If you’re looking for a quick and comfortable cruiser that is full of great features with solid build quality, few boats can rival the Maxi 1000, as Graham Snook discovers
Anna-Leigh and Alex Cox have both sailed for many years but Gemini, their Maxi 1000, is the couple’s first yacht. They also own a Sunseeker 31 motorboat, but Anna-Leigh’s yearning to return to sailing won over and they now use either boat when work allows, often cruising the Solent or beyond.
As a first yacht for coastal and offshore cruising, the couple have fallen on their feet with Gemini; the Maxi 1000 has a good pedigree. Her designer was Pelle Petterson, Swedish Olympic medalist and skipper of America’s Cup challengers.
Being made redundant during a global pandemic might not be the best time to buy your first yacht, but it happened at just the right time for Anna-Leigh and Alex. ‘We never thought we’d be able to own a yacht like Gemini, at least not at this stage in our life,’ smiles Anna-Leigh.
‘After more than 20 years with the same company I was made redundant and Alex was looking to expand Raw Bean [his coffee business], so I joined the company and we bought Gemini. We love her, she’s a great boat!’
The Maxi 1000 was a development of the Maxi 999 that was produced between 1985 and 1992 when the 1000 started production. The model remained in build for 10 years with more than 1,000 built.
Gemini was hull no. 1042, launched in early 2002 and was one of the later boats. Having reached 20 years old, Gemini hides it well; a few loose areas of caulking on the weathered teak decks and scratched detailing of stickers around the coachroof windows show the extent of her life so far.
Anna-Leigh and Alex bought Gemini in 2020, but they weren’t able to collect her from Fowey until spring 2021. ‘We were really lucky though,’ explains Alex. ‘Although because of Covid and the regulations, we weren’t able to visit the boat, Gemini’s previous owners Pete and Ali Siddall would go down and check on her, they really looked after us well.
‘We couldn’t have asked for a better seller. When we eventually left Fowey they came out and waved us off, taking photos which they then sent us.’
There was a light breeze when I joined Alex and Anna-Leigh at Swanwick, a far cry from the couple’s first date when Alex had borrowed a friend’s yacht to impress Anna-Leigh, only for it to blow a gale – the less said about that trip the better, but they are living happily ever after now.
Gemini was moored stern-to and boarding was easy. The Maxi 1000 has a long bathing platform with a ladder and a step in the transom. Despite having a radar pole fixed to the step, there was plenty of foot space – one more step and I was in the cockpit.
The Maxi 1000 shares a lot of family features with her previous models; sleek with a pleasing sheer line and wedge-shaped coachroof. After the 1000, bows became more vertical and hulls broader.
Petterson has been clever with the design, keeping the freeboard at a sensible height but sloping her decks up gently going inboard to increase the headroom below.
As standard the 1000 was fitted with a 7/8ths fractional rig and a self-tacking jib, which Gemini still has. The couple have found that the furling No2 genoa (28m2) suits their sailing, giving her the extra sail area the self-tacking jib lacks in light winds. Her Lewmar 40ST winches make short work of either sail.
She also has two jib tracks on the inboard edge of the deck; the forward set allows a jib to be sheeted within the shrouds while the genoa passes outboard.
In the conditions we had, 6-10 knots true, we weren’t going to be pushing her limits. On the wind (32-35º apparent wind angle) we had an apparent wind speed of up to 14 knots and she was sailing well.
Making between 5.2-5.9 knots in the gusts, she would start to feel pressed but remained comfortable and responsive; a few more knots breeze and the genoa might have needed a turn taking in or switched to the self-tacking jib, but as we only had a short beat up Southampton Water it was soon time to bear away.
At 60º AWA the wind was dropping 7-10 knots but we were getting 5-5.4 knots through the water. Gemini has Whitlock wheel steering; its rod connections keep the steering slack-free with responsive control.
