The 32 Patrol is not a new boat ‒ to a Finn, that is ‒ as it has been around a while, but for a southern Brit it most certainly is. Greg Copp trials this fast wheelhouse craft from Nord Star and reports on what we can expect to find …
If you are not familiar with Nord Star, you could be forgiven for thinking they are another Botnia Targa copy. However, Nord Star have been making boats for a century, and their Patrol range has been well established in its native Finland for some time. This type of fast wheelhouse boat has been forged from necessity rather than from an Italian drawing board. Finns, Swedes and Norwegians use their boats in earnest to get about, even commute, so the end result is a safe seagoing boat designed to be single crewed, and of course enjoyed. The 32 Patrol is a perfect example of this concept. Previously, this brand was imported via a Scottish dealer, but now it is available in southern UK waters courtesy of MCC Marine of Hamble Point Marina.
Advances in engine technology have given this boat an extra sting in its tail, as it is available with a wide range of powerful motors, and I am told that a new range of Volvo engines will soon be announced. At the moment, the sensible base option is a single 400hp D6 driving through a duo-prop sterndrive, which will offer a good blend of economy and performance, with an estimated 32-knot top speed. The other options are all twin sterndrives, the most popular being twin 300hp Volvo D4s, as tested, though if you want to save £20,000 you can down-spec to twin 225hp D4s.
There are some punchy engines on the list, namely twin 370hp Volvo D6s (DPH drives), twin 370hp Yanmar 8LV370s (XT370 drives) and twin 370hp Mercury 4.2s (Bravo 3X drives). Of all of these, the big straight-6 D6s would be a squeeze to fit into the engine bay, while adding extra weight, and potentially spoiling the boat’s near perfect running attitude. The lighter and smaller Yanmar and Mercury V8s would work better in this boat than the D6s, but they are not as slim as the D4. The lesser-known 270hp 3L Mercury V6 diesels are also available, but they do not produce the bottom-end power delivery of the D4.
The D4 is the ideal choice, as not only does it give a perfect spread of power for a 7-tonne boat, but it fits a treat. Lifting the cockpit engine hatch, courtesy of an electric ram, you are provided with easy engine access. There is plenty of space to get in around the engines, the raw-water strainers sit on the front of them, the fuel filters sit on the forward bulkhead, and with this boat having the optional bell housing extensions, the engines sit 6in further forward, improving access to the rear of the engine blocks. If you had a problem at sea and had to drop down into the engine bay, I can’t think of many boats better than this to have to face that in.
Deck access is outstanding, as not only can you emerge on deck via either starboard or port side doors, but tall bulwarks, wide side decks and sturdy guard rails provide plenty of security for even the most tentative crewmembers. The deck hardware is more in keeping with a 50ft trawler yacht, and the anchor locker looks like it could accommodate enough chain to drop a hook in the mid-Atlantic. The stainless work, from the radar arch to the extra inboard grab rails, is of the highest standard. If you want to keep berthing costs down, I am told you can have a shorter bathing platform, though the standard platform looks ideal for tender recovery.
Inside she is as neatly finished as she is externally. The beautiful walnut joinery is typically Scandinavian. One thing that always impresses me with boats from the Baltic is that they maintain the same level of fit and finish in a 30-footer as they do in a 50-footer, and Nord Stars are certainly no exception. The wheelhouse table drops down at the touch of a switch to create a third double bed if need be. Alternatively, the double navigator’s seat reverses to provide U-shaped seating for a family to sit down to dinner.
Something I have noticed about the Finns is they generally feel compelled to fit an old-school chart table to keep the navigator occupied, something that many yacht builders now neglect. Our test boat did not have the optional shock-absorbing seat base for the helmsman. Though I drove the boat standing, on a long passage this is certainly a £1600 extra that I would consider. On the topic of extras, a bigger plotter is an option, which, considering how versatile electronics have now become, and how empty the dash looks with a 9in display, is another piece of kit worth forking out for.
Accommodation, not surprisingly, is not top of the list in a serious offshore boat like this; if it was, there would be a trade-off. That said, I did like the mid cabin, probably because it was much bigger than expected. You can’t stand up, but then you are meant to sleep in it. It has a conventional [SB1] seat and an L-shaped double bed. It is perfect for youngsters, who will happily hide out in it, and a couple could squeeze in if need be.
The forward master cabin is short in length, with storage lockers on either side of the bed and an area hidden beneath where you can stash your luggage and footwear. If you are particularly tall you will look at sleeping in the mid cabin, as the bed is suitable for 6-footers or less; nevertheless, headroom is good. There is a bonus in having a compact forward cabin, and that is you have space for a galley-down arrangement, thereby creating more space in the wheelhouse. It also provides a galley into which you can wedge yourself when making a brew or a sandwich at sea, which is arguably more likely than trying to knock up a big meal in port. The heads is pretty good, all things considered ‒ at 6ft I could just use the shower.
It is, of course, hardly a budget boat at £350,000 in its tested form. However, it is realistically specified, with a full set of electronics, TV, Hi-Fi, heating and shore power, to name just a few of the many extras fitted. I always think Scandinavian boats make better value than their competitors, because in northern waters you tend to be able to use them more often and, very importantly, with fewer complaints from the family. They also depreciate far less than most other brands, and when you want to upgrade, they are easier to resell.
