Top lifestyle boats

Mark Rothfield
From a watertoy to a picnic cruiser, here are 10 top picks for boating boomers and late bloomers ... or for anyone looking to up- or downsize their boat.

Today’s retirees seemingly see few reasons why their twilight years can’t be highlight years. They’re hitching caravans to cars, boarding Qantas Dreamliners bound for Europe, or venturing into the wide blue yonder on an array of marine playthings.

Really, no age is ever ‘too old’ if you heed your diminishing physical capabilities. For this article, primarily focused on Baby Boomers but suitable for all, we’ve capped the size range at 3m (10ft) to 13m (42ft) and whittled the choice down to 10 popular segments. The following selection is subjective and there’s no shortage of substitutes ...

Nothing compares with the fun factor of a jetski/PWC but our title of No.1 Boomers’ watertoy goes to Sea-Doo’s former Speedster jetboat, which ceased production but are abundant on the used-boat market. There’s no PWC licence required, nor do waterway restrictions apply. You can take three friends, fish within limits, or relax on the cushioned rear sunlounge.

The new Sea-Doo Switch tri-hull pontoon also looks promising. The 21-footer with a 230hp Rotax engine is the first model launched here.

Australia is home to hundreds of tinny models, so naming one is potentially like stepping into a hornet’s nest – and we don’t mean a Quintrex Hornet’s nest. That said, a genuine family all-rounder is the Stacer 539 Wild Rider. Built with pressed construction but with the flat topside aesthetics of a plate boat, this handsome bowrider model is a handy size and affordably priced.

Older folk looking for more protection and stability than a pressed bowrider offers might consider a plate half-cab hardtop, the Bar Crusher 585 HT, Formosa’s 635, Makocraft’s 591 Island Cab HT, Stessco’s Sunseeker and the Yellowfin 5800 among many possibilities.

If $200K is burning a hole in your pocket, choosing a fibreglass runabout today will leave your brain overheating as well. Every niche is covered, from purist wakeboats to specialist fishing rigs to sociable bowriders and a host of hybrid overnighters.

That said, we’ve narrowed the choice down to the Jeanneau Merryfisher 695 Sport Series 2. It’s a boat in which you can comfortably fish, socialise, sleep or haul the grandkids on a tube when optioned with a 175hp outboard.

The wind has undoubtedly come out of the sails of the once ubiquitous trailer sailer, with barely a trickle of new production boats available. Among used boats, the Castle 650, Noelex 25, Farr 7500, Austral Clubman 8 and Ross 780 have withstood the test of time.

Looking at the new offerings, the Viko S21 from Poland is a modern design with a large cockpit and optional head compartment, however a clear winner in the Boomer category is the Cygnet 20 from Bluewater Yachts in Cardiff NSW, with a carbonfibre gaff rig and water ballast. Great little boat.

Back in 1980, fuel costs skyrocketed during a skirmish between Iran and Iraq, and builders responded by designing shaft-drive, diesel-powered displacement cruisers that afforded frugal running. Sound familiar?

Today, with fuel prices again soaring and everyone conscious of spending, a boat that’s caught our eye is the Integrity 340SX. It has a full-length keel, cruises at 8-11 knots with a single 230hp Volvo D4, and offers an open-plan saloon, covered cockpit and six berths.

There comes a time when a cosy bed, a bathroom and a hot meal are a godsend, and the lines are certainly blurring between the dedicated dayboat and the express-style cruiser ... which brings us to the Axopar 37 Cross Cabin.

With a twin-stepped, deep-deadrise, low-friction hull, it cuts through water like a knife, propelled by twin outboards. It has entertainment zones fore and aft, twin cabins, enclosed pilothouse with huge sunroof, and roof racks to carry your adventure equipment.

The houseboat market is vast, with waterways like Victoria’s Lake Eildon being home to many hundreds. Check out The Houseboat Factory or Anchorage Houseboats at Eildon, Baldwin Platypus House Boats at Lake Macquarie, Marine Dynamix in Hindmarsh Island SA for plans, among others.

Speed and handling are often victims of too much windage and not enough power but our two recommendations for this category can go upwind at 90km/h – on trailers behind your car. One is the Caraboat built in Port Stephens NSW. Model size ranges from 7.5 to 8.7m and it’s the latter that really impresses. Equal favourite is the Boat-a-Home 7.9m Quest, a flagship model for the builder based on Queensland’s Sunshine Coast.

While there are fewer manufacturers in the global yachting sector it surprisingly gets more difficult to nominate a single new boat for Boomers as deviations in appearance and performance are relatively subtle.

Moody’s 41 Aft Cockpit has a classical aesthetic but its sistership, the 41 Deck Saloon, is what a Boomer will probably be looking for. The hull is from the design board of Bill Dixon, and it offers the powerboat ‘feel’ of a raised saloon that integrates seamlessly with the covered cockpit.

Space utilisation is a key factor when choosing a cat, because what looks good on the outside doesn’t always transfer to liveability inside. And a boat that does this exceptionally well is the Seawind 1160. They’re perhaps not a classically stylish design but they perform well at sea, and you can move throughout the saloon and hulls without once bumping your head.

Power-wise, the Aquila 42 looks the goods. The planing hull was penned by performance specialists VPLP, a French studio well known for its work in the America’s Cup, Vendée Globe and more.

For the genteel picnic cruiser genre, we’ll go back to the source – the US state of Maine, where the ‘DownEast’ style was born. Jed Elderkin has been importing Back Cove and Sabre Yachts through his dealership E Marine since 2006, and we were immensely impressed with the Back Cove 37 when tested about eight years ago – that model has since been reborn as the 372.

Above the surface there’s a spoon bow, graceful tumblehome in the topsides and gently sloped stern that melds with a perfectly proportioned hard-topped cabin, relics from America’s past when lobstermen used them. Fire up the 600hp diesel, find a nice spot to anchor, have lunch, swim, read the paper, take a stand-up paddleboard for a cruise, then head for home with everything old feeling new again.


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