Our resident used boat expert Nick Burnham picks out four of the best all-weather boats on the secondhand market, from Aquastar to Sargo.
It’s deepest darkest winter and most of us boat owners are tucked up at home, boat winterised or even lifted ashore, staring at the inevitable servicing, berthing and winterising costs and wondering (yet again) why do we bother?
But it doesn’t have to be that way. The Norwegians have a saying, “There’s no such thing as bad weather, only bad clothes,” and maybe the same is true for winter boating, only substitute “wrong boat” for “bad clothes”.
Because while our sportscruisers and speedboats lie idle, there’s a band of boaters enjoying cheap winter berthing, solitary anchorages and a distinct lack of jet skis.
They’re boating in craft with capable seakeeping to counter tougher sea conditions and good internal helm positions with great visibility that you can actually use. Boats, in fact, like these four…
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Botnia Targa 46
Perhaps it’s no surprise that the bad clothing quote and this boat hail from the Nordic territories – they’re hardy folk with a no-nonsense attitude.
The Targa 46 evolved from the 44, itself developed from the 42, and it’s a perfect example of Botnia evolution – it’s all under the skin rather than in the concept and styling, which is resolutely Targa.
The chunky wheelhouse dominates the Targa experience. Surrounded by large square-set windows for plenty of light and a great view out, all of day living is done here – helming the boat, cooking the meals or relaxing at the dinette.
Sleeping accommodation is split between lower decks at both ends, the forward one with vee berths, while back aft a double and a single berth offer great flexibility.
There are three lengths of the wheelhouse available, allowing owners to balance internal and outside space. Being Med based, this Targa 46 has the shortest of wheelhouse options, maximising deck space.
It takes advantage of a few other recent innovations too. The aft deck overhang extends right to the transom, giving plenty of shade, whilst the flybridge maximises space on the upper deck.
Not having the CFC (Comfort Fore Cabin) option, which raises headroom in the forward cabin means that there’s also an open bow cockpit to enjoy.
Botnia offers Volvo Penta IPS pod drives or sterndrives for the 46, the most powerful of which knock on the door of 40 knots. This particular boat is rather unusual.
It’s been built to the owner’s specification, with twin Cummins QSC 8.3 600hp diesels – rare enough, but it’s also shaft-drive, resulting in less mechanical complication but with some compromise in performance.
Legendary, best sums up Targa seakeeping, and this model, being the largest and heaviest, is arguably the best. You’d need pretty severe weather to stop this boat in its tracks.
LOA: 45ft 7in (13.9m)
Beam: 13ft 0in (3.9m)
Draught: 3ft 6in (1.1m)
Displacement: 12 tonnes
Fuel capacity: 1,500 litres
Engines: Twin Cummins QSC 8.3 600hp diesel engine
Contact: Wessex Marine
Built in Finland like the Botnia range, Sargo boats (originally called Minor) epitomise the Finnish boating lifestyle – very fast, very seaworthy and very capable, they’re all no-nonsense, high quality machines designed for fast commuting through and to the many islands of the Finnish Archipelago almost irrespective of weather.
A useful upgrade over this boat’s smaller 31 sibling is the aft door in the rear bulkhead of the wheelhouse in addition to the two sliding doors either side. Apart from the useful extra access point, with this and the side doors open and the sliding roof section slid back, it lets so much light and air in that it’s as close to an open boat as a wheelhouse craft is likely to get.
There’s a double seat next to the helm with a reversible backrest allowing it to augment the dinette behind it and a galley opposite the dinette. Lift the end of the settee and you’ll discover access to a small cabin with two single berths and a tiny ensuite. At the other end of the boat, vee berths nestle into the front of the fore cabin.
Large flat well- bulwarked decks encircle the wheelhouse making this one of the easiest 33 footers to work, even short-handed. Behind it, the aft deck features seating around a table to create a useful alfresco dining area above the engines.
Sargo offered this boat with single or twin engines. A single D6 400 gives maximum economy and a circa 30 knot top speed whilst at the other extreme, twin D6 400 motors push the top end past 40 knots. This example sits nicely in the middle ground with a pair of D4-300 300hp engines for about 37 knots.
Capable best describes the seakeeping of the Sargo 33, and with those twin sterndrives vectoring the thrust the handling is pretty exciting too!
