USED BOAT: SESSA C35
A solid step up into the world of serious cruising
A sound buy that will add a dash of glamour to any marina, the Sessa C35 is an ideal step up to a more serious cruising boat
“The Sessa Oyster 34 was probably the key boat that encouraged us to become the UK dealer for the yard back in the late 1990s. We thought it would provide an excellent competitor to the Fairline Targa 34 and Cranchi Zaffiro 34 of that era,” says Richard Bates, managing director of Bates Wharf, based in Chertsey. In the late 1990s, Bates Wharf were dealers for Bayliner and Chris Craft. The Sessa marque was to carry them over the six-figure boat price threshold for the first time. “The Sessa Oyster 34 had just been launched (in 1998) when we got involved. The C35 that replaced it in 2005 was essentially the same boat, but the hull and deck mouldings had been lengthened slightly in the bathing platform, hence the 35 designation. When we started selling them, the list price was £99,000. I recall the excitement of selling the first one as its optional extras took the invoice cost over £100,000 – the first time we’d sold a boat that expensive.”
Although the original C35 has since been superseded by an all-new hard top model (confusingly with the same C35 designation), Richard still takes great pride in showing us round a MKI example from 2006 fitted with twin Volvo Penta D4-260 sterndrive diesels. “Earlier boats were fitted with Volvo Penta KAD 43 230hp diesels,” Richard explains. “The KAD 43 motors
were a much simpler breed compared to the electronically controlled D4 motors. In fact, I resisted fitting the D4 engines as long as possible; we only switched when Volvo physically ran out of KAD 43 engines and I simply couldn’t get them anymore. I was nervous that the newer breed might be less reliable than the well-proven KAD 43 but in fact, my fears were unfounded and the D4 has proven an extremely good motor.” Twin V8 petrol engines were a rare alternative – smooth and powerful, but thirsty.
SIZING UP THE SPACE
The cockpit of the Sessa C35 we’re on is entirely conventional; indeed, the layout is virtually a carbon copy of those competitors Richard mentioned from Fairline and Cranchi. It’s easy to see why he felt it would offer strong competition. A large dinette wraps around the port side of the back half of the cockpit opposite a small wet bar, the forward section a single step up (to provide more headroom in the mid cabin) with an L-shaped seat to port alongside the helm position. One neat detail is a section of cockpit sole that lifts to create easy access to the engine space for daily checks without disturbing the seating, yet hydraulic rams mean that a far larger section opens for more in-depth maintenance, taking the seating with it. Richard points out the sculpted helm with inset dials. “Sessa was fitting smart moulded dash layouts long before the others.” Later Sessa C35 cockpits were visually uplifted with cream upholstery and bronze-coloured
One neat detail is a section of cockpit sole that lifts to create easy access to the engine space for daily checks without disturbing the seating
dashboards (the latter looking better than they sound).
Down below it’s a similar story, the layout following the standard pattern for a mid-30ft sportscruiser, with its master cabin forward, a double berth mid cabin aft, and a saloon and galley splitting the two. A fairly spacious heads opposite the dinette has ‘Jack and Jill’ doors to both the saloon and the mid cabin.
Richard gestures to the headlining. “The deckhead on this boat is just one huge solid moulding, it’s not in sections – and it’s the same with the floor moulding, just one long piece. It makes the boat stronger and reduces noise.” Early boats got the then-ubiquitous cherry wood, later examples like this one switching to a smart matt finished light oak. Richard points to the way that the bulkheads slot neatly into recessed grooves in the overhead, again adding strength.
Despite the slave-to-convention layout, there is one rather unusual alternative. That forward bulkhead wasn’t standard; it was possible to have the forward cabin left open plan to the saloon, trading the privacy of the separate forward cabin for a more spacious feel to the interior. Richard says there was no preferred version, both options sold equally well.
