Our resident used boat expert Phil Sampson explains how to find a good Seaward 35 on the secondhand market and what features to look out for…
In build: 2001 – current
Price range: £140,000 – £275,000
From the multitude of names, makes and brands inhabiting the marine ecosystem, few attract such universal acclaim as the Nelson hull.
Much loved by pilots, port authorities, the military, police, commercial operators and leisure boat owners alike, this semi-displacement masterpiece has been making waves (literally and figuratively) since its creation in the early 1960s.
The man behind the original design was Peter Thornycroft, a third-generation member of the family whose eponymous company eventually became part of British Shipbuilders.
Following a distinguished career in the British Navy, Peter Thornycroft formed two companies, Keith, Nelson & Company Limited in 1955 and, a decade later, TT Boat Designs.
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Incidentally, the Nelson name has nothing to do with the one-armed chap in Trafalgar Square – it comes from Arthur Nelson who, together with Keith Butt, was building boats locally when Thornycroft arrived and employed them. Their operating name of ‘Keith, Nelson’ was retained in the new firm’s title on becoming a limited company.
The story of the Nelson hull itself can be traced back to a 29-footer of 1959 vintage built for amateur yachtsman and scion of the banking dynasty Leopold de Rothschild. The success of this vessel led to the Nelson 32, followed by the best-selling Nelson 34 in 1962 and, two years later, the Nelson 40.
Of these, the 40 was a game-changer as it enabled pilots to travel to and from shore in any weather, doing away with the need to station them out at sea on waiting boats for extended periods of time.
This go-anywhere-anytime reputation led to numerous boatbuilders engaging TT Boat Designs and its subsequent chief designer Arthur Mursell to create their own take on the Nelson hull.
Among these is Seaward, (other marques include Dale and Aquastar), whose entire range of 19-42-foot leisure craft and 29-42-foot workboats use Nelson style semi-displacement hulls.
Founded by Barry Kimber and originally located in Guernsey, the Seaward brand is today owned by the Boat Development Co Ltd and based in Cowes, Isle of Wight. The Seaward 35 featured here (the on water shots are of a sister boat) is a 2011 example being offered by Berthon, Lymington for £240,000 VAT paid.
It is the largest of Seaward’s Classic range. Launched in 2001 and originally built in Guernsey, the layout of the Seaward 35 remains largely unchanged to this day.
That surely bears testament to a winning design which has stood the test of time. But bearing in mind the premium price commanded by this and almost every other Seaward model relative to its size and age, what exactly is it that persuades potential buyers to become owners?
According to David Sherriff, the seller of our featured boat, it’s all about being able to rest easy in the knowledge that things have been done right. And he should know, having been a boatbuilder himself, constructing vessels for the Port of London Authority and the Nigerian Navy among others.
Despite the 35’s ‘leisure’ tag, David makes it clear that for him the attraction lies in the vessel’s commercial heritage.
“I’ve always liked commercial boats,” he says. “That’s because they’ve got to be absolutely right in every way. They have to float on their marks so they’re not leaning to starboard or port or bow down, or whatever.
“They’ve got to have decent decks that drain properly so that in all situations the boat drains aft. The engines and the weight have got to be right too. The 35 is just under ten tonnes and with her twin 370hp Yanmars she’s fast and economical.”
Seaward 35 engine options
Although Yanmar 370s were and still are the standard engine for most leisure Seaward 35s, a handful were fitted with the less powerful 320hp and 350hp variants.
Commercial operators – not bound by the demands of the RCD – have a freer rein to specify a wider choice of engines – Seaward is currently building a pair of twin Nanni-powered pilot boats for Gibraltar and a single Caterpillar-engined vessel for the Royal Hong Kong Yacht Club, for instance.
When we tested a new Seaward 35 back in 2002 it was equipped with two of those less common 350hp Yanmar 6LYA-STE engines.
We conducted sea trials in Force 4 winds among what our writer described as “awkwardly spaced waves high enough to make the photo boat dip out of view behind the crests”.
In those conditions the vessel consumed 19 litres per hour at 8.6 knots and 1,600rpm, while at 3,200rpm – the Yanmars’ continuous rating engine speed – we recorded 126lph at 24.3 knots.
The seakindly nature of the Seaward 35’s hull also came in for praise from David. As a hugely experienced boatbuilder and mariner who has owned more than 60 boats in his 77 years, (his credentials also include the construction of four marinas and an Olympic rowing lake!), David appears given to understatement.
Perhaps his most telling comment to us regarding the Seaward 35 was, “I’ve been out through the Needles at more than a Force 6, and she was pretty good.”
We feel we can rest assured that “pretty good” in David’s book means that the boat was, in fact, totally bulletproof and utterly sure-footed in anything that passage around the western tip of the Isle of Wight could throw at him that day.
That said, anybody who has spent time on a Nelson-hulled vessel will know that they can pitch and roll – that is in the nature of semi-displacement craft. But the important point is that at no time do these vessels feel unsafe or on the edge; these hulls are designed for such conditions.
What’s more, the Seaward 35’s robust construction and high build quality mean that it can soak up these punishing conditions without putting undue stress on its hull or engines. Certainly David had nothing untoward to report in this respect.
“She’ll go all over the place,” he adds. “I take her from the Solent down to the West Country and she’s more than capable, passes all the important tests.
“What’s more, for someone like me who goes out on their own, she’s easy to manage single-handed. You can get on and off the boat easily and down below she’s got everything you would like to have.”
While we felt the lack of outboard guardrails along the side decks (just an inboard grabrail on the wheelhouse roof until you reach the foredeck) was a potential drawback, David sees this as a plus point because there is nothing to get snagged on or trip over.
