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

Things have changed a lot since I was a lad. Today people dive into boating at all sorts of levels – it’s not uncommon for a 50-footer to be someone’s starter boat. Back in my day everything was simpler, including boat buying. Most people began with a speedboat or cuddy cabin.

Your first cruiser would inevitably be a Sea Ray 220 Sundancer, Falcon 22 or a Fairline 21 Sprint, which you could tow behind a car. The next step up was into something with twin engines close to 30ft, the Princess 286 Riviera was a popular choice – at one point there were more Rivieras in Torquay Marina than any other model of boat.

Finally, the big one, a step up to a flybridge with twin diesels and shaft drive – showing you’d arrived. Practical and manageable, it’s where most people stuck. Today, boat-buying habits might have changed, but those core values remain. Here are four of the best mid-30ft flybridges on the market, priced at less than £130,000…


Fairline Phantom 38

Built: 2001
Price: £129,995

In the late Nineties and early Noughties, circa 40ft flybridge boats were big business for Princess, Fairline and Sealine – how times have changed. Fairline’s Phantom 38 went head to head with Princess’s 38, offering much the same layout, performance and facilities with one crucial difference: two en-suites where the Princess had just one.


The interior of the Phantom 38 signs up fully to the ‘if it ain’t broke’ school of thinking with an entirely traditional layout. Master cabin forward with a central double bed, guest cabin to starboard burrowed deep under the helm, console above and a galley opposite.


Fairlines of this vintage were very well put together and this one still looks great

Two heads are better than one, so the saying goes, and this boat proves it, with private facilities on offer for each cabin, the guest heads doubling up as a day toilet. The finish is particularly good. Maple was an option but most opted for the high-gloss cherry you see here.


As conventional as the interior, there are no surprises on the outside of the Fairline, just plenty of high-quality GRP mouldings and good chunky stainless steel work. The flybridge is particularly generous, easily accessed via a decent stairway, with three seats abreast at the helm, a semi-circle of seating further aft around a table and plenty of handholds.


Twin shaft drive Volvo Penta TAMD 63P diesels are the motors of choice for most Phantom 38s, giving a top speed of almost 30 knots (in fact we cracked 30 knots on test when the model was first introduced).


The high-gloss cherry wood finish was the popular choice, though maple was an option


Bernard Olesinski was designing hulls for Princess and Fairline at the time (today it’s just Princess), with great success. Tunnelled props keep the shaft angle low while a deep-vee, hand-laid hull provides strength and seakeeping in equal measure.


LOA: 38ft 4in (11.7m)
Beam: 12ft 8in (3.8m)
Draught: 3ft 3in (1.0m)
Displacement: 10.5 tonnes
Fuel capacity: 910 litres
Engines: Twin Volvo Penta TAMD 63P 370hp diesels
Lying: Conwy
Contact: Network Yacht Brokers Conwy

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Sealine F34

Built: 2009
Price: £118,000

The F34 had some big boots to fill when launched – it replaced the hugely popular and long-lived Sealine F33, over 400 of which were made. But this was no revamp, from the new hull upwards, it’s a different boat, larger and heavier (by a tonne), although still providing the same ethos – the entry point to British-built twin diesel flybridge cruisers.


Dubbed Space Ship by Sealine when it was introduced, the F34 does have a startling amount of room for a 34-footer. The layout is much the same as its predecessor, with a master cabin forward, double
bed on the centreline, and a mid cabin with a double that runs back under the saloon.

Space has been eked out on deck by putting the galley in the saloon (which features a neat sliding worktop). The extra foot in hull length makes this possible without the saloon feeling remotely cramped or compromised. Headroom is surprisingly good at well over 6ft, given that this isn’t an over-tall boat from the outside.


Space is boosted below decks by having the galley up in the saloon, a rare move at the time


Fancy some SECS? This boat has it – the Sealine Extending Cockpit System, that is. The transom slides aft, lengthening the cockpit by half a metre. Accessed by stairs rather than a ladder, the flybridge is far better equipped than the F33’s with two rows of seating where its predecessor had a single bench seat and a sunpad. The clamshell canopy storage in the trailing edge of the flybridge overhang is a neat touch too.


Twin sterndrive only, Sealine originally fitted 230hp KAD 43 engines or 200hp AQAD 41 motors. By the time this boat was built the D series was out, so this boat gets a pair of D4-260 for 34 knots.


Headroom is good in the master cabin, with well over 6ft at the end of the bed


Sealine carried the deep deadrise of the bow further back down the hull than the F33, giving good head sea performance. There’s no getting away from the fact that this is a tall narrow sterndrive boat though, so prepare for some exciting angles of heel on the flybridge if you’re too enthusiastic with the helm.


