USED BOAT: AQUASTAR 45/47/48

IN BUILD 1998-2015 PRICE RANGE £150,000 - £400,000

Motorboat & Yachting - - Contents -

This se­ri­ously ca­pa­bale aft-cabin cruiser is avail­able to­day for as lit­tle as £150,000

When we de­vel­oped this boat we wanted to keep the tra­di­tional semi-dis­place­ment heavy weather ca­pa­bil­ity that Aquastar is noted for,” says Geoff Wil­son, the owner of the Guernsey-based yard. “Then we re­alised that we could add two feet to the beam with­out af­fect­ing the sea­keep­ing, which made a trans­for­ma­tive dif­fer­ence to the ac­com­mo­da­tion”.

At the time of its launch, the Aquastar 45 was the flag­ship of a range of se­ri­ous sea-go­ing mo­tor boats that found com­mer­cial cus­tomers in the pi­lot in­dus­try as well as a strong fol­low­ing in the leisure mar­ket among boaters who prized abil­ity and prac­ti­cal­ity over cut­ting edge style and lux­ury. And it’s clear that the busi­ness of go­ing to sea is still paramount in Geoff’s think­ing as he con­tin­ues to ex­plain why his boats are among the very best when the go­ing gets tough.

“We looked at the short­com­ings of our com­peti­tors and mod­i­fied our boats ac­cord­ingly. So un­like some of our close com­peti­tors, rather than hold­ing the full beam right to the stern, the 45 ta­pers (the tran­som is 15 inches nar­rower than the boat’s max­i­mum beam) and we also added ex­tra flair to the bow. It makes a tremen­dous dif­fer­ence. The re­sult is that the boat doesn’t broach in a fol­low­ing sea, which is the weak point of some heavy weather semi-dis­place­ment boats.

“An­other de­sign se­cret is a moulded chine line four inches be­low the wa­ter­line, which pro­vides ad­di­tional lift at higher speeds. The com­mer­cial pi­lot boats we build have the same hull, and Dover pi­lots switched to run­ning two Aquastar boats with this con­fig­u­ra­tion, as did Calais pi­lots”.

Aquastar built the very first 45 in 1998 for Alan Bin­ning­ton, who still en­thuses

about his boat to­day. “We’d al­ways had sail­ing boats but had de­cided to switch to power. I wanted a ‘yachts­man’s mo­tor­boat’, one that would han­dle the seas around Jer­sey,” Alan tells me. “Be­cause of the huge tidal range we get very strong cur­rents. Add in some wind over tide and it can get ex­tremely lively”.

In com­mon with most 45s, Alan’s boat was fit­ted with twin Volvo Penta TAMD 63P shaft drive diesel en­gines, which he says gave a re­al­is­tic top speed of about 20 knots. They typ­i­cally cruised at 15 knots around the Chan­nel Is­lands and north­ern France. “We al­ways felt to­tally safe even in some quite nasty con­di­tions,” he re­ports. Alan kept the boat for 17 years be­fore re­plac­ing it with a Hardy 65.

PRACT I CAL S PACE

With so much em­pha­sis on heavy weather abil­ity it’s easy to lose sight of the fact that one of the other ma­jor fea­tures of the 45 is the sheer amount of in­te­rior vol­ume the boat of­fers. The aft cabin lay­out means that the ac­com­mo­da­tion runs the full length of the ves­sel and yet the deck lay­out is sur­pris­ingly prac­ti­cal. In an age where 50ft sportscruis­ers of­ten have side decks at eye level when stood on the pon­toon, mean­ing the only way aboard is via the bathing plat­form, it comes as quite a nov­elty to find a boat that you can sim­ply step aboard amid­ships via a cut out in the bul­warks and a break in the rails. In fact there’s even a step carved into the top­sides be­low, but it’s not needed. Deck rails are high and sturdy, and deck gear plen­ti­ful and gen­er­ously sized. Wide side decks create an easy stroll for­ward or aft, the lat­ter lead­ing up via a cou­ple of steps to the flat aft deck. Even the large fly­bridge is high-sided, so that you sit in it rather on it.

