If you love going boating in all conditions, these are the craft for you. Nick Burnham picks out four used all-weather boats
People often ask me which boat I’d have if money was no object, usually expecting me to list a huge exotic superyacht. But actually, if money really was no object then my answer would be to own a modest fleet of smaller boats – boats that I could handle myself and that would best meet different requirements – master of one discipline rather than the jack of all trades that a single boat has to be.
I’d have a sunny day sportscruiser, a 50ft flybridge for longer distances and longer stays aboard, maybe a speedboat that I could tow and possibly even a 40ft sailing yacht that I could spend 90% of my time motoring with the mainsail up, which seems to be the standard way of ‘sailing’. But for the winter I’d have a small all-weather boat. A compact bruiser that could punch through big seas and cold climates with ease, like these four…
Minor Offshore 28
Finland has some of the most glorious boating regions in the world. Huge archipelagos stretch for miles between hundreds of small wooded islands dotted with summerhouses. The Finnish boating season is short but glorious, and Finns take to the water in droves. The boats they build reflect this – fast, capable commuters that can extend their range and their season. If you’re searching for an all-weather boat, Finland is a great place to look.
Sarin Marine is a small, family owned builder that taps into this zeitgeist with its Minor range – now known as Sargo.
Designed for travelling rather than camping, the Minor Offshore 28 nonetheless has two small cabins, one at each end. Splitting them is an upright practical wheelhouse with two bucket seats at the helm and a U-shaped dinette aft (you lift a corner of this to access that aft cabin). The windscreen is reverse sheer like a pilot boat, a sliding door either side grants access and there’s a sliding roof overhead.
The Minor 28 is easy to stroll around, with stepless, foot-wide decks protected by high bulwarks. Other than seats built into the cabin bulkheads, decks are uncluttered. Gates open out onto a large bathing platform where further evidence of the boat’s practical nature can be found underfoot – a lifting teak tread gives easy access to a tilted outdrive should the propeller ever need clearing.
A big, unstressed single engine is another Finnish trait, rather than two small motors. In this instance it’s a Volvo Penta D6-370, which should give speeds into the high 30 knots region with surprisingly economical running at 20 knots.
Slide the roof and doors shut, crank up the heating and you’re set to go boating, almost irrespective of sea and weather conditions. The planing hull can run at surprisingly low speeds without dropping off the plane, and the outdrive makes for sharp handling as well as efficient running.
LOA: 28ft 10in (8.8m)
Beam: 9ft 8in (3.0m)
Draught: 3ft 1in (1.0m)
Displacement: 4.2 tonnes
Fuel capacity: 375 litres
Engine: Single Volvo Penta D6 370hp diesel
Contact: Marco Marine
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Botnia Targa 31
Another Finnish boat, Botnia is synonymous with high-quality, all-weather walkaround boats, and the Targa 31 sits in the middle of the range. This is one of the last and has the unusual but popular twin-engine option, sporting a pair of Volvo Penta D4-300s.
For a boat so unfocused on accommodation, the Targa 31 has a surprising amount of sleeping space, with permanent berths for up to five. Drop down into the small cabin ahead of the wheelhouse and you’ll find a pair of single berths. Back aft there is another small cabin, this time with a double and a single berth running forwards.
Between them is the wheelhouse, with the usual ‘pole-dancing’ table that lowers from the ceiling on a stainless steel pole when you wish to dine and a pair of seats behind a helm that allows the lower section to pivot to within easy reach.
Like the Minor, the Botnia Targa 31 is a full walkaround configuration. But it swaps the Minor’s sliding roof for a small flybridge – there are two seats mounted behind a helm on the trailing edge of the wheelhouse roof for when the all-weather capability is not required.
The pair of Volvo Penta D4-300 engines fitted to this boat are probably the optimum option, giving the power to push the top speed toward 40 knots yet without the weight of the more powerful but heavier D6 330hp engines that were also offered.
A deep-vee hull and flared bow mean the Targa 31 will not only punt through some pretty turbulent seas without slowing down, it will do so relatively dryly too – unless the wind is on the beam and blowing the huge curtains of spray that it punts out either side back across the boat. Those outdrives mean that, improbably given its appearance, it corners like a sportsboat too. Just make sure everyone aboard is hanging on – they won’t be expecting it!
