- Aft cabin boats have a fiercely loyal fan club and when you go on board one you understand why.
- For some skippers it is the ease with which they can sell the boat to potentially reluctant family members.
Greg Copp recalls his first encounter with an Atlantic and takes a close look at the 42, a craft packed with features not always found in an aft cabin boat, and just one Achilles heel …
Some years back I agreed to meet a man in the Solent. He had an Atlantic 38, I had a Revenger 27 RIB. We arranged to meet west of the Nab Tower, and as I powered out of the relative calm of Southampton Water, the weather made me question my actions. Closing on the ad hoc rendezvous, the reality of finding a needle in a haystack became apparent. We were down to 25 knots and listening out to the radio was not an option. The sea visually swallows up objects even on a flat day, let alone a feisty one. I was on the point of writing off my little adventure when I spotted a boat on an opposite course literally smashing its way through the force 6 that I was surfing down. Within minutes I was aboard while my partner in crime sped off in my RIB.
This was no covert liaison – quiet simply my Atlantic host had offered me a drive of his boat, which he aptly planned for on a rough day. Atlantics were new territory to me, and driving the boat in poor weather was the only way to truly appreciate the brand, I was told. My baptism of fire on that Atlantic 38 was a perfect introduction to a range of boats built to equally serve both the open sea and inland waterways. The aft cabin/raised cockpit design of the Atlantic provides a great driving position in rough weather. You still get a good view over the bow as well as the stern, and yet you are far enough away from the bow not to get a greenie in the face.
The Atlantic 42, like its smaller sibling the 38, is a John Bennett design. Originally launched in 1993 by Beaux Bateaux based in Northamptonshire, the first boats were moulded by Colvic. The Beaux Bateaux 42, as it was originally known, was based on the hull design of the Humber 40 – also from the same yard. For some years the 42 was fitted out by sister company Sea Ranger. Around 2000, Atlantic Motor Yachts took over fitment for Dutch company Holland boats, before taking the company over in 2006 and centralising the complete production. It appears that some earlier boats are retrospectively referred to as Atlantic 42s, which is not surprising as the early history of this boat is a bit cloudy.
Contrary to what some believe, this is not a semi-displacement boat. The Atlantic has a planing hull with a small keel. If you see one out of the water you will be in no doubt. Its 16-degree transom deadrise increases to around 27 degrees amidships, before sharpening to 45 degrees at the bow. Three spray rails and prominent chines complete the medium-vee design, with a short 1ft-deep keel in the aft section.
The keel can be a confusing factor, as some wrongly believe it gives the Atlantic a semi-displacement hull. What it does do is improve the boat’s downwind stability in rough weather, which was evident in the 38 I drove. It also benefits low-speed manoeuvrability, making the boat equally capable on the inland waterways for which many are bought. According to Dave Marsh, co-designer with John Bennett, it also softens the ride into the wind, though nobody has managed to offer an explanation as to exactly why.
Throughout its history, the 42 has been renowned for its solid construction, enhanced by using 4″ solid-wood below-deck bulkheads. Running across these bulkheads are large metal girder-like bearers onto which the engines are be mounted. The end result has three benefits: firstly strength, secondly better air circulation under the engines, and finally it offers a degree of flexibility in terms of engine size and positioning.
The first Beaux Bateaux boats in the mid nineties came with twin 320hp 6L Ford Sabre 320Ls on shafts. These pushed the boat to 25 knots, which was good going for a 12-tonne boat. Volvo then followed as the main engine option for the Atlantic 42 – firstly with the 370hp TAMD63P from the late 1990s and then with the D6 from 2005 in 370hp form, and a detuned 225hp version for use on the Dutch canals. The bigger 370hp engines were good for 27 knots, and made the Atlantic 42 a more capable boat in big seas. The narrower D6 enabled the engines to be mounted closer together to facilitate alternate single-engine use on inland waterways. However, in keeping with the bespoke nature of the boat, there was no rigid rule regarding engine options.
When the boat was first launched, its styling was considered a touch on the conservative side compared to the likes of Princess and Fairline. However, its main competitor was Broom, whose range, also designed by John Bennett, had very similar lines. Broom owners not surprisingly considered Atlantics to be Broom copies, but both yards were neck and neck in terms of build quality. From 2000, Eddy Huis in’t Veld, MD of Holland boats, took over internal design of the range, and Atlantic drew ahead in this area. His avant-garde styling was very successful and massively bespoke. Rarely are two Atlantics the same, and the quality of the thick solid-teak internal construction is impressive.
Not surprisingly, the internal layout was also a matter of personal choice. When the boat was first launched, Beaux Bateaux offered a small lower helm position on the port side of the saloon. This did not prove popular as the advantage enjoyed by the raised cockpit helm in terms of fore and aft views made helming below feel blinkered in comparison. The lower helm also looked out of place stuck in the middle of a large luxury living space. Most boats were built with a dinette to port opposite a large well-equipped galley. A few were built with a small third cabin instead of the dinette, but this takes away from the ballroom-like effect that the split level open-plan design enjoys in its conventional layout.
The large aft cabin is the main accommodation feature in this boat. It enjoys the bonus of spacious separate en suite heads and shower compartments. Storage is not lacking either in the form of hanging lockers and under-bed drawers. I have often heard it said that once you buy an aft cabin boat you will never consider anything else.
