Best river boats: Tempting used options for exploring inland waterways

Our resident used boat expert Nick Burnham picks out a selection of the best river boats currently offered for sale on the secondhand market…

Offshore boats can certainly venture upstream, but dedicated river boats are optimised for inland cruising. So this month, we are back on the river, decked out in a straw boater and striped blazer, glass of Pimm’s in hand (once safely moored for the afternoon, of course).

Key features to look for in the best river boats include easily accessible decks, as docking (be that in locks or outside waterside pubs) tends to be far more frequent; a hull designed to run efficiently at displacement speeds whilst creating minimal wash; larger rudders that operate well at low speeds; and layouts aimed at living aboard and socialising more than wave-bashing and sunbathing.

Here are three great examples that offer all of this, plus one modern take on dayboat river cruising.

4 of the best river boats on the market right now


Broom Ocean 29

Built: 1995
Price: £67,000

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Ocean 29 is an interesting name for a boat so clearly intended for inland use. Although there’s no reason at all why this boat couldn’t put to sea, its performance and its hull configuration are ideal for gentle river cruising. Even the builder was based by a river – Broom’s yard was situated on the picturesque Norfolk Broads at Brundall.

We say ‘was’ because although the company still exists, and indeed is in the same location, boat building has now ceased after more than 100 years of production. The business now focuses on its marina and boat hire operations.


The layout is straightforward and effective. A clear sliding cabin door and a couple of steps lead down to a saloon with an L- shaped dinette to starboard converting to a double berth and a galley to port.

There is a separate forward cabin with a transverse double berth and a pretty decent hanging locker. The heads doubles as a wet room with a shower.


The forward transverse double has plenty of storage lockers


That optimisation for river boat use is most clearly evident in the fact that, not only does the radar arch fold flat to reduce height for bridge clearance, the windscreen does as well, enabling it to limbo beneath really low structures. Decent side decks make deck work easy and there’s a small bathing platform as well.

The cockpit itself is sociable for such a small boat, with a big hoop of wrap-around seating aft and a removable canopy. There’s plenty of storage too, beneath the cockpit seating but also in a large lazarette below the cockpit sole.


The Nanni 4.150 releases its rampaging 35hp down a single shaft drive for a top speed of about 7 knots and a river-friendly 5-knot cruise. As mentioned, you could certainly put to sea with these levels of performance but it really is better suited to river cruising.


The straightforward layout features a functional dinette that converts to a double berth


A small keel and big rudder aid stability and manoeuvrability – a bow thruster assisting with the latter.


LOA: 29ft 0in (8.8m)
Beam: 10ft 4in (3.2m)
Draft: 3ft 6in (0.8m)
Displacement: 4 tonnes
Fuel capacity: 100 litres
Engine: Nanni 4.150 35hp diesel
Location: River Thames
Contact: Val Wyatt Marine


Sheerline 950AC

Built: 1995
Price: £64,950

Another Norfolk Broads-based business, Sheerline, like Broom, has a rich back catalogue stuffed full of river boats built for both hire fleet and private ownership. And like Broom, the business dates back more than a century, having started as George Smith and Co back in 1910.


The layout of the standard boat is not dissimilar to the Broom Ocean 29 in that it has the owner’s cabin forward, a dinette that converts to a double berth in the saloon opposite the galley, and a single heads.

But the AC (aft cabin) version gains a useful second guest cabin just aft of the saloon, where you’ll find a double berth running transversely beneath the forward section of the cockpit.


The AC version has a second cabin to complement this one


Most examples of the Sheerline 950 feature a large open cockpit beneath a canopy (although there was also a centre cockpit version popular with hire fleets). This one is slightly unusual in that it features an open-backed wheelhouse, giving a more protected, yet still open to the elements, helm.

The roof stretches about halfway back across the generous 10ft by 9ft cockpit, leaving the oblong of cockpit seating alfresco, although there are canopies to enclose this area and turn the whole cockpit into a further interior space. Wide side decks are essential on waterways with locks to negotiate.


A 43hp diesel suits this style of boat perfectly, offering ample river-friendly performance with meagre fuel consumption. Unusually, in order to create space for that extra cabin, the engine is mounted transversely, with a hydraulic drive to the shaft rather than the usual straight shaft drive. Expect about 7 knots flat out with a 5-knot cruise.


