- The Sargo 36 is a truly exciting boat to drive with its razor-sharp handling.
- Though capable at all speeds, you will find yourself driving faster than you intend as a result of its smooth ride and relatively low sound levels.
- They have proven perfect for our changeable weather conditions, while offering seakeeping out of proportion to their size.
- Running into head seas with such a sharp forefoot is what this boat was built for.
Sargo 36 Fly
With its razor-sharp handling and impressive seakeeping, this Finnish craft is said to be all about the drive. Greg Copp went to find out if the rumours were true …
Previously known as Minor Offshore, Sargo are a Finnish yard committed to building tough, high-quality, all-weather utility sports boats. Founded in 1967, Minor Offshore produced a range of boats from 25ft to 36ft that are commonplace in their home waters off the Finnish coast of Ostrobothnia. These pilot boat-styled craft have also had a strong UK following, as their competitor, the fellow Finnish Botnia Targa, has shown. They have proven perfect for our changeable weather conditions, while offering seakeeping out of proportion to their size.
Though you can’t help but admire the practical well-finished appearance, the most impressive aspect of the Sargo 36 is the driving experience. This particular boat is fitted with twin 370hp Mercury V8 diesels driving through Bravo 3 sterndrives, which push this 10-tonne (laden) craft close to 37 knots. Once the engines spin up past 3000rpm, the Sargo launches itself forward towards its 4200rpm redline with a petrol-like power delivery. I got the feeling that the power curve of these Audi-based Mercury engines is better suited to a boat, as you get the impression from the tachometers that they are working fairly hard once past 30 knots.
That said, there is little impression of speed, as the engines are blissfully smooth, noise levels are low, the deep-vee hull makes light work of any chop, and the granite-like construction utters not a single complaint. The ease with which you can drive this boat fast is enhanced by the Mente Marine automatic trim tab control system. Coupled to Bennett trim tabs, this user-friendly set-up, courtesy of a built-in roll sensor, rapidly adjusts the lateral as well as the fore and aft trim. It is generally quick enough for some ‘spirited driving’ in the turns, as you can tell from the trim tab LED indicator panel. Given that this boat can carve some incredibly tight circles, ably assisted by a light, superbly balanced and responsive steering system, you wonder what it would be like without some help from Mente Marine. It heels like a 7-tonne sports boat when nailed into near full-lock turns. Your first impression is that the topside weight of the wheelhouse and flybridge could cause you to overcook it, and lose the back end. However, this is never the case, as try as I might, this flybridge boat steers on rails, and driving in a straight line can appear boring in comparison.
What you do have to come to terms with is the limited visibility across the port beam when banked over to port, due to the height of the window line. You have to take a seriously good look before you turn, which I found required me to duck down slightly, because once you are committed to the turn you are briefly running through a blind spot. I understand that with the coupé version you can literally look through the glass sunroof when banked over. This is the only fault of some seriously good ergonomics.
Most good offshore boats cater for standing or sitting at the helm, but Sargo take this concept one step further with their adjustable dash. When standing, you flip up the seat bolster, and the wheel and throttles come perfectly to hand. If you want to drop the bolster and settle back into the super-comfortable suede bucket seat for a long cruise, then to keep all the ergonomics spot on, the dash and steering wheel can be quickly flipped back towards you so you do not need to stretch out of your seat.
To be fair, the weather was not truly testing, but running through what chop we found showed this boat to be as capable as it looks. You had to be banked over hard in a short, sharp sea to hear any evidence of chine slap, and running into head seas with such a sharp forefoot is what this boat was built for. The hull is seriously tough with 60mm of hand-laid woven roving laminates throughout the engine-bearing section of the hull, and 40mm across the rest of the hull up to the waterline. There is a slight weight penalty for such construction diligence, but it needs this extra strength and weight in its bottom, especially as it serves to counter the flybridge when things get lively.
This particular boat also had a Seakeeper 5 gyroscopic stabiliser fitted to it, as apart from being a serious blue-water cruiser, the owner is also a keen fisherman. This ‘optional extra’ fits perfectly into the forward section of the engine bay. It is a bit of a squeeze down there as a result, but it is still realistic in terms of engine access, even if you choose to have the biggest Volvo D6 engine option. There is, of course, a weight penalty, in this case 358kg, but the bonus of an even keel at anchor and at displacement/semi-displacement speeds can’t be overestimated, especially as there isn’t the drag factor that fin stabilisers suffer. One also has to consider that the Seakeeper 5 requires a genset, as it can’t run on DC battery power. This may have influenced the boat’s owner to have opted for the lightweight 496kg 370hp Mercury Diesel TDI engine (with Bravo 3 drive) over the more frequently chosen 370hp 770kg Volvo D6 (with DPH drive).
