- The space inside the engine bay is huge, reminiscent of the days when boat design was not focused on using every inch to squeeze something in.
- Though mahogany is an exceedingly strong material to build boats from, modern laminating methods are used internally to strengthen the stern quarters.
Monte Carlo Marine 690
Greg Copp turns back the clock to savour the old-school pleasures of a classic mahogany powerboat from Monte Carlo …
Monte Carlo Marine have specialised in building bespoke traditional mahogany powerboats for many years. Originally based in Monaco, this company moved to Dubai in 2004, before combining with Dubai Maritime City. Not surprisingly, their boats are exceedingly rare in the UK, as most have sold to customers in the Mediterranean, the Persian Gulf and the US.
The Monte Carlo Marine Classic 690 is one of three boats from a small range of classic wooden powerboats. It cost the princely sum of $200,000 back in 2007, and was normally available in either three- or five-seater configurations. As with all boats from Monte Carlo Marine, the research and design was undertaken in Monaco, and construction was carried out in Dubai. All boats are constructed with traditional craftsmanship, using mahogany as opposed to GRP, as can be the case with some retro-styled launches. Though building in the Middle East brings down construction costs, most of the craftsmen involved have been recruited in Europe for their skills in this specialised field.
Monte Carlo Marine’s build process is a lengthy one, with a Classic 690 taking around five months to complete. After the hull and deck structure has been built, each boat goes through a four-week process of sanding, epoxy coating and polishing. For the ultimate wooden hull, the Wood Epoxy Saturation Technique, or WEST for short, is used. The principle of WEST is that the epoxy forms a uniform unbroken coating on the timber, as well as being absorbed into the surface pores, filling them and permanently sealing them against ingress of water, and oxygen in particular. This stabilises the timber, preventing the development of dry rot, and strengthens the surface by bonding the fibres of the timber together more strongly. No fewer than 14 coats of epoxy and three coats of primer are applied, before eight coats of top varnish, each one lightly sanded, give the boat a finish that will last for years.
Though mahogany is an exceedingly strong material to build boats from, modern laminating methods are used internally to strengthen the stern quarters. Laminating over the wooden construction of the transom not only increases strength but also serves to save weight in a crucial region. All the wood used in the boat is sourced in Italy from a supplier renowned for providing the perfect product.
There are different layouts for the Classic 690. The one featured here is the conventional five-seater launch, while the three-seater version had a central helm. For those wanting a stylish water taxi, there are also superyacht tender variations, with no aft sun pad, but with bench seating down each side. Propulsion varies, not just in terms of engine but also in method. This boat has the most popular option in the form of a diesel sterndrive, but there have been jet drive and V-drive shaft versions built.
Engine access is via the long and heavy hatch that sits behind the cockpit. It shuts with superb precision, but you do feel the weight of it in the process. The space inside the engine bay is huge, reminiscent of the days when boat design was not focused on using every inch to squeeze something in. If you need them, there are twin sun pad cushions that sit over the hatch.
This particular boat was imported some six years ago and has been laid up and kept shrink-wrapped ever since, so her varnish and paint are pristine. A wooden boat, especially one made from mahogany, is heavy, but only the latest resin infusion techniques give modern GRP boats comparable strength. The downside is the 2-tonne weight penalty of mahogany, but considering this boat has a ‘torquey’ D4 for a power plant, this is of little consequence as it will reach a shade under 45 knots. Having that old-school flared bow and two full-length spray rails, I doubt much water will reach its stylish cockpit.
Points to Consider
This boat has a 225hp Volvo D4 with a DPH duo-prop sterndrive that looks in perfect condition. The 225hp D4 is an understressed 3.6L engine that is light enough to prove to be an ideal motor for this boat, while providing a massive spread of power. The engine is mounted forward of the transom, connecting to the sterndrive with a drive shaft extension. This has the effect of pushing the engine weight forward into much the same position as a traditional shaft-driven engine (which a 1950s motor launch would have had), while improving the forward/aft trim of the craft in the process.
Wooden boats are primarily held together with bronze fittings. Sunk and covered beneath the surface, they are invisible to the eye, and do not have to contend with seawater. However, in the relatively unlikely event that this boat was to spend time moored rather than ashore, these fittings, being metal, would have to contend with electrolysis. Over time they will diminish, leaving small dark marks on the hull. They can be cut out and replaced by a wooden-boat specialist. This boat, having had very little use, and having spent most of its life on a trailer, has clearly never had to contend with this problem. However, if it was to be moored periodically in the future, especially with a battery charger fitted, it would be worth bearing this in mind.
This is something that can only really be carried out by an experienced wooden-boat specialist. The art of wooden-boat building has not been lost, as there are companies capable of the skill required to keep such a pristine finish up to scratch. Many such specialists can be found on the upstream section of the Thames, where traditional wooden boats are popular.
Designer: Nino Autore
Hull type: Medium-vee planing
Transom deadrise angle: 18 degrees, approx.
Length overall: 6.9m (22ft 9in)
Beam: 2.35m (7ft 7in)
Draught: 0.6m (1ft 9in), approx.
Displacement: 2000kg (dry)
RCD rating: C for 5
Fuel capacity: 50 gallons (225 litres)
Cruising range: With 225hp Volvo D4 diesel engine, expect 250 miles with a 20% reserve at 30 knot