- In all, a great family boat that has a cheeky side to her when you want it.
- With this boat you get the chance of some spirited driving when things are getting feisty …
Fletcher 19 GTS
Once the owner of a Fletcher, Greg Copp succumbs to temptation and indulges in some reminiscing as he climbs on board to examine and test-drive a classic piece of British powerboating history …
Fletcher boats, the creation and passion of Norman Fletcher, started back in the late 50s. They soon grew, producing a wide range of sports boats, and in the late 1960s were the largest producers of sports boats this side of the pond. By 2000, the company was building a range up to 25ft. However, in 2002 it sadly went into liquidation. Recently reborn with new investors, it has again adopted the ethos of building high-quality bespoke sports boats.
This boat, laid up in 2002, is one of the last of the old yard, and is in outstanding condition. The original gelcoat is unmarked and near perfect – not what you normally expect in a 15-year-old boat. The upholstery is also of a high standard, with no cracks, tears or footmarks. The 19 GTS comes with a small two-berth cuddy, which tends to attract odds and ends that can’t really live anywhere else. You can sleep in it if you so desire, which I doubt, but the option is there. There is also a forgotten Portaloo under the berth. I had a good poke around looking behind the scenes, but could still find no issue. The engine bay and storage lockers were totally clean and dry, which is unusual, and the 135hp MerCruiser petrol sterndrive engine looked a peach. One downside of this area is that Fletcher saw fit not to line their under-deck lockers or engine bay, which is a shame. Access to the engine is a case of lifting the central section of the aft bench seat, and access around the engine is pretty good.
Having had many sterndriven petrol boats in the past, I had good reason to be a bit wary. However, the 4-cylinder engine in this boat was reassuringly smooth and responsive, and once up to full operating temperature did not develop that infuriating habit of inexplicably cutting out at idle speed, which carburettor-fuelled engines can do. Out on the open water, this little 19 GTS has a good turn of speed, though unfortunately she had no GPS, so I could not exactly tell how much I was enjoying myself. She must have been doing around 35 knots flat out, but was happy cruising at around 25mph at 3700rpm (according to the somewhat inaccurate speedometer that MerCruiser supply their engines with). Once she is up to this speed she does not like more than 40–50 % leg trim, otherwise she will porpoise, even with the wind astern, though with another crewmember in the navigator’s seat this will likely disappear.
The deep-vee hull on this boat is noticeable at displacement speed as she will wobble if you move about. Once out on the open water under power, this aspect of the boat manifests itself in a smooth ride, making her a very capable 20-footer. We did not have a rough test day, but there is always ferry chop in Southampton Water if you need to see how things hang, and with the Fletcher everything seems to sit solid. Many family boats like this are built with a medium-vee hull (and to a budget), which always reduces that grin factor. With this boat you get the chance of some spirited driving when things are getting feisty, as well as having a boat that banks into tight turns, which the 19 GTS does without any hint of hull slide.
The only real downside is the seat height, as you need to be 6ft 7in to look over the windscreen at displacement speed. Once planing, this is less of an issue, other than the fact that it is not easy to read each wave through the glass. If things are flat calm, then everything will be hunky dory, but if you started exploiting this boat’s hull to its potential in a bit of chop, an adjustable seat base would be a great idea. In all, a great family boat that has a cheeky side to her when you want it.
Points to consider
These boats were driven by 135hp 4-cylinder MerCruiser petrol engines on Alpha sterndrives. Providing they have been well looked after, these older-generation engines are simple to maintain and reasonably reliable. However, not being fuel injected means that they can be a bit lumpy at low RPM, or cut out on tickover, especially when hot. This is normally a sign of a worn or dirty carburettor that needs servicing or replacing, which is not uncommon. These engines are also relatively cheap to maintain and replace if need be, especially if you are prepared to shop online.
More important is the Alpha sterndrive, which, due to being immersed in the water and used to power and steer a lively boat, has a harder life than the engine block. A survey on both the engine and sterndrive is certainly a must.
Stress cracking/hull damage
Older sports boats, as a result of time and enthusiastic use, often have a few stress cracks here and there. Have a good look around the hull. Be particularly careful with boats that have been antifouled, as with smaller boats that generally do not get moored afloat, antifouling paint is sometimes used to cover gelcoat filler and stress cracking. If an antifouled boat gets lifted out of the water, the evidence of stress cracking can still be seen for a short time – through damp streaks where the cracks beneath are retaining moisture. It is also worth bearing in mind that the rubbing strake on the 19 GTS is not that thick, so look for evidence of careless berthing.
This is a weak point on any open boat, especially a boat that was built 20 years ago. Marine upholstery always costs more than you think, so if you are considering a boat that needs TLC in this department, factor the cost in when making an offer – and shop around for quotes.
These are often in poor condition, with the camper cover, if it has one, often stowed and forgotten for most of the boat’s life, so the vinyl window sections become cracked. The boat featured here has good covers, but that is a reflection of this boat’s coveted life.
Hull type: Deep-vee planing
RCD category: B – some are pre-RCD
Length overall: 21ft 4in (6.4m)
Beam: 8ft 2in (2.5m)
Draught: 1ft 8in (0.5m)
Fuel capacity: 20 gallons (90 litres); this can vary
Current value: £9,000 plus