- The Spirit 31 is a tough boat, built in a similar vein to its larger commercial and military siblings.
- It does a good job of combining subtle style with functional features …
- … the two supercharged 200hp Verados mated to a pretty good seagoing hull make this boat simply great to drive.
- Succumbing to the allure of supersmooth, supercharged, torque-enhanced petrol power is hard to resist.
Rodman Spirit 31 Outboard
Rodman’s newly launched Spirit 31 Outboard is in keeping with a recent trend towards middleweight outboard cruisers. Greg Copp reports …
Based on the original and still current shaft-driven Spirit 31 Hardtop, Rodman’s Spirit 31 Outboard still follows the Rodman blueprint. Its appearance is similar to the Spirit 42, whose vertical-stem bow, tall guard rails and deeply recessed wide side decks are features equally embraced by the 31.
The first aspect that strikes you is the unusual dual transom gate arrangement, which does a good job of combining functionality with form. Whichever side of the bathing platform you wish to board, you have quarter sections that slide and rotate inwards, creating opposing transom gates. In turn, this can provide sociable seating or, when rotated back to the ‘shut position’, U-shaped seating around the drop-in cockpit table. The downside is that they are not as quick to open as a simple stainless steel gate. What is quick to open is the folding aft bench seat, which hinges forward to provide access to the outboards, and enables them to be raised clear of the water. With the seat hinged forward you can see that the engines are mounted on a heavy-duty ‘stand-off’ bracket, pushing them over 2 feet aft of the transom. This is a retrospective design feature of building an outboard boat from an inboard design without encroaching on cockpit space. However, there are also propulsion benefits with such a set-up, to which many powerboat racers will testify.
From the cockpit, side-deck access is a quick step onto 10-inch-wide side decks enclosed by deep toe rails and tall guard rails. If things are a bit choppy, there is also the extra security of coachroof handrails. The foredeck has deeply recessed walkways around the raised coachroof. This leads to a flat foredeck section housing a large anchor locker – big enough for a couple of fenders. The windlass runs a 15kg claw anchor, and all the cleats, like the anchor, are overengineered for the job.
Having outboards over an inboard has several implications. Firstly, you have a great storage void that would have otherwise had a big diesel engine/engines lurking within. This is easily accessed via a hatch in the cockpit and is more than enough for storing cruising supplies, inflatable tenders and water sports gear. You also get a truly decent mid cabin as a result, which adults will not baulk at sleeping in – in contrast to the inboard version’s small single-berth cabin. A point to note is that this guest cabin is open plan; however, it has a small bench seat and two small storage lockers. The heads is very nicely finished, with a Corian worktop, walnut veneer joinery, a manual sea toilet and separate shower – as well as over 6 feet of headroom.
The forward cabin, like the rest of the lower deck, has over 6 feet of headroom. For a 31ft boat, it does not have the biggest master cabin in the world, but this is the product of a design that allows for an effective heads/shower compartment. It is built with a large offset double bed, which, all things considered, means it takes up a big chunk of the space available. There is a mid-size hanging locker and shelves down each side, and if you lift the bed there are hatches giving access to a large storage area down to the bilge. Though it only has two opening portholes and an overhead deck hatch, due to the abundance of white GRP and light-coloured upholstery, it feels quite light inside.
The saloon/wheelhouse has a strong focus on the helmsman. I say this because from a driver’s perspective, everything works as it should. The bucket-type seat is fixed, with a flip-up bolster for standing and a footboard for sitting. The helm ergonomics are good, with the throttles and wheel easily to hand. Visibility is hard to fault, with only a slight blind spot over the port quarter, and, as I found in earnest, the windscreen wipers attack their task with a vengeance. However, anybody else in the saloon is limited to either standing to look forward or sitting in the dinette. There is an empty expanse next to the companionway that could have been used for a chart table, which, if complemented with a convertible forward section of the dinette, would provide a double navigator’s seat. I did like the roof hatch with its effective quick-release bar, which is an easy stretch away for the helmsman, though I feel charging £1,673 for it is a little over the top.
