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Secondhand boat buyers guide: Four of the best used British yachts

Nick picks out four tempting used British boats from Pearl, Aquastar, Hardy and Sunseeker

When Hugo asked me to find four nice secondhand British boats, the obvious solution would have been to pack the story with the usual offerings from Princess, Fairline and Sunseeker. But we thought it would be interesting to find four homegrown heroes a little further from the mainstream.

So I’ve found a Pearl 43, one of the precursors to a very exclusive range that now starts at 65ft and runs through to a new 95-footer. I’ve also tracked down a proper British bruiser in the form of an Aquastar 45. This Guernsey-based yard is famous for building serious offshore commercial and leisure boats that will see you safely through the roughest of seas.

And then there’s a Seawings 355 hardtop sportscruiser from Hardy – a builder more usually associated with semi-displacement all-weather cruisers. However, one mainstream builder has snuck its way into contention. I couldn’t resist including the utterly beguiling Sunseeker 29 Mohawk – an early forerunner of the new Hawk 38 model but now available secondhand for just £32,950.

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Pearl 42

Built: 2002
Price: £129,950

The Pearl 43 is an evolution of the Pearl 41, only the second boat from what was a fledgling British boat builder in the early noughties (its first boat was the larger Pearl 45).

The hull is actually based on a John Bennett design for the Humber 40 with a modified transom. The big change to the 43 is a usefully larger bathing platform capable of supporting a tender.

Interior

The aft cabin layout gives accommodation from tip to tail, making this an excellent boat for extended cruising. There are two big ensuite cabins either end and on this boat a third cabin opposite the galley on the lower deck forward (the alternative was a dinette here).

All are useable if a little lacking in natural light by today’s standards. The cream leather and high gloss wood also seems a little dated these days, but it still looks classy and well put together.

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The cherry wood and cream leather finish is of the era but still looks stylish

Exterior

A section of guard-rail that pivots from its base down through 180˚ to create a built in side boarding ladder is a neat idea, but the easiest way to board is via that huge aft platform and up the sweeping staircase on the port side of the boat.

That will take you to a raised aft deck above the master cabin with a bench seat cleverly sculpted into its aft coaming. A few steps more and you’re on the flybridge with its twin bucket seats and another decent run of seating.

Performance

Twin shaft drive Volvo Penta TAMD 63P engines producing 370hp each were the larger of two options, lifting the top speed achingly close to 30 knots when new, but 23 knots at a relaxed 2,250rpm is an entirely respectable cruising speed.

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Large ensuite cabins are comfortable for extended cruising

Seakeeping

Convex underwater sections soften the ride, giving good seakeeping from the Bennett hull. There’s a tiny keel to add grip for low speed work, helped by the large rudders. At speed it’ll turn in a commendable three boat lengths.

Specification

LOA: 43ft 6in (13.3m)
Beam: 13ft 8in (4.2m)
Draught: 3ft 3in (1.0m)
Displacement: 12.5 tonnes
Fuel capacity: 1,423 litres
Engines: Twin Volvo Penta TAMD 63P 370hp diesels
Lying: Lincoln
Contact: Burton Waters

Article continues below…

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Hardy Seawings 355 Elegance

Built: 1997
Price: £69,950

Hardy is best known for its sensible, sturdy, all-weather semi-displacement boats, but in 1989 it decided to add a contemporary twist and launched a range called Seawings, which moved away from blue hulls and rope fenders in favour of fully planing sportscruiser hulls.

However, Hardy’s practical parentage of this new range remained evident, not least in the fact that they were all designed with open-backed hard tops, making them a sensible proposition for UK boating. This new range was launched in 1995, and the 355 was the largest of what was by then a four-boat range.

Interior

The interior is the usual sportscruiser layout of a master cabin forward, mid cabin aft and a dinette opposite the galley in the saloon that splits them. But one rather less usual touch is a mid cabin that can be used as a separate seating area.

With a couple of infill cushions removed, the bed is turned into a cosy nook. Headroom might be limited, but it makes a fantastic den for kids away from the main living areas.

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The interior conforms to the usual sportscruiser layout with a dinette opposite the galley

Exterior

It’s the hard top that dominates what is otherwise a fairly conventional layout. Rather than the sliding fabric roof of modern boats, the Seawings features two large apertures with vinyl panel infills, but it’s still far less hassle than folding large stainless steel hoops. There’s a rear canopy that encloses the aft section of cockpit, supported by a frame that retracts neatly into the hard top.

Performance

Two petrol and three diesel outdrive options were available, the most powerful being the twin Volvo Penta KAD 42 diesel engines fitted to this boat. They fire their respective 230hp each through 290 outdrives with Duoprop propellers, giving the boat about 34 knots flat out and comfortable high-20 knot cruising.

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An open-backed hard top makes this boat a good option for UK cruising

Seakeeping

An L-shaped seat alongside the helm allows plenty of people to enjoy the shelter and great visibility of that slim mullioned hard top. If you’re tall, then a raised floor allows you to stand and peek over the roof to experience the full wind-in-the-hair experience.

