WEEKEND WARRIOR
Classic Boat|December 2020
The PTS26 motor launch, built in Holland but inspired by Swede CG Pettersson, is so popular that it’s changing the market
STEFFAN MEYRIC HUGHES
It’s often been said that boats are like people; seldom if ever are they compared to talking bears. But this one, a shiny new PTS26 belonging to British designer Andrew Winch, is named after Baloo from the Jungle Book. The bear – at least the Disney version – is like the charming, naughty uncle who teaches you to steal apples and fight, so you might expect a vessel named after him to be similarly overpowering and rough around the edges. Thankfully, the PTS26 – even with the over specc’d 190bhp diesel this one has – is nothing like the singing bear and more like Bagheera, the reliable, well-mannered black panther: dad. But that name is already taken by the owner’s other boat – an 18ft Tofinou daysailer that comes out to sail in company on test day. And what a day that was, with just enough wind for Baloo to send spray flying, and for Andrew’s brother-in-law David to fill the sails on Bagheera. The warm, unbroken sun made it feel like the last summer’s day of 2020, stolen from autumn’s grasp.

First impression of the boat quayside are very favourable indeed. The PTS 26 is 24-carat elegant, and unusual in the sense that it’s not aping the Riva look, which in turn aped the American runabout look of the first half of the 20th century. The runabout appeal is beyond question, as history has proved, and has accordingly been much imitated – done to death, some might say. But here is a completely different shape: gone is the swoopy tumblehome, straight sheer, raked bow and stained mahogany. In their place is a nearly plumb bow, a modest transom, dark blue painted (GRP) hull and, joy of joys, a stepped sheerline with little portholes in the bow sections. If Riva evokes thoughts of Brigitte Bardot and Italian playboys, then this is the boat from the war film that approaches the boarding ladder of a destroyer under way, carrying a uniformed senior officer standing up straight as a flagstaff, one hand on the windshield.

In practical terms, the Riva comparison doesn’t stack up: a deep-vee, planing, twin-engined, open boat is very different from a semi-displacement, single-engined cabin fast cruiser like this. But owners choose boats like this as much for style as practicality, and in style terms, the likes of CG Pettersson and Riva (and let’s not forget Alan Burnard too) are bearers of a very rare distinction: these are the few designers who have managed to create craft that are practical but, without sacrificing any clarity of purpose in their appearance, so instantly recognisable that they can only be described as icons.

ON BOARD

First impressions on board are of space, space and more space. You could probably go out as a group of ten on this, certainly on inland waters, and this has been the principal aspect of the PTS26’s success. It’s a simple boat: the huge self-draining cockpit is home to U-shaped seating and a central table that rises up from the sole and, if clothed in cushions, becomes either a lounging area – or, with canopy, a large double outdoor berth. Aft of it is a generously sized mahogany swim platform.

Forward of it, and with no step to trip over, are the helm’s and passenger seats, on swivelling pedestals. Two footsteps take you down to the small, functional cabin. The look down here is clean: white two-pack paint and honest, high-quality plywood with exposed edges.

You get a heads with sit-down shower, a small galley, and a vee-berth, leaving the cockpit lockers free for external stowage. Andrew has no intention of sleeping on Baloo, but it’s a reasonable proposition, with the potential of two more in that palatial cockpit. The boat was, in fact, conceived as a weekender.

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