But you need to head in­side to re­ally get the mea­sure of what that ex­tra beam cre­ates. An el­e­gantly curved stair­way drops you from the aft deck to the main saloon with a large sofa to port and ex­pan­sive helm to star­board (a smaller set­tee or a side­board oc­cu­pies the space aft). Head for­ward and down to the large gal­ley and dinette, which to­gether form a mas­sive kitchen/diner area, al­though Aquastar also of­fered a third cabin as an op­tion.

The main guest cabin is in the bow and is fit­ted with ei­ther an off­set dou­ble or a vee berth, but even so, a pang of jeal­ousy is in­evitable once its oc­cu­pants spy the mas­ter cabin. Oc­cu­py­ing the en­tire area be­low the aft deck, it’s a proper bed­room with a large dou­ble bed, masses of stor­age in the form of draw­ers, lock­ers and wardrobes, and en­suite fa­cil­i­ties that in­clude a proper shower com­part­ment.

That level of in­te­rior vol­ume was a huge draw for James Pearcy. “We owned a Lochin 33 with a sin­gle 300hp en­gine, which was a ter­rific sea boat but we were find­ing it too small for ex­tended cruis­ing, plus its rel­a­tively short length

meant that it would pitch in a big sea. I looked at a 40ft Lochin but there wasn’t enough ac­com­mo­da­tion. What the Aquastar 45 of­fered was in­creased length and beam, giv­ing far greater ac­com­mo­da­tion but re­tain­ing the se­ri­ous sea­keep­ing I wanted”.

James owned his Aquastar for seven years, keep­ing it on the Ham­ble and us­ing it for ex­tended cruis­ing. “We’d head down to the West Coun­try late spring and leave the boat there for a few weeks, vis­it­ing it at week­ends. Then we’d have an ex­tended hol­i­day and push on, ei­ther head­ing down to Brest or round Land’s End and over to Ire­land. Pre­vail­ing west­erly winds meant we usu­ally started off push­ing into the weather but the boat al­ways felt safe. We crossed Lyme Bay once in a Force 7 on the nose and had to drop to 10 knots, but only in or­der to be com­fort­able. In those con­di­tions you end up helm­ing from be­low and the only crit­i­cism is that it’s im­pos­si­ble to see aft to check it’s safe to turn, some­thing I later solved with a rear cam­era. I al­ways felt that the boat was like a Range Rover, com­fort­able and re­fined, but ex­tremely ca­pa­ble”.

STA­BLE GE­NIUS

Six years later, and with 12 boats built, the 45 mor­phed into a 47, the main change be­ing to the bathing plat­form, which was ex­tended to al­low a ten­der to sit on it rather than swing from tran­som dav­its as it had on the 45. The hull was ex­tended be­neath it to pro­vide more lift to sup­port the heav­ier ten­ders that this sys­tem al­lowed. The en­gines were also up­graded, with the op­tion of twin Volvo Penta TAMD 74 480hp mo­tors of­fered, in­creas­ing the top speed to 24 knots and giv­ing a low 20-knot cruise.

Around the same time Geoff was ap­proached by a cus­tomer ask­ing about sta­bilis­ers. “He’d seen the fin sta­bilis­ers we fit­ted to our 74 and asked whether a sim­i­lar set up could be adopted for the smaller boat. Sta­bilis­ers were rare on any­thing be­low 50ft, but we obliged, fit­ting a set of Wes­mar fin sta­bilis­ers. Con­trary to ac­cepted per­cep­tion, there was no loss in top speed and in fact econ­omy im­proved slightly. The fins are quite small, as the boat is in­her­ently sta­ble, so there isn’t much drag and a level boat gains ef­fi­ciency”. Seventy five per­cent of own­ers have fit­ted sta­bilis­ers since.