Saloon is opposite the galley with a convertible dinette


Sheerline has always focussed on river boats (although there has been the occasional dedicated offshore machine, like the 1050). This one’s hull is optimised for low-speed running in order to maximise fuel economy and minimise wash. Bow and stern thrusters help with close quarter manoeuvring in locks and marinas.


LOA: 31ft 1in (9.5m)
Beam: 13ft 5in (4.1m)
Draft: 3ft 2in (1.0m)
Displacement: 4.4 tonnes
Fuel capacity: 170 litres
Engine: Nanni 4190 43hp diesel engines
Location: River Thames
Contact: Tingdene Boating


Aquanaut 110OK

Built: 2010
Price: £165,000

The Dutch really understand inland cruising and tend to favour steel hulls over moulded GRP ones. The Aquanaut Yachting shipyard is a prime example, which has been building steel boats in the heart of Sneek since 1961. Its current range reaches up past 50ft.

There are various advantages and disadvantages to steel boats. The disadvantage is weight, but that doesn’t really matter when you are sticking to displacement cruising speeds.

And the advantages are inherent strength (out of control hire boats are a threat to paintwork, but rarely structure) and a vast amount of available customisation, since the build process is not constrained by mouldings.


Aquanaut build aft-cabin and aft-cockpit boats, the benefit of the former being a private cabin at each end of the boat. The advantage of the latter, seen here, is a cockpit on the same level as the saloon with wide opening doors connecting these two areas.

In fact, the doors bifold right up against the cockpit sides, creating a single seamless socialising space, while a removable cockpit canopy means the whole area that can be used in all weathers.

River boat credentials include a free-standing stool for the skipper to perch on and opening windscreen panes for increased ventilation. There’s a decent sized galley on the lower deck opposite a heads large enough to feature a separate shower area.


The owner’s cabin in the bow has a central island bed


That aft cockpit configuration keeps the air draft down, an important consideration inland. High rails with gates either side encircle wide decks, making deck work easy, and a dark blue hull is the finishing touch.


Top speed is limited by the hull speed, which is why the 87hp Perkins M92B is more than sufficient to power this boat to her 7-knot maximum.


Wooden bi-fold doors link the cockpit with the saloon


Dutch-built steel boats come in one of three hull forms. Hard-chine cruisers are the cheapest to build, offer good volume and stability. Round bilge boats offer strength and stability. But the multi chine hull of this boat (think of the profile a little like the edge of a 50 pence coin) combines the benefits of both.


LOA: 36ft 4in (11.1m)
Beam: 11ft 6in (3.5m)
Draft: 2ft 9in (0.8m)
Displacement: 11 tonnes
Fuel capacity: 500 litres
Engine: Perkins M92B 87hp diesel engine
Location: River Thames
Contact: Bray Marine Sales


Rand Picnic 18

Built: 2021
Price: £36,995

At the risk of upsetting the rag and stick brigade, I find sailing mostly rubbish but occasionally brilliant. There’s never enough wind except when there is too much, and when there is the right amount it’s in the wrong direction, meaning you have to zig-zag everywhere at a jaunty angle.

But when everything works, the magical feel of gently cruising along in virtual silence with just the noise of the wake bubbling at the forefoot is utterly beguiling. Imagine if you could have that whilst upright and travelling in a straight line?

Electric boats are the answer and it’s been with us for a surprisingly long time – the Rand 18 Picnic was launched in 2015.


As an open day boat there is no interior as such, but there is a full-length cockpit to enjoy. A big horseshoe of seating takes up the front half, giving loads of space for up to ten people to relax or dine at a large table that can drop and infill to create a comfy sunbed, with space for a cooler underneath.

The helm is aft, sloop-style, meaning that whoever is in control remains very much a part of the party. Storage beneath the seats adds to the practicality.


Soft grey finish and inlaid teak gives this day boat a chic, modern appeal


The boat has an attractive yet simple Scandinavian design, and is finished in pale grey with a faux teak inlaid bathing platform. This is a sharp and distinctly modern-looking boat, as befits something as 21st century as an electric-powered boat.


Rand developed this boat for both inboard and outboard solutions, and petrol or electric power. With the largest 60hp outboard fitted, a 60hp Mercury EFI, it’s good for 30 knots.

This boat has the somewhat less powerful but considerably quieter Torqeedo Cruise 4.0FP inboard engine, its 25kW motor powered by a 9.1 kWh AGM battery for a river-appropriate maximum speed of 5 knots.


