A family boater looking to upsize tends to need several key things in return for his increased investment. Plainly, more space is a must, but it is vital that the space is configured in the right way. A high-class master cabin tends to make the transaction feel good, as do some extra communal areas for the kids to gather if they decide that adult company has grown tiresome. With the extra size, you can also look for a better degree of privacy, so everyone can relax when it’s time to bed down. And because a family tends to encompass a variety of tastes, it’s useful to have some inbuilt versatility - from a blend of inside and outside spaces to an ability to offer watersports, cruising and day entertainment in a single package.
Now plainly, a tough, four-season platform boat like the Targa 32 or the Sargo 31 (one of our 10 best boats at the last Southampton Boat Show) would achieve all of that with relative ease, but the average family boater ideally tends to want something just a bit softer and more recreational; something that makes Dad look like a genuinely cool guy rather than the unpaid skipper of a pilot boat. In short, he probably wants something like this.
(1) Galeon 300 Fly
It’s not often you see a 30-foot flybridge cruiser that makes genuine sense but the Galeon 300 Fly does exactly that. It’s designed to provide a big boat experience on a modest platform and it achieves that partly by means of cheating (it’s actually 32 feet even without the swim platform) and partly through the use of clever materials and design solutions. For instance, the walkaround decks mean the saloon isn’t huge, but Galeon has used lots of glass in the main structure to help compensate for that. Down below, you get sleeping for four in two generous cabins alongside a port wet room and heads; and even the flybridge is moderately generous, with a central helm, a convertible bench, a sunpad for two and some useful deck space. With some clever stylistic flourishes to distract the eye from its tubby dimensions, it also manages to look quite cool. You can spec a single or twin rig in either petrol or diesel but whichever way you go, its versatility (and Galeon’s perennially competitive pricing) makes the 300 Fly one of the best compact solutions around.
Galeon 300 Fly review: outstandingly original.
(2) Sealine C330
Though it’s the first of the Cruiser line craft to emerge under the new Sealine marque, the C330 is a real triumph. It uses the same hull as the Sport (or ‘S’) variant, but it replaces the all-over hardtop and open main deck, with an enclosed wheelhouse and external aft cockpit. Its fusion of inside and outside space at the back end is superb, with a patio door and tilting window enabling a foldout bar to help bridge the gap between saloon and cockpit. The big sliding sunroof makes the wheelhouse relatively open when the weather allows and the lifting of the galley from the lower deck to the starboard side of the saloon helps create a lower deck that Sealine compares favourably with that of a 36-footer. True, it’s a couple of knots slower than the sporting S330, but with a more spacious master cabin and a more versatile main deck, it’s a very impressive piece of design.
Sealine C330 review: all-weather family cruiser
(3) Marex 320 ACC
If you love Marex’s range-topping 370 Aft Cabin Cruiser (and frankly, who doesn’t), the smaller 320 ACC is also likely to put a smile on your face. It exhibits a great many of the same assets and with virtually every award now in its trophy cabinet (‘Best Boat’ at the Oslo Boat Show, ‘Motorboat of the Year’, ‘Adriatic Boat of the Year’ and ‘European Yacht of the Year’) it’s a craft very much in demand. In the bow, the double berth is set back and angled along the port side to minimise the impact of the tapering hull shape, while at the aft end, the full-beam rear cabin offers great privacy (perfect for tired parents at the end of a long day), plus lovely dimensions and a wraparound window on three sides for huge panoramic views. Up top, despite good walkaround decks, space is also impressive. The quality of workmanship is first-rate and when you close the concertina roof, it creates a superb tunnel of accommodation that posh overnighters and excitable kids will love. With a top end shy of 30 knots, it’s by no means a speed machine but the 320 ACC remains a fine boat from a special builder.
The Marex 320 ACC was featured as one of Five great boats for powerboating couples, not to mention one of our top 10 great powerboats seen at Southampton Boat Show in 2012.
(4) Beneteau ST30
A compact trawler is a very useful family platform – not least because it is able to offer the space, headroom, light and practicality that only vertical slab sides can bring. In this instance, the offset superstructure generates a big, safe, sheltered walkway to starboard, the saloon is extremely spacious and the aft cockpit uses big swinging transom gates with folding seats as well as a hinged flybridge staircase in order to create a huge alfresco terrace. That outdoors space is supplemented both on the foredeck and on the flybridge and yet it still manages to generate a set of sleeping options that will quite comfortably accommodate six. It’s not perfect of course. On the contrary, I still think the fly is poor, the port walkway is too narrow and the range of 200 nautical miles is a bit restricted for a craft that calls itself ‘long-distance’ – but for family boaters in pursuit of a stoic trawler style craft on a modest footprint, the ST30 has plenty going for it.
For a more in-depth look, see our Beneteau Swift Trawler 30 review.
(5) Bavaria Sport 330 Open
The Sport 330 Open is a much more ingenious boat than it first appears. By extending the deck furniture way aft, right into the space that would normally be swallowed up by the swim platform, Bavaria has generated a cockpit of extraordinary size with an enormous C-shaped dining section to port. Opposite the helm, in place of the traditional nav seat is a compact L-shaped lounger, which is an ideal place to position your kids while you drive. And down below, that moulding creates some very useful headroom for access to the guest double. However, it’s the absence of a bulkhead between the central lounge and the elevated V-berth in the bow that is particularly striking. In one stroke, that increases the space on offer, generates a huge amount of under-berth storage and helps brighten up the lower living areas significantly. It’s also available in Hard Top form, which may be a better bet for the UK climate – but when the weather’s good, the 330 Open model does pretty much everything the compact sports boating family could want.
Take a look at our Bavaria Sport 330 Open: First Look Video.