USED BOAT: AQUASTAR 45/47/48
IN BUILD 1998-2015 PRICE RANGE £150,000 - £400,000
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”.
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