Huge U-shaped dining table drops and transforms into a comfortable sunpad


Rand describes the Picnic 18 as “simple to operate, with perfect steering capabilities and a high degree of stability.”


LOA: 17ft 5in (5.3m)
Beam: 6ft 10in (2.1m)
Draft: 1ft 0in (0.3m)
Displacement: 0.4 tonnes
Battery capacity: 9.1 kWh Motor Torqeedo Cruise 4.0FP 25kW
Location: River Thames
Contact: Bates Wharf

First published in the September 2023 issue of MBY.

Four more river boats from the August 2022 issue


Super Van Craft 13.80

Built: 1988
Price: £159,950

Occasionally I stumble upon a boat so wonderful that I actually build one of these articles around it, just so that I can bring it to your attention.

The fantastically monikered Super Van Craft 13.80 is a case in point. Built by Klaassen Shipwards, Voorschoten in 1988, this Dutch steel motor yacht is surely the finest and most elegant way to cruise any inland water.


An aft cabin layout, the interior stretches from stem to stern. There are three berths in the forepeak in a vee configuration (bunk beds on one side, a single on the other), plus an ensuite heads.

Further aft on the lower deck a long straight galley to port lives opposite a comfortable looking dinette that converts into extra sleeping. There’s a separate washing machine and dryer on this level too, handy for longer-term cruising.

Head up and aft through the saloon and you’ll drop down to the owner’s cabin with a central island double bed and another ensuite split between a toilet and sink to port and a separate shower to starboard.


The wood panelled aft cabin enjoys wonderful space and privacy


Classy and elegant though the interior is, it’s the exterior that provides the initial siren call. Long and low with a painted white hull, teak-laid decks and varnished wooden superstructure and handrails, it’s a genuinely beautiful boat that wouldn’t look out of place moored in St Tropez in the 1960s.

The aft deck would make a great entertaining space with its full beam aft seat, and the helm lives here too with its “proper little ship” vertical wooden wheel and varnished wooden dashboard with its row of organ stop switches set in a stainless steel strip.


A full displacement boat, the pair of DAF 120hp engines top out at a leisurely 8.5 knots and she cruises at just under 6 knots.


The huge twin-level saloon features an upper lounge plus a lower galley and dinette


A solid steel motor boat, you don’t need to worry too much about being blown around in a breeze, but you do need to plan ahead a little as she’ll carry some way. Bow and stern thrusters have been fitted which should help to lower the pulse in close quarters.


LOA: 47ft 2in (14.4m)
Beam: 12ft 6in (3.9m)
Draught: 4ft 3in (1.3m)
Displacement: 18 tonnes
Fuel capacity: 1,000 litres
Engines: DAF 120hp diesels
Location: River Thames
Contact: Val Wyatt Marine


Broom 33

Built: 1994
Price: £89,000

Charles Broom began creating “beautifully crafted sailing cruisers for gentlemen” in Brundall on the Norfolk Broads in 1898, and the company has remained on exactly the same spot throughout its illustrious history.

Motor boat production began in the 1920s with a 30-footer powered by a Morris petrol engine. The company started fibreglass boat production 40 years later in the 1960s, then,
in 1989, the 33 was introduced as a successor to the highly successful 9/70 and 10/70, and featured an all-new hull design from Andrew Wolstenholme.

The company still exists, but now runs a marina and a hire boat fleet.


An aft cabin layout splits the two main sleeping areas with an ensuite owner’s cabin back aft and a vee-berthed guest cabin forward. A decent sized galley and heads also live up front on the lower deck, with the main deck saloon featuring an internal helm position, making this a true year-round proposition.


The aft cabin layout provides good privacy both for the owner and the guests


Putting the outside helm on the aft deck instead of on a separate flybridge above the saloon reduces deck space a little, but it does lower the height of the boat, important for inland waterway use.

In fact it’s possible to drop the radar arch and the windscreen to limbo beneath lower structures, a fact that has helped this boat cruise the River Thames, the Broads and France.


The Broom 33 came with a variety of twin shaft drive diesels, usually between 180hp and 230hp, including Volvo TAMD41s, KAMD 40s and Mercruiser 180s and 220s, although the basic boat was actually quoted with 100hp TAMD31s, which offered about 10 knots.

The largest reached 25 knots and the twin 150hp engines on this boat are probably giving mid-teen performance.