The galley comprises an 80-litre fridge under the helm seat – which is an £850 extra – a sink, a double ceramic electric hob and storage beneath. It is a simple set-up, but then this boat is never going to be used as a blue-water cruiser where on-board cooking is a prerequisite to eating. The dinette seats four, and considering the room given to the side decks, the saloon is never going to provide a spacious living area. You do, of course, have the overspill of the cockpit – as weather dictates. One thing I must mention is that Rodman engineer their patio doors with the same zeal that they apply to the hatches and fitments in their commercial craft.
Driving the Spirit 31 Outboard
Looks are certainly deceiving with the Spirit 31 Outboard. That may sound a bit ominous as it is a great-looking boat – certainly not sleek or rakish, but sensible and purposeful. However, it is deceptive, as the two supercharged 200hp Verados mated to a pretty good seagoing hull make this boat simply great to drive. It picks up and flies past 30 knots in a brace of shakes, and has no problems hitting 35 knots. We had a fairly choppy day that would have had many similar-sized boats complaining. It is not a Hunton, but it still cuts well through head seas, especially considering it has 3.36 metres of beam. It is also steady and sure-footed in the turns – to a point that you will be tempted to drive this craft like the sports boat it is not. With the sea on the stern or the beam, the Spirit is equally unfazed. It is very much a point-and-shoot driving experience, requiring a bit of trim on the engines to get the best out of her past 30 knots, and on the day there was no need for the optional Volvo QL trim tabs.
I was surprised to see her reach 35 knots with two 200hp outboards, which is credit to Mercury and testament to the hull’s efficiency. I also suspect that mounting the engines aft of the transom has also helped the performance. No doubt the diesel-heads will be frowning at the potential fuel burn. Succumbing to the allure of supersmooth, supercharged, torque-enhanced petrol power is hard to resist. If you spend your time nailing the throttles, consumption will drop below 1.5mpg. However, in reality, after the honeymoon period has worn off, you are likely to back off. And there is one other implication that often gets forgotten: outboards cost less to buy and less to service, and if they go wrong, which these days is becoming far less common, you simply lift them off.
The Spirit 31 is a tough boat, built in a similar vein to its larger commercial and military siblings. It does a good job of combining subtle style with functional features, and through the simple use of outboard petrol power it creates an exciting driving experience. On this note, I will say that the Spirit 31 Outboard is claimed to do a not unrealistic 41 knots with twin 250hp outboards. Given that the hull can easily handle the extra power, and the boat’s 132-gallon tank can easily feed it, why not?
Fuel consumption (both engines – Mercury fuel flow meter)
Engine speed GPH Knots MPG Sound level (db at helm) 2000rpm 3.5 7.0 2.0 68
2500rpm 4.8 8.0 1.7 70
3000rpm 6.5 9.5 1.5 73
3500rpm 8.0 12.9 1.6 76
4000rpm 10.4 19.0 1.8 80
4500rpm 16.0 23.5 1.5 82
5000rpm 21.0 26.6 1.3 84
5500rpm 25.5 28.5 1.1 87
6000rpm 29.9 32.8 1.1 88
6200rpm (wot) 32.8 34.9 1.06 88
- LOA: 9.48m (31ft 3in)
- Beam: 3.36m (11ft 1in)
- Displacement: 5900kg (dry)
- Power options: Twin 150–250 hp outboards from Yamaha, Mercury & Suzuki
- Fuel capacity: 600 litres (132 gallons)
- Water capacity: 110 litres (24 gallons)
- Blackwater capacity: 61 litres (13 gallons)
- RCD category: B for 8 or C for 10
- Test engines: Twin 200hp Mercury Verados
34.9 knots (2-way average), sea conditions F4, gusting F5
From: £144,600 (inc. VAT) (twin 200hp Mercury Verados)
As tested: £163,791 (inc. VAT)
RBS Marine Ltd
Birdham Pool Marina
West Sussex PO20 7BG
Photo credits: Graeme Main