and the transom bench seat slides aft, taking a section of bathing platform with it to usefully increase the cockpit size without ramping up your berthing costs at the same time. It’s a brilliant idea that reaps dividends at anchor.
Sealine offered this boat with three different drive systems; the outdrives you’d expect plus Arneson surface drives or Buzzi Trimax drives, the latter two the stuff of serious 40+ knot high performance when linked to Cummins 370hp engines.
In reality, though, the twin Volvo Penta KAD 300 285hp sterndrive motors fitted to this boat offered a sufficient 35 knots for about £60,000 less.
You sit high at the helm of a C39 with that panoramic wraparound screen giving a great view. Those outdrives give sporty but predictable handling.
LOA: 39ft 3in (12.0m)
Beam: 12ft 3in (3.7m)
Draft: 3ft 9in (1.2m)
Displacement: 9 tonnes
Fuel capacity: 1,046 litres
Engines: Twin Volvo Penta KAD 300 285hp diesels
Contact: One Marine
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Secondhand buyers guide: Best boats under £200,000
Best boats under £100,000: Our top picks from the used boat market
Fairline Phantom 42
In the mid 1990s, competition amongst the British builders for king of the 40ft flybridge market was fierce!
Princess Yachts fielded its well-judged Princess 40, Sealine offered its innovative Sealine 42/5 and Fairline offered this Phantom 42, a development of the Fairline Phantom 40 launched in the mid 1990s and essentially the same boat but with an extended bathing platform.
All of the boats had a similar layout but offered something slightly different. In the case of the Fairline, its specialist subject was interior finish.
Obvious as soon as you step through the sliding saloon door, the rich high-gloss cherry carpentry, tight cream linings and leather upholstery whispered that this was a cut above.
Entirely conventional, the layout was classic “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” standard for the era, with an ensuite double forward, twin guest cabin to starboard with the day heads ahead of it, and galley a couple of steps up to port.
On the main deck you’ll find the raised double helm ahead of an L-shaped settee on one side and a further smaller settee plus a small sideboard opposite.
Fairline added a flourish to the conventional profile via some wacky-style mouldings across the lower main saloon side windows.
It looked good, if rather blocking out the view! Beyond that, it’s a very practical layout with plenty of grab rails and non-slip about the place and decent side decks. Stairs lead up to a generous flybridge with a second helm.
Fairline offered Caterpillar or Volvo Penta options. We tested the boat with the former, twin 355hp units that topped out at a smidgen over 30 knots.
The (more popular) Volvo Penta TAMD 63P engines fitted to this boat are fractionally more powerful at 370hp each, and so should offer similar performance, give or take a few lost ponies over the years.
A tried-and-tested Olesinski hull with shaft drive and tunnelled props, we took our test boat across the channel to Jersey at a steady 25 knots, only backing off slightly through some lumpy stuff near the island.
LOA: 42ft 9in (13.0m)
Beam: 13ft 1in (4.0m)
Draft: 3ft 3in (1.0m)
Displacement: 11 tonnes
Fuel capacity: 1,136 litres
Engines: Twin Volvo Penta TAMD 63P 370hp diesel engines
Contact: Global Yacht Brokers
Sunseeker Martinique 36
Circa £150,000 might seem a lot of money for a 32-year-old 36ft Sunseeker, but this is no ordinary 32 year-old 36ft Sunseeker. A combination of Covid lockdown and a young business looking to showcase its talents in the yacht refit world resulted in this incredible project, which was undertaken by Yacht Solutions through much of 2020.
The layout is classic Martinique. Owner’s cabin in the bows, galley opposite a dinette in the middle and a mid cabin aft running beneath the cockpit.
But there the similarities end because this entire area was stripped bare and rebuilt with new plumbing, new electrics, modern LED diffused lighting and up to the minute galley finishes and upholstery choices. If Sunseeker relaunched the Martinique this year, it probably still wouldn’t look this modern and this good.
It’s the same story in the cockpit, where Riva-esque diamond-stitched burnt orange upholstery is set off by composite random planked decking and latest touch-screen navigation and engine monitoring.
On the outside, the entire boat was wrapped in a metallic grey vinyl wrap from the tip of the arch to the waterline. What’s most noticeable is that, beyond the lack of a few modern niceties like a transom door, this boat looks brilliant, a testimony to how inherently right boats of this era look even now.
After the refit and when still fitted with the original and rather worn Volvo Penta AQAD 41 200hp engines, performance was best described as ”breathless”. It got up on the plane okay but a fast cruising speed of 28 knots required the throttles to be on the end stops.
Like most boat issues, solving this conundrum simply required hurling a massive amount of money at the problem and a pair of shiny D3-220 motors under the cockpit floor restored the 30-knot plus top end and mid-20 knot cruise the boat should have.