On this topic, this boat has no fewer than nine engine options from three different engine manufacturers: Mercury, Yanmar and Volvo. The best option would be the 370hp or 400hp Volvo D6, as the huge amount of bottom-end torque that these engines produce is perfect for this weight of boat. This is the beauty of combining super- and turbocharging in a big 5.5L engine block, as the 370hp D6 puts out 722ft/lb at 2000rpm while the Mercury has to spin up to 3000rpm to put out 572ft/lb, hence its peaky power delivery. UK importers Marco Marine told me that D6-powered boats are noticeably quicker onto the plane than Mercury-powered ones, and twin 400hp D6s push the Sargo 36 to 42 knots.
From stepping onto the gigantic rail-encased bathing platform to casually strolling down the wide bulwark-enclosed side decks, deck movement could not get much safer. The hardware and guard rails are as resolutely constructed as the teak decking is thick. The side doors slide open beautifully, and if things get a bit humid inside, then heavy-duty teak hold-open catches enable the doors to sit ajar, letting in a cooling breeze just where you need it. Going aloft is more challenging as the flybridge steps are pretty steep, but then this is a 36ft boat. Up top, the flybridge is realistically rated for five as you would not want more up here, and there is a small electric cool box under the helmsman’s seat. Though the top helm on this boat has a full selection of instruments including a 15″ plotter, the legroom is limited. The helm seat does a good job of keeping you planted, which is just as well considering how the boat heels in hard turns.
The wheelhouse galley is a compact affair comprising a microwave oven, under-seat fridge, ceramic hob, sink and a not unreasonable amount of under-top storage. The starboard-side dinette encases a folding walnut table, whose superb joinery is mirrored throughout the boat in typical Finnish fashion. The forepeak master cabin has a wider-than-normal island double berth, flanked by hanging lockers. The en suite heads has a separate shower compartment, bags of headroom and separate access to the companionway. I must confess to scratching my head over the existence of a second cabin until somebody lifted up the aft section of the dinette seating to reveal its hidden entrance. Steps lead down to a small area with standing headroom, compact en suite toilet and two large single berths running under the saloon floor. Only too often this style of boat has no choice but to pay lip service to the concept of guest accommodation, but not in this case.
The Sargo 36 is a truly exciting boat to drive with its razor-sharp handling. Its seakeeping is no less impressive, and with such a solid level of construction and finish, this boat is clearly built to take rough weather in its stride. Though capable at all speeds, you will find yourself driving faster than you intend as a result of its smooth ride and relatively low sound levels. It is exceedingly safe and practical thanks to its oversized little-ship features, which serve to enhance its big-sea credentials. Though it is a capable family cruiser as a result of the innovative design of its mid cabin, it is not, and never intends to be, a floating caravan. This boat sacrifices little to the concept of all-weather cruising, and like many of its Finnish counterparts has a hard-core following as a result.
Fuel Figures – Twin Mercury Diesel TDI 4.2L 370hp with Bravo 3 sterndrives (Mercury fuel flow metering)
RPM Speed (knots) NMPG Trim (degrees) Sound (dB)
2000 9.0 1.5 3.5 69
2250 10.4 1.1 4.5 73
2500 11.9 0.9 4.5 73
2750 13.0 0.8 5.0 76
3000 17.5 0.9 5.0 76
3250 23.1 1.1 4.5 76
3500 29.2 1.3 4.0 78
3750 32.7 1.2 3.5 78
4100 (WOT) 36.7 1.1 3.0 79
All performance/consumption readings are taken over a two-way average. Sound readings taken at the helm.
What We Thought
- Innovative design making good use of space
- Helm ergonomics
- Very solid build quality
- Ride, steering and handling
- Fit and finish
- Blind spot on port quarter when turning hard
- Lack of legroom at flybridge helm
- An extras list that reads like War and Peace
- LOA: 11.80m
- Beam: 3.65m
- Draught: 1.10m
- Power options – all sterndriven: Volvo 260/300hp D4s, Volvo 330/370/400hp D6s, MerCruiser 320/370hp TDIs and Yanmar 8LV 320/370hp
- Fuel capacity: 1 x 860 litres plus an option of extra twin 300L wing tanks
- Water capacity: 300 litres
- Displacement (dry): 8.8 tonnes
- RCD category: B for 12
- Test engines: Twin 370hp Mercury Diesel TDI with Bravo 3 sterndrives
36.7 knots – sea conditions F3 with 50% fuel.
From: £354,017 (inc. VAT – zero extras with twin 260hp Volvo D4s (exchange rate 1.17 euros to pound))
As Tested: £522,222 (inc. VAT – heavily specified (exchange rate 1.17 euros to pound)
Hamble Point Marina, Hamble, Hampshire, SO31 4JD