NEW BOAT, SAME NAME
There’s a real sense of Sessa paying its dues with the Oyster 34/C35. It’s a smart, modern but entirely conventional boat that sold well, nearly 500 being produced. When the time came to replace this model in 2010, you might therefore have expected a gentle evolution of a wellproven formula but in fact, Sessa celebrated its success by tearing up the rule book. Designed by Christian Grande, the C35 that replaced it is a very different proposition. That shake-up begins on the outside with a low-profile hardtop as part of the standard specification (normally a cost option on this size of craft) and a sharply styled hull with gloss black or metallic silver topside colour options. And
MY TAKE I’ve always been a fan of Sessa’s craft and from 2005-2010, its 30-50ft hardtop sportscruisers were the boats to beat. The MKI C35 is from an earlier generation but it’s still a fine-looking, well-built craft. Hugo
unlike competitors such as the Sealine SC35, the sliding roof portion is a solid GRP moulding rather than the fabric more commonly used. It means that the aperture is smaller when open, but it is more secure when shut and will never need replacing.
There’s a ‘designer’ feel to the cockpit. From the heavy stitching and twin-tone upholstery of the seating to the wide transverse planking of the teak deck, there’s a real sense of Sessa going its own way. Even the layout is unusual. The aft dinette is present and correct but the seating area adjacent to the helm is lost in favour of a raised sunpad, aimed at increasing headroom in the mid cabin. It’s unlike any other boat in this segment but if you thought the cockpit was different, wait until you see the inside.
Essentially everything is in the usual place – there’s a double berth forward, dinette in the middle opposite the heads, and a galley aft to starboard – but the execution is way different. Instead of having to choose between an open-plan layout or a separate fore cabin, buyers had the option of specifying a sliding bulkhead. It was £3,000 extra but pretty much every C35 has it because – well, why wouldn’t you? It’s a threesection bulkhead, and the cleverest part is its unusual position, just ahead of the galley but aft of the dinette. So during the day you get a huge open living area but at night you slide the bulkhead across, lift the base of the bed to make it full sized, and the dinette seating area becomes part of your master cabin. This gives one obvious benefit, masses more space than normal, and one less obvious. Because the bulkhead is so far back, access to the heads is now an integral part of your master cabin. With Jack and Jill doors meaning the mid cabin also has access, it creates one of the smallest sportscruisers to provide two ensuite cabins. Just remember to lock both doors once you’re in there.
Access to the mid cabin is also good thanks to that forward sunpad in the cockpit, which gifts this area a large lobby and massive wardrobe.
It’s certainly a style, and a layout, that works for Tom Stevens and his family. “We had a Crownline 250 berthed at Port of Poole Marina, about half an hour away from home. We’d owned that boat for five years when a Sessa C35 demonstrator appeared in the marina about two years ago. We kept looking at it every time we went to the boat. I didn’t think it would be in our price bracket but we got into conversation with Gavin from Bates Wharf’s Poole office who worked out an excellent deal for us.”
Tom really uses it, having already clocked up 130 hours in the 15 months he’s owned the boat. Indeed, two weeks after he bought it he took the boat to France for the weekend, and has since joined a Bates Wharf cruise in company to the West Country as well as using the boat for local day cruising with family and friends. Powered by the twin Volvo Penta D4-260 engines, Tom says he’s seen 37 knots flat out, but normally cruises at an economical 24 knots where the engines are turning over at a lazy 2,600rpm, at which he reports a total fuel consumption from both engines of 60 litres per hour.
What impresses him most about the boat is the quality. “Not one single thing has gone wrong with the boat since we bought it – the only issue we’ve had is a minor one with an outdrive. It’s very solid and extremely confidence inspiring. On that first trip to France, we encountered a Force 7 on the way back. I dropped the speed back to 8 knots and we just ploughed through it.” Tom’s only criticism is the lack of a couple of items of specification he feels would enhance the boat. “I fitted a helm indicator, which I feel is essential, and trim tab indicators would also be nice, as would an autopilot.” But overall, Tom has nothing but praise for his Sessa C35.
Boat design has become so formulaic that you normally know just what to expect from a given length and type before even stepping aboard. What’s so impressive about the current model C35 is not just how far away from typical thinking it strays, but just how very well it works as a result.
The older Oyster 34 and C35 MKI are more conventional craft but with prices now starting from as little £50,000, they offer buyers a great first step on to the cruising ladder.