January 2024 Launch Reviews
Words by John Eicchelsheim. Photography and video by Roger Mills.
Build Quality
MODEL Sargo 36
DESIGNER Sargo Boats
BUILDER Sargo Baots
LENGTH (Waterline) 11.8M
ENGINE 2 x Volvo Penta 440hp sterndrive
Maximum Speed 42 knots
Cruise Speed 28 knots
  • Spirited performance with the largest engines option
  • Handling that inspires confidence
  • High quality fit and finish
  • Comfortable and well equipped

European Marine’s Leighton Henshaw took his time when looking around for a new range of boats to add to the company’s portfolio. He settled on Finnish manufacturer Sargo, a family-owned boat building business that traces its roots back to 1967, part of a regional boatbuilding tradition that goes back generations.

For me, it was all about integrity and commitment to quality. Sargo fulfilled that brief and then some,” explained Henshaw as we stepped aboard the first Sargo to arrive in New Zealand for its delivery voyage from Tauranga to Auckland. Tough, well made, fast, and designed for challenging Scandinavian boating conditions, Sargo’s range of all-seasons motor yachts struck him as the perfect fit for New Zealand boaters.
The handsome Sargo 36 had arrived in Tauranga by ship only the day before. Leighton and delivery skipper Bruce McGill, for many years Riviera Boats’ principal agent in New Zealand, had spent the previous day checking it over, ready for our run up the coast to Auckland.


Pocket battleship
This boat is the first of three models European Marine has on order, with a Sargo 31 due in January and a Sargo 45 further down the track. European Marine also import the Spanish-built Sasga range of motoryachts.
The Sargo 36 is quite unlike most boats we review in these pages. As McGill pointed out, it packs more features and equipment inside its modest 36 feet (11.80m) than do many much bigger boats. And the superb build quality is evident wherever you look, from the spacious, well laid out engine room under the cockpit sole, to stunning teak panelling, over-specced stainless railings and double-glazing throughout.

Speaking of the engine room, it is revealed by lifting the cockpit sole on hydraulic rams for superb accessibility. Nestled inside are a pair of Volvo Penta D6 440hp diesels, the largest of the five engine options for this model. This boat only comes with sterndrives, but the Sargo 45 is also available with Volvo Penta’s IPS.

Sargo’s mid-size model has a walkaround wheelhouse with wide side decks, tall bulwarks, and sturdy stainless-steel railings. One of the attractions for Henshaw was its family- and pet-friendly nature – he has young children and is confident they will be safe onboard.
The cockpit features wrap-around seating, Flexiteek covered, like the cockpit sole, with removable cushions and storage inside for the new lines supplied with the boat. There is also a rack across the transom, outboard, for stowing the branded fenders, while the cockpit table stores neatly behind the transom seat backrest.
This boat has the optional canopy, a bolt-on moulded extension of the wheelhouse roof that shelters the cockpit – not great for fishing, but there’s always the duckboard if you need more room to swing a fishing rod. The ceiling houses LED lighting and speakers for the vessel’s sound system.

Moving forward via either of the side decks (flush – no steps), the foredeck has a modest seating area and an easily worked anchor arrangement, the fairlead offset to port to accommodate a bow ladder for boarding the boat off a beach. The foredeck is lit by an X-Vision LED lightbar mounted on the wheelhouse roof and there’s a spotlight on the bow. Bulwarks feature doors either side amidships opposite the Sargo’s sliding cabin doors.

Cosy interior
A single sliding door off the cockpit opens into the wheelhouse with access to the aft guest cabin via under-seat stairs on the starboard side. This cabin extends under the raised seating area, which provides excellent fields of view from inside the wheelhouse. The carpeted, teak-trimmed guest cabin has an ensuite toilet and basin, but no shower (there is a pull-out cockpit shower). Twin berths positioned athwartships have an infill to create a large double. The ceiling over the bed is low, but there’s standing headroom for dressing by the entrance, along with a folding seat and hanging locker storage.

One of the three brothers running Sargo is a furniture designer, and his influence can be seen throughout this vessel – in the clever use of space and in the top-quality materials and fittings selected.
With generous side decks down either side and a decent-sized cockpit, space inside the wheelhouse is relatively tight, although large windows and the reverse windscreen make it seem larger – more so with the giant roof panel slid open. But the packaging is excellent with every nook and cranny used for storage or some other purpose – there’s even wrap-around teak shelving under the ceiling.

