It is very often the case that a new engine costs more to buy than the boat to which it is fitted - so if you want to get into powerboating on a very limited budget, that leaves you with some work to do. Plainly, lots of power is not an option, so what you need is either a boat that makes the very best of the little power available or a boat that is used in a way (or in an environment) where outright pace is not the key requirement.
The polyethylene route
Scandinavian polyethylene specialist, Pioner (pronounced ‘Pioneer’) is famous for its bombproof little boats. They ply the waterways serving as club support and safety craft and while their reputation is more about solidity than thrills, they do have a more dynamic hull in the range. Known as the 11 Sport, it comes with a relatively aggressive deep-V hull, designed to improve grip and soften the ride when the seas get a little lumpy. Though small and relatively basic, standard features include the integrated steering console and the ability to plane at pace with two adults on board and just 15hp on the transom. You also get a large storage locker under the helm seat, a non-slip (semi) self-draining deck and a long options list to help customise the craft to your liking. With room for four, a weight of just 125kg and the longevity of nuclear waste, it’s an excellent budget boat.
The polyethylene alternative
At the opposite end of the globe, Kiwi builder, Smartwave, is generating a fleet of boats with a growing fan base - and like most of the Smartwave range, the AV3500 is built to be unbreakable. Imported by Marine Revolution, standard features include an alloy engine bracket in long or short shaft options, grab rails at bow and stern, a removable centre seat with storage locker, upholstered bow and stern seats, a self-draining anchor locker, an anchor cleat, a towing eye and a pair of rod holders. You can order this boat complete with the Suzuki DF8 and an Indespension Merit trailer for £4,981. And if you have a bit more money to spare, you could even specify the Smartfire version, with a centre console and remote helm.
The aluminium route
Aluminium is a great building material for boats, combining resilience with light weight, easy maintenance and relative affordability. Of course it rarely looks as neatly finished as GRP, but in the form of the Linder Sportsman 355, it is very attractive indeed. At just 84 kg, this boat can be propelled by anything from a pair of oars to a small electric outboard. And if you fancy more in the way of performance, a portable 8hp outboard will keep you planing all day on very little fuel. It will carry three people (or 320kg) and if well looked after, it will last you a lifetime. At £2,350 for the boat, you should have plenty spare to specify the engine and explore the accessories list. And if you fancy more space (for four people or 400kg), you can up the ante with the 440 Fishing for an extra £345. With one person aboard at a seven-knot cruise, you can apparently achieve a fuel flow of just 0.11 litres per mile, which equates to very cheap boating for you and the family. Whichever of Linder’s excellent ‘tinnies’ you fancy, a call to BHG Marine is a top way for the budget boater to get started.
The displacement route
The Kruger Alpha III is a very classic looking displacement launch. At 180kg, it’s the heaviest boat here, so forget about pace and think instead about serenity and comfort. This thing will easily carry an entire family and will look just as good in a glamorous harbour as an English waterway. The standard boat comes complete with the lovely wraparound rope fenders and centre console and can be yours for a boat only price of £2,950. If you want the full package, the Alfa III with a new Mariner F9.9EL outboard and galvanised roller-glide trailer is listed at a turnkey price of £6,895, but with some haggling and perhaps a little compromise, your £5,000 budget could make you the proud owner of a very desirable boat. See ABC Marine and Leisure for details.
The used route
If you want something a rung or two further up the ladder, you need to turn to the used market. Though this tends to involve waving goodbye to the reassuring safety net of dealer back-up and manufacturer warranties, the UK used boat market is very active, so bargains are plentiful. Even a brief search of the most popular online sites showed me this 2006 American-built 12-foot aluminium Lowe fishing boat with a generous beam in great condition. It comes with two folding seats, a fish finder, four rod holders, six rod tubes, two oars, a light board, a 2002 roller trailer with spare wheel and a 2006 Tohatsu 6hp outboard. Ideally suited to sheltered fishing excursions, the asking price (even before haggling) is just £1,700. It’s an ideal example of just how far your money can go.
A bit of advice: haggle hard!
While £5,000 is not likely to buy you a superboat, it should certainly be enough to get you and your family on the water with a safe and reliable craft. If buying new, look for modest size and power, robust building materials and simplistic design from an established name. If buying used, look for high-spec options, but make sure you keep your key requirements firmly in mind. And whether you buy from a builder, a dealer or a private seller, haggle hard. Yes, I know you’re British and it’s not in your nature but as a boat buyer in an economic downturn, you hold all the cards.