Though it has a single heads and shower compartment, the forward guest cabin is a close second in accommodation and storage terms. Like the aft cabin, the quality of the thick teak joinery is superbly precise – every door and drawer opens and closes as it did when the craftsmen left the boat. No brands mentioned, but I have been on a few boats where just a few years of spirited sea time have taken their toll on the internal fit-out.
The only Achilles heel of the Atlantic 42 is engine access. This is a bugbear of aft cabin design, which robs you of the luxury of opening a big hatch and dropping down into the engine bay. If you want to access the dipsticks and top up the oil, you have to ply open the carpeted inspection hatches in the saloon. If you want to do more you will need to roll back the carpet and lift the floor panels. However, if you need to access the raw-water strainers – say in the event of an engine overheat – there is quick access under the aft cabin steps. It is simply a case of being disciplined in doing your pre-passage checks.
Aft cabin boats have a fiercely loyal fan club and when you go on board one you understand why. For some skippers it is the ease with which they can sell the boat to potentially reluctant family members. However, with the Atlantic 42 you get that accommodation bonus thrown in with a boat that is just as well suited to a canal at 5 knots as it is running against the weather at 25 knots.
- Build period: 1993 to present
- Designers: John Bennett and Dave Marsh
- Berths: 4
- Cabins: 2
- Hull type: Planing medium-vee with small keel
- Transom deadrise angle: 16 degrees
- RCD category: B for 12
- Current value: From £130,000 for a 1994 boat
- Length overall: 43ft 10 inches (13.3m)
- Beam: 11ft 6in (3.50m)
- Draught: 2ft 10in (0.87m)
- Displacement: 12 tonnes (light)
- Fuel capacity: 260 gal (1180 litres)
- Water capacity: 100 gal (454 litres)
- Cruising range: 200 miles with a 20% reserve at 20 knots
Points to Consider
The first boats with 320hp Ford Sabre 320Ls have no major issues; however, they are over 20 years old now, so service history needs to be looked at carefully. Spare parts are not a problem as companies like Lancing Marine and Golden Arrow Marine are well versed in these engines. The 370hp Volvo TAMD63P that replaced the Ford Sabre 320L is a proven power plant that has been fitted to a variety of boats, and being a Volvo it has a wider network of support, especially in Europe. Its greater power output will certainly be a bonus in a 12-tonne boat, and as a result will have probably fared better over time. The Volvo D6 in both 370hp and 225hp forms will, by the nature of being a modern common-rail injected engine, prove the most reliable and economical – but at a price. If you intend to use the boat mainly at sea, twin 225hp D6s will not really do the boat justice.
Propellers, p-brackets, stern glands and cutlass bearings may be less complex than sterndrives, but they suffer, nevertheless, the ravages of a submerged life. Sometimes overlooked, they will prove expensive to replace or refurbish.
By the time this article goes to print, the future of the UK in Europe will be decided and the position of the euro in relation to sterling should have settled. If you are looking to buy a later example built in Holland, this will impact on second-hand values.
Servicing any of the Volvo engines will be between £500 and £700 per engine for a 100-hour service depending on the model. Many independent service engineers will know the Volvo TAMD63P as well as a mainstream agent. The Ford Sabre will prove cheaper to maintain as spares will be less costly, and, like the TAMD63P, there are quite a few established independent specialists that know these engines well.
Though you can expect better economy from the Volvo 6 than the earlier engines, anticipate around 1mpg at 20 knots. It is fair to say that the Ford Sabre is likely to be the least fuel-efficient engine option, but with a boat like this there are many other affecting factors, not least age.
1998 price: £180,000
The immaculate blue-hull version featured in this article is a near perfect example of this boat, and is powered by 370hp Volvo TAMD63Ps with 340 hours logged. Recently antifouled, all the stern gear has been replaced, as is evident in its shiny new propellers. Like many later examples, it has no lower helm, and internally it has cream leather upholstery. Though the hull was laid up in 1998, the boat was not commissioned until 2004, which may account for the relatively contemporary interior. It has bow and stern thrusters, Eberspacher heating, an automatic TracVision TV aerial, Sky digibox, DVD player and two flat-screen televisions. The heads have electric flushing toilets, the refrigerator has an uprated 75L capacity, and mains power comes from either 30-amp shore power or a 6kv generator.
The Atlantic 42 was originally moulded by Colvic Craft Ltd, who produced good-quality mouldings over a period of 40 years, and sold them to various boatbuilders and private owners for fitting out. Initially the Atlantic 42 was fitted out by Beaux Bateau Ltd, who were a low-volume good-quality builder. But from 2000, Atlantic 42s were fitted out by Atlantic Boats in Holland, who also build to a high standard. From 2006, Holland Boats took over the mould and have since built these boats completely in-house. If you are considering buying an Atlantic 42 fitted out by either of these builders, it would be safe to assume that it has been built to a good standard, and my past surveys of their boats, including the Atlantic 42, bear this out. The mouldings are designed with generous radii to avoid hard corners and stress concentrations, and the engineering installations are organised and installed to a good standard. The joinery is made to a very good standard and beautifully finished. In general, she is built to provide long-lasting and durable service. The condition of a used Atlantic 42 will therefore be determined very much by her service and maintenance history and previous use.
Jim Pritchard BSc CEng MRINA MIIMS – www.jimpritchard.co.uk