Andrew Pinder reports on two inland boats built in the east, both with strengths and fully equipped

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Viking 20

WITH SUCH AN interesting coastline and so many picturesque river estuaries, it is sometimes easy to forget that this country has a vast network of inland waterways that are just as fascinating to explore.

In fact simply messing about on the river (or the broad, or the canal) may be all that many people aspire to. Bearing that in mind, in this edition of Anglia Afloat we look at two motor cruisers designed for the average family of four cruising on non-tidal waters.

With an eye to the first time market, both cruisers – the Viking 20 and the GSA Atlanta 24 – are very sensibly offered at ready-to-go prices. That means there are no hidden extras or other ‘gotchas’ to worry about. Fenders, mooring lines, basic safety equipment, and even delivery are all included.

The power unit for both cruisers is a 15 hp outboard engine. This arrangement has a lot of attractions. Modern outboards are extremely reliable and easy to maintain. Thanks to massproduction they are also very cost effective.

Viking 20

Length: 6.1 m

Beam: 2.24 m

Draft: 0.4 m

Air draft: 2.0 m

Outboard engine: 15 hp Mariner four-stroke

Fuel capacity (petrol): 25 litres

Berths: 4

Manufacturer: Viking Mouldings Ltd., 01371 875214, www.vikingcruisers.com

Distributor: Riverside Marine and Leisure Ltd., 01480 468666, www.boatsaleuk.com

Other boats in the range: Viking 24, Viking 26 and Viking 750 Sedan

Price: £22,990

Even if a major overhaul becomes necessary, it can be done without having to negotiate a cramped inboard compartment. So again, the cost of ownership is kept as low as possible.

The other common factor with both cruisers is accommodation for a crew of four.

On the face of it, the layouts are quite similar, but as I found out there are some important differences resulting from different compromises being made at the design stage.

The Viking 20 is the smallest of a range of craft built by Viking Mouldings Ltd. of Dunmow in Essex, and distributed in the Anglia region by Riverside Marine & Leisure Ltd. of Needingworth, near St. Ives in Cambridgeshire.

GSA Atlanta 24

At an all-inclusive price a shade under £23,000, the Viking 20 is very popular with first-time purchasers. In fact David Taylor of Riverside Marine told me that he has sold about 80 Vikings in the last three years, being mainly the Viking 20 or her larger sister the Viking 24, destined for the River Great Ouse or the Norfolk Broads.

The Viking 20 is powered by a 15 hp, fourstroke Mariner outboard engine, which is tucked away neatly in a well cut out of the transom. The petrol tank is situated under one of the cockpit seats, and has sufficient capacity for about 12 hours of cruising. The controls (including electric start) are led to the helm position on the port side of the cockpit; the arrangement here is basic albeit adequate, but the high chair provides good all-round visibility and I was pleased to find enough elbow room to feel comfortable while steering. It was a brisk spring day when we took the Viking down the Great Ouse, but I had no difficulty going against the wind or performing a tight turn in a confined marina.

While a smaller engine would probably have been adequate in most situations, the extra power will certainly be appreciated when manoeuvring in strong winds or currents (navigating the notorious Breydon Water on the Broads comes to mind).

The PVC cockpit cover providing all round protection from the elements was another feature that we appreciated the day we spent aboard, although of course the whole thing can be folded down when the sun comes out. There are cushions across the stern of the cockpit to seat the remainder of the crew, but the layout is functional rather than luxurious.

GSA Atlantic 24

Length: 7.62 m

Beam: 2.08 m

Draft: 0.61 m

Air draft: 1.88 m

Outboard engine: 15 hp Honda four-stroke

Fuel capacity (petrol): 25 litres

Berths: 4

Manufacturer: GSA Marine (Boatbuilders) Ltd., 01362 688738, www.gsamarine.co.uk

Distributor: Tingdene Boat Sales Ltd., 01753 851717, www.tingdene.net

Other boats in the range: Atlanta 32.

Price: £34,950

Below decks a single through-length cabin provides a remarkable amount of accommodation for her size. A standard V arrangement in the bow represents a comfortable area for relaxing during the day, and with an in-fill converts to a double berth for sleeping at night.

