USED BOAT: PRINCESS 40
Arguably the most finely resolved 40ft flybridge of its era
This model dominated the flybridge market of its era and is still sought after today
Princess has real form in the circa40ft twin-cabin twin-heads flybridge market. The first flybridge boat Princess ever built, the Princess 37 in 1973, was exactly this configuration albeit a different layout – the guest cabin was in the bows with crossover vee berths and the master cabin with its double berth was to port. The Princess 38, designed by John Bennett, that replaced it in 1980 switched to a master cabin forward with a central island bed and a guest cabin to starboard with twin single beds, and that set a pattern that remained in one form or another right up to the Princess 43 of today.
Interestingly, the Princess 40 isn’t the direct descendant of that original 37 that you might imagine. The 38 morphed into the 385, which was replaced by the all-new Bernard Olesinski-designed 388. That boat gained an integral platform, making it the 398, which was rebadged as the 410 before being replaced by the 420, and stretched via an extended bathing platform into the 430 in 1996. The Princess 40 launched in 1997 brought a smaller two-cabin two-heads boat into the fold (and in fact, the 430 was replaced three years later by the three-cabin 45).
There’s no question that two decades of intense development and some clever new thinking paid dividends when the Princess 40 was launched
The single detail of extending the hull beneath the transom brought with it a myriad of hugely useful features
But there’s no question that two decades of intense development in this segment, together with some clever new thinking, paid dividends, because the Princess 40 is perhaps one of the most finely resolved 40ft flybridge boats of its era. While the layout might ape that original ’80s Princess 38, the execution is far cleverer. For example, the second cabin of the 40 extends back under a raised helm position, doubling up use of this area of the boat. The galley is still on the lower level, but raised by one step which keeps it separate from the saloon, and puts the cook more in touch with the main deck. The flybridge gains steps instead of a ladder and is extended almost to the transom, which gives two big advantages. The most obvious is far more flybridge real estate, allowing a decent-sized dinette alongside the double helm while retaining enough space for a sunpad aft. Less obvious is that fact that the cockpit canopy can now hang almost vertically from the trailing edge of the flybridge, allowing the cockpit seats to be used with the canopy in position without needing the stainless-steel framework previously required to achieve this. It lacks the clamshell storage of the Sealine 425 but in fact, the canopy is particularly simple to use – slide the three sections into the luff groove at the top and clip them on at the base. Those three sections don’t just make it more manageable, they also allow you to open the back but leave the sides in as windbreaks. Clever.
The fresh thinking that the Princess 40 brought to the market wasn’t all above the waterline. Where previous hulls only ever stretched as far as the transom, with bathing platforms added on above the waterline, the Princess 40’s hull extended all the way back to the aft-most edge of the bathing platform. This one single detail brings a myriad of genuinely useful features.
Firstly, it allows the lazarette to stretch right back beneath the cockpit seating and on under the bathing platform. It’s huge! And as a result, the forward bulkhead of the lazarette could be moved aft, increasing the size of the engine space, but crucially enabling cockpit engine access. So at last you could do your basic checks without having to disturb your saloon at all. It also provides useful buoyancy directly under the tender, allowing a heavier dinghy to be stored. Princess took full advantage of this, offering three lifting solutions. A conventional electric crane was the cheapest option, or a hydraulic passerelle granted more lifting power and sternto-med berthing access. But the neatest option was a concealed Cooney crane capable of lifting 200kg that was built into the transom coaming. John Broadhurst, the owner of the boat you see here, has this option and uses it to lift an Avon 310 RIB with a 15hp Yamaha and centre-console steering. “The big dinghy really adds another dimension to our boating,” says John. “It means that we can use the Princess for cruising, and then launch the RIB for exploring.” But it’s a third factor of that extended hull that is perhaps the least visually obvious but the most effective. By extending the planing surface aft, it creates the effective underwater profile of a larger boat and adds lift back aft where it is needed most. And it really works, John tells me: “There is no obvious ‘hump speed’ with this boat. The bow doesn’t lift then drop as it comes on to the plane, it just rises up all of a piece from really low speeds. It means we’ve got a huge planing speed range and can set the speed completely to the conditions. If it’s rough, we can drop right back to 15 knots yet still be comfortably and efficiently planing. And the seakeeping really is exceptional for the boat’s size.”
