BOAT REVIEW Classic 45

December 2022 Launch Reviews
Words by Andrew Howard. Photography & video by Roger Mills
Build Quality
MODEL Classic 45
BUILDER Classic Trawlers
LOA 13.98M
LENGTH (Waterline) 12.6M
ENGINE 1 x Cummins QSB 6.7 305hp
Maximum Speed 11.5 knots
Cruise Speed 6-8 knots
  • Value for money
  • Ease of operation
  • Low maintenance
  • Spacious interior
  • Economical cruising

Whether or not a vessel can squeeze into a 14m berth is essential for many boat owners. Berths that size are more available than larger ones, help keep the owner’s costs down and there are more options of temporary berths while travelling. With a plumb bow design and full-width salon, the voluminous Classic 45 makes full use of a 14m berth.

In the marina, the Classic 45 cuts a strikingly classic trawler figure. On the water she has this same presence and, after our sea trail, I got the impression that she can tame most sea conditions around New Zealand’s waterways.


Ernest Hemingway is credited with saying, “it is the journey that matters”. That sums up this vessel. Comfortable, stylish and with a design that has proven to be very seaworthy in other markets, this boat will allow owners to explore New Zealand in detail, making the most of every journey. If you have long dreamed of spending months discovering New Zealand by water, circumnavigating the coastline and making new memories, then this vessel is a good option.
Nigel High is the New Zealand-based owner of Classic Trawlers. Nigel is a mechanical engineer with experience in boat building, which comes through with just how simple this semi-displacement vessel is to operate and maintain. The overseas manufacturer has been producing fibreglass boats for over 30-years, supplying a large western market. The boats have built a solid reputation and a dedicated following during this time.

The Classic 45 has been tweaked for New Zealand conditions. Nigel has kept it simple by only providing a shaft-drive propulsion option, typically with a single engine, although the larger Classic 49 can be specified with twins if desired. This relatively simple single engine setup reduces operating costs while still affording excellent reliability. The way the whole saloon floor can be raised for full access into the hull and all the vessel’s systems is a highlight and a godsend for anyone whose knees no longer enjoy clambering around in small spaces.
The Classic 45 has twin cabins, whereas the Classic 49 has three full-size cabins. The twin-cabin vessel we tested felt incredibly spacious. With an interior head height of over 6’ 9” (over two metres) even the tallest skipper can stand up straight.

This vessel feels the same underway as many yachts, and it is a straightforward boat to walk around, manage underway, and maintain, courtesy of its generous 4.2m beam. Because of this, I can imagine ex-yachties falling in love with this boat which would enable them to extend their boating lives. I can also imagine a new type of boatie with a young family making the most that this boating style creates and the life lessons that it will teach.

Traditional look
These boats are built to look like they have traditional wood planking on the hull, which suits the boat’s classic trawler style. However, the hull is solid fibreglass, eliminating any long-term risk of coring or water ingress. To inhibit possible osmosis, the outer layers are made using vinylester resins and epoxy barriers.
To minimise maintenance there is no exterior wood at all. The 900mm-high, heavy 316 stainless-steel railings wrapping around the boat are slightly taller than you’d typically find on a motorboat, but they provide extra security and make walking around the vessel much safer.

The fibreglass Bimini-style hardtop is supported by solid stainless-steel struts and is the perfect place for a large bank of solar panels to keep the batteries charged up at anchor with the genset switched off. The upper deck overhang shelters the cockpit.

Classic and bright
Stepping into the saloon one is immediately impressed by the spacious full-width salon and generous windows that really bring the outside in. The interior of the test boat is one of several standard layouts available, but other custom options can be requested. The floor is traditional teak and holly, which runs right through the vessel, underpinning its classic feel and high-quality finish. Teak and holly flooring is forgiving when spending a lot of time on the water, easy to clean and handles pets very well.
The steam-bent teak trim, dovetailed drawers, full extension slides, and book-matched grain teak cabinetry create a warm, calming classy feel to every living space on board. Countertops are all of quartz, and the upholstery is very durable Ultraleather.

The ceiling is lined with removable off-white vinyl panels. They, in combination with natural light flooding in through the generous windows and an plenty of warm lighting available from the vessel’s vast array of LEDs, helps creates a home-like feel.
Year -round use
Built for long-range exploration, this vessel does an excellent job of utilising the spaces available. The living spaces feel large and open – more like those in a boat closer to 60 feet in length (18.3m). The exterior areas are also larger than expected from a hull of this size, and I imagine owners of this boat will spend many evenings watching sunsets from its vast flybridge. With copious storage throughout the vessel – drawers and lockers galore, many with internal lighting, and cedar lining – there’s ample space to easily store clothing and supplies to cater for extended periods onboard.

