Our resident used boat expert Nick Burnham turns his attention to the budget end of the market with four secondhand cruisers than can be had for less than £35,000.
As the lockdown requirements began to ease, something very interesting and entirely unexpected happened. The population emerged, blinking, into a fresh new reality in which things we’ve all readily taken for granted, like travel, had changed beyond measure.
We were told to forget foreign holidays for the foreseeable, and even if they had been allowed, the appetite for queuing cheek-by-jowl in busy airports only to be squeezed into an aluminium tube, breathing the air of 300 other people, was gone.
As a result, the phones of previously despondent yacht brokers and boat dealers began to jangle with a stream of enquiries as people started looking for new, socially isolated, pursuits. So this month I’ve set the point of entry nice and low at £35,000 – come and join us, the water is lovely!
The Crownline 270 is a great looking boat, unexpected in the normally prosaic formula of a 27ft four-berth sportscruiser. It’s been achieved by giving the hull high topsides and then adding a low profile deck moulding. Curved knuckles and a swooping blue hull band disguise the bulk of the hull.
It looks great on the water, the rubbing band sweeping down to the bathing platform to give a stern-down muscleboat look, radar arch canted forward over a steeply raked windscreen.
There are a couple of limiting factors to the interior – in common with many American boats the beam has been squeezed to 8ft 6in to allow towing on a road trailer. As a result there isn’t quite the space to enclose the double berth that runs beneath the cockpit into a separate cabin. And tiny portholes leave the overhead hatch as the only source of natural light.
But it covers all the bases with a decent dinette forward that converts to a second double berth, a heads with a pull-out shower and a small galley. Headroom is surprisingly good too.
That narrow beam makes itself felt outside via a complete lack of side decks – access to the foredeck is strictly through the opening windscreen. The result is that the cockpit is full beam and a good size. There’s a double helm seat with space for two more on a seat alongside, and an aft-facing seat behind. At the back of the cockpit the rear seat backrest tilts forward to extend the sunpad over the engine.
The 350 emblazoned on the air filter cowling of the Mercruiser 350 Magnum engine under the power lift hatch actually designates capacity rather than power – it’s a 5.7 litre 350 cubic inch V8. But the 300hp it actually creates is a good match for the hull, giving strong acceleration and more than 30 knots of top speed.
The deep vee hull provides a surprisingly good ride on the water, but what’s really noticeable is the impressive handling. The boat banks hard and eagerly into turns like a motorbike and is great fun to throw about.
LOA: 26ft 10in (8.2m)
Beam: 8ft 6in (2.6m)
Draught: 3ft 4in (1.0m)
Displacement: 3.3 tonnes
Fuel capacity: 284 litres
Engine: Mercruiser 350 Magnum 300hp petrol engine
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Saga Boats AS dates back to 1960, when two brothers with a clothing factory making shirts decided that a brand new material called glass-reinforced polyester (GRP) would be ideal for making motor boats. The Saga 26 ran from 1993 to 2006 with more than 300 of these immensely sensible and practical boats put into service. It’s a proper back-to-basics vessel.
There are two versions of this model: the CV26, which had a closed wheelhouse with sliding doors separating it from the aft cockpit, and the more popular 26HT model, which sported an open-backed wheelhouse that melds into the aft cockpit to create a generous open but sheltered day space. The lower deck is simple, with a table that drops to create a dinette and a quarter berth that extends back beneath the cockpit to provide an extra sleeping space.
In common with many Scandinavian boats, the galley is in the cockpit, making this a great open-air living area, sheltered by the open-backed hard top with the option of being enclosed by the canopy. A sliding roof helps to bring the outside in.
As well as the choice of an open-backed or closed wheelhouse, new buyers of the Saga 26 could select a planing hull or a semi-displacement hull. This boat sports the latter, which gives directional stability from its long keel for river cruising but still allows a 17-knot top end from its Yanmar 4JH3-HTE shaft-drive diesel engine. It’s a surprisingly quiet runner too, given that the engine is under the cockpit floor.
Like most Scandinavian boats, the Saga offers a solid sea-kindly ride with no creaks or groans from the interior. A big rudder helps low speed manoeuvrability (although steerage astern in any single shaft drive boat is always a challenge) and allows the boat to change direction with surprising alacrity at speed.