Aft, there is a dinette on the port side. The dining table just about seats four people, and will drop down to form another, quite respectable, double berth when required.

Opposite the dinette, on the starboard side, is the galley. It is probably in this area that the builders have had to make the biggest compromise for the vessel’s length overall. A single stainless steel unit comprises a two-burner hob and a sink (with folding mixer tap) in one fitting. The arrangement is neat, but leaves little room for cooks who like to spread themselves while working. Underneath there is an oven/grill unit and a separate electric refrigerator. Everything needed is present, but there is not a lot of room left for stowage.

Aft of the galley, taking up the rest of the space on the starboard side of the cabin, is a small, no frills, head compartment (with chemical toilet and hot water shower).

My overall impression of the Viking 20 is that she lives up to her design aims very well – she is ideal as a family starter cruiser. The general standard of finish is good, without being exceptional. The accommodation is adequate. Everything needed to get on the water is included; nothing more and nothing less.

The GSA Atlanta 24 is about a metre and a half longer than the Viking 20, but crucially 0.16 m less in the beam. She therefore combines the best features of a modern cruiser with a narrow boat hull that can go anywhere on our national canal system.

The GSA Atlanta 24 is built in Norfolk by GSA Marine Ltd., although we travelled to Windsor on the River Thames to see her, where she is distributed by Tingdene Boat Sales Ltd. The ready-to-go price is £34,950.

She is based on a design that was very popular in the 1980’s, but following the recent acquisition by GSA has undergone extensive reworking. Undoubtedly the clean, contemporary look and the high standard of finish (real wood veneers, not Formica) are among the boat’s most attractive features.

The layout of the cabin is very similar to the Viking 20, but the design is light and airy which makes it seem bigger than it actually is.

The double V berth forward benefits from some little extras like shelves running fore and aft, and upholstered panels above and below. There are ample storage lockers under both berths.

We were all impressed by the galley area on the starboard side. Here the designer has made full use of the extra hull length available. The two-burner hob and stainless steel sink (with mixer tap) are completely separate, and flanked by wide, easy to clean worktop spaces. One could actually do some serious cooking here.

Underneath the worktops are an oven, electric fridge and reasonable stowage space.

At the end of the galley is a full length hanging locker.

The dinette on the port side, opposite the galley, is the only real disappointment, and it is probably the one place where the narrower beam design has proved restrictive. With flaps hinged upwards the table seats four - although I am not too sure how successfully if the children are being boisterous. Like the Viking 20, the table drops to form the second ‘double’ berth. Perhaps ‘very comfortable single’ berth would be a better description.

However, Neil Mallandain of distributor Tingdene is well aware of this problem and told me that an in-fill to convert the starboard cockpit seat to a berth would be offered in the near future. Personally I would prefer this arrangement, not the least because two separate berths offer greater flexibility. With the cockpit cover in place, the aft berth would be perfectly cosy, except on the coldest spring or autumn days.

A head compartment with toilet, holding tank, hand basin and shower, this time on the port side, aft of the dinette, completes the accommodation below. In keeping with the general standard of the vessel, the finish is rather better than on the Viking 20.

The cockpit is another area where the extra hull length shows, with plenty of comfortable seating space both across the transom and down the starboard side. Again, there is a good quality canopy which can be easily raised or lowered as required on a stainless steel pram frame.

The standard engine is a 15 hp four-stroke petrol outboard, this time by Honda. The engine is mounted on a platform running the full width of the transom, which doubles as a bathing platform (complete with folding ladder). The helm position is virtually identical to the Viking 20, although the wheel is smaller and I felt I had distinctly less elbow room on my left hand side. The GSA Atlanta 24 has a sedate cruising speed of about five mph and a range of about 10 hours on one tank of petrol.

It is perhaps a bit unfair to make a direct comparison between the Viking 20 and the GSA Atlanta 24. The Atlanta has a cleaner, more contemporary look and the build quality and standard of finish is definitely higher, but of course this is reflected in her price tag. If the ship’s cook has any say in the matter, the Atlanta will be the favoured choice; likewise if the potential for canal cruising appeals.

However both boats represent good value for money and are more than adequate for providing families, particularly first time boaters, with a great deal of pleasure for years to come.

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