With reverse-cycle heat pump, diesel heating and air-conditioning options, owners can use their boats all year round in any part of the country. It is easy to visualise this vessel being at home both in the South Island’s beautiful Dusky Sound, with snow falling outside during winter, or cruising the stunning Bay of Islands during a long summer. Why not do both?

The dining table easily seats 4-5 adults and can be converted into another double bed, as does the 2.5m long sofa, albeit a rather long and narrow one. The sofa is also s a comfortable spot to view the drop-down television screen, which is cleverly hidden above the dining table when not in use.
The galley is expedition-ready, fully equipped for spending weeks away at a time. The domestic fridge-freezer is finished with stainless steel doors, the Force 10 oven/hob is available in either electric or gas options, there is ample galley storage and all the 230V inverter power you could need for toasters and coffee machines.
The queen-sized island bed in the master stateroom in the bow is excellent. Lots of walk-around space, 6’10” headroom, hanging lockers with internal lighting, and storage. An island bed is a critical factor when it comes to being comfortable on board for an extended trip. The stateroom’s generous space is all down to the Classic Trawler’s plumb bow design.

Off the companionway, the main bathroom has all the required features including a separate enclosed shower, quartz countertops, electric toilet, and a mirrored ceiling –the master stateroom has its own an ensuite head and basin.
All boaties know that, besides the hidden onboard wine cellar, the other primary consideration when on the water is ensuring a peaceful night’s sleep. Most planing boats suffer from chine slap, which can make for noisy and restless nights, especially in forward cabins. But chine slap has been eliminated on the Classic 45 (personally guaranteed by Nigel!), as the hull’s spray chines are raised well above the waterline. A peaceful night’s sleep is guaranteed, regardless of the conditions.

Choice of helms
The Classic 45 has two fully equipped helm stations. The flybridge helm has excellent visibility and is a great place to navigate from on a summer’s day, but the enclosed pilothouse helm is the all-weather station. The dashboard is clean and crisp. The Garmin screens are at just the right height, and there is space leftover for more gauges and any additional devices, such as a Seakeeper. The flybridge helm is similarly laid out.

The pilothouse is set up with a single captain’s chair and a rear bench companion seat, which means the crew can always be part of the journey. Up top, the comfy helm seat is positioned in the middle with an identical seat to port.
The pilothouse has both port and starboard sliding doors to access the bow and the flybridge, which is reached via stairs from the side decks on both sides. Outside these doors, gates in the railings provide easy access from either side of the vessel to wharves and jetties of any height, marina docks and landings.

Powered by a single Cummins QSB 6.7litre 305hp engine, the test boat cruised easily at 8 knots, and we achieved a top speed of 11.5 knots.
With a displacement of 19,500kg wet, which is a lot compared to most boats of this length, she feels sturdy and sure-footed.

During the test, we achieved a fuel burn rate of only 6.52 litres per hour at 1,300rpm and 6.0knots. Such frugal fuel usage means that the vessel’s 1,500-litre fuel capacity provides a lot of range without having to carrying excess fuel, also adding weight. When we pushed the Classic 45 along at 11.5knots, 3,000rpm, she was using 70 litres per hour. This means that, while day trips are certainly possible, especially in the Hauraki Gulf, she is designed for a slower pace of boating, allowing you to enjoy the voyage while clocking up the sea miles in a relaxed manner.

Ready for extras
With only a 12-month build and delivery time, there are only a few months in the purchasing process to tweak and finish your specifications and options. In addition to a bank of solar panels, I would recommend considering a Seakeeper gyro-stabiliser system, a fridge on the flybridge, and a tender davit. These additions will help maximise the versatility of the boat.

The flybridge is built with the proper structure to install a tender davit either from the outset, or later. There is space on the flybridge for an 3-4m tender with a decent-sized outboard. Smaller tenders can easily be accommodated on the spacious swim platform or on Weaver davits off the stern.

The journey and the destination
The boating experience the Classic 45 provides is one where the journey itself becomes the main priority. With classic trawler lines, and all the modern features and equipment, the Classic 45 is a good liveaboard cruiser on which to live a life, work from a floating home, raise the kids, or have the grandkids stay for a week. And since she will happily travel anywhere around New Zealand’s long coastline, she is also about the destination.