Sadly, the breeze decreased more, at 90º in 6 knots she was making just over 4 knots, but by the time we were sailing at 120º AWA in 3.6 knots apparent, it was more drifting with control than sailing.
It was time to put the kettle and the engine on, and head back. Gemini has the optional full teak deck and she looks all the smarter for it. There are a few places where it’s worn or been sanded to a depth where the caulking sealant has come adrift, but the fastenings holding the deck are still well-hidden by
their wooden plugs.
She has a detachable mainsheet on a short traveller in the cockpit, enabling the cockpit table or a cockpit cover to be easily fitted.
Stowage in the cockpit is excellent with a cavernous locker to starboard and deep lazarette lockers beneath the helm’s seat and to port.
Moving below, Gemini has wide companionway steps over the engine compartment. The forward section is removable to give good access to the front of the engine. One is instantly struck by the amount of solid wood on show; on the whole, it has aged well.
The Maxi 1000 was available with a teak or an American cherry wood interior, the latter having a more interesting grain pattern.
Immediately to starboard is the heads. If you’re entering the boat with soaked oilskins you can get changed in here and then leave the wet kit in the locker to the rear without having to drag it through the boat. Once dry, it can be left in the oilskin locker outboard of the chart table seat, so it’s on hand when you need it.
The chart table is a good size, and what looks like a squeeze is a comfy navigation station. The lid overhangs the table and has a good chunky laminated solid-wood surround with a grab handle forward in the semi-bulkhead.
The locker beneath the chart table has the bin and there’s a drawer beneath that. There is a handy cubby hole outboard, beneath the chart table, and the switch panel is above. Instrument space is a little limited but otherwise, it works well.
Opposite, to port, is the L-shaped galley. It has high fiddles and a good grab handle aft of the large double stainless-steel sinks. Above the stove are deck-level lockers with smoothly sliding doors.
Her original 90-litre water capacity was increased by her former owner to 260 litres for trips away to the Isles of Scilly. There is a good line of drawers and a locker beneath the sinks and a pan locker below the stove.
Headroom below is good, with 1.83m+/6ft+ in the galley, aft cabin and rear of the saloon.
Moving forward, the wedge-shaped coachroof takes away headroom from the forward end of the saloon down to 1.68m/5ft 6in and the forward cabin to 1.6m/5ft 3in.
In the saloon are five deck-level bottom-hinged lockers. Where there would be a sixth on the starboard side is an open-fronted locker with a solid wood fiddle. The lockers have solid wood louvred fronts and weighty solid-wood frames.
With all this wood it could have easily felt like the inside of a coffin; thankfully though, the Maxi 1000 has a white GRP inner liner which forms the supports for the forward and aft berths, the saloon seat bases, and chart table seat.
Not only does this make the workflow of building the yacht more efficient, it also lightens the lower areas of the yacht.
In these seat bases, one finds lockers that can be accessed from the top and inboard without having to lift cushions or crew. It’s especially handy as Gemini is sensibly fitted with lee cloths, which would further add to the faff of getting into the lockers were it not for these locker doors.
She has a bench seat to starboard and U-shaped seating to port, which has a nice feature that allows the bunk base to slide out to create a double berth. This gives Gemini three decent-sized double berths.
Still in good nick
At 20 years old, Gemini is still in great condition. There are some battle scars in her woodwork and watermarks in her floorboards, but it’s nothing some sandpaper and varnish couldn’t put right.
She has lots of nice little details, such as the raised deck outboard of the helm or the plastic edging around the inspection hatches on the floorboards that seal the edges and stop them from binding and squeaking.
In the forward cabin, there are bottom-hinged doors to access the under-berth stowage without having to lift the bunk cushions. The long vee berth has an infill, but there is no other floor space in the forward cabin, so with the insert in place, as you would do with sheets on the berth, there’s no room to get changed unless you do so in the saloon or lying down. Not an issue with children, but it might not be ideal for you or any guests you invite onboard.
