A solid step up into the world of se­ri­ous cruis­ing

Motorboat & Yachting - - Contents - BOAT MAS­TER USEDBOAT

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.


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.


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.

Sim­ple but ef­fec­tive fold­ing canopy pro­vides good pro­tec­tion for the helm

Small man­ual hatch gives ac­cess for daily checks but a larger sec­tion opens on hy­draulic rams when needed

Slid­ing bulk­head makes the most of the space dur­ing the day but al­lows pri­vacy at night

The all-new Sessa C35 MKII sports a hard­top as stan­dard

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