Rather dated interior but the gentlemanly Broom 33 is a very capable sea boat too


Obviously you’re not going to be using that level of performance on inland waterways, but they do give Channel crossing reach, great for Europe’s waterways. When we tested the boat in 1990 we found that the hull gave a soft ride into the waves and handled well with seas on the beam or stern.


LOA: 34ft 3in (10.4m)
Beam: 12ft 2in (3.7m)
Draught: 3ft 3in (1.0m)
Displacement: 7.5 tonnes
Fuel capacity: 720 litres
Engines: Twin Volvo Penta TMD 41B 150hp diesel engines
Location: River Thames
Contact: Boat Showrooms


Aquanaut Drifter 1150AK

Built: 2003
Price: £159,950

Built entirely with inland cruising in mind, this is a big strong metal boat designed to take the knocks of a commercial lock gate or a badly driven hire boat. That steel construction means that the builder is not tied to the specifics of a mould in determining the shape, so there’s a huge amount of variation available.


A steel boat broker once told me that clients often specify an internal helm position when they order their first inland cruiser, but never on the second as the reality is that these seldom get used.

The lack of one here results in a fairly palatial saloon area with plenty of social seating. This being another aft cabin boat, there is a big owner’s cabin beneath the aft deck.

An island double bed and separate compartments for shower and toilet give a ‘home from home’ vibe, as do masses of storage. There’s a good sized galley with a dinette opposite forward on the lower deck, and ahead of that is the guest cabin with vee berths.


The absence of an internal helm results in a very large and sociable saloon


A centrally mounted helm reduces air draught and also makes it easy to enclose the helm with canopies. On the coachroof forward is a mast for navigation lights and antennas, but this can be lowered and the windscreen hinges down in sections.

Side decks are wide and there’s a central break in the guardrails on both sides allowing easy access to a dockside, exactly what you need for inland waters.


The single Perkins M135 shaft drive diesel engine is both naturally aspirated and mechanical, keeping everything simple and easy to maintain as well as being suitable for very low speed long distance cruising (something turbo diesels are less keen on for extended periods).

You can plan for 8-10 knots flat out, but more important is the boat’s ability to run at 4 or 5 knots for hour after gentle hour.


The convertible lower deck dinette expands the Aquanaut’s sleeping capacity


Although designed with inland cruising in mind, the Drifter series all have a multi-chine hull (think of the edge of a 50 pence piece – remember coins?) which improves sea keeping for the odd occasion you want to head from one inland waterway to another.


LOA: 38ft 1in (11.6m)
Beam: 12ft 6in (3.8m)
Draught: 3ft 3in (1.0m)
Displacement: 9 tonnes
Fuel capacity: 495 litres
Engine: Perkins M135 135hp diesel engines
Location: River Thames
Contact: Bray Marine Sales


Banks Martin Beaulieu 30

Built: 2017
Price: £159,950

Until almost a decade ago, one of Kidderminster’s most famous exports was Sealine boats. They’d been built there for 40 years before going into administration and being absorbed by Hanse Yachts AG and moved to Germany.

River boat builder Banks Martin is based in Kidderminster and sure enough, one of its principle directors was a long-standing Sealine man as are many of the staff – there’s a lot of boat building skill to be found in Kidderminster.

The avowed aim of Banks Martin is to “combine the undoubtedly higher quality, standards and design of sea going vessels, and bring this to the river and estuary.”


The Beaulieu 30 is the first model to be launched by this fledging company. The styling is smart, but traditional, a flat-roofed cabin with huge windows down both sides and across the front which throw plenty of light into the cabin, not to mention allow a great view out.

The cabin itself is open plan with a double bed forward and a dinette to port. There’s a tiny mid cabin too, which just has a single bed running back beneath the cockpit. The galley is opposite and the heads is back aft, just inside the door.


The open-plan cabin makes amazing use of space for a sub-30ft boat


The aft cockpit has an open-backed wheelhouse, so there is a roof over the helm and side windows, but nothing between it and the open rear of the cockpit (although the whole area can be enclosed with canopies). There’s a bathing platform too, arguably less useful on a river but it points to the Category C nature that includes estuaries and coastal use.


Banks Martin are offering inboard or outboard engine options. This particular boat is fitted with a 75hp Volvo Penta diesel which gives a maximum speed of about 9 knots for an easy, and river- friendly, 6-knot cruise.