What definitely hadn’t dimmed with age was the seakeeping. Conceived in an era when boats were designed from the outside in, with the focus on handling rather than internal volume, this boat is as sweet through the water as anything sub-40ft has any right to be.
LOA: 38ft 0in (11.6m)
Beam: 12ft 0in (3.7m)
Draft: 2ft 9in (0.9m)
Displacement: 6.5 tonnes
Fuel capacity: 549 litres
Engines: Twin Volvo Penta D3-220 220hp diesels
Contact: Sunseeker Poole
At nearly 50ft long, the Alegria was the largest boat from the once prolific Canadian builder Doral, which had been building boats for 30 years when the recession of the early noughties sank the business. All of its models followed a theme of smart looks and a quality feel to the interiors, and its flagship was no exception.
Rather than yielding to the temptation of squeezing in a third cabin, the designers went for two larger cabins and a lower saloon. There’s a big centreline double up forward plus separate heads and shower compartments, the latter to port, the former to starboard.
The middle of the lower deck is all about comfortable living, with a sofa opposite the galley, and then back aft you’ll find the day heads and a generous guest cabin, complete with its own dressing table. There’s air-conditioning throughout and vacuum-flush toilets, all very sophisticated for a near 20-year-old boat.
The temptation with sportscruisers of this size is always to add a huge sunpad aft and hide a tender garage beneath it. But Doral didn’t yield to that concept, instead the Alegria has cockpit seating that stretches all the way aft to the transom.
An optional extended bathing platform section with a 400kg lift will accommodate a substantial RIB – this owner running a Highfield 3.8m with a 20hp outboard. Very unusually for a boat of this size, an opening centre section of the windscreen gives quick and easy access forward from the helm.
A pair of meaty Volvo Penta D9 motors sit beneath the cockpit floor, growling out a combined 1,000hp for a top speed of 30 knots according to the owner. 23 knots is a comfortable cruise we’re told.
The drive system is kept nice and simple; big engines linked to big gearboxes that spin a pair of conventional shafts exiting the hull and turning a pair of four-bladed bronze propellers. What it lacks in the way of sophisticated joystick docking of systems, like IPS, it gains in low maintenance and stable offshore performance.
LOA: 49ft 8in (15.2m)
Beam: 13ft 10in (4.2m)
Draft: 3ft 7in (1.1m)
Displacement: 14 tonnes
Fuel capacity: 1,800 litres
Engines: Twin Volvo Penta D9-500 500hp diesels
First published in the February 2023 issue of MBY.
Four more boats under £150k from the June 2019 issue
A price tag of £150,000 is easily enough to slot you into some tasty new machinery. This ex-display model Bavaria S30 neatly bridges the gap between new and secondhand: it’s been antifouled and exhibited but never owned, so the warranties start from scratch.
It’s a proper sportscruiser, so headroom is capped to maintain its sleek lines, but you’ll get just over 6ft in the key areas. There’s room aplenty below decks, with a large dinette forward that converts to a big double bed and a separate mid cabin with a permanent double and a small settee. In between, a generous galley and heads compartment complete the arrangements.
The S30 is actually an S29 with a different cockpit layout better suited to our northern European climate. Gone is the sunpad aft in favour of a larger cockpit with seating that runs all the way back to the transom. It also frees up space for extra forward- facing seating alongside the helm.
For those rare occasions when the sun does shine, dropping the cockpit table restores sunbathing facilities. The optional extended bathing platform offers room for watersports.
Although available with twin engines, a big single suits this boat well, specifically the Volvo Penta D4. The 260hp version is adequate but the enhanced 300hp version fitted to this boat should push the top speed into the mid thirties, giving economical cruising in the mid twenties. You also gain plenty of space with one engine in a bay big enough for two.
A wide beam makes the S30 stable and a displacement of nearly five tonnes gives it a planted demeanour. For the same reason, it’s pretty docile in close quarters too.
Length: 30ft 5in (9.3m)
Beam: 9ft 8in (3.0m)
Draught: 4ft 2in (1.3m)
Displacement: 4.8 tonnes
Fuel capacity: 137 gallons (520 litres)
Engine: Volvo Penta D4-300 300hp diesel
Contact: Clipper Marine
In 2010, French yard Jeanneau launched a new model line – the NC range, starting with this 36ft NC11. NC stands for New Concept, and the idea was to create deck saloon boats with the main deck accommodation fully enclosed. It has since been joined by both larger and smaller siblings like the Jeanneau NC14 and NC9.
The deck saloon is full of clever ideas that make the most of the available space. There’s a sliding roof above and a sliding door next to the helm; even the four section cockpit doors can open either way.
The rear seat can join the dinette or face aft into the cockpit, and its opposite number further forward can face the table or flip to provide forward-facing seating. The galley is also on this level, freeing the lower deck for two generous cabins that share a heads. There’s also an inordinate amount of very useful stowage beneath the saloon floor and in the engine space.