Windows are double-glazed, there’s diesel heating and windscreen demisters, along with blinds for all the windows and doors. Very cosy!
Along the port side under the windows there’s a well-appointed, all electric galley fully furnished with Sargo-branded dining utensils. A window aft opens to the cockpit. To starboard a raised L-shaped seating area with a folding leaf table seats up to six, though it was a bit of squeeze to get in and out of with the helm seat slid all the way back.
The helm station is quite traditional in style, but very well appointed. Three Grammer ‘Captain’s Chairs’ on sprung bases are fully adjustable for height and reach, also swivelling to address the table.

Forward, down the companionway through yacht-style teak doors with a scuttle, there’s double cabin in the bow, plus a semi-ensuite heads with separate shower. This bathroom is also the vessel’s day head. Again, all the materials are first-rate and there’s a remarkable amount of storage thanks to clever use of space. The cabin and bathroom lean more towards compact than truly spacious, but good design means they provide all the comfort and utility you’d expect.

Sargo markets its boats as ‘All Seasons’ vessels and that’s not just because they’re kitted out for Nordic winters with double glazing and efficient heating, it’s also because the hull design is expected to cope with messy sea conditions – not unusual in northern latitudes on the Baltic Sea. Another reason Leighton was attracted to Sargo was the similarities he saw between New Zealand’s changeable weather and the often-unpleasant sea states the Baltic delivers. Both areas can serve up challenging boating conditions.

Fast cruiser
We didn’t experience anything to challenge the Sargo 36’s equilibrium on our six-hour run from Tauranga to Auckland. On the contrary, for most of the journey there was little wind and the sea conditions were good, though there was a metre or so of swell out wide. Only around the top of Cape Colville did we experience some steeper, choppier seas where the building breeze and strong tides opposed one another, but even there the Sargo 36 remained comfortable and dry. I did throttle back to 22 knots for a few miles, but once clear of the worst, we were soon back at out happy cruise of 28 knots – and up to 30 knots when the water flattened out deeper into the gulf. I noted fuel burns of 85 litres per hour at 2650rpm, 25 knots, and 93lph at 2850rpm, 28 knots.

This is an easy boat to helm, and very comfortable. I loved the helm seats, with adjustable spring rates to cater for different-sized people and supportive footrests. The brushed steel wheel looks smart and feels substantial in the hands. The helm console combines black gelcoat with teak highlights, the wheel is adjustable for height, and the lower section of the instrument panel pivots to provide the perfect viewing angle for the gauges.

We’d left the marina at Tauranga a bit after 8:20am and were safely tied up in Westhaven, Auckland by 2:20pm – with a couple of stops on the way for photography. As mentioned, optimum cruise speed was 28 knots, which also gave us the best fuel economy in litres per nautical mile. With 880hp on tap, we squeezed 41.5 knots out of the boat in a sprint sheltered by the Alderman Islands. That’s with four adults aboard and a full belly of fuel and water – the reading of 43 knots showing in the trip log displayed on one of two Garmin 15-inch MFDs must have been set in Finland pre-delivery. The Sargo 36 is quick!

The driving experience was very much stress-free. McGill demonstrated how easy the boat is to manoeuvre, turning it through 180 degrees in its own length using the throttles alone. Impressive. But the vessel is also equipped with a Sliepner bow thruster and Volvo’s joystick control system for sterndrives, so it’s super-easy to handle in confined spaces and at docking time.
In open water, acceleration is brisk. Trimming the legs takes care of pitch while Mente Marine automatic trim tabs look after roll. The Garmin autopilot handled steering duties for most of our journey, leaving us to sit back and chat as the coastline slipped by on the port side.

As already noted, the Sargo 36 tackles choppy water with ease. I got the impression it would cope with far heavier seas too, the boat feeling solid and substantial. It is a quiet runner, as well, and dry – at least during our run. Three windscreen wipers would quickly deal with any spray on the screens.
Underway, bangs and squeaks were few and far between, while closing the wheelhouse doors and windows reduced engine noise to a low background thrum that allowed easy conversation.

The Sargo 36 impresses as a well-built example of a very seaworthy vessel that’s practical and safe for family boating. Equipment and comfort levels surprise for a boat of this size, and the quality of finish and workmanship is hard to fault. The Sargo 36 is stylish in a purposeful, Nordic sort of way, with more than a nod towards work boats, thanks to its reverse windscreen and traditional wheelhouse layout.
As a package, the boat works very well. Close everything up, turn on the windscreen wipers and press onwards if the weather packs up, or open the doors, windows and roof when the weather is good – a boat for all seasons.