Secondhand boat buyers’ guide: 4 of the best flybridges under 40ft

Buying your first flybridge shows you’ve truly arrived as a boat owner. Nick Burnham picks out four options for graduating to the upper deck class

Both boat companies and different decades can have quite an effect on the execution of what, on the face of it, look like surprisingly similar boats. Three of these circa 40ft flybridge boats have a surprisingly similar layout and yet the look and feel of each one is entirely different.

Some of these differences are dictated by changing fashions, others are down to evolution, and some are due to the manufacturer’s particular way of doing things. Of course, some builders tear up the rule book completely and create something so different it’s as though they’ve reinvented the boat entirely, so I’ve thrown one of those in too.


Princess 388

Built: 1991
Price: £79,950

One of the first Bernard Olesinski designs for Princess Yachts, it replaced the John Bennett-designed 385. Although a similar concept, a complete change of style meant it looked like a boat from the future.


The layout of the 388 mirrored its 385 predecessor and the 38 that set the template before that. It’s a set-up that just works – a central double berth in an ensuite owner’s cabin forward, a guest cabin with twin singles to starboard, and opposite that the day heads and galley.

Steps lead up from there to the saloon on the main deck. The raised double helm seat is to starboard with an L-shaped dinette aft of it and a straight settee opposite helping to create a sociable seating area.


Galley is on the lower deck with an owner’s cabin forward and a twin guest to starboard


The outside was broadly similar in concept to the 385 but the big news was the lower deck portholes. Previously positioned in the coachroof, for the 388 they’d shifted down and were now part of the hull, the biggest change to glazing until large hull windows began to appear 20 years later.

A double knuckle in the hull visually broke up the topsides and the superstructure looked more rakish. No sign of transom doors or flybridge stairs yet, however, just the usual ladder.


Almost all Princess 388s went out with a pair of Volvo Penta TAMD 61 306hp straight six diesel engines nestled beneath the saloon floor. Connected straight to shaft drive, these old-school mechanical motors, complete with cable operated controls, are simple, well proven and pushed the boat toward 30 knots when it was new.


The raised helm and sociable saloon layout works as well today as it did 30 years ago


The first boat Olesinski designed for Princess was the 45, a boat renowned to this day for rewriting the abilities of the modern planing flybridge cruiser. (Maximum geek points for knowing that the 30DS was the first Olesinski designed Princess but it was an existing concept he took to them.) The Princess 388 was Princess 45 lite – solid, capable and able to maintain high speeds when the sea was up.


LOA: 38ft 8in (11.8m)
Beam: 13ft 6in (4.1m)
Draught: 3ft 0in (0.9m)
Displacement: 8 tonnes
Fuel capacity: 1,137 litres
Engines: Twin Volvo Penta TAMD 61 306hp diesel engines
Location: Plymouth
Contact: Red Ensign

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Sealine 42/5

Built: 2010
Price: £219,950

When Sealine launched the 42/5 at the Southampton Boat Show in 2001, the clue was in the name. Sealine’s SECS (Sealine Extending Cockpit System) turned the boat from a 42-footer to a 45-footer, with those extra three feet all added to the cockpit, at the push of a button.


But there is far more to the 42/5 than just the ability to change length depending on whether the marina has its tape measure out. The layout is classic 40ft flybridge, with a twist. The standard layout, which this boat has, is ensuite master cabin forward, guest cabin to starboard, galley to port then steps up to the saloon.

The twist was an alternative layout that moved the galley up to the port side of the saloon, leaving space for a third cabin on the lower deck. There was also a version of the second cabin that allowed it to convert to a small office. Post 2006 boats (like this one) got an interior refresh that included more contemporary carpentry and seating.


Forward owner’s cabin is a decent size and has plenty of storage for clothes


Living up to its innovator billing, as well as the SECS system, Sealine gave the 42/5 the option of a cockpit barbecue and a crane to lift the tender aboard, while integrated anchor stowage in the bow was standard.

The cockpit is well protected by a long flybridge overhang, which itself creates space for sunpads at its aft end that integrate with the seating by folding the backrests flat.


Volvo Penta’s TAMD series engines were the popular choice when this boat was launched – either twin TAMD 63P at 370hp each or TAMD 74 or 75 motors at 430hp or 480hp.

Cummins were also an option, although rare in Europe, as most Cummins boats went to the USA. After 2005 the new D Series Volvos were fitted, this boat getting twin D6-435 435hp motors for a top speed close to 30 knots.


Lower galley still feels connected to the saloon in this two cabin version of the boat


A shaft drive puts the engines toward the centre for safe predictable seakeeping.