Moving parts aren’t limited to the interior. The whole transom moulding, complete with seat, can slide back for more cockpit space or pull forward for more room on the swim platform. Asymmetric side decks create an extra-wide walkway on the port deck.
Twin Volvo Penta D3 motors are the only engine option at 200hp or 220hp each, the former giving the boat about 34 knots in perfect conditions. Despite being relatively small, they push the boat on to the plane easily and run comfortably, cruising in the mid twenties. There’s plenty of ‘top hamper’ to catch the wind but bow and stern thrusters should make light work of berthing manoeuvres.
Its big windows provide great visibility and the noise levels are commendably low. Lightweight D3 motors help the NC11 plane happily at speeds below 20 knots, a useful asset in big seas.
Length: 36ft 6in (11.1m)
Beam: 12ft 3in (3.7m)
Draught: 3ft 3in (1.0m)
Displacement: 5.9 tonnes
Fuel capacity: 158 gallons (720 litres)
Engines: Twin Volvo Penta D3-200 200hp diesel
Contact: Blackrock Yachting
Sunseeker Sportfisher 37
Sunseeker had one eye firmly on the US market when it launched the Sportfisher 37 in 2003. It is a rare sight in the UK but if it does look familiar, it might be because it made a fleeting appearance in Casino Royale as Bond arrives in the Bahamas.
Below, a large centreline double bed dominates the open-plan cabin. There’s a small settee and a compact galley down here too, as well as a spacious heads with a shower cubicle. The finish is classic Sunseeker – gloss or muted satin cherry woodwork.
The large and open aft section of the cockpit is pure sportsfisher, big game or otherwise. A side gate also makes this area a good diving platform. The central helm puts the skipper in close contact with the anglers behind and the seating area ahead of it, shaded by an optional GRP bimini.
US boats were fitted with multiple petrol outboards but European models were powered by a pair of sterndrive diesels, 285hp Volvo Penta KAD300 or the more recent D6-310 units of this boat, good for 40 knots.
The twin-stepped deep-vee hull was capable of channelling up to 900hp and has no qualms coping with 620hp. It’s a balanced ride, combining fast long-distance cruising with decent fuel economy.
Length: 37ft 0in (11.3m)
Beam: 11ft 0in (4.6m)
Draught: 3ft 8in (3.3m)
Displacement: 8.3 tonnes
Fuel capacity: 220 gallons (1,000 litres)
Engines: Twin Volvo Penta D6-310 310hp diesel
Contact: Sunseeker Brokerage
Beneteau Antares 13.80
It’s easy to buy a big cheap boat – just buy an old one. However, getting one that’s still relatively new, say post 2000, is a little harder. This is where mass-produced French boats tend to score highly. They lack the detailing of the best British and Scandinavian boats but they do offer a solidly built solution that’s comparably cheaper.
Having said that, it’s almost as though Beneteau forgot that they were piling them high and selling them cheap. Sure, there are a few exposed screw heads and a bit more bare GRP on show than you would find in more prestigious models, but there’s plenty of high-gloss cherry, adding a touch of class to an interior that is light and roomy.
Three cabins and two heads compartments mean that six people can sleep very comfortably, with at least two bulkheads between each cabin. Only the galley, moved up to the main deck by the three-cabin layout, is a little cramped.
The side decks are over a foot wide with 6in raised bulwarks adding another margin of safety. Everywhere is teak laid and the windows are trimmed in stainless steel. The deck gear is good too, with 16in cleats. The styling is purposeful and timeless, and the cockpit and the flybridge are unusually generous for its size.
A pair of big, simple Volvo Penta TAMD 75 diesel engines fire their combined 960hp down big, simple shaftdrives, making for relatively low maintenance costs and a top speed of over 30 knots. So there is absolutely no skimping on performance.
There is no skimping on the seakeeping either. The narrower-than-normal forward hull sections give good head sea performance, while there is plenty of flare to the topsides to keep the inevitable spray to a minimum.
Length: 45ft 9in (14.0m)
Beam: 14ft 1in (4.3m)
Draught: 3ft 7in (1.1m)
Displacement: 11.9 tonnes
Fuel capacity: 330 gallons (1,500 litres)
Engines: Volvo Penta TAMD 75 480hp diesel
Contact: One Marine
The Bavaria S30 puts you into what is effectively a new boat with full warranties; a nice place to be, and an economical one with that big D4 single engine. Tempting. The Jeanneau NC11 trades a little age for a bigger boat, twin engines and a wonderfully adaptable all-weather layout. It would make a great all-season boat.
Then I found the Sunseeker Sportfisher and rather fell for it. I love the quirky styling, the rarity, the finish and near-40- knot performance. I was set to make it my choice but then I discovered the Beneteau: three cabins, masses of deck space, a flybridge, two big shaftdrive diesel engines, recent build and classic styling, all sub £150,000. Incredible! Only my bank balance is keeping Smuggler’s Blues 2 safe.