After more than 30 years in this industry, it takes a lot to truly impress me (or ‘blow me away’ as the Y-Generation says), but a recent surf of the ‘Net’ did just that. Before sitting down to pen this piece, I checked out ‘Google Maps’ for the correct spelling of the English seaside town of Brixham, where I tested this Sealine SC38 recently and I got a lot more than I bargained for.
Not only did I get the right spelling, but I switched to the ‘satellite view’ and literally zoomed in on the Brixham Marina. I could clearly see the new Sealine SC38 I’d tested sitting serenely in its pen. If a mere civilian can get that sort of detail from the Net, what can the military see ? I’ll be making sure my bedroom blinds are properly drawn come my next birthday!
NOT THE NORM
This sports cruiser is a bit of a departure from the norm for Sealine, because while she offers all the qualities of a hard-top sports cruiser (protection from the sun and rain, which makes her an ideal vessel for the waters around the Isle of Wright or Sydney Harbour), Sealine has incorporated a soft sunroof over the cockpit. This roof extends from the driving position back to the aft lounge. So, when it’s time to – as they say in the song – ‘let the sun shine in’, it slides back in a matter of seconds. Plus, because of it’s manual operation there’s no electric or hydraulic motors and rams that can fail, so maintenance is minimal.
With the roof closed the SC38 is similar in appearance to other hardtop sport cruisers, albeit quieter when underway, because the canvas roof let’s any running noise in the cockpit dissipate. But open this huge sunroof and she’s more like an open sport cruiser than a hard top.
More than a name. But there’s more in her name (Sports Cruiser) than simply stylish good looks. Powered by twin Volvo Penta D6 350hp sterndrives, this Sealine’s got ‘balls’. With a top speed approaching 40 knots, the SC38 can really ‘hoof it’ along. And that’s not bad considering she’s fitted with the biggest engines on option (the standard D4s are much lighter), a genset, air-conditioning unit and 700lt of fuel. That amounts to a displacement of more than 9000kg before we add people and all of their associated gear.
Being powered by sterndrives, all the weigh is aft (the genset and air-con units are also down the back) and I must admit to initially thinking this might affect the vessel’s trim, but nothing could be further from the true. In the calm conditions that prevailed during this test, from a standing start with the legs trimmed fully in, the SC38 adopted an ideal running angle without any tweaking of the sterndrives or trim tabs. And while we had to go chasing other boat’s wakes in the calm seas to get any indication of how she’d perform in the rough, her level planing attitude keep her sharp bow entry slicing effortlessly through slop. No banging or porpoising across the water.
The twin Volvo 350s shot the hull ‘out of the hole’ beautifully and her acceleration was equal to a boat of much smaller proportions.
Within minutes of taking my position behind the helm I felt at home and confident in the hull’s ability. The 38SC was as easy if not easier to drive than the average family car. She was a pleasure to drive. Turns… you want turns! This hull has extremely large and aggressive chines, which work in conjunction with the keel to trap air between the chines’ outer edges and the keel, so the hull literally rides on a cushion of air. I threw her into some pretty wild turns and figures-of-eight at full noise and not once did her tail slip out or did she show any signs of baulking.
Driving this boat is deceptive, because she handles more like a 20-foot ski boat than a 9000kg cruiser. I have spoken to a couple of other boating journos, who got to test the SC38 in rough conditions and both praised this Sealine’s rough water handling. After these comments and my own experiences I’d have no qualms about running this boat on coastal passages such as Sydney to Port Stephens.
Slow speed manoeuvring around the marina and in speed-restricted zones was also impressive. Her 12ft 3in beam allows the motors/sterndrives to be positioned well apart, so, unlike some narrower hulls fitted with sterndrive units, she tracks straight at slow speeds and can spin on the spot like a boat fitted with shaftdrives. And while a bow thruster would come in handy when there’s a strong wind or runout tide plaguing the marina, the SC38 slide around dockside quite efficiently without one.
The aft cockpit’s open-plan design is an entertainer’s delight. Everyone’s on the same level, there’s ample seating for eight guests on two lounges, the skipper and a friend get a duel-helm seat and the wet-bar is within easy reach. Ergonomically, the dash layout is extremely good. The comprehensive instrumentation is clearly visible, but the fixed helm seat and bolster seat set-up will be a bit squeezy for larger drivers.
And that blue tinted windscreen – get rid of it. I don’t know how the Brits feel about such things, but here in Oz, where we get plenty of sunshine, no one would consider having a tinted screen for safety reasons.
Below deck the SC38’s contemporary styling and layout is superb. The well-equipped galley and dinette (converts into a double bed) face each other in the main saloon. There’s a wooden bulkhead sealing off the luxurious forward stateroom and a door on the amidships three-berth cabin for privacy, but the piece de resistance down here is the amount of natural light the floods all areas.
Each compartment, including the separate head and shower, has its own porthole, but Sealine went further and hit a homerun by fitting skylights. There’s a large skylight forward of the dash that floods the saloon with light, another one to port beside the helm to force light into the amidship’s cabin and a third in the roof of the forward cabin.
In our book the Sealine SC38’s a winner. Her spritely performance and rough water handling will leave many of her competitors scratching their heads in her wake, while the 38’s contemporary styling and crisp square lines below deck modernise her look considerably. The sliding sunroof in the cockpit is brilliant, as are the skylights illuminating the saloon, the amidship’s and forward cabins.
There’s also plenty of space around the D6s in the engine room for routine servicing and maintenance, but as for that blue-tinted windscreen…! It’s already been replaced on later boats but its replacement still has a slight green tinge and it’s definitely not my cup of tea.
Landed in Oz this boat will retail for around $600,000, which is pretty good value for money for an almost 40-footer.
WORDS : IAN MACRAE