With big views and an efficient six-knot cruise, this is a great boat for relaxed inland fun


A semi-displacement hull is designed to give good low speed handling and a powerful bow thruster makes close-quarters manoeuvrability far easier.


LOA: 29ft 2in (8.9m)
Beam: 9ft 9in (3.0m)
Draught: 2ft 5in (0.7m)
Displacement: 4.2 tonnes
Fuel capacity: 145 litres
Engine: Volvo Penta 75hp diesel
Location: River Thames
Contact: Bates Wharf

First published in the August 2022 issue of MBY.

Four more river boats from the November 2020 issue


Linssen 34.9 Sedan

Built: 2010
Price: £169,999

Based in Maasbracht, Holland, Linssen Yachts was originally set up by Jac Linssen as a small-scale woodwork and ship repair business. Over the years it developed into a significant steel yacht building yard with a strong reputation for high quality motor cruisers.

Family run from the beginning, it’s now into its third generation and builds boats from 30-50ft. The Linssen 34.9 was available in two versions, an aft cabin cruiser or a Sedan, which features an aft cockpit and reduced air draught, enabling it to slip underneath lower bridges.


Double doors lead into a very high quality interior lined in classic cherry wood. The galley is on the port side, opposite a dinette that features an ‘Easy Sleep Convert System’ that allows it to be quickly converted into a slatted double berth for occasional guests.

Intriguingly, there’s a small desk area ahead of the dinette opposite the helm position, complete with club chair. Head down to the lower deck and you’ll find the heads on one side, shower on the other and a central double bed in the fore cabin.


The Linssen 34.9 Sedan has only one dedicated sleeping cabin but the settee in the saloon also converts to a bed


Unlike the aft cabin variant with its raised aft deck, the Linssen 34.9 Sedan has the cockpit on the same level as the saloon. Protected by a large framed canopy, it extends the living area even in inclement weather. On better days, drop the canopy and slide back the roof section over the helm to enjoy the fresh air and sunshine.


A heavy and strictly displacement speed boat, don’t expect fireworks from the Volvo Penta D2 75hp. However, it is a very quiet riverboat with a top speed of 10 knots.


Beautifully finished saloon enjoys fine views out but still feels cosy in all weathers


There’s not much seakeeping to be done inland, but given the low speed and steel construction you can expect your gin and tonic to be stirred but not shaken.


Length: 35ft 0in (10.7m)
Beam: 11ft 0in (3.3m)
Draught: 3ft 4in (1.0m)
Displacement: 8 tonnes
Fuel capacity: 240 litres
Engine: Volvo Penta D2 75hp diesel
Location: River Thames
Contact: Boat Showrooms


Aquanaut Drifter CS1300 AK

Built: 2014
Price: £349,950

Dutch builder Aquanaut is proud of the level of customisation it offers. Because steel boats don’t require the inflexible moulds and fixed structural bulkheads of GRP craft, the company is free to do whatever it wants within reason.

As UK boat dealer (and vendor of this boat) TBS Boats once told me, “With a steel boat you don’t require new mouldings to make fundamental changes, all you need is a good CAD designer and plenty of imagination. All of the Aquanauts we’ve supplied have basically been bespoke builds; no two have been the same.”


Aquanaut Drifters are available in both aft cabin (AK) and aft cockpit (AC) layouts. European Voyagers are aft cockpit flybridge variants and the Privilege range are the same below the waterline but with softer sexier styling. So the AK designation of this model highlights the huge aft master cabin with separate ensuite toilet and shower compartments.

Guests are taken care of at the opposite end of the boat via vee berths in the forward cabin. A very generous galley, also on the forward lower deck, has a dinette opposite. Up on the main deck you’ll find a large saloon area.


Spectacular aft cabin makes this an ideal liveaboard for cruising European waterways


Step up and aft from the saloon to find yourself on a massive aft deck above the master cabin. The single helm is here with a pair of comfortable captain’s chairs and there’s a large U-shaped seating area behind it around a table. Decks are wide and flat. The windscreen is hinged, allowing it to fold to reduce air draught for low bridges.


Expect about 8 knots from the single Perkins 148hp diesel, which allows easy river speed cruising of between 4-6 knots.


High quality bespoke interior can be customised to suit the owner’s requirements


Although ostensibly an inland boat, multi chine underwater sections and twin keels aid seakeeping and stability for offshore passages.