Driving the 32 Patrol
This was not my first time in a Nord Star, so I was under no illusion about how the 32 Patrol was going to perform. I will say, however, that I had forgotten just how sharply these boats turn, and how doggedly they hang on in what feels like ridiculously tight turns. What enhances the boat’s heel in the corners is the topside weight of the wheelhouse, combined with a fairly slim beam ‒ a combination that an open sports boat does not have. Nord Star, not unwisely, have used just an 18.5-degree transom deadrise angle, otherwise this boat would heel even further, though at the time I thought the deadrise to be sharper. This was not just because I was enjoying hanging out of the wheelhouse door while cranking her into tight starboard turns, but because the ride is generally very smooth. Before I give any illusion that this boat’s behaviour in the turns is detrimental to its handling, I should say that no matter how hard you turn the wheel, she does not lose the plot, and only in the hardest turns do you hear a hint of cavitation.
When throwing the boat hard to port, you need to check across your port beam and quarter, because the top of the window line will shut off your view over this area with the boat on a hard heel. If you have the optional sunroof you can look out through this. The fact is that driving the 32 Patrol in such a ‘spirited’ manner is pretty easy as the steering is perfectly composed ‒ steady, light and responsive. The boat also has good fore and aft trim, as you only need to trim out the sterndrives +1 on the gauge to get the last knot or so at wide open throttle, and further down the spectrum you just leave her at zero. Running into head weather at 30 knots off Calshot, with an increasing north-westerly blowing, I found the need to go for a touch of trim tab to bring the bow down, otherwise the forward chine sections would slap slightly. The boat has a sensibly sharp hull forefoot, which most of the time does its job unaided, but running into a strengthening wind in confused water with a crew of four and 90% fuel changed the equation slightly, which the standard-fitment Bennett trim tabs quickly sorted.
The ride is very dry as the bow flare does its job ‒ at no point was there a need for the windscreen wipers. The only truly confused weather was just off Calshot, which we ran through at over 30 knots without any complaints. Putting the 32 through some tight turns in this sector, the boat proved equally sure-footed, with just some chine slap to tell us that we were banked over with some strengthening weather on the beam.
The Nord Star really has two sweet spots: one at 27 knots and the other at just over 30 knots – depending on the sea state. At 27 knots she is a pretty quiet boat ‒ so much so that you get little impression of speed. The engines are running at around 2700rpm on the flat top of the torque curve, so economy is good and engine noise low. With the boat’s running attitude perfectly composed at this speed, the ride is soft, and in most weather conditions you can sit at this speed all day. Pushing up to 30 knots the equation is much the same, just that the sea state starts to have a greater bearing past this point, and the torquey punch of the D4s starts to decline past 3000rpm, which is evident in the fuel burn.
The reality is that most people will want to clock up some fast sea miles in this boat, knowing that they are going to reach their destination without any nail-biting moments ‒ and it is a safe bet to say that the 32 Patrol will not disappoint. It appeals to those that know what a Scandinavian fast wheelhouse boat is all about, which outside of the Baltic is still a big chunk of the boating population. It is superbly built and finished, but the focus is on driving and using it in earnest, so do not expect yards of living space or extensive cooking facilities squeezed in – as you know what they say about jacks of all trades …
What we thought
- Great handling – very responsive steering, and exceedingly sure-footed
- Soft-riding hull
- Good performance
- Very solid build quality
- High-quality finish inside and out
- Practicality/safety on deck
- The forecabin bed may prove a bit on the cosy side for some couples
- The galley has limited under-top storage
Fuel figures (Volvo fuel flow meter)
RPM Speed (knots) LPH (both engines) NMPG (both engines)
1000 6.6 7.0 4.3
1250 7.9 12.0 3.0
1500 9.0 21.0 2.0
1750 10.0 37.0 1.2
2000 13.3 46.0 1.3
2250 17.0 58.0 1.3
2500 22.4 67.0 1.5
2750 27.1 74.0 1.7
3000 30.5 90.0 1.5
3250 33.4 101.0 1.5
3500 37.1 120.0 1.4
LOA: 11.4m (37ft 4in)
Beam: 3.4m (11ft 1in)
Transom deadrise angle: 18.5 degrees
Displacement: 7000kg (with twin 300hp Volvo D4s ‒ dry)
Power options: Single 400hp Volvo D6 to twin 370hp Volvo D6s all on duo-prop stern drives, plus Yanmars and MerCruisers
Fuel capacity: 615L (162 gal)
RCD category: B for 12
Test engines: Twin 300hp Volvo D4s on duo-prop sterndrives
37.1 knots (2-way average); sea conditions F3 gusting F5, crew 4, water 50%, fuel 90%
From: £260,500 (inc. VAT) (single 400hp Volvo D6 on duo-prop sterndrive)
As tested: £351,899 (inc. VAT)
All prices subject to sterling against the euro
Unit 2 Firefly Rd
Hamble Point Marina
Hampshire SO31 4JD
Photo credits: Graeme Main