Specification

LOA: 35ft 10in (10.9m)
Beam: 12ft 0in (3.7m)
Draught: 3ft 1in (0.9m)
Displacement: 7 tonnes
Fuel capacity: 591 litres
Engines: Twin Volvo Penta KAD 42/dp 230hp diesels
Lying: Conwy
Contact: Network Yacht Brokers

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Sunseeker 29 Mohawk

Built: 1989
Price: £32,950

Funny to think that 30 years ago, boats like this were what Sunseeker was all about. The achingly beautiful and thunderously fast Tomahawk 37 was already with us, what you have here is ‘Tomahawk lite’.

Also designed by powerboat racer turned boat designer Don Shead, it’s a boat that mirrors its larger sister’s gorgeous curves right down to the stunning sweep of stainless steel windscreen frame, but in a younger more petite frame.

Interior

From an era when looks and performance trumped all, don’t expect to find much under that svelte foredeck and you won’t be disappointed. But there’s a comfortable dinette with adequate seating for five, sitting headroom and a compact galley.

Drop the table and infill with cushions and you’ve got weekending ability. Best of all there’s a proper separate toilet compartment. Compact it may be, but it’s beautifully built.

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There’s not a lot of space in the cabin but modernising the upholstery would freshen it up

Exterior

The cockpit is pure muscle boat with the floor sunk deep ahead of the sunpad over the engines. But there are some neat touches – that double helm seat backflips to create a useful eating area. With no mid cabin beneath the cockpit floor, a locker opens to reveal space for a rolled up dinghy and outboard. Access forward is via side decks rather than through the screen.

Performance

Most of these boats got V8 petrol engines. You could have single or twin, the largest of which were thundering Mercruiser 454 Magnums giving 365hp each and almost 60 knots. But the twin Volvo Penta AQAD 41 200hp diesels are an intriguing and desirable option, combining parsimonious running costs with 40 knot reach.

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The cockpit is pure muscle boat with some neat touches

Seakeeping

Seakeeping is the Mohawk’s trump card. With a deadrise of 21˚ at the transom this is hot knife through butter territory. It corners on clichés, too. When we tested the boat in 1989 our man reported that he “found it impossible to break the hull away or cavitate the outboard propeller on even the tightest turns”. Sounds like fun to us.

Specification

LOA: 29ft 8in (9.0m)
Beam: 10ft 0in (3.0m)
Draught: 2ft 8in (0.8m)
Displacement: 4 tonnes
Fuel capacity: 483 litres
Engines: Twin Volvo Penta AQAD 41 200hp diesel
Lying: Torquay
Contact: RPA Boat Sales

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Aquastar 45

Built: 1998
Price: £154,950

The heavy-weather, semi-displacement pilot boat styling was nothing new when Aquastar launched its 45 in 1998. What was new was a 15ft beam, far wider than most similar boats of its era. Geoff Wilson, owner of Aquastar, reckoned he could introduce a wide beam, heavy weather bruiser without compromising the legendary sea keeping of this style of craft. He was right.

Interior

That wide beam pays dividends in interior volume. The aft cabin layout puts the master cabin beneath the aft deck, with the guest cabin at the far end of the boat in the bow (with either vee berths or an offset double). Between them there’s either a dinette or third cabin on the lower deck opposite the galley and a large saloon on the main deck complete with lower helm.

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The layout puts the master under the aft deck

Exterior

The most noticeable thing about the Aquastar 45 is just how low the side decks are, making side boarding from a pontoon a doddle (something impossible on most modern cruisers of this size).

The side decks are wide and well protected and there is a proper flybridge above the saloon rather than the aft deck helm position many boats of this type are fitted with.

Performance

Simple pre-electronic Volvo Penta TAMD 63L engines sit beneath the saloon floor, swinging straight shaft drives that turn two bronze propellers. Expect about 20 knots flat out with 15 knots a comfortable cruising speed. Bow and stern thrusters will certainly aid close quarter handling.

The layout puts the master under the aft deck

Its wide beam means there’s ample interior space

Seakeeping

The hull of the Aquastar 45 tapers toward the stern, with the transom a full 15 inches narrower than the boat’s maximum beam. The result is a boat less likely to broach in a big following sea.

There are a few other clever tricks, too, like extra flair to the bow and a moulded chine line four inches below the waterline for added lift at speed. The result is exceptional sea keeping. Both Dover and Calais pilots switched to using boats with this exact same hull.

Specification

LOA: 45ft 3in (13.8m)
Beam: 15ft 0in (4.6m)
Draught: 3ft 9in (1.1m)
Displacement: 16 tonnes
Fuel capacity: 2,273 litres
Engine: Twin Volvo Penta TAMD 63L 318hp diesel
Lying: Southampton
Contact: Global Yacht Brokers

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