LOA: 42ft 6in (13.1m)
Beam: 14ft 3in (4.4m)
Draught: 3ft 6in (1.1m)
Displacement: 16 tonnes
Fuel capacity: 800 litres
Engine: Perkins M115Ti 148hp diesel
Location: River Thames
Contact: TBS Boats


Intercruiser 27 Cabin

Built: 2011
Price: £79,950

Another riverboat, another Dutch builder. Interboat is a small family business employing about 50 people and building boats from 21ft through to 34ft. Its smallest are the Intertender and Interboat models – the 27 is the smallest of its luxurious Intercruiser range.


Designed very much as an open dayboat, the 27 Cabin does, nonetheless, have a small sleeping area and toilet in the bow. A discreet door right at the front of the cockpit drops you down to a lower level with a toilet compartment through a further door ahead of that.

On either side, a single berth burrows back beneath the cockpit seating allowing two to sleep. It might not be ideal for a week on board, but overnighting is possible, and an afternoon nap a definite.


The forward door leads down to the two-person sleeping area and heads compartment


Most of the boat is cockpit, with enough space for 10 people. It’s a ‘sloop’ configuration, which is the Dutch term for a boat with the helm right at the back like a sailing boat. It works well for idle river pottering, allowing the helmsman to engage and chat with his or her guests rather than being at the front with everyone else behind.

Ahead of the helm is a small galley unit with a stove and sink while a fridge drawer can be found beneath the seating. An optional upgrade on this boat is the fitted windscreen forward and adaptable canopy system.


A four-cylinder Vetus diesel engine puts out 52hp, giving a top speed of 8 knots and allowing cruising anywhere between 3–6 knots. Interboat will actually fit these with anything between 22hp and 170hp, the latter giving about 18 knots and intended for coastal work – unleashing all 170hp on the upper Thames might raise an eyebrow or two!


The aft helm position makes for a very sociable cockpit with all your guests ahead of you


Although built for inland cruising, the 27 Cabin has plenty of scope for coastal running provided that (just like any other boat) conditions are right.


LOA: 27ft 9in (8.5m)
Beam: 9ft 8in (3.0m)
Draught: 2ft 6in (0.8m)
Displacement: 5 tonnes
Fuel capacity: 100 litres
Engine: Vetus 52hp diesel
Location: River Thames
Contact: Val Wyatt Marine


Stevens 1350 Vlet

Built: 2011
Price: €397,500

Taking customisation to a new level, UK Stevens dealer Karl Farrant Marine Sales regards the brochure as little more than a ‘suggestions’ guide. Want an inch more headroom or three inches off the LOA when you order a new boat? You got it.

As a result, no two boats are the same. The Dutch-built boats are actually called Smelne in other countries; Karl adopted the name Stevens for the UK as he felt Smelne didn’t translate well!


All Stevens boats are available with either an aft cabin and a raised aft deck or aft cockpit on the same level as the saloon. This is the former. The standard layout is an offset double forward and a dinette opposite the galley but this owner has opted for vee berths forward and lost the lower dinette in favour of a massive galley that utilises both sides of the lower deck.

With no inside helm, the saloon on the main deck is a great size too, and the master suite occupies the lower deck beneath the raised aft cockpit.


Rich woodwork makes for a very classy aft cabin with its own ensuite bathroom


The 13 refers to the fact that this is a 13m boat. The second half of the numerals refers to the transom arrangement. Versions include 1300, 1350, 1395 and so on, and buyers can opt for a flat transom with no platform, a large platform with sweeping staircases either side or anything in-between. The full beam aft deck houses the helm, with canopies providing weather protection.


Volvo Penta, Perkins or Vetus Deutz in single or twin engine format were offered. Twin engines don’t give more performance but do give offshore back-up reassurance. This boat has a pair of Vetus Deutz DT44 114hp engines which give about 10 knots.


Big saloon and galley creates a fabulous open-plan living area on this customised model


Vlet in the title refers to the hull shape, which is multi-chined rather than a flat vee, creating additional internal volume low in the hull for more space and a lower centre of gravity for greater stability, improved further by the Magnus Master stabilisers. The result is a very capable sea boat.