LOA: 26ft 4in (8.0m)
Beam: 9ft 0in (2.7m)
Draught: 2ft 8in (0.8m)
Displacement: 2.5 tonnes
Fuel capacity: 280 litres
Engine: Yanmar 4JH3-HTE 96hp diesel
Lying: Penton Hook
Contact: TBS Boats
Campbell Christina MK6
There are plenty of practical GRP cruisers and sportsboats around vying for your £35,000, but they’re not the only route afloat. Precisely £30,000 will buy you a blue-blooded classic that’s a real slice of history.
Bruce Campbell was originally a dealer for Fairey Marine, builders of the legendary Huntress, Huntsman and Swordsman boats in the 1960s. His first boats were built from Huntress shells that he bought from Fairey and fitted out before going on to create entire boats himself, becoming a friendly rival to Fairey in the process.
Although undoubtedly sportscruisers, Christinas have a rich racing pedigree – the first Cowes-Torquay powerboat race featured no less than four of them in the racing line up.
A high coachroof and large windows differentiate the Christina from Fairey designs – the idea was to produce boats with more emphasis on space and luxury. That said, it’s still fairly basic by modern standards, the cosy cabin featuring a dinette area forward that sleeps two, a simple galley and a rudimentary separate toilet compartment.
Classic lines, a painted blue hull, white superstructure and wide teak decks epitomise this 25ft boat, unsullied by radar arch or hard top. The cockpit is split-level, the aft section raised to clear the engines and fitted with sunpads across it.
Twin Ford Sabre 180 hp turbo-charged diesel engines drive through Borg-Warner gearboxes and ENV Vee Drives, allowing a shaft drive configuration beneath the hull despite engines situated well aft. Smaller rudders than normal (for less drag) and some additional metal framing to the engine bay suggest that this may have been built as one of the raceboats. Top speed is a heady 32 knots and she cruises at about 24 knots.
A proper deep-vee hull designed by Ray Hunt allows this little boat to punch well above its weight.
LOA: 25ft 0in (7.6m)
Beam: 9ft 0in (2.7m)
Draught: 3ft 0in (0.9m)
Displacement: 3.7 tonnes
Fuel capacity: 363 litres
Engines: Twin Ford Sabre 180hp diesel
Lying: Isle of Wight
Contact: Nicolle Associates
Not a modern boat, or even a particularly stylish one, but the Nimbus 3000 has a practical, fit-for-purpose vibe that is immensely satisfying. Another Scandinavian builder, Nimbus hails from Sweden, launching its first model, the 26, in 1968. Tennis ace Bjorn Borg had one in the 1980s, a signed and framed racket from him still graces the builder’s offices.
Nimbus squeezed a quite extraordinary amount of space into the 3000’s 30ft of length. Head forward from the well sheltered cockpit and you’ll find a convertible dinette and a cosy midships cabin, as well as the heads. That, you might expect, but what you probably won’t is a completely separate aft cabin accessed from the back of the cockpit. Down here there’s another double bed offering great privacy from the main cabin.
What you won’t find on the lower deck is the galley because in traditional Scandi style, it’s located in the cockpit and is surprisingly generous with its four-burner hob. A large open-backed wheelhouse shelters this area, and the top of the aft cabin is utilised as a large sunpad aft. Side decks are narrow but useable and there are handy steps in and out of the deep cockpit.
Early boats had a 124hp diesel, later ones Volvo Penta’s 200hp TAMD 41. This boat splits the difference with the slightly earlier TAMD 40B at 165hp which should give about 20 knots on a good day, and a mid-teens cruising speed.
I tested a sister ship to this one a few years ago, noting: “Scandinavian boats have a reputation for excellent seakeeping and the 27C certainly doesn’t let the side down. With twin pantograph wipers clearing the screen of spray and the Volvo’s turbo whistling merrily away, the Nimbus punts through a chunky sea on the cold breezy day of our test with real aplomb.”
LOA: 30ft 2in (9.2m)
Beam: 10ft 6in (3.2m)
Draught: 3ft 3in (1.0m)
Displacement: 3.6 tonnes
Fuel capacity: 280 litres
Engine: Volvo Penta TAMD 40 165hp diesel
Contact: Boat Showrooms
First published in the October 2020 issue of Motor Boat & Yachting.