Project 31: Genius Rekindled after 50 Years.

IMAG4289b There once was a company named Marine Projects, who started to produce boats in their Plymouth, Devon yard in 1965. The first craft they marketed was a round-bilged motor yacht, sharing its well-proven hull mouldings of the Senior 31. Their version was marketed as the Project 31, and was successful enough to catapult Marine Projects into the limelight. Three years later, they launched their Princess 32, and a world renown trademark was born. 50 years after that Project 31 first touched the water, Princess have a range of yachts running way beyond 100ft overall. But what better way of celebrating a half-century than by looking back at where they came from? To that end, Princess bought back one of their old Project 31s and gave it a thorough makeover. And in doing so, created a boat that they really ought to put in their range portfolio. IMAG4291 The Project 31 was a much loved boat, as was the Senior 31 it was based on. Both became quickly seen as “proper” boats for seamen, developing a reputation for quality and good seakeeping. IMAG4299 In their re-imagining of the Project 31, Princess have exercised considerable thought and delicacy. The overall layout of the boat hasn’t changed drastically, with changes being made only to reflect material advancements in marine furniture design. It retains the forward V-Berth and spacious convertible dinette that families found so practical. IMAG4296 Outside, nothing much has changed, either. There’s still a big, open cockpit, but now only a helm seat and a comfy-looking padded bench at the transom. The teak decking on the cockpit sole is a welcome addition, but the biggest change is the helm position itself. Gone is the bulky wedge-shaped console of old, replaced by a metal-faced control desk with the latest Raymarine navigation equipment, and a set of brand new engine monitoring gauges set into furniture-grade woodwork. IMAG4288 And, unsurprisingly given the amount of scrutiny this thing will be subjected to, the attention to detail is fantastic, with every joining edge just right and no obvious signs of corner-cutting anywhere to be seen. For the full, absorbing story of this restoration, use this link to the Princess yachts website. IMAG4282 Meanwhile, with their rejuvenated Project 31 it strikes me that Princess have inadvertently created a product with a ready audience, either as an entry level model, a charming 2nd boat, or as a competitor in the “Day Launch” market that seems to have exploded recently. These kind of traditionally styled,sea-kindly, semi-displacement hulled, open cockpit motor yachts are coming at us from all angles. For use as a dayboat or passage-maker, something this size is far more manageable than a 40’+ flybridge cruiser, and if you only plan to stay aboard overnight, you don’t need all that heavy surplus accommodation. Numerous boatyards in numerous countries know that this market exists, and that lots of people in the market for a 30′ yacht don’t want some Deep-Vee projectile with no standing headroom and a prodigious thirst. With Princess having this boat in their back catalogue, it seems like madness to leave the market wide open for everybody else. It’s up to them, really. Suffice to say, of the 2016 London Boat Show, this was my Boat Of Show. (All images copyright Chris Haining / Hooniverse 2016)

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