LOA: 33ft 3in (10.1m)
Beam: 10ft 4in (3.1m)
Draught: 3ft 3in (1.1m)
Displacement: 5.5 tonnes
Fuel capacity: 780 litres
Engines: 2x Volvo Penta D4 300 300hp diesel
Contact: Wessex Marine
The name Seaward conjures up images of sturdy 40ft Nelson-hulled pilot boats blasting through big seas in all weathers. The original TT designed boats were exactly this, but in 1983 Seaward decided that smaller versions designed to fill the production gaps between the ‘to order only’ bigger boats would be a good way of keeping the workforce busy. Hence the 23 was born, proving such a success that it’s still in build today.
Following that model, other smaller Seawards began to slot in between this and the bigger boats, and the 25, 27, 29 and 35 were born. But the company never went smaller, until suddenly in 2013, a new 19-footer was launched – step forward the Seaward 19.
It’s a 19ft boat, so clearly expectations will need to be managed. But there are two berths beneath the foredeck and a neat enclosed wheelhouse. In fact this boat sports a high spec – it even has Eberspächer central heating fitted!
Like the interior, the self-draining cockpit is basic, with just a central engine box to sit on. It makes an excellent fishing platform, however, and is very practical too. This one has cockpit and pulpit rails, increasing safety.
Seaward offers two engine choices, a 30hp Yanmar for inland use, or a 110hp Yanmar 4JH4 fitted to this boat that lifts the speed to 16 knots and cruises at about 11 knots.
The single engine swings a prop shaft embedded in a three-quarter-length keel that’s deeper than the propeller itself. The propeller and rudder are bronze, and the hull is a Nelson design round bilge semi-displacement, exactly like its bigger sisters.
It may be a small boat, but it’s a real Seaward. A tiny bow thruster on this well-specced example helps overcome the limited low speed manoeuvrability of a single shaftdrive boat.
LOA: 20ft 0in (6.1m)
Beam: 8ft 1in (2.5m)
Draught: 2ft 3in (0.7m)
Displacement: 1.5 tonnes
Fuel capacity: 115 litres
Engine: Yanmar 4JH4 110hp diesel
Contact: James Dickens Marine
Aquastar 33 Ocean Ranger
Aquastar Ocean Ranger – it’s a name that has such a sense of maritime solidity to it. And it’s backed up by the strongly built boats that bear that nomenclature, as this 33ft example shows.
Launched in 1980, two versions were available, either aft cockpit like this boat, or a raised aft deck with a cabin beneath it. Aquastar also sold hull and deck mouldings for customer fit out, so it’s always worth checking the provenance of any potential purchase. About half of the production went to commercial users such as fishermen running charters, a good indication of the esteem these boats are held in.
Just the one cabin, a double in the forepeak, leaves plenty of space on the lower deck for a galley and the heads (an alternative layout put a second bunk-bedded cabin in place of the galley, which moves to the saloon). Head up to the main deck and you’ll find a good-sized saloon area with social seating on both sides behind the two helm seats.
The aft cockpit layout of this boat means a deep, well-protected cockpit with a large storage lazarette beneath it. Wide side decks and sturdy rails that reach well aft make it an easy boat to work, and the trademark Aquastar thick blue band wraps itself around the superstructure in time-honoured tradition. A flybridge was a rare option.
A huge range of engines found their way into Aquastar 33s. Many commercial boats were fitted with single engines for lower running costs, but the majority of boats built for leisure use got twins. Ford diesels were common in early boats, but later examples generally got Volvo Penta engines, and the KAMD 44 260hp engines fitted to this boat were about the largest ever offered, giving top speeds in the mid twenties.
Designed by Aquastar Managing Director Geoff Wilson, the semi-displacement hull is fuller in the bow than contemporary Nelsons, a move designed to reduce the wetness of the ride into head seas and improve handling
in following seas.
Inevitably, it’s still a relatively wet boat but the trade-off is a lack of slamming in heavy head seas that many similar sized planing boats are prone to.
LOA: 32ft 6in (9.9m)
Beam: 11ft 3in (3.4m)
Draught: 3ft 3in (1.0m)
Displacement: 8 tonnes
Fuel capacity: 400 litres
Engines: Twin Volvo Penta TAMD KAMD 44 260hp diesel
Contact: South Pier Marine
First published in the January 2020 edition of Motor Boat & Yachting.