In fairness, there is also less need to venture forward as the topsides have such chunky rubbing strakes at both deck and pontoon heights, that fenders are not strictly necessary when coming alongside, although David points out that he does fender up, “just in case.”
With no provision for sunpads on the foredeck, the exterior entertaining space is limited to the aft cockpit, which also serves as the entry point to the boat. Like all other areas of the Seward 35, every available inch of space is fully utilised.
Occupying most of the area is a U-shaped seating unit capable of accommodating six, with spacious lockers incorporated into its moulding. There’s also a fold-out dining table which can be easily removed from its mounting to allow unfettered access to additional storage space beneath a hatch in the cockpit floor.
The entrance to the saloon is via a sturdy, watertight ship’s door – another statement of intent from a boat designed to cope in all conditions. Inside is a relatively compact saloon housing an L-shaped settee to starboard, storage units to port and an engine-access hatch in the teak and holly flooring.
Ahead to port is the helm with a co-pilot’s position to starboard. Both stations are equipped with high-mounted, high-back, fully adjustable seats. While their looks arguably owe more to the commercial market than the leisure industry, they are another clear sign that this is a boat which means business.
An extra feature here is that the co-pilot seat hinges forward to enable an infill panel to be placed at the forward end of the settee to create a single bed. The helm layout itself is clear and uncluttered, and we particularly like the matt finish anti-glare panel in which the instruments are housed.
Another factor which comes ringing through here is build quality – the standard of craftsmanship exhibited at the helm, where woodwork blends seamlessly with man-made materials, is exquisite.
From the helm, three steps lead down to the galley and dinette. Once again, there is a high quality feel to this area, which although compact has been carefully thought out to make best use of the available space.
The galley, which sports a heavy duty Avonite worktop incorporating a one and a half-bowl sink, ceramic diesel hob and a recessed bin, also provides an oven, microwave and fridge together with ample storage space below.
The dinette has double seats on either side of a table which lowers and converts to a double bed. The bulkhead at the aft end of the dinette is home to the boat’s electrics, some of which are wall mounted and some of which are located within a locker.
Once again the quality here is noteworthy, the attention to detail and secure anchoring of electrical components being exemplary. While capable of sleeping five people in total, the Seaward 35 only has one dedicated cabin. Located in the forepeak, this can be configured as a vee berth with a fill-in or as a fixed double bed as in this boat.
This occupies most of the floor space but close the door behind you and a substantial hanging wardrobe and cupboard space are revealed in the entranceway. Opposite are bi-fold doors to the boat’s single heads, a compact wet room with toilet, basin and a pull-out shower head.
With its relative lack of cabin space and creature comforts, the Seaward 35 is not going to be to everyone’s liking. This is a boat built for the serious enthusiast who wants to get wherever they want, whenever they want, come what may.
With its focus on functionality and, of course, that all-important Nelson hull, this rugged passagemaker is sure to satisfy those needs – albeit at a considerable price premium compared to other mass market vessels of its size and age.
Seaward 35 surveyor’s report
This solid, seaworthy semi-displacement vessel uses a classic round-bilged hull. With the twin Yanmar 370hp diesels, it can also make up to 28 knots.
This type of hull can be wet though, and is prone to rolling in beam seas, but its real virtue is its ability to shoulder aside heavy seas. Many were built as bespoke orders so no two boats will be exactly the same.
Points to note when considering buying:
- Isophthalic resins and heavy lay-up should provide good long-term build quality to the hull and underwater sections. With low volume builders, however, resin mixes and ratios may not be as precise as with computerised volume producers, so it’s wise to commission a thorough underwater inspection for osmosis or wicking.
- Check blue gel-coated topsides for bloom or fade. If found, see whether it can be restored by compounding and polishing or needs a full repaint or vinyl wrap.
- Well maintained Yanmar and Cummins engines have a good reputation but still require correct servicing and, ideally, regular use.
- Timber veneers surrounding windscreens and side windows can suffer from UV degradation or damage caused by leaks or condensation if not maintained.
- If the vessel has been little used, the 1,300-litre fuel tank may have diesel bug which is only apparent at sea in heavy weather. Check fuel filters for signs of water or sludge and consider fitting a fuel polishing system.
The quality and finish of this boat make it an expensive purchase. However, they are likely to remain sought-after and a good example will hold its value well.
-Chris Olsen, Olsen Marine Surveying
Seaward 35 specifications
LOA: 34ft 7in (10.6m)
Beam: 11ft 3in (3.5m)
Draft: 3ft 10in (1.1m)
Air draft (excluding mast): 9ft 8in (2.62m)
Displacement (light): 9.8 tonnes
Fuel capacity: 1,600 litres
Water capacity: 170 litres
Fuel consumption: 5.1 l/nm @ 24.3 knots
Cruising range: 246nm at 24.3 knots with 20% reserve
Design: Arthur Mursell/TT Boat Designs
Hull type: Semi-displacement
RCD category: B
Annual fuel burn: 3,625 litres (25 hours at 24 knots and 25 hours at 9 knots)
Mooring: £7,526 (marina mooring on the Hamble River (UK) downstream of Bursledon bridge)
What’s on the market?
Price: £240,000 VAT paid
Engines: Twin Yanmar 370hp
Price: £185,000 VAT paid
Engines: Twin Yanmar 370hp
Contact: Red Ensign
First published in the May 2023 issue of MBY.
In association with SETAG Yachts. Design and refit specialists SETAG Yachts bring luxury to the pre-owned market – by creating the bespoke yacht of your dreams, with no compromise. To fall in love with your boat all over again visit www.setagyachts.com or call +44 (0)1752 648618 for more details.
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