LOA: 42ft 4in (12.9m)
Beam: 13ft 0in (4.2m)
Draught: 3ft 3in (1.0m)
Displacement: 11.8 tonnes
Fuel capacity: 1,410 litres
Engines: Twin Volvo Penta D6 435hp engines
Location: Weymouth
Contact: J D Yachts
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Fairline Squadron 42

Built: 2012
Price: £324,950

Launched in 2010, the Squadron 42 is an object lesson in just how far boat design had evolved since the 1990s. Although the same basic layout, the look and the feel are dramatically different from earlier boats of this size.


Pale woods were very much in vogue when this model launched, but there’s something reassuringly classy about the darker satin walnut interior.

The layout remains the same as the older boats featured here, but there’s a sense of space engendered by both the crisp contemporary joinery and the amount of glazing throughout, particularly in the forward cabin where the centre section of the ceiling is almost all glass.


Long strip of overhead glazing makes for a lovely bright cabin when the sunpads are removed


The glossy dark blue topsides really set this boat off. The superstructure is a little more angular and it’s a very contemporary looking vessel. One particularly neat feature is a cockpit seat that faces forward into the boat, so far so conventional.

But tilt the backrest forward and it becomes an aft-facing seat, transforming your view from saloon doors to, well, the world. Another clever touch is a tender- launching system that cantilevers a RIB from bathing platform to water.


Buyers could opt for Volvo Penta D6 series motors in either 370hp format, as fitted to this boat, or 435hp versions. Both were linked to conventional shafts and rudders.

We tested the boat with the latter and achieved 30 knots. The smaller engines would likely be a knot or three down on this, but should still give an easy 20-knot cruise.


Sharper design looks a lot more contemporary than the other boats featured here


With around a 13° transom deadrise, this Fairline was one of the first to incorporate flatter aft sections to the hull. The idea was to create easier planing ability but with the hull sharpening to a deeper vee forward for good headwind ability.

We tested the boat in a blustery Force 5 and discovered the concept worked well, although the sheer weight of the boat (15 tonnes loaded) meant it could displace some spray!


LOA: 42ft 5in (12.9m)
Beam: 13ft 10in (4.2m)
Draught: 3ft 6in (1.1m)
Displacement: 15 tonnes
Fuel capacity: 996 litres
Engines: Volvo Penta D6-370 370hp diesel engines
Location: Spain


Nord Star 40

Built: 2014
Price: £364,950

Sometimes it’s hard to pigeonhole boats to a specific category and the Nord Star 40 is a case in point. At first glance it looks like a walk-around wheelhouse cruiser like a Botnia or a Sargo (both built in Finland, as this boat is).

But the crucial difference, and the reason for its inclusion in this feature, is that the Nord Star incorporates a proper flybridge deck as an option.


The interior of the boat is typically Scandinavian – extremely practical but saved from being utilitarian by a high standard of finish. The two side doors are augmented by another sliding door in the rear bulkhead, improving both access and ventilation.

Helm and navigator get individual and very comfortable-looking seats to port and starboard, and there’s a decent saloon area behind them as well as a galley aft.


Two sets of steps lead down to the owner’s cabin forward and the guest cabin aft

Drop down to the lower deck forward and you’ll find a double berth in the forward cabin and there’s a heads down here as well. Less obvious is the discovery that further aft is a separate access behind the dinette which leads down to another cabin with a double berth and its own heads.


The outside of the boat is pure walk-around at deck level. Wide, safe, well bulwarked and teak-laid walkways either side of the wheelhouse take you forward to the foredeck or aft to the cockpit.

But what is unusual are the steps leading up to a surprisingly large flybridge situated over the wheelhouse. Until fairly recently Nord Star was the only manufacturer offering this on a walk-around style 40 footer.


Busy wheelhouse design has sliding aft doors to the cockpit and side doors to the decks


A pair of Volvo Penta D6-370 diesels sit beneath the aft deck. They transmit their combined 740hp through a pair of duo prop outdrives which push the boat close to 40 knots, making a fast 30-knot cruise possible.


Those outdrives don’t just offer a relatively slippery low drag, high-speed solution, they also give fast and direct handling as direction changes are via vectored propeller thrust rather than the more passive water deflection of rudders.

And it’s Finnish, so expect a sturdily built but soft riding hull that’s more than capable of taking on choppy seas.


LOA: 42ft 7in (13.0m)
Beam: 12ft 8in (3.8m)
Draught: 3ft 3in (1.0m)
Displacement: 10 tonnes
Fuel capacity: 860 litres
Engines: Twin Volvo Penta D6-370 370hp diesels
Location: Southampton
Contact: Approved Boats

First published in the May 2021 issue of Motor Boat & Yachting.

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