ABC Marine is an extraordinarily active business. It currently offers more than 50 models of boat across five primary product lines, and while they all tend to be practical, affordable craft of relatively modest size, the ABC fleet is also impressively varied. It offers everything from gentlemanly inland runabouts to hardy sea fishers, classic-style Kruger Boats, workmanlike offshore RIBs and entry-level inflatables.
Watch Alex Smith's Mariner 215 First look video here.
However, the Polish-built Mariner 215 is particularly interesting because it is only the second of the brand’s 24 models to use the Pilothouse configuration – and more to the point, it does so on a hull and at a price that makes it look like extremely compelling value, not just for the fisherman but also for the modern family boater.
What’s the idea behind the Mariner 215?
Don’t be confused by the numbers. The new Mariner 215 is built upon exactly the same hull as the well-established and very popular 210 Cuddy and that’s no bad thing. It’s quite a traditional design, with relatively deep angles at the bow softening to a medium V at the stern with a decent flare at the forward section. The intention here is to provide a stable, dry ride allied to relatively efficient planing performance, decent bow buoyancy and an acceptably soft ride. Of course, the substantial extra weight (not to mention the more pronounced weight forward bias) means that it’s difficult to predict how the 215 will perform on the water but the signs remain positive.
The aft cockpit meanwhile continues to make full use of the 2.5-metre beam, with an uncluttered deck space framed by very deep gunwales and topped off with stainless steel grab rails. It also comes equipped with a live bait well and a cutting table, plus four rod holders mounted in the top of the transom and storage beneath the deck. Hull and aft cockpit aside, however, the key difference here is that in place of the simple and rather featureless open forward space of the 210, the 215 employs a full pilothouse configuration. This adds around £8,000 to the package price, lifting it from £22,000 to a shade under £30,000, but when you step on board this boat, it immediately looks like money well spent.
The £8,000 pilothouse
As you enter the pilothouse through the triple sliding aft doors, the simple, cost-effective layout makes a fair bit of sense. To port, you get a small but functional saloon for two, with a compact forward galley unit comprising sink and stove. Meanwhile, the space to starboard is occupied by the helm and skipper’s seat – and because the 215 employs reversible backrests, both the port and starboard occupants can face aft and either watch the fishing or engage with those in the aft cockpit
Move into the forward V-section and as the generous headroom of the main space gives way to the screen and the foredeck, you find an angled double berth with a toilet to port and a small porthole above. Fabrics are practical and pleasantly muted and the mouldings here, as elsewhere, are of an unusually complex shape and a surprisingly high quality.
Remarkably, despite its price, this is not the only place where the Mariner appears to boast the hallmarks of a more expensive boat. Even in its standard form, the features list includes the cushions, the toilet, the saloon table, the bow roller, the anchor locker and the stainless steel fittings - and then there are the windows. These are built not from one of the many cheap alternatives, but from large, aluminium-framed glass panels with opening side sections for helmsman and navigator.
Of course no boat is perfect, particularly at such an early stage of production, and the 215 is no exception. For instance, the mini galley is a useful touch but its position directly between the forward saloon backrest and the toilet is not ideal. The new boat also lacks a sliding overhead hatch and while the lofty roof and angled front window mean that the ingress of natural light is actually very good, a sunroof does help in making an enclosed wheelhouse feel more open and interactive.
Similarly, while the space in the pilothouse benefits greatly from the apparent absence of dedicated external walkways, this same feature means that access to the foredeck looks quite awkward. Perhaps an opening screen (as on the 210) or even a larger porthole in the foredeck would help remedy the problem, but either way, the 215 does a sterling job of satisfying all the leisure boater’s most vital requirements in a very limited space and on a very limited budget.
You don’t often see mouldings of this calibre or features of this type on a boat that hits the market at this kind of price point.
However, the quality seems very sound and the designers appear to have made a set of choices and compromises that, while not necessarily to everyone’s tastes, are certainly easy to justify from a practical perspective. Of course, the acid test will come when we see the Mariner 215 perform on the water. Can it cope with a sea passage in a dry, reassuring and rattle-free fashion? Will the hinges, brackets and fittings put up with the vigours of extended use? And will the extra weight in tandem with an unchanged power rating render the new boat too thirsty or sluggish to justify the extra expense over its plainer, simpler, less expensive sibling? For now of course, it is impossible to provide definitive answers to these questions but what we can say without fear of contradiction is that on the face of it, the Mariner 215 appears to represent truly outstanding value for money.
Notable standard features
Pilothouse with triple sliding doors
Double berth with toilet
Convertible saloon with table
Stainless steel rails and cleats
Bow roller and anchor locker
Glass and aluminium windows
Three reversible pilothouse seats
Live bait well and prep table
Mariner 215: Specifications
Max power: 130hp
Max people: eight
Engine: Mariner F100
RCD category: C
Package price (with 100hp Mariner outboard): £32,054
Show price: £29,995
Boat only price: £19,995
Good value for money is a great virtue for any new boat, so why not compare the Mariner 215 with a few others reviewed on boats.com: Rinker Captiva 236 CC review: design delights or Minor Offshore 25: A Four-Season Walkaround from Finland.