Kitted out with an array
of high end and futuristic
features, and with ample
space for large groups of
people, Le Boat’s new craft
is designed for luxurious
Continental cruising.
Mark Langley puts it to
the test on the Thames…
he Le Boat Vision 4SL is quite unlike most
inland craft afloat. Primarily built for cruising
the broad waterways of Continental Europe
(and the UK’s larger rivers), it is designed to
give unashamedly luxurious accommodation for eight or
nine people, while also being easy to handle. It is available
from Le Boat, both as a private ownership craft and
one that can be chartered across Europe, and is built in
sturdy GRP by renowned French boatbuilder Beneteau.
Stepping aboard the boat for the first time, it seemed
huge – almost too big for our testing ground of the
gentle River Thames. A low stern deck gives easy
access, while the side decks are substantial and very
easy to walk around. The deck is stepped towards the
bow – with a plentiful supply of handholds making
it easy for the most timid crew to move around.
A staircase leads up from the aft deck to the sundeck,
on top of the cabin. Storage lockers abound – there
is even a second fridge up here, along with a gas
barbeque. There is upholstered seating for ten people
on several sofas and sunbeds, plus a huge table for
al fresco dining – all covered by a bimini sun cover.
Although the cover wasn’t fitted to our Thames test
boat just yet, it would be essential on the Canal du
Midi in summer. The upper helm position is on
the centreline, quite forward on the sundeck.
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Above: The
upper helm
station has
the electronic
including the
joystick for
and the screen
for the two
cameras fitted
at the bow and
stern. Forward
of the helm is
the stairwell
down to the
saloon and a
large sunpad
area – which on
some boats has
been the base
for several large
solar panels.
Above right:
barbeque and
sink on the
top deck.
Left: A simple,
control panel
shows the state
of battery banks,
power input
and useage,
plus the levels
in the diesel,
water and toilet
waste tanks. The
system can be
to give quite
information for
owners, or left
more basic for
those hiring
the boat.
In addition to the aft staircase, at the front of the boat
a large hatch opens up to give another set of widetread stairs, which descend into the forward saloon and
galley. Once down, you are faced with a huge U-shaped
dinette, where the table (and seating) is split down the
middle, to give safe access to the foredeck through a
huge, opening, glazed hatch. In fact, the entire saloon is
glazed around 180º, which is useful, as a second helm
position is fitted low to starboard. Here there are also
the principal controls for the engineering systems.
The galley takes the entire aft bulkhead, bar the corridor
space to starboard, and extends under the stairs to port.
There is a full-size cooker (with proper extractor hood
above), microwave, coffee-maker, saloon TV/DVD player,
plus lots of cupboards and workspace. However, the galley
is dominated by a huge (by boat standards) fridge freezer,
complete with chilled water dispenser. It provides a good
space, if not excessive, to be able to cook afloat for nine
people – though in warmer climes, many boaters would
be tempted by the sundeck barbeque or eating ashore.
Heading aft, a corridor runs the full length of the starboard
side, culminating in a wide door to the aft deck. Four cabins
lead from the corridor – each pair of cabins is a mirror
image in layout. A three cabin version is also available,
with the space given to more floor area within each cabin.
Le BoAT ViSion 4SL
u Length 49ft
by 14ft 9in
u Berths 8+1
u Engine Yanmar 75hp
u Cost £249,000
u Contact
02392 222343,
surrounds the
hull, with wide
decks and easy
boarding. A
large gangplank
can be itted in
three positions
on the stern, to
really simplify
getting on and
of the boat.
In every cabin there is a pair of full-size single berths,
which make a large double bed if one is slid over to join
the other. The bedside cabinet can then be easily relocated,
giving a quick conversion. Under the gunwale is space for
cups of tea, glasses, etc, while a decently large wardrobe,
glazed shelving units and plenty of under berth storage,
provide enough living space for couples staying for a
fortnight or longer.
Each cabin has its own ensuite bathroom. A large sink and
a Dometic macerator loo are fitted, with the floor being the
shower tray in wet room-style. A good sized extractor fan
combined with the efficient LED lighting make this a very
useable space. Above the sink is a translucent panel, which
allows light to be spilled into the bathroom from the corridor
– a surprisingly good idea that gives enough illumination in
the loo to use it without turning on lights during the day.
Left: The lower
helm position,
complete with
TV screen to
show where the
back and front
of the boat is.
The entire boat is air-conditioned, with individual controls
in each cabin, plus the saloon. The 48,000BTU (14kW)
air-conditioning unit is cooled by river water and powered
by the onboard cocooned Onan diesel generator. This is a
very quiet unit, with a gas-water separator in the exhaust,
to prevent the burbling, splashing exhaust that can annoy
other boaters around when moored up. The generator
also provides full 230V power, which is supplemented by
the pure sine wave inverter and/or the shoreline supply,
as required. All the systems are effectively automatic,
www.waterwaysworld.com | SEPTEMBER 2013 | 43
Above: Although
a huge boat,
the hull is very
and needs less
power than a
steel boat of
similar volume
to power it – the
extra reserve
horsepower is
more for light
coastal cruising
– such as around
the Venice
lagoons, or the
Etangs on the
Canal du Midi.