With six 47s built, the boat got a fi­nal tweak in 2009, mor­ph­ing into the 48. “We had a client who loved the style and prac­ti­cal­ity of the 47, but wanted a more con­tem­po­rary in­te­rior and asked whether we would use Ken Frei­vokh (who had de­signed for Sun­seeker amongst oth­ers). We com­mis­sioned a com­plete re­design of the in­te­rior with a high-gloss cherry fin­ish. At the time the trend was much more an­gu­lar in­te­rior car­pen­try, but we de­lib­er­ately kept to curved edges as they’re safer in a sea­way”.

The changes weren’t lim­ited to the in­te­rior. A peren­nial dis­ad­van­tage of aft cabin boats is that the raised deck is more ex­posed. On the 48 a hard top was added that ex­tended from a new GRP radar arch. Glass slid­ing pan­els in the roof added light and ven­ti­la­tion while fit­tings for canopies made it pos­si­ble to en­close this whole area in in­clement weather.

That ex­tra foot of length went into the bathing plat­form, in­creas­ing buoy­ancy to off­set the ex­tra weight. Mean­while, Volvo Penta had brought out new en­gines, D9 mo­tors find­ing their way into the last of the 47s and all 48s.

HOME FROM HOME

Nathan Cope, an­other boater switch­ing from sail to power, looked at Traders and came on one of MBY’S VIP sea trial days in 2013 to test a Sun­seeker, Fair­line and Princess in 2013 be­fore de­cid­ing that an Aquastar was the way for­ward. “We first saw an Aquastar 48 in Beaucette, which was Geoff Wil­son’s own boat. He showed us the boat in great de­tail but it was an­other year be­fore we set­tled on a 2008 ex­am­ple. Ours is a very high spec with full air-con­di­tion­ing, sta­bilis­ers and the D9-575 en­gines, which give about 25 knots. The boat is a ‘home from home’ for Nathan and his wife Kirsty, who live in Northamp­ton­shire and keep the boat on the River Dart. “The gal­ley is big­ger than ex­pected,” says Kirsty. “There’s masses of space, a four­burner hob and even a dish­washer.”

But as ever with Aquastar own­ers, talk soon re­turns to sea­keep­ing. “We’ve been from Guernsey to Dart­mouth in a Force 6 north­west­erly and it was as safe as houses. It feels bulletproof and pow­ers through any­thing, al­though you no­tice the dif­fer­ence if you turn the sta­bilis­ers off. We’ve got a faux orchid in a pot on board, and de­spite se­vere provo­ca­tion at times, it’s never once fallen over!”

A curved com­pan­ion­way leads down from the raised aft deck to the saloon The busi­nesslike lower helm re­flects its se­ri­ous off­shore cruis­ing abil­i­ties

The gal­ley down lay­out en­joys ex­cep­tional space and stor­age for a boat of this length The dinette is op­po­site the gal­ley un­less the orig­i­nal owner opted for a third cabin

The for­ward VIP cabin ei­ther has an off­set dou­ble bed or a tra­di­tional vee berth The aft mas­ter cabin is ex­cep­tion­ally spa­cious and blessed with lots of stor­age

STA­BILIS­ERS AND HARD TOP All 48s got a hard top, and sta­bilis­ers were a pop­u­lar op­tion on later boats. Aquastar can retro­fit both these items to sec­ond­hand boats DAV­ITS Dav­its on 45s were some­times over­loaded by own­ers who ig­nored weight re­stric­tions. Check dav­its and sur­round­ing ar­eas for signs of stress dam­age WIN­DOW LEAKS Cur­rent boats have bonded win­dows but older ones are stain­less steel framed. Check for leaks and cor­ro­sion TEAK Some boats were fit­ted with lam­i­nated teak decks, which had a shorter life­span than the solid teak ver­sion

The fly­bridge isn’t huge but fea­tures a so­cia­ble seat­ing ar­range­ment

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