Alaska 43 – the compact with the lot

Alaska 43 – the compact with the lot

The Alaska 43 was designed to a stringent brief – all the good things, no space wasted – to be “the perfect cruising boat”.

The first model, named ‘Bilandra’ by owners Bill and Rae Hirn, was custom-built for the couple, the result of a close working partnership with Dean and Ryan Leigh-Smith and the Alaska factory in Shanghai.

Planning to cruise Australia’s east coast, Bill and Rae knew exactly what they wanted in their 43, having owned several boats over 40 or so years, including their most recent, an Alaska 45 Flybridge which they enjoyed for nine years.

Bill and Rae were specific in their wish list: “A smaller, sedan-style, compact, fuss-free, practical, quiet, comfortable, spacious boat with plenty of storage, easy access and no external timber for minimal maintenance”.

“At our stage of life, we want all the comforts of home, without being slaves to our boat. This was our opportunity to design our dream boat, from scratch,” said Bill.

“We knew the only people who could build our next boat for us were the Leigh-Smiths,” said Bill, a plumber by trade, founder of a stainless steel fabrication company and former charter boat skipper.

Dean and Ryan Leigh-Smith, third generation of a venerable Gold Coast boating family, head up Alaska Motor Yachts Australia/NZ. Their vision is to design and build classic trawler-style boats, unrivalled for their seaworthiness and fuel-efficiency with luxurious, contemporary interiors.

The Alaska 43 (13-metres) is the newest model in the series that includes the 47 Sedan, 47 Flybridge, 49 Yacht Fisher, 55-foot Sedan, 55-foot Flybridge and 60 Sedan series.
Bill and Rae gave the Leigh-Smiths their list of what was and wasn’t required.

“I told them we didn’t want a party boat – this was to be a serious cruising boat. We didn’t want air-conditioning – it requires the generator running and we decided that would be too noisy. Although most people like air-con, we chose to do without it.  We designed the boat so that with windows, doors and hatches with flyscreens, the breeze simply flows through.”

Also on the list, a reduced swim platform to accommodate a custom-made hydraulic davit for the tinny – no fancy RIB here, as Bill is experienced in navigating the atolls and beaches of The Whitsundays and knows the fearless tinny will handle even the most jagged shorelines, where an inflatable could be torn.

The enclosed cockpit features custom-made flyscreens for keeping the bugs out and allowing the view and the seabreeze in. Two cockpit side doors were installed at the factory, more practical for ease of access at the Hirn’s waterfront pontoon at their home near Redcliff, Brisbane.

The standard layout includes a moulded bench seat with table option. On Bill’s boat, there’s no bench seating or fixed furniture, but Bill and Rae like it that way. “We bring out the teak table and chairs when we need them, and we often use an electric barbeque out the back instead of the galley stove top. We enjoy a bit of fishing so we keep it uncluttered and clean out here.”

The cockpit boasts an additional Isotherm freezer, extra power points, Bill’s rod holders and towel racks, and access to the impeccably laid out engine room, still pristine just one week since handover.

“They’ve done a great job with the engineering,” says a proud Bill, surveying the symmetrical, well-labelled machinery, then pointing out his modifications in the water filter and desal system.

“All the boat’s water goes through the filter. The reason for this,” he explains, warming to his subject, “is that you tend to get waterstains in the loo and, like most boats, if drinking water sits for a while it develops a tank-taste.”

Perhaps the most ingenious customisation added to Bilandra is the discrete, neat solar panels on the aft roof.  The flush-mounted panels tastefully curve to the roof profile and measure just a few millimetres.

“In our previous boat, we had to run the generator before we could cook.  The solar panels and four extra batteries mean we can run almost all our systems off solar power. We have an Onan 4Kw generator with sound shield and gas/water separator, the rest is solar powered.”

Not content to take a back seat, Rae was proactive from the outset. “Rae used to complain about how hard it was to make the bed when the master suite was forward. Now the master suite is amidships, with an island Queen-sized walkaround bed that’s easy to make, windows for cross ventilation and lots of head room, plus ensuite with full height shower. I wanted her input because if she likes it, she’ll be keen to use it.”

Forward, two generously-sized single beds trimmed in custom Sheridan linens comprise the guest cabin and as Bill points out, there’s plenty of room if families wish to install a third bunk bed, or opt instead for a Queen-sized bed.

In the saloon too, Rae’s touch is evident. The meals area is a neat galley kitchen with table and banquette seating, large fridge and freezer, stovetop, bar and storage, storage and more storage. Throughout, mid-tone African cherry timber veneer in high gloss, premium carpets and ultra-leather trim on seating endow interiors with a traditional aesthetic and warmth.

