USED BOAT: PRINCESS 40

Ar­guably the most finely re­solved 40ft fly­bridge of its era

Motorboat & Yachting - - Contents -

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

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