LOA: 36ft 2in (11m)
Beam: 11ft 4in (3.4m)
Draught: 3ft 7in (1.1m)
Displacement: 6.7 tonnes
Fuel capacity: 1,200 litres
Engines: Volvo Penta D4-300 300hp diesel
Contact: Marco Marine
Hardy Marine is well known for its trawler yachts and its upright deck saloon boats. However, this was the company’s brief foray into the flybridge cruiser market, pitting itself against the Fairline Corniches, Princess 330s and Sunseeker Jamaican 35s of the late 1980s.
Full-length glass saloon doors slide open to reveal a saloon on the main deck, level with the cockpit. A teak laid floor and comfortable looking dark blue upholstery welcome you into a decidedly modern (for the era) interior.
Two bucket seats for helm and navigator and a large vertical wooden steering wheel with a stainless steel rim remind you that this is still a Hardy, however. On the lower deck you’ll find a functional galley opposite a reasonably sized heads, and ahead in the fore cabin is an offset double berth.
Styling was angular and rakish for a Hardy. The rope fender is gone but the signature blue top band to the hull remains. Hardy left the cockpit completely clear – if you want seating you’ll need to bring your own. But there’s plenty of space for folding director’s chairs around the table.
Deep bulwarks to the side decks, sturdy, high guard rails and a workmanlike recessed foredeck prove that Hardy didn’t lose sight of its priorities as a builder of practical seamanlike vessels. Scale the near vertical ladder to the flybridge and you’ll find a similarly minimalist approach, with just a single bench seat behind the helm.
Under that aft cockpit are a pair of Volvo Penta AQAD 41 200hp diesel engines, surely about the most proven power plants in the world – everything from 27–37ft in the late 1980s and early 1990s seemed to sport a pair. The broker predicts a top speed of 18 knots.
Outdrives are another departure for Hardy, suggesting livelier handling than its stock-in-trade shaft-drive setups.
LOA: 35ft 0in (10.7m)
Beam: 10ft 10in (3.3m)
Draught: 3ft 1in (0.9m)
Displacement: 5.7 tonnes
Fuel capacity: 455 litres
Engines: Twin Volvo Penta 200hp diesel
Aquastar 430 Aft Cabin
An evolution of the Aquastar 42 (the 430 introduced the T-top hard top over the aft deck), when this model first launched it didn’t just split the gulf between Aquastar’s 38 and 48, it also brought a whole new look to the brand. Penned by Mark Tucker of Design Unlimited, it introduced a sharper, cleaner look with a far larger window area.
Being an aft cabin boat, the accommodation runs the entire length of the craft. The big (literally) news is the full-beam aft cabin with its queen-sized bed, abundant storage and an ensuite split between a generous shower stall and separate toilet.
On the lower deck at the other end, the fore cabin features a centreline double bed, another heads and a large galley. The main deck has a C-shaped dinette opposite a sideboard, and the entire interior is finished in the kind of high-gloss carpentry you’d associate with a Sunseeker of the era.
Despite the modern styling and interior, Aquastar was careful to retain everything that made its boats great, including wide side decks low enough to make side-boarding easy, deep gunwales and solid grab rails.
The aft deck, which is often a weak spot of aft-cabin boats due to its exposed location and lack of furnishings, uses mouldings to create decent, well-protected seating areas. The twin helm seat backrest flips to create extra seating in the dinette area.
We tested this boat with twin Volvo Penta D6-370 engines, 30hp a side down on the Yanmar 6LY400 motors of this example, so expect to better the 24.8 knots we achieved.
As ever, this Aquastar is designed with heavy-weather boating in mind, so the hull is semi-displacement rather than planing, designed to punch smoothly through big seas rather than bounce over them.
The result tends to be a lot of spray, but the manufacturer developed extra hefty chines and spray rails, which seemed to do a good job when we tested an example in a Force 5.
LOA: 42ft 0in (14.8m)
Beam: 14ft 0in (4.3m)
Draught: 3ft 9in (1.2m)
Displacement: 14.4 tonnes
Fuel capacity: 1,770 litres
Engines: Twin Yanmar 6LY400 400hp diesels
Contact: Lovell Yachts
First published in the January 2021 issue of Motor Boat & Yachting.