40 Years of Sealine: British Boat Builder With a Proud History

Now in its 40th year, Sealine is a boat building company with a proud history of innovation. Alex Smith takes a closer look.

10 October 2012.
By Alex Smith

Established in 1972 in the heartland of UK industrial design and engineering, Sealine has always been quick to adapt and innovate. Right from its inception, it channeled its efforts into the design and production of GRP power cruisers for the recreational market – and the key design intent behind these craft was to ensure that every spare inch of space was profitably utilised for the benefit of the owner.

In its first 20 years, the exclusive use of sterndrive engines made this a relatively simple task, as the shape and position of the engine bay enabled the designers to offer well-proportioned internal accommodation. But Sealine went further by positioning tanks and auxiliary machinery below beds and sole spaces. This made the engine rooms more compact, ensuring that increased cabin volume gave Sealine interiors every opportunity to challenge for ‘best in class’ accolades.

It’s a philosophy that saw the company move from its first craft, the relatively simplistic single sterndrive 23 Continental to the 22 C Sport – the first multi-platform hull available in sport, cabin or hardtop formats. Again, the internal space was exceptional for this size of boat, with a separate cabin under the helm, but with the development of more advanced combustion techniques, Sealine’s focus was set to change.

 

Sealine celebrates its 40th anniversary in 2012

Sealine celebrates its 40th anniversary in 2012

The shift up in size
While petrol sterndrives were able to provide ample performance for boats in the 1960s and 70s, diesel sterndrives lagged a long way behind. They tended to be naturally aspirated and even by the late 70s, they were only able to generate around 100 horsepower, which was not enough for planing cruisers. But when turbo-diesel sterndrives arrived in the early 80s alongside Duoprop technology, Sealine was able to make its first committed foray into larger boats. It saw two landmark models hit the water in the form of the 30 Flybridge and the 285 Ambassador.

The 30 Flybridge was not only Sealine’s first twin-engined craft but also its first flybridge. Launched at the end of a recession, which saw numerous British builders killed off, the 30 Fly was the boat that secured Sealine’s future, creating a path for subsequent flybridge markets.

Launched a little later in 1985, the 285 Ambassador was a true sports boat. It came with a choice of petrol or diesel sterndrives, plus very serviceable accommodation, and it was little surprise that, after a cameo appearance on BBC’s legendary TV series, ‘Howards Way’, hundreds of these boats were sold.

 

Sealine 365

Sealine showed how much better the radar arch was in the form of a T-top roof as shown on its 365 Sportbridge

Fresh technologies
Whether to solve a design problem or to factor in additional flexibility for the end user, Sealine’s innovation department has always been conspicuously proactive. For instance, it took the radar arch (an invention of the early 70s) and with the launch of the 365 Sportbridge (pictured), showed the boating public how much better it could be in the form of the T-top roof.

It also invented the SPS (or Solar Protection System). This was a fixed hardtop roof connected to the radar arch, which offered overhead protection from the sun without compromising the open nature of the cockpit – and with a sliding sunroof, the driver could open the boat up even further. This was essentially a precursor to full hardtop boats and an evolved version of it (a sunroof which covers the entire cockpit) is still in use on Sealine’s SC (Sports Coupe) boats today.

The SECS platform (Sealine Extending Cockpit System) was another design success story. The electronically controlled system moved the entire cockpit seat aft, including bathing platform, tender and bench seat, increasing the cockpit size by up to two square metres. It was not only excellent for outdoor entertaining, but it also allowed the designers to push the patio door aft, resulting in a larger internal saloon space.

And if you thought pod drives and joystick control were a revolutionary new step in the world of marine manoeuverability, spare a thought for the original SDS (Sealine Docking System) – an electronic interface which linked bow and stern thrusters with the engine gear control, enabling joystick operation on a shaft drive boat. It was quickly surpassed by gear manufacturers providing their own systems, but it’s ample illustration of the innovative work that has always gone on behind the doors of Sealine’s Midlands HQ.

 

Sealine T60

Sealine's recent flagship, the T60

A pair of big winners (PICS 3-4)
Of course, innovation is pointless if a boat builder fails to sell any boats and in the recent past, a couple of craft have stood out as big Sealine successes. While the 330 Statesman (a large flybridge with a pair of sterndrives and two separate cabins) is famous for having sold at the rate of one every four days, Sealine’s more recent flagship, the T60, has proved even more vital.

Launched in 2004, it was designed to be a genuine yacht with lots of large boat features crammed into its relatively modest dimensions. It was the modern culmination of Sealine’s long design and manufacturing history and it proved a big success. The profile of the boat was kept as sleek as possible and yet it retained the tri-deck format of much larger yachts, plus a full beam master cabin and two further en-suites – features which quickly made it a serious market contender.

Meanwhile, at the other end of the scale, 2007 saw the launch of a new boat based on Sealine’s most modest hull length. The best-selling SC35 exploited a very wide beam and a sociable cockpit as the key features of the family boating experience and the approach immediately paid off with critical acclaim and a warm reception from the recreational sports cruiser market.

 

The Sealine SC35

The best-selling Sealine SC35

The new Sealine fleet
Despite its modest beginnings with the diminutive 23 Continental, Sealine’s current range comprises ten craft across three main product lines ranging in length from 35 to 60 feet. It starts with the 35 Sport, part of the four-strong S Series, which runs from 35 to 47 feet in length. Next comes the F Series with three Flybridge Cruisers in hull lengths of 42, 46 and 48 feet. The single 48-foot ‘C’ Series Cruiser shares the same underpinnings as the new F48 (see our full boat test Sealine F48: new Flagship Flybridge) but as a non-fly, it is more commonly considered among the S Series boats. And finally, at the pinnacle of the Sealine range comes the Yacht Series, with two traditionally styled luxury craft in lengths of either 50 or 60 feet.

 

The F48 is the latest Sealine

The F48 is the latest Sealine

The future
Forty years have now elapsed for Sealine, but now (just as in the past) the company remains very clear about its future. It aims to be bold and modern without losing sight of its customers’ key requirements. It does not slavishly adhere to the restrictive demands of classical design and it never has done. Instead, it simply wants to develop innovative cruisers that enable people to enjoy their time on the water. If it is able to offer us another 40 years of that, there will be no complaints from us.

 



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