LOA: 45ft 6in (13.88m)
Beam: 14ft 5in (4.4m)
Draught: 3ft 11in (1.2m)
Displacement: 20 tonnes
Fuel capacity: 1,200 litres
Engines: Twin Vetus Deutz DT44 114
Location: Holland
Contact: Karl Farrant Marine Sales

Four more river boats from the June 2019 issue


Stevens VLET 950 Special

Built: 2003
Price: £75,000

Built by the Smelne yard in the Netherlands, this steel cruiser is badged a Stevens (rather than Smelne) which means it was built to a high UK-specific standard specification and is British Safety Scheme compliant from the off.

Being a Smelne built boat, a huge amount of personal customisation would have been available to the original owner; no two Smelne boats are ever exactly the same.


With two permanent vee berths tucked way in the fore cabin (an infill turns these into a double berth) and the rest of the beautifully trimmed interior given over to living space, this is a terrific day cruiser or a great escape boat for a couple.


The beautifully trimmed interior offers ample living space

There’s a decent sized, well equipped galley on the lower deck opposite the heads, leaving the main deck almost entirely as living space. Deep windows down both sides enable you to watch the world go by even when seated at the dinette. The indoor helm does without a fixed seat so you can either stand or pull up a chair.


Wide-opening saloon doors connect the interior and cockpit. Side decks are low, broad and well protected by high rails. Of particular note is a generous lazarette beneath the cockpit sole with plenty of space for folding bikes and bulky items.


The boat’s standard engine is a single Volvo Penta shaft drive diesel. It’s very well insulated, keeping noise levels to a minimum, and gives the 950 a maximum speed of about 7 knots flat out, with an easy cruising speed of up to 6 knots and a level of fuel consumption that’s simply not worth worrying about.


An infill turns the permanent vee berth into a double


Seakeeping might be largely irrelevant for a riverboat, but actually the Stevens Vlet 950 is pretty good. A very low saloon floor means that you get little of the pendulum effect that exaggerates the roll you’d experience higher up on the aft deck of an aft cabin boat, and it’s a very solid, steady performer capable of admittedly low speed estuary or coastal work.

Bilge keels were also an option (in fact pretty much anything on a Smelne built boat was an option) but were rarely specified.


LOA: 31ft 1in (9.5m)
Beam: 10ft 1in (3.1m)
Draught: 3ft 0in (0.9m)
Displacement: 6 tonnes
Fuel capacity: 300 litres
Engines: Volvo Penta D2 55hp diesel
Contact: TBS Boats


Haines 26

Built: 2016
Price: £109,950

‘A VW camper van on the water’ was the thinking behind the Haines 26, according to the manufacturer’s managing director Justin Haines, who describes the boat as a ‘perfect weekender’.

Built at the family-run Haines yard in Catford, Norfolk, the Haines 26 is the smallest boat in the range but every bit the quality build of its larger siblings.


Two layouts were offered, one with a small single cabin to starboard and a double forward and the other the open-plan layout you see here.

In reality, every boat built so far has had the open-plan option, which puts a neat dinette at the front of the cabin and a settee/berth opposite the galley, which pulls out to create a double berth creating sleeping inside for four people.


The open-plan layout makes the most of the boat’s length and feels fresh and modern

The wood interior is available in a lighter oak finish or the classy darker walnut of this boat, and a fixed glass ‘skyscreen’ in the cabin roof as well as a perspex foredeck hatch allow plenty of natural light into the interior.


A simple cockpit, wide non-slip side decks and a double foredeck seat sum up the exterior of the Haines 26. A transom door gives easy access to the bathing platform and the canopy is quick and easy to erect. Bonded windows and the powder coated black framed windscreen (which folds flat) give the boat a contemporary look.


The single Nanni N4.38 38hp diesel engine of this boat is an upgrade on the standard N3.30. Both are shaft drive for simplicity and reliability. An entirely river friendly top speed of 7 to 8 knots makes typical 5 knot inland cruising a doddle and even with a fuel capacity of just 135 litres, you’ll rarely need to stop for a refill.


The snug-fitting canopy turns the cockpit into a comfortable all-weather seating area


The hull majors on low wash and stability, exactly what’s needed for inland waters. Manoeuvrability is also a prerequisite and a bow thruster is a must with a single shaft drive. Amazingly, most Haines 26 models left the factory with not just this but a stern thruster too, allowing the boat to go completely sideways at the touch of the thruster controls.


