- What was different about driving the Nimbus compared to other semi-displacement boats was the virtually linear performance delivery.
- The wide scope of its appeal, encompassing both yachtsmen and motor boaters, underlines this boat’s versatility …
- These boats are beautifully built and strongly constructed.
Greg Copp celebrates the practicality and attention to detail that are so typical of Scandinavian boatbuilders as he highlights the many qualities of these Nimbus craft …
At a time when Sunseeker were building rakish planing boats by the dozen, and Aquastar were starting to make a name for tough, traditional semi-displacement boats, a then relatively unknown Swedish yard was slipping in between. Nimbus sat on both sides of the fence by building great planing boats and equally capable semi-displacement craft. What was even more confusing was that their semi-displacement boats from the waterline up looked like planing boats.
In 1993, Nimbus launched what they were to call the 37 Trawler, a boat that in several forms would remain in production until 2008, with a run of 175 models made. It was not really a trawler yacht in the form we think of today, but its unconventional and innovative layout worked a treat.
This semi-displacement boat was originally powered by twin 200hp Volvo AD41s on shafts and did not resemble a traditional semi-displacement craft, to the point that many thought it was a planing boat. It was hugely practical in its design, with a side door next to the helm giving quick deck access, and a wheelhouse design that was a cross between a flybridge boat and a coupé. Entering from the cockpit you stepped down two steps into the saloon/galley, and then up three steps to the internal lower helm. The lower helm was designed around the driver, with a swivel helm seat to starboard and instruments positioned above and below the windscreen. To port there was a double navigator’s seat with chart table, chart storage (both big enough for Admiralty portfolio charts) and space for almanacs behind the helm seat. If this was not enough, there was also a glass-topped chart table for the helmsman.
What was really unique, and what made this boat so popular, was its upper helm position (in effect a mini flybridge) that sat behind the coachroof. This was only possible because the saloon/galley was a couple of feet below the level of the cockpit. As well as steps from the cockpit, there was also internal access to the upper helm via two steps next to the lower helm. This set-up also worked well with a navigator below and the helmsman up top, as they could easily communicate. There was one small downside, and that was restricted headroom at the lower helm, making standing impossible.
The Trawler was a success and there are still many good examples about today, but in 1996 it was renamed the 370 Commander. In 2001, it grew its bathing platform slightly to become the 380 Commander. Also, two subsequent models were launched: the 380 Coupé and the very rare 380 Charisma. The Coupé was exactly that, a coupé – as featured in this article. Its wheelhouse/saloon was the traditional set-up on one level with no second helm up top. This also gave you more living space in the form of a larger saloon/galley. The Charisma was based on a traditional flybridge design, with the flybridge perched up top across the saloon roof. To the best of my knowledge, only five of these boats were ordered in the UK, and I have never seen one. From what I understand, there was nothing wrong with the Charisma, it just seemed that the British yards had cornered the middleweight flybridge market. The Coupé, on the other hand, was a popular boat – as coupés are – but the unique ‘wind-in-your-hair’ Commander was slightly more popular and subsequently took the focus away from the Charisma.
Power options ranged from twin 200hp Volvo TAMD41s or twin 230hp Volvo KAMD43s in the first 37 Trawlers and 370s, to twin 300hp Volvo D4s in the last 380s. Up to 2003, the 380 used twin 230hp Volvo KAMD43s, and after that twin 230hp Yanmar engines were used for a while. In 2006, 260hp common-rail injected D4s became available, giving the boat a new edge in terms of performance and economy, before they were briefly overshadowed by 300hp D4s in 2008. Having V drives meant the engines were further aft than a conventional shaft drive installation, so access was via the cockpit and not the saloon. This meant quick and easy engine access with no furniture or carpets to move. In the engine room you were treated to loads of space to reach the belts and filters, plus space aft of the engines for storage and access to the steering. The smaller 4-cylinder 230hp Yanmar 4LH engine, though not as ‘grunty’ in terms of low-down power delivery as the 6-cylinder 230hp Volvo KAMD43, gave better engine access, and was a slightly more reliable engine. However, you need to keep on top of hull growth with a Yanmar-powered boat, as this can certainly take the edge off the boat’s performance. Access to all pumps was good, and Nimbus have always done a fine job of labelling their electrics.
What was different about driving the Nimbus compared to other semi-displacement boats was the virtually linear performance delivery. You could cruise at pretty much any speed within its cruising speed spectrum as it did not have that overly bow-up composure from which many boats of this type suffer when escaping displacement speed. It produced plenty of lift from its fairly flat aft sections to combat this effect. It was also an efficient boat, as the oldest and slowest with just 400hp in the engine bay could hit 20 knots, and the last boats, with twin 300hp Volvo D4s, reputably were good for 26 knots.