Below: The large
saloon has a
split table to
allow access to
the bow and
to give easy
seating for ten
or so people.
though a fully-functional touchscreen control is mounted
by the lower helm, where the fuel, waste and water tanks
can also be monitored – and the loo tanks emptied by
the onboard pump (some countries still have very few
pump-out stations and overboard discharge is accepted).
In the engine room the 75hp Yanmar is mounted on a
ZF Pod unit, which is effectively an underwater Z-drive,
with the propeller moving electronically, eliminating the
need for a rudder. The controls for the system are quite
complex, though it is possible to manually override the
system and even steer mechanically. Given the rigours of
hire boat use, the controls have proved extremely reliable.
Handling this large boat is something quite different – we
chose to start on the exterior helm, as this, we feel, is where
most of the steering will be done. There is a wheel, as
you would expect, and a single lever control – rather than
operating by push-pull cables, this is electronic, so there
is a slight lag between selecting gear or throttle and the
response. Steering is quite positive, with only a short lock-
p The Yanmar engine
sits on top of the pod
drive unit – all the
electronics required to
control the system are
in here. The standard
of engineering is
impressive – Le
Boat do not expect
a charterer to open
the engine room at
all during a cruise,
so there is a lot of
redundancy in the
fittings to prevent any
problems, such as
multiple water filters
and ventilation blowers.
t The generator feeds
power into the quite
complex electrical (and
electronics) system,
along with maintaining
the large battery
bank when the main
engine is not running.
u Here, the exhaust
gas-water separator
(in the background)
ensures quiet running
– very important
when running in the
evening to support
the air-conditioning.
Forward, a primary
fuel filter and water
intake strainer are
all easily accessible
for inspection.
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to-lock turn on the wheel and here the response is quick
– and this uses electronic controls as well. However, as it
is a pod-drive, there is no steering when in neutral, which
initially caught me out when approaching our first lock.
However, help was at hand. A push of a button and
suddenly a small joystick comes into play. This controls
the pod drive, the speed (and direction) of thrust, and
the bowthruster in one very intuitive package. Push to
go forward, push more to go faster, push left to move
left, and so on. It made fitting the big boat into the
Thames locks, and bringing it to a gentle halt, quite easy.
The boat could be made to turn in its own length, or
even reverse in a straight line into a stern-on berth. The
substantial fixed fendering that surrounds the hull did not
make contact with the lock side (much to my relief) and
proved how quick the system is for boaters to adapt to.
The interior helm has a more limited view out
– however, help is at hand in the form of cameras at the
bow and stern, which can be switched into different views
(or even split-screen showing both ends) to make mooring
easy – and this is replicated on the top deck, which can be
a boon when making a tight approach into the mooring.
Right: The galley
against the aft
saloon bulkhead,
including a huge
fridge-freezer and
a decent amount
of storage space.
The saloon TV
is also mounted
here, though there
are others in each
cabin as well.
Below: The cabin
in double berth
form. The glazed
cupboard has
LED strip lighting
above for subtle
illumination of the
cabin. Unusually,
every cabin has a
fire extinguisher,
which is more than
required by the
standards, but is a
very good idea.
This is a very futuristic boat indeed,
and while it might not win many
prizes for being the best looking of
craft, it has acres of well-designed
space, both inside and out, plus
engineering standards (such as
multiple raw water filters and fuel
filters) that put many inland craft to
shame. The category C rating means
that it is also capable of coastal
cruising, and the 75hp engine has
more than enough power – 1400rpm
enabled us to reach the Thames
speed limit without pulling any wash,
certainly less than most narrowboats
or barges of a similar length.
The electronic controls and the
pod drive are unusual at first, but
very quick to get used to, and
they make handling a doddle.
The air-conditioning is almost
essential for Continental cruising,
while the superbly designed
cabins and bathrooms do have
more of a hotel feel than the
cramped cabins of many cruisers.
Le Boat and Beneteau have
made a superb boat, which has
already proved successful across
their fleet and is attracting buyers
for their own use, as well as those
looking to add it to their charter
fleet (see below). On the Thames,
the lock-keepers all boarded this
new boat to take a look and were
highly impressed. Overall, this is
a fantastic boat and does exactly
what it is built for – cruising in style!
The ensuite
bathrooms are
quick drying
and easy to
clean, with a
large amount of
headroom and
good storage
space behind
the mirror.
Le Boat runs an ownerships
programme, where a purchaser
of a new boat can put it into
the charter fleet (in a location
of their choosing) and gain
a guaranteed 7% return per
annum on the boat’s initial
purchase price (which is £1,210
per month income) with all
maintenance and operating
costs paid for by the company.
This still gives up to 12 weeks
usage per year and the contract
lasts for seven years, with
an option for an extension
for a further seven years.
As well as being able to use
your own boat, you can use
other boats in the fleet, at other
locations, with just a handover/
turnaround fee payable. This
means you could own a boat
in the south of France, but
holiday in the Netherlands or
Ireland—or even charter a yacht
in the Mediterranean through
sister company Sunsail (Le
Boat is part of the massive TUI
company, so cross-company
opportunities abound).
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