If I hadn’t already known it was an Aquador stand , I’d never have guessed what this thing was. A pilothouse cruiser? Certainly. Modern? Without question. Scandinavian? Very probably. But an Aquador? Not a chance.
Over the years, Aquador’s fleet has been characterised largely by modest cabin-equipped conveyances for the traditional and the unambitious. Yes, they all work well enough, as you would expect of family cruisers from Finland, but with their adherence to the complacent methodology of ovoid portholes, duckbill bow flares and workmanlike layouts, their dated, self-effacing posture really didn’t present their abilities in the best light. What was needed was a fresh direction – and the man they turned to was prolific Norwegian designer, Espen Thorup. See the First Look Video below.
Main deck living spaces
The first major result of that design investment is the radical new style. With a linear, low-profile, offset pilothouse, built almost entirely from vertical tinted windows, allied to a hull with a tapering bow and a fine entry, this is a very cool (and very contemporary) looking boat. It also features long angular hull windows, plus deepset lateral walkways and elevated steel rails all round for a sense of masculine, outward-bound, four-season robustness. It’s a very fresh, youthful and dramatic craft – and when you step onto the big aft swim platforms, there’s plenty of evidence that the feel-good details go well beyond the uprated aesthetic.
The aft anchor (a perennial mainstay of Scandinavian boating) is built into the swim platform with its own flush-fitting deck hatch. Just to port of the aft bench, the lateral walkway conceals an under-foot fender locker, again installed with a flush fitting lid with the word ‘FENDERS’ machined into the decking. And on the aft bench itself, each end is equipped with a pronounced inward-facing angle in the backrest cushion – partly to improve security and partly because given the choice, people like to sit in a corner. It’s a device we’ve seen before on Marex’s motorboats and while it might seem like an odd concept, it actually works a treat.
Further forward, beyond the retractable aft shade of the extended pilothouse roof, things get even better, particularly on the port side. In much the same way as Bavaria’s new R40, the 35 AQ uses a single-level deck throughout the cockpit and saloon, alongside wide aft doors and a double dining arrangement. That basically means you get a dining station running fore and aft inside the saloon and another, which mirrors it, outside in the cockpit. When you open the doors, you can use folding infils to connect not just the two bench seats but also the two tables, eradicating the inside-outside divide and bringing the two spaces into union, with an eight or nine-man dining station that extends all the way from the transom to the co-pilot seat. With the galley arranged against the starboard bulkhead and a vast port window section that plunges from roof to deck, forming a major part of the pilothouse structure, this flexible party layout is a very satisfying solution.
Up at the helm, meanwhile, the 35 AQ feels less like a debut craft and more like the nerve centre of a well-established model. In addition to a set of ergonomics that feel unerringly correct, the Skipper gets a sliding door to access the broad starboard walkway. He also gets a convex, one-piece, heated, anti-fog windscreen – perhaps the single most expensive piece of glass I’ve yet witnessed on a boat of this scale. In combination with very narrow roof stanchions and the virtual absence of fibreglass panels around the sides of the pilothouse, visibility, as well as comfort, is first rate.
If there’s a compromise on board the 35 AQ, it’s to be found downstairs, where the accommodation isn’t the best by 35-foot standards, either in generosity of features or outright space. Although the bed in the master cabin is well sized, its position in the bow sees it restricted in terms of deck space; and while there is a perfectly serviceable heads compartment to starboard, the full-beam guest cabin, which runs transversely, beneath the cockpit sole, feels a bit odd.
It is filled almost entirely by the guest bed - and in a full-beam space, that makes it way larger than any off-the-shelf ‘Super King Size’. Of course, an enormous bed is no bad thing in itself, but in this case, three quarters of it is also hemmed in by a very low ceiling. Bizarrely, that makes it massive and cramped all in one go. In fairness, the cabin does enjoy a relatively spacious entry point, courtesy of the elevated mouldings of the saloon’s port console, but there’s no escaping the facts. This guest cabin’s dimensions are not the most user-friendly in the world and the insertion of a six-acre bed does little to mitigate that truth.
Aquador 35 AQ: a summary
It’s not enough for a boat to be better than anything else in its class. To stand a chance of proving that to the world, it has to appear to be the best. It has to engage people sufficiently to pull them on board – and while Aquador’s ageing line was faltering in that pursuit, the 35 AQ feels very much like it’s on the right track. In addition to being a fine looking and very distinctive powerboat, it’s also very bright and sociable. Certainly, the below decks spaces are no better than mediocre; and some of the finish reinforces the fact that this debut model was produced in haste for its Dusseldorf debut. It’s also important to note that we haven’t yet driven this boat, but on the basis of its promise, it offers ample proof that Aquador has taken a big step – not just with a 35-foot pilothouse cruiser that can mix it with the best in the market, but with a direction exciting enough for the rest of the fleet to follow.
Aquador 35 AQ specifications
LOA: 10.3 m
Beam: 3.5 m
Weight: 6,500 kg
Fuel capacity: 599 litres
Power: single 400hp / twin 260s
CE Category: B