- The dash arrangement is spot on – everything in its place and there’s a place for everything.
- It wrestles with being a superyacht tender and a weekender, while still being an exciting and practical sports boat.
- With two 350hp Verados on the transom, life at displacement speed on the 36 Xpress is decidedly silent.
Fjord 36 Xpress
Greg Copp Xpresses his views on a deceptively flexible and practical dayboat from the Fjord stable …
Fjord’s new 36 Xpress is a boat that is unashamedly indulgent. I mean this in no disrespectful way as this boat does exactly what it says on the tin, and does it well. Based on the Fjord 36 Open, which houses twin Volvo D4s on duo props under its sun pad, the Xpress has twin Mercury Verados, in either 300 or 350 hp form. This may seem a stark contrast to a pair of sensible diesels, but the reasoning behind this petrolhead’s delight is quite simple – the aft deck is needed for something else.
The Xpress has space for a large convertible dinette that would otherwise be a sun pad filled with 1100kg of Volvo D4 engine blocks. This might seem overkill for the simple pleasure of alfresco dining, but this boat is all about enjoying yourself, and if you do need acres of sunbathing space, the dinette converts to exactly that. It can also convert to either twin forward- or twin aft-facing seating. Consequently a huge void exists beneath this area, which is easily accessed by the aft deck hinging forward. The void, or lazarette as it should rightly be called, is big enough to house a double bed, but realistically will store a mass of inflatable toys, skis, wetsuits and inflatable tenders. You can never have too much storage – although saying that, if you do, you often carry too much junk. However, considering the weight saving through having two 313kg outboards instead of 1.4 tonnes of D4s and sterndrives, using the lazarette to its full potential is not likely to upset the apple cart.
Serving the dinette area is a capable aft-facing galley, complete with a two-ring hob, sink, storage and that all-important large fridge. You are not likely to be cooking a three-course meal in this galley, but light refreshments and snacks are easily catered for. The forward deck area is no less innovative, as the enclosed seating area can also convert to a double sun pad. If you need it, you can extend the weather protection of the T-top with forward and aft bimini tops. The substantial hardware for the biminis is mounted inside the bulwarks for easy deployment, as are the bespoke flat fenders in their custom cages. From a practical viewpoint, the deck hardware is impressive. In particular, I liked the neatly lined cavernous anchor locker, hidden beneath seriously chunky teak, matched by big cleats and grab rails that run virtually the entire length of the inside of the bulwarks.
On the forward side of the galley sits a wide helm set-up, which, on balance, I like. I say this because the seating arrangement is not really adequate in terms of sitting down. It lacks depth to sit on properly and serves as a luxury ‘leaning bench’. With the sea conditions in which I drove, this was not really ideal. I would have preferred something that kept me in check a bit more. This is, of course, totally subjective and easily corrected in a boat that is so bespoke.
The dash arrangement is spot on – everything in its place and there’s a place for everything. The wheel is adjustable, and the throttles, like the wheel, fall easily to hand. This boat had the optional £22,000 Axius joystick system – ouch! Like all joystick systems it is expensive, especially as the hardware is a joystick and a wiring harness, and the rest of the cost is down to software – and a technician to set it up and calibrate it. I will say, though, that with such a large joystick it is easier to use than some, and less likely to produce an overreaction from overtwisting it. I like the Raymarine Axiom chartplotter, which, with the remote control panel, can be easily controlled in rough weather – no need to stretch out and fruitlessly dab away at a touch screen, or buttons you can’t reach. Visibility over the tall bow is good, as it is over both beams thanks to the central helm location. You get a distinct feeling of security thanks to its tall bulwarks, high windscreen and abundance of conveniently located grab handles.
With two 350hp Verados on the transom, life at displacement speed on the 36 Xpress is decidedly silent. These supercharged engines are perfectly suited to this boat, as with an all-up displacement of 6000kg you need plenty of torque, and the Verado does not disappoint in that department. However, you do have to come to terms with the fact that below 3750rpm with a 6-tonne boat, especially in rough weather, the boat is still limbering up. Once you hit 4000rpm, both engines and boat come on song and the character of the ride changes. This boat is deceptive, as 35 knots feels like 25 knots. It is not just the whisper-smooth power delivery of the engines, but the fact that you are fairly elevated and isolated from the sea thanks to the tall bulwarks.