The berth is 2.09m/6ft 10in long with a maximum width of 1.77m/5ft 9in, but at shoulder height it is only 1.44m/5ft 9in.
Alex and Anna-Leigh have found the aft cabin makes the better owner’s cabin on board. It’s easy to see why, it feels huge. While the berth isn’t the widest (at 1.6m/5ft 3in) headroom is 1.83m/6ft and the space above the berth is unusually generous too. I kept expecting to bump my head but it never happened.
The aft cabin also has both shelf and locker stowage outboard. Locker ventilation is great thanks to the louvred doors. There are reading lights and the main light switch can be reached from the berth. The cabin also benefits from two hatches that open into the cockpit for increased ventilation.
Beneath the berth are the batteries and there is also access to the engine and to the saildrive gearbox.
Opposite the aft cabin is the heads, again there is good headroom here. The shower pulls out of the heads and there are mirrored sliding lockers outboard.
The plinth for the toilet is quite high. The toilet has a fold-down cover that stops the toilet from getting wet and gives a good seat for those having a shower.
The toilet roll holder is sheltered in the locker under the sink, also in there, you’ll find a drawer for even more stowage.
The Maxi 1000 is a good-looking boat that will find favour with those who like yachts with attractive lines and are happy to have a pretty boat rather than a roomy boat.
She harks back to a time before impractical plumb bows when yachts were more parallelogram in profile than brick. Her narrow beam does restrict her accommodation and interior comfort by modern standards, but she’s a more comfortable sailing yacht because of it.
Looking for rivals, I was struck by the good value the Maxi 1000 offers. The quality of her woodwork was good, but compared to other Swedish-built yachts or yachts of a similar quality she was considerably cheaper, almost a third in some cases.
Although her interior woodwork wasn’t pristine, she is two decades old and the quality of the joinery was better than many yachts built today.
Finding a yacht the same age and price that offers excellent coastal cruising, build quality and clever design features along with the ability for club racing, is a hard task.
For those with deeper pockets, there’s the Finngulf 33, Arcona 340 or the Hallberg Rassy 34. If you’re looking for more performance, there are yachts like the Elan 333 or X-Yacht 332, J105 or the newer Dehler 34, but as YM caters for cruising sailors I’ve suggested three rivals that are similar but with a twist…
Alternatives toi the Maxi 1000
For a more modern alternative, without having to spend half as much again as a good Maxi 1000, the Dufour 34 is similar in ethos to the Maxi 1000 and within roughly the same price bracket. The 34 model was launched after the Maxi in 2003, and developed into the 34 Performance.
In 2010 it evolved to become the 34e; gone were the aft helm seat and step in the transom. Instead, she gained an open transom with raised aft deck, liferaft locker and fold-down bathing platform, while forward was a larger steering wheel.
Like the Maxi 1000, she’s a nippy 33ft coastal cruiser with the comfort of two separate cabins as standard and a large cockpit that enables her to be used for cruising or racing. Her hull is sleek, well-proportioned and easily driven. She has a single spade rudder and her standard draught was 1.5m/4ft 11in. There was an option for a deep performance keel (1.9m/6ft 2in) to allow her to reach her full performance potential.
A wheel bisects the aft end of the cockpit and got bigger as she became the 34e. Nowadays a boat like her would have twin wheels. The steering was smooth and the large wheel made helming enjoyable.
Below decks, the layout is very similar to the Maxi 1000, even if it doesn’t match the Maxi’s quality; instead of one-piece laminated surrounds to the galley and chart table Dufour uses corner pieces and has an ‘assembled’ feel rather than the crafted feel of Swedish boats.
The use of darker mahogany veneers is also more apparent on board. The berth size is good and, unlike the Maxi, there is room to stand in the forward cabin and there is hanging and shelved stowage in the forward cabin too.