LOA: 26ft 0in (7.9m)
Beam: 10ft 6in (3.2m)
Draught: 2ft 6in (0.8m)
Displacement: 3.75 tonnes
Fuel capacity: 135 litres
Engine: Nanni N4.38 38hp diesel
Contact: Norfolk Yacht Agency


Aintree Wide Beam

Built: 2017
Price: £203,000

If you’re going to cruise inland, why not buy a proper narrow boat? The name gives away the build location of this one – Aintree riverboats are constructed a mile away from the famous Grand National steeplechase in Merseyside.

Rather than a model range, Aintree will supply a boat in any length up to 70ft and to different levels of completion, from a basic hull and deck requiring fitting out through to a finished vessel.

And those lengths can be had in two widths. Standard narrowboats are 6ft 10in wide. The wide beam boats from Aintree are 12ft across, gifting massively more interior volume at the expense of not being able to access some of the narrower inland waterways.


That wide beam really makes itself felt with ‘home from home’ accommodation. Accessed from the aft cockpit, steps lead down to a large kitchen area with domestic appliances, and ahead of that is a saloon with two sofas and a wood burning stove (surely a first for an MBY used boat review!)


A full-beam master is located in the bow

A passageway to starboard takes you past a guest cabin and the heads to the full-beam master cabin in the bow, complete with built-in wardrobes.


As is typical for a narrowboat, most of its length is taken up with the cabin, leaving just a small cockpit aft. But rather than a flat deck as many boats of this type have, this has the shelter of a sunken well with seating around the stern and protection from a canopy that encloses this area. The helm position is here too, with a wheel rather than the tiller that many narrowboats usually get.


Performance is probably the wrong word – it might have a 90hp Beta engine, but this is 65ft of steel barge. Nevertheless, it’s fit for purpose, allowing the boat to cruise at the kind of brisk walking pace appropriate for inland cruising.


The homely accommodation is super comfortable


Again, it’s not really about seakeeping with a boat like this. Sheer length should make it track straight, and there are bow and stern thrusters that will help position the boat. All you really need to get used to are the slow reactions of a long, heavy steel boat carrying this much momentum.


LOA: 65ft 0in (19.8m)
Beam: 12ft 0in (3.7m)
Draught: 2ft 2in (0.7m)
Displacement: 28 tonnes
Fuel capacity: 400 litres
Engine: Beta 90hp diesel
Contact: TBS Boats


Halvorsen Gourmet 32

Built: 2003
Price: £89,950

Halvorsen has a fascinating history. Founded originally by a Norwegian in 1870, the family ended up building boats in Australia where they’re still based. The boats, however, are now built in China. The 32 shows more than a nod to ‘down east’ styling, with its classic simulated planking to the topsides, sweeping sheer lines and traditional superstructure with peaked overhang to the deck saloon roof.


Halvorsen has resisted the temptation to cram in two cabins. The result is a wonderfully indulgent boat for two with a big centreline double berth in the forward cabin and separate toilet and shower compartments.


Galley aft layout is unusual for a boat from this era

Interestingly, the main deck is a galley aft layout, way before these became fashionable, tucked behind the helm on the starboard side. The port side of the deck saloon is given over to a large dinette that will convert to an occasional double if required.


The ‘old school’ profile means low, easily accessed teak-capped side decks leading up to a foredeck with a good old-fashioned Sampson post. There’s a single central door in the aft bulkhead of the deck saloon, rather than wider-opening double doors, which reduces the connection between saloon and cockpit but does create space for two sheltered aft-facing seats – a great place to tuck yourself away with a wonderful view aft.


Although the low air draught and single engine make this boat ideal for inland work, it’s more powerful than a typical riverboat at 315hp. What that creates is genuine offshore reach and a top speed of 15 knots, making this a great boat for zipping across the Channel before diving into Europe’s inland waterways. In fact Halvorsen also offered twin engined versions with a pair of 155hp or 250hp engines.


The centreline double is a generous size


It’s a semi-displacement hull, giving good seakeeping and a comfortable ride at the expense of pushing plenty of water as it barrels through big waves rather than bouncing over them like a planing hull. At low speeds the boat tracks beautifully and a standard fit bow thruster helps with close quarter work.


LOA: 32ft 0in (9.8m)
Beam: 12ft 0in (3.7m)
Draught: 3ft 8in (1.2m)
Displacement: 7 tonnes
Fuel capacity: 719 litres
Engine: Cummins 315hp diesel
Contact: Norfolk Yacht Agency

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