BENETEAU ANTARES 30
Why this clever family cruiser makes a great used buy
There is always a huge list of ‘must-haves’ and ‘desirables’ when choosing a secondhand boat. But right at the top of everyone’s list, written in big red letters, is ‘budget’. Can I afford to buy it? And crucially, can I afford to run it? Those concerns, particularly the latter, are perhaps even more crucial if you’re running the boat commercially, where every penny spent on repairs and maintenance comes directly off the bottom line, yet you still need a fast and attractive vessel. So it was interesting to discover that Pure Latitude, a boat-share club based at Port Hamble in Southampton, has run a Beneteau Antares 30 for many years as part of its five-strong fleet of motor boats shared by a membership that pay an annual fee to access a range of craft that includes a fast RIB through to an aft cabin steel river cruiser on the Thames.
“Running costs was one of the key reasons for choosing the Antares 30,” Martin Gray, owner of Pure Latitude, tells me. “Our boats are used regularly, clock higher than typical hours and have to be fully maintained. We don’t have the luxury of not fixing something until the end of the season, it all has to work. And the great thing with the Antares 30 is that it’s such a simple drive system, just a single engine, which is a solid reliable Volvo Penta D6 connected to a conventional shaft drive, so no expensive and complicated sterndrive to service and maintain.”
When Beneteau launched the Antares 30 at the Paris Boat Show in 2009 it was fitted with a Yanmar 6LY3 380hp engine, the company only switching to the Volvo
Penta D6 370 when Yanmar stopped producing the 6LY3. At launch, it was something of a unique proposition. Many boats 30ft and below are sterndrive and most compact flybridge boats are twin engined. In fact, ironically, about the only boat to provide that combination of single-shaft drive with two cabins and a flybridge at the time was the Swift Trawler 34, also made by Beneteau, although it was clearly a larger and more expensive proposition. More recently the smaller Swift Trawler 30 has encroached further on the Antares 30.
Technically there is a twin-engined version of the Antares 30 as well, but it’s rare – the Antares 32 is the same boat but with two engines, also on shafts. Beneteau also launched a coupé version, the same boat without a flybridge, but again the standard version wins out. Nick Hatfield, Beneteau Power brand manager for UK dealer Ancasta says that 90% of the boats they have sold in the UK have been the flybridge version, with perhaps three quarters of buyers worldwide opting for the advantages of an upper helm.
But the big news, literally, is just how much accommodation Beneteau fitted into this compact craft. On the lower deck forward, the master cabin has a proper centreline island bed instead of a space-saving angled berth squashed into the corner. The second cabin to port has bunk beds and although floor space is necessarily minimal, the beds are a full 6ft 6in long, perfectly capable of sleeping two adults. The heads opposite is a decent size too.
Beneteau ‘cheated’ slightly by not including a galley on this level – it’s up on the main deck in the saloon on the starboard side behind the single helm seat. But with aft galley layouts becoming ever more popular it’s a layout that is still very much in vogue. The large dinette opposite is a great size, yet there’s still space ahead of it for a forward-facing navigator’s bench alongside the helm, something sorely lacking in many boats of this type. In fact the only obvious compromise of the layout is engine access. There’s a slim section of floor that lifts easily to access service points like fuel filters, but for more extensive access there’s a small amount of furniture dismantling needed before a second section of floor can be lifted. However, the stand-out feature of this main deck living area is the amount of natural light and terrific view out afforded by the huge windows, with the large opening sections adding superb ventilation.
That last point is one that caught Conrad Lakeman’s eye. He’d owned a Fairline Corniche back in the 90s but had been out of boating for 20 years due to family commitments. With time pressures easing, it was time to get back into boating. “At 31ft and with a flybridge, the
Corniche was perfect for us,” says Conrad, “So I was looking to achieve a similar size and style of boat. I’d actually narrowed it down initially to a Jeanneau Prestige 32 as it seemed the closest modern match for the Corniche, but when I looked at one in Cornwall I discovered that when I sat in the saloon I found it hard to see out, I had to crane my neck and peer over the window sills. The Antares 30 feels totally different, the deck feels higher and the window line is lower and with more glass generally you are far less hidden in the boat. I was completely sold on it.”