The saloon has a bench seat on each side, with the chart table to starboard. The heads is opposite the galley and there’s the option for a second aft cabin. As the 34 is a newer design and was launched when the Maxi was ending her production cycle, one should expect to pay more.
The centre cockpit Moody 346 is a good option for those wanting more interior space while still retaining good sea-keeping. It comes at the expense of performance, but the 346 is certainly no slouch – far from it.
Just under 250 Moody 346s were built since its launch in 1986, and some also featured twin keels.
On deck, the 346 can’t compete with the large aft cockpit of the Maxi 1000 or the Dufour 34, and the downsides of the centre cockpit may outweigh the benefits; the raised position increases rolling motion. It’s also smaller and there are more steps to move around the boat from here, whether you’re heading to the saloon, or mooring up or boarding from aft.
However, there is decreased pitching, a large aft cabin and greater owner privacy. Indeed, it is below decks where the 346 makes up ground.
For many, the privacy and space offered in the separate aft cabin is what persuades them to choose a centre-cockpit design. The galley is a longer L-shape and has more countertop space, but much of it is along the corridor to the aft cabin where the headroom is reduced by the cockpit’s shape.
It is the cosy aft cabin that steals the show here though, especially for a sub 35ft yacht. Not only does it have a large double berth outboard to port, but opposite there is also an L-shaped sofa.
While her interior might feel a little dated now, the 346 remains well made and practical, and can offer many miles of comfortable coastal cruising to anyone who chooses to buy one.
Westerly Storm 33
For those who like the idea of a 33ft cruiser with a touch of speed, but can’t stretch to the Maxi 1000, a cheaper alternative is the Westerly Storm 33.
The Storm was Westerly’s 1986 take on a performance cruiser and it sold 141 of them. After seven years, it (along with the company) was revamped. She became the Regatta 330 and another 15 were built.
The Storm holds true to Westerly’s values: tough British-built boats with solid joinery that sailed well. The majority have tiller steering, making them quick to respond and rewarding to sail.
The cockpit is a good size and while the coamings are low, they are sloped making them very comfortable when sitting out of the cockpit. Forward, the companionway has a teak grated bridgedeck, and steps below; this gives those operating the coachroof winches more room and provides stowage for the liferaft.
Her interior quality still shows today, although it’s clear that after more than 35 years interior design has evolved while the amount of solid wood has decreased. The lack of a forward anchor locker has increased the space and size of the forward cabin, and it has lockers and floor space to show for it.
The saloon is a good size as is the L-shaped galley, but what she gains forward she loses in the smaller aft cabin and heads. Westerly Yachts remain a popular choice with cruising couples and those with small families and the Storm is no different; she was designed for the British coastal waters and has all you need to enjoyably navigate them.
A yacht built by the old Nimbus boat yard and designed by Pelle Petterson is, without doubt, a winning combination of well thought out design and substantial construction standards. As a result, these boats always hold their value.
Of the yachts I’ve surveyed, very few had serious structural problems, but there are a few issues you need to be aware of. Port light fittings within the saloon can allow moisture into the normally very well finished internal joinery and laminate.
Many topsides were moulded in a dark blue pigment and while reasonably colour-fast for around five to 10 years, many do end up with the typical chalking and fading that many dark coloured gel coats suffer with. It can be quite noticeable where repairs have been previously undertaken.
Some 1000s had teak decks overlaid onto the main working GRP decks and as with several other yachts of this age, it’s very important to evaluate the condition and watertightness of the deck as replacement costs will always be expensive.
If you’re considering the wing keel option, take a close look at the hull to keel joint condition and obviously the internal fastenings. It’s not uncommon for yachts of this age to need the fastenings properly checked. It is also important to pay attention to the rudder blade condition as moisture absorption is frequently an issue as well.
Ben Sutcliffe-Davies, Marine Surveyor and full member of the Yacht Brokers Designers & Surveyors Association (YDSA) www.bensutcliffemarine.co.uk
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