There’s no sunroof on this boat, since Bill and Rae are happy to avoid the sun, but the Leigh-Smiths installed a Manship SS deck hatch above the helm position with an Oceanair sunblock/flyscreen system, ensuring ventilation or full block out are available on demand.

At the helm, Bill opted for Raymarine navigation equipment, a Fusion sound system and an ICOM VHF radio. “I added an extra echo sounder at the keel, calibrated to feet for accuracy,” says the tech-whizz.

Features recognised as hallmarks of the Alaska brand that are retained in this model include the two large doors port and starboard and stainless steel, flip-up, aft bulkhead windows which open to the cockpit, enhancing the sense of space and airflow.

High gunwales with stainless, oval-profile safety rails and wide walkways lead to the bow, where sunbathers or stargazers could stake their positions on this additional functional leisure area.

The team at Alaska relished the challenge of building Bill and Rae’s ultimate boat, a service they extend to each and every one of their clients.
“Bill and Rae have owned an Alaska before which meant they knew exactly what they wanted,” says Dean Leigh-Smith. “The new build, the first of our 43-foot sedan models, allowed Bill the scope to make numerous changes that they wanted. As a previous owner he was very in tune with the vessel’s dimensions and how to get the best out of them.”

The boat was designed with AUTO-CAD drawings and fine-tuned to accommodate all his custom requests, working with the couple over several drafts to get it to his exact design.

On this occasion, Bill didn’t visit the Alaska factory in Shanghai, which he did during the build process for their previous boat, but the couple was very comfortable with liaising via email and Ryan and Dean were heavily involved at the factory during every step of construction.

Forged from the same hull mould as the 47 Sedan, the 43 is positioned as the “compact version” Alaska without compromise and built to the highest of standards for the most discerning owners.  

Clever design elements ensure the 43 series incorporates all the feel, practicality and comforts of the larger models in the Alaska stable.

“With so many of our clients restricted in berthage size either at their residence or at the marina, there has been a strong demand for the renowned Alaska finishes, aesthetics and amidships full-size master layout on the 43-foot hull, and we have finally delivered all this in a 13-metre package!”  

Class-leading differences include the 4.2-metre beam and efficient variable deadrise hull design, measures which ensure comfortable cruising at 9 to 10 knots or a sprint at 22 knots, and at anchor, excellent stability, unlike many round bilge designs.

“At 16+ tonnes, she’s one of the heavier built Motor Yachts in the 43-foot class,” says Dean. “This displacement weight equals a softer ride and more stability to owners looking to go further for longer.”

Economical to own in all aspects, the twin 6.7 Litre Cummins 380hp engines deliver reliable, quiet and efficient cruising at 17 knots through conventional shaft drives.  The 43 model carries 2,000L of fuel and 800L of water.

Although Bill and Rae’s boat has a smaller 4kw and solar, the standard vessel has full LED-lighting and a 6.5Kva Onan and 3KW inverter, offering excellent on board power generation on the next 43, due to arrive shortly.  

The cockpit comes standard with moulded seating and tables. The aft galley to port which opens through a stainless and glass aft bulkhead to the cockpit is designed for seamless flow and socialising onboard, no matter the weather. Custom Sheridan linen packages are included.

Catering to Bill’s credo of “minimal maintenance”, clients can choose non-skid composite decking which are durable and UV-resistant, requiring just a quick hose down, rather than traditional teak decks, still available for the purists.

Standard are the opening polished stainless steel ManShip Portlights with flyscreens to let the fresh air in, reverse cycle Marine Air Conditioning making for a comfortable environment from Cooktown to Hobart and Side Power thrusters for ease of manoeuvring.

Owner options see the tender typically located on Snap davits or even a hydraulic Freedom Lift, a choice of electronics and a fully-customised Sheridan interior linen package. Vessels are even pre-plumbed with a circuit for underwater lights and a desalination unit to suit owners’ preferences.

“Alaska Motor Yachts offer an appealing blend of tradition and technology,” states Dean. “Enduring style combined with state-of-the-art materials and accessories produce a truly remarkable vessel that retains an unprecedented resale value, which is important for owners looking for value for money and all the trimmings.”

Asked if they achieved their “perfect boat” in Bilandra, Bill doesn’t hesitate. “It’s a smaller boat, but it’s much better designed, with a better use of space. I still have some tinkering to do before we start cruising over the summer, but yes, I think it’s perfect. It’s perfect because it’s everything we want in our boat.”

The Alaska 43 starts at $899,000. More at