Our test day was conveniently rough, which demonstrated that running into the weather at 30 knots with the legs trimmed in brought the boat into its element. No matter which point of sail we took, it was virtually impossible to get any water over the bow. Unless we dropped off the plane, the vertical stem and sharp forward hull section did a great job of cutting a steady course. The hull design combines a sharp forward entry with a fairly wide beam, and prominent chines. These chines not only help in giving this boat the extra dynamic lift it needs to reach an impressive 50-knot top speed, but they are key in giving it such a dry ride. James from Inspiration Marine told me that Fjord expected 45 knots with twin 350hp Verados when this first boat was launched. I have seen it reported that it has a 40-knot top speed, but with the correct trim on the engines we recorded a two-way average of 50.5 knots, which matched James’s earlier sea trials.
Running at any speed between 30 and 40 knots is the boat’s sweet spot. Apart from driving through the confused seas off Calshot, the 36 is noticeably smoother at this speed than running in the mid-20s. The Verados are running at the top end of their torque curve across this spectrum, which was evident from our fuel figures, and throttle response. The boat was fitted with Mercury’s Active Trim System, which automatically trims the outboards in relation to speed. Unfortunately it had not been configured when we tested the boat, but having used it before, I can attest to its worth, and its extra cost is negligible. It is also user-friendly, so should you feel the need to alter the trim settings due to extra loading, it is quite easy to reprogram – or as I did on the day, revert to manual mode. All of the time spent running into the strong south-westerly required the engines trimmed in anyway, and running with the weather or up the calmer sea of Southampton Water only really needed 25% trim out, with just a tad more towards wide-open throttle.
Throwing the boat through a series of tight turns in rough weather results in some chine slap. This is not really surprising considering she has a 3.64m beam and fairly prominent chines. However, you can’t dive into sharp chop on a hard turn as if you were driving a Hunton without the odd complaint from below. On the plus side, the boat’s girth makes her reassuringly stable in the turns at all speeds.
Though it is primarily a big dayboat, Fjord have cleverly slipped in a small amount of sleeping accommodation. Though only a couple can be catered for, they get a decent double berth and a heads that a 6ft man can easily take a shower in. The fit and finish below is just as neatly detailed as topside, and one touch I love is the second fridge opposite the heads, in this case a drawer fridge – perfect for late-night rehydration after an evening on the local vino.
The Fjord 36 is one of several vertical-stem planing boats to hail from the Baltic in recent years. However, it aims to appeal to a slightly different market than the likes of XO and Axopar. You get the impression that it is more focused on sunnier climates, as well as the superyacht tender market. However, it is still massively practical, and although Fjord are now owned by Hanse – a German yard – you can’t help but notice the Scandinavian touches in its design and finish. It wrestles with being a superyacht tender and a weekender, while still being an exciting and practical sports boat. It manages this balance well through an efficient hull design, a healthy power-to-weight ratio, masses of storage and an abundance of deck space – all enclosed with trawler-like bulwarks.
Fuel Consumption (both engines – Mercury fuel flow meter)
Engine speed GPH Knots MPG
2000rpm 5.3 9.1 1.70
2500rpm 9.8 10.6 1.08
3000rpm 14.3 14.5 1.01
3500rpm 17.6 18.3 1.04
4000rpm 19.3 25.5 1.32
4500rpm 23.2 32.5 1.40
5000rpm 28.6 40.1 1.40
5500rpm 37.2 46.5 1.25
6000rpm (wot) 45.9 50.5 1.10
- LOA: 11.32m
- Beam: 3.64m
- Transom deadrise angle: 18 degrees
- Displacement: 6000kg (dry with twin 300/350 hp Mercury Verados)
- Power options: Twin 300hp to twin 350hp outboards (both Mercury Verado)
- Fuel capacity: 166 gallons (758 litres)
- Water capacity: 14 gallons (65 litres)
- RCD category: B for 12
- Test engines: Twin 350hp Mercury Verado outboards
From: £280,000 (inc. VAT) with T-top and twin 300hp Mercury Verado outboards (realistic base package without joystick)
As tested: £366,000 (inc. VAT)
50.5 knots (2-way average), sea conditions moderate, wind F4 gusting F5
Inspiration Marine Group
Hamble Point Marina
Photo credits: Graeme Main