LOA: 34ft 6in (10.5m)
Beam: 11ft 0in (3.3m)
Draught: 3ft 6in (1.1m)
Displacement: 6.3 tonnes
Fuel capacity: 636 litres
Engines: Twin Volvo Penta D4 260 260hp diesel
Lying: Southampton
Contact: Sunseeker Southampton

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Nimbus 380 Carisma

Built: 2004
Price: £127,850

Amongst the Princesses, Fairlines and Sealines that dominate this sector, Nimbus isn’t the obvious choice, but it is a good one. The Swedish builder is better known for its deck saloon boats, and in fact this model is based on the 380 Coupe. Built between 2000 and 2008, it typifies the practical nature and hard-wearing, high quality we expect from Scandinavian boats.


A galley-up layout creates space for two decent double cabins, the forward one with a centreline double berth. There’s a decent heads on the lower deck too. Head up to the main deck and a comparatively narrow beam couples with wide side decks to squeeze the saloon a little, but it still feels like a generous space.

The galley is incorporated into the sideboard to starboard opposite a large dinette that converts to a double berth. The finish is traditional teak with inevitable blue upholstery and carpets. Cutting edge it isn’t, but robust and long-lasting it certainly is.


The look isn’t cutting edge but it is practical; the dinette converts into a double berth


A deep cockpit with a full canopy makes this a sheltered spot, and wide side decks ensure it’s easy to crew. Proper stairs lead up to a flybridge with a single helm seat plus a forward-facing seat for your crew ahead of an L-shaped seating area that adapts easily into a sunlounging zone. Built into the flybridge overhang above the cockpit is overhead lifejacket storage – a neat touch.


All the later twin installations got Volvo Penta D4 diesel engines following their launch in 2006. Earlier boats like this one had 230hp KAMD 43 motors for a top speed of about 25 knots. The conventional shaft drive engines are under the cockpit floor, courtesy of vee drive gearboxes that take the power forward before transmitting it to shafts beneath.


The master cabin shares a bathroom with the twin guest cabin amidships


A planing hull rather than an oft assumed semi-displacement hull, the Nimbus 380 is a decent sea boat, typical of its Scandi heritage. A small keel aids low speed directional stability at low speed.


LOA: 37ft 9in (11.5m)
Beam: 11ft 10in (3.6m)
Draught: 3ft 3in (1.0m)
Displacement: 7.5 tonnes
Fuel capacity: 755 litres
Engines: Twin Volvo Penta KAMD 43 230hp diesel
Lying: Lymington
Contact: James Dickens Marine


Jeanneau Prestige 36

Built: 2008
Price: £117,500

Prestige is at the top end of the Jeanneau pantheon, set apart from the more prosaic Jeanneau models. But only a decade or so ago Prestige models were firmly linked via the Jeanneau Prestige nomenclature – this boat a case in point. And rather than the glossy top end luxury models of today, they were entirely practical, sensible cruisers. Launched in 2000 it offered great value and clever thinking.


Prosaic best sums up the interior of a Jeanneau of this era (and I speak from experience). It’s no Princess yacht inside, but it is practical and the cherry wood looks classy (and has at least seen a tree, which is more than can be said for similar size and era Sealines).

The galley-down layout squeezes the two cabins slightly – there’s not a huge amount of floor space in the forward cabin for example, but beds are full adult-sized and there is a decent heads. However, the trade-off is a less compromised and more sociable saloon with seating on both sides.


The spacious saloon is made more sociable by having a bench opposite the dinette


Asymmetric side decks are a clever touch, giving great access forward on one side plus a perfectly reasonable deck on the other whilst releasing more interior beam to allow for a wider saloon. The flybridge is low-sided to keep the side profile lower, complete with a low-level radar arch. Big square windows are hugely practical, giving plenty of light to the interior and a great view out.


Most early boats had twin Volvo Penta KAMD 44 or KAMD 300 engines (260hp and 285hp each respectively), a few gaining the larger TAMD 63P 370hp option. From about 2005 onwards the more modern (but more complex) D4-300 engines were on offer, their combined 600hp giving speeds in the high 20 knots area.


A consequence of having the galley down is smaller cabins but the beds are a good size


Jeanneau puts good hulls under its boats, and the Prestige 36 is no exception. A full planing hull, the exaggerated flare to the bow helps manage spray well, keeping it off the boat in all but the worst conditions.


LOA: 36ft 6in (11.1m)
Beam: 12ft 7in (3.8m)
Draught: 3ft 1in (0.9m)
Displacement: 7.8 tonnes
Fuel capacity: 800 litres
Engines: Twin Volvo Penta D4-300 300hp diesel
Lying: Southampton
Contact: Solent Motor Yachts

First published in the December 2019 edition of Motor Boat & Yachting.

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