Conrad bought his boat in November last year after a four-month search that even included leaving notes under the canopies of boats that he saw in marinas, asking if they wanted to sell. He keeps his boat in Weymouth and uses it along the south coast up to Poole and the Solent. In fact, the only drawback he finds is the single engine, which lacks the reas- suring back up of twins, although he’s quick to acknowledge the running cost advantages – his first full service from a main dealer costing just £750. The other potential drawback he cites is manoeuvrability, particularly astern, something overcome on his boat by having both bow and stern thrusters, which he considers essential.
It’s a view shared by Peter Spencer, who owned an Antares 30 from new for seven years, only recently trading it for a Fairline Phantom 40. “We’d had a Beneteau Antares eight previously, so the Antares 30 was a natural progression and a boat that we were extremely pleased with. We kept the boat in Poole and used it as far as Portland Bill in one direction and Chichester in the other. It was an extremely seaworthy boat for its size, helped by the fact that shaft drive puts the engine toward the middle of the vessel. For a 30ft boat, it did everything we wanted. I added a stern thruster to it, which certainly helped in close quarters manoeuvres and I fitted a generator, which was great for overnights anchored behind Brownsea Island. We clocked up over 300 hours in that boat and it was pretty trouble free”.
That last experience is echoed by Martin Gray; despite the extra use that the boat club puts the boat to, he’s found it a mostly painless ownership experience. “We had a strange fault early on with engine oil blowing out of the breather. It turned out to be too much oil in the engine, despite what the dipstick was telling us. In the end we simply drained all of the oil from the engine, refilled it with the precise amount that Volvo Penta specify and then recalibrated the dipstick – it’s been fine ever since. The other issue we had was with the stern thruster. The hull is comparatively flat at the aft end, so any water in the bilge quickly penetrates the thruster control box. We gave up after the
third and the boat now runs with just a bow thruster but everyone manages perfectly fine with that. Beyond that it’s just been routine items, stress cracks at the stanchion bases and we had to modify the sliding door mechanism for the fore cabin. The Beneteau has a fairly functional build quality. Interestingly, we had an Aquador 32 previously, which is a similar size and concept, albeit without the flybridge but what we find with the Beneteau is that it is far more popular with members and gets far more bookings. People really like the flybridge and the boat feels bigger and looks more stylish.”
And that really is the key to the Antares 30. For all its practical layout, slightly prosaic build quality and functional single-shaft drive option, it’s a modern stylish-looking boat that feels great to be aboard. And that extends to the way it drives. A single engine in a flybridge planing boat might feel a little light, but on the water you never feel short changed. Pick up onto the plane is strong and the boat tops out in the mid-20 knots, making a 20-knot cruise (which, let’s be honest, is the speed most of us travel at even if we can do 30) entirely comfortable. And despite its compact dimensions and tall sides, it handles surprisingly well. Sea keeping is good, it doesn’t roll excessively and there are plenty of options for the crew – up on the flybridge enjoying the view, in the aft cockpit closer to the water or inside if a little shelter is required. It’s an impressive and unique boat, appealing to both heart and head, or more accurately wallet; a boat that you simultaneously want to own, but are also happy to bear the running costs of, which is why, almost a decade into production, Beneteau is still making it.
A ladder (rather than stairs) is one of the few compromises of the compact dimensions... … but the flybridge is a very decent size with a helm seat that can face both ways
The forward cabin has a proper centreline island bed rather than an angled berth Forward-facing seating next to the helm is a nice touch and something many boats lack
The second cabin lacks floor space but, to compensate, the berths are full adult length The heads is elegantly finished in wood and a decent size for a two-cabin 30ft boat
OIL LEVEL Engine oil escaping the breather may be as simple as too much oil in the sump. Not all dipsticks are calibrated correctly ENGINE ACCESS Engine access not the most generous, so worth checking that everything that should have been done, has been WINDOW LEAKS Windows are bonded, but can occasionally suffer from leaks STERN THRUSTER Some owners regard this as essential – certainly a worthwhile option on a used boat
Engine access is fine for quick checks but furniture needs shifting for anything more