John regularly crosses the Channel from his Torquay Marina base on his Princess 40, and recounts leaving Jersey a couple of years ago to head home. “As we prepared to leave, the harbourmaster
commented that he would keep the berth open for us. When I queried why, he told me that every boat that had left that morning had returned almost immediately. We headed out and yes, it was wet on the flybridge, but the boat handled it beautifully. We just set the throttles to a comfortable speed and headed home.”
John has the largest of the three engine options in his boat, which really opens up that speed range. Princess offered twin Volvo Penta KAMD 44 EDC units as the base engines. These had the advantage of being electronically controlled so the throttle/shift levers were super light ‘fly-by-wire’ but in truth, these were a touch small for the 40 and not often specified. More usual were a pair of TAMB 63 motors, either in L form at 318hp or P form at 370hp each. With the latter, speed rose past 30 knots. The 63 engines were entirely mechanical but Princess did offer the option of Mathers Microcommander electronic controls toward the end of production. These linked to mechanical actuators in the engine space that then physically controlled the engines.
But the real beauty of the Princess 40, as ever, is the quality. A serial Princess owner ranging from an ’80s 286 Riviera (sold by an enthusiastic young yacht broker called Nick Burnham) through a 366 Riviera, two V40s, a 46 Riviera and even a Princess 52, John cites quality as the major reason for his loyalty to the marque.
“We’ve had other makes. I’ve owned a Fairline and a Sunseeker in the past and they’re great boats, but year for year, the Princess just seems to offer that sense of sturdiness and quality that’s hard to beat.” It’s a sentiment echoed by Roger Tall, who’s owned Princesses for 30 years.
“We’ve always kept our boats in the Med, typically clocking up 2,500 miles a year. I’ve always run Princess boats as I’m particularly impressed with the engineering and finish. My previous two boats were a Princess 480 and a Princess 45 but we’ve decided to return to UK boating and now keep a boat in Chichester. I find the 40 the perfect size for local day boating, although we still plan bigger trips. We’ll typically have a long day’s run to Fowey, for example, and then coasthop back to base over a few days”.
And it’s not just physical strength, the fit-out of the 40 is first class. Early boats had the burr maple interior that was popular with Princess in the early ’90s with darker burr mahogany on the options list. But natural grained high-gloss cherry was a £3,400 option that looked fantastic, and within about a year, this became standard with a darker cherry as the optional finish. But it’s not just the wood – take a look at the standard-fit three-section stainless-steel-framed saloon doors where most boats in this class had powder-coated aluminium. Look at the stainless steel-framed saloon windows, the solid and functional shower screens, the Avonite worktops in the galley. This is a class act, every bit the equal of the seven-figure Princess yachts being made at the same time. It’s practical too – from the extractor fans in the showers to the large pantograph wipers that make the lower helm very useable.
Above all, the finely honed layout just works. Everywhere is just big enough, no area feels compromised. John describes his as the perfect apartment on the water. It may not have the panache of an Azimut 39 or the clever features and alternative layouts of a Sealine 42/5, but the combination of layout, build quality, seakeeping and finish speak of 20 years’ carefully distilled experience in this sector and create a 40ft flybridge boat that is hard to beat. VALUE BUILD QUALITY ACCOMMODATION PERFORMANCE OUR VERDICT 90% Next month Princess V39
Check for fading and discolouration if the boat has burr maple; it suffers if exposed to long periods of harsh sunlight The originally supplied white canopies were a little lightweight. However, at this age, most will have been replaced. Dark blue Sunbrella-type material is sturdier and looks smarter CANOPIES INTERIOR FITTINGS BURR MAPLE INTERIOR INTERIOR WOODWORK DAMAGE In the ’90s, Princess used a brass-style finish for interior door handles, light switches and lights. Apart from looking rather dated now, it tarnishes easily Due to the compact nature of the lower deck, carelessly opened doors can result in handles impacting with woodwork. Check for damage
Proper steps up to the flybridge and sidedecks make it an easy boat to move around
An extended hull frees up access to the engineroom and makes space for a huge lazarette
The flybridge extends all the way over the cockpit to maximise entertaining space up top