The wide hull of the Nimbus was built with a shallow keel or skeg forward of amidships. This was unusual being located so far forward, but it seemed to work based on what I have ascertained speaking to Jan Petterson, who owns a KAMD43-powered 370 Commander. Jan feels the boat’s best point of sailing is with a stern sea, as ‘in a strong following sea the boat can really perform out of proportion to her size’. In contrast, her broad bow can produce a rough ride into a strong head sea. The V drive engines help in a stern sea, as they put the engines further aft than with conventional shafts, thereby reducing the boat’s tendency to dig the nose in. Being wide-beamed she is also steady in a beam sea, Jan claims, and having widely spaced engines she is easy to berth purely with the controls – rarely needing a bow thruster. Her sweet spot, Jan reckons, is around 15 knots, which gives him a comfy range of 250 miles with a sensible reserve. At this speed, the boat is fast enough for a stable ride in a beam sea, and happy with most sea conditions, even on the bow.
Like most Scandinavian boatbuilders, Nimbus build a tough and practical boat, with attention to detail that makes life easy, even for the least practical skippers. The 380 Commander/Coupé and its predecessors have probably been Nimbus’s most successful range. The wide scope of its appeal, encompassing both yachtsmen and motor boaters, underlines this boat’s versatility, and is one of the many reasons for its long-lived success.
Build period: 1996 to 2008
Designer: Rolf Eliasson
Berths: 4 or 5 (permanent)
Hull type: Semi-displacement
RCD category: B for 8
Length overall: 11.5m (37ft 8in)
Beam: 3.6m (11ft 9in)
Draught: 0.9m (3ft 0in)
Displacement: 6.8 tonnes (light – model dependent)
Fuel capacity: 755 litres (166 gal)
Water capacity: 430 litres (95 gal)
Cruising range: Approx. 200 miles with a 20% reserve depending on engines
Performance: 20–26 knots depending on engines
Current values: From £70,000
Points to Consider
The 380 Commander had more substantial radar mast stays than the 370 for a good reason: the earlier 370 suffered from flexing in the mast, causing cracking in its GRP mounting if the boat had had quite a bit of heavy-weather use.
Many of them will be powered by twin 230hp Volvo KAMD43s. Though these mechanically injected engines are around 25 years old, if used and serviced frequently they are still pretty trusty. However, service history is crucial, as things like cylinder head gaskets and exhaust manifolds were problematic, and valve clearance checks/adjustments are needed every 200 hours. A boat with plenty of regular hours clocked up each year will almost certainly be more reliable than a boat that has spent a lot of time forgotten. Servicing costs will be around £700 an engine for a full service.
The older boats are at the bottom of the depreciation curve so represent good value for money considering this boat’s durability. You will lose more money in maintenance than you will in the boat’s value.
Build quality/fit & finish
These boats are beautifully built and strongly constructed. Like all Scandinavian boats they always look half their age, so do not be put off buying an older boat – providing it checks out OK.
The port-side seacock is a hard one to get to, so it could have spent much of its life left open. It’s worth checking this operates as it should, and shuts correctly.
2002 price: £125,000 (VAT paid)
The well-equipped 380 Coupé in this article is ashore in Lymington, and is a great example of how well these boats retain their condition. Her unmarked blue gelcoat is testament to having had a well-cared-for life. She is powered by twin 230hp Volvo KAMD43s with shaft razors, and also has a bow thruster. The electronics comprise a chartplotter, VHF DSC, radar, and Hi-Fi with iPod connection, and there is also a remote-controlled spotlight. Equipped for long periods aboard, she has heating and saloon window blinds. Externally she has extensive teak decking, including the side decks and the cockpit. Internally she has been re-upholstered throughout, which is evident the moment you step aboard.
Looking through my records, it appears that I have surveyed some of the Nimbus 38 Commanders but not the Coupé. However, I would not expect there to be any significant difference in how they fare in a survey. There is nothing that could be described as extreme in the 38 Commander, and I found no dramas when I read through the reports I have written. There’s a long history of boatbuilding at Nimbus and I find that their range is built to a consistently high level of quality in the mouldings, engineering and systems. In fact, during my surveys I always recognise the fit-out of their boats to be very ‘Nimbus distinctive’. As a fairly conservative design, they seem to attract owners who are good at sticking with the service intervals and make a fine job of looking after their boats, and this is, of course, very significant when you are buying second-hand.
Jim Pritchard BSc CEng MRINA MIIMS