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Perfectly Crafted New Alaska 43 Sedan 

Perfectly Crafted New Alaska 43 Sedan 

Planning to cruise Australia’s east coast, Bill and Rae Hirn were determined to build the perfect boat, which like the perfect man or woman seems an improbable brief to fulfil.

Bill and Rae were specific: 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,” says Bill, a plumber by trade who has owned and operated a stainless steel business, Hirco, since 1973, and ran a successful charter operation.

“I’ve owned boats most of my life and was a professional skipper for 15 years. I’m fairly handy and added a lot of extras, such as stainless rod holders, water filter and desalinator, and we carry most of the boat’s spare parts on board. We’d had an Alaska 45 Flybridge for nine years and we knew the only people who could build our next boat for us were the Leigh-Smiths.”

He approached the Leigh-Smiths and gave them the list of what was and was not 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 it, 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. Bill is experienced in navigating the atolls and beaches of the Whitsundays and knows the fearless tinny will handle the most jagged shorelines, where an inflatable could be torn.

Dean and Ryan Leigh-Smith, third generation of a venerable Gold Coast boating family, head up Alaska Motor Yachts AUS/NZ. Their vision is to design and build classic trawler-style boats, unrivalled for their seaworthiness and fuel-efficiency with luxuriously contemporary interiors. The Alaska 43 (13 metres) is the newest model in the series that includes the 47 Sedan, 47 Flybridge, 49 Yacht Fisher, 55ft Sedan, 55ft Flybridge and 60 Sedan series.

The team at Alaska relished the challenge of building Bill and Rae’s ultimate boat. “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 43ft sedan models, allowed Bill the scope to make numerous changes that he and Rae wanted. As a previous owner, he was very in tune with the vessel’s dimensions and how to get the best out of them. We designed the boat for Bill and Rae with AUTO-CAD drawings and fine-tuned all his custom requests, working with them over several drafts before we got it to his exact design.”

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.

Class-leading differences include the 4.2-metre beam and efficient variable deadrise hull design—measures that ensure comfortable cruising at nine 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 43ft class and this displacement weight equals a softer ride and more stability to owners looking to go further for longer,” says Dean.

Perhaps the most ingenious customisation added to Bilandra—the boat’s name derived from the blend of Bill and Rae—is the discrete, neat solar panels on the aft roof. The flush-mounted panels tastefully curve to the roof profile and measure on a few millimetres thick, meaning they almost disappear. “In our previous boat, we had to run the generator before we could cook,” says Bill. “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.”

The enclosed cockpit features custom-made flyscreens for keeping the bugs out and allowing the view and the sea breeze 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 sees a moulded bench seat with table option. 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. There is no bench seating or fixed furniture, as 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 flush-mounted stove top. We enjoy a bit of fishing so we keep it uncluttered and clean out here.”

Rae was proactive from the outset. Bill explains, “I wanted her input because if she likes it, she’ll be keen to use it.” From Rae’s input, the couple decided that the master suite be amidships, with an island queen-sized walkaround bed that is easy to make, windows for cross ventilation and lots of head room, and ensuite with full height shower. Forward, two generously-sized single beds trimmed in custom Sheridan linens comprise the guest cabin. Bill points out there is plenty of room if families wished to install a third bunk bed, or opt instead for a queen-sized bed.

In the saloon, Rae’s touch is evident. The meals area is a neat galley with table and banquet seating, large fridge and freezer, stovetop, bar, and storage, storage and more storage. The aft galley to port which opens through a stainless and glass aft bulkhead to the cockpit is designed for seamless flow and socialising on board no matter the weather.

Bill, whose expertise came to the fore in devising and installing a nifty swivel bracket for the TV. “We don’t use the stove very often, so I made this cover for more bench space,” he says referring to yet another piece of his handiwork. Features recognised as hallmarks of the Alaska brand retained in this model include the two large doors port and starboard and stainless steel flip-up aft bulkhead windows that open to the cockpit, enhancing space and airflow. High gunwales with stainless oval profile safety rails and wide walkways lead to the bow, for sunbathers or stargazers.

The 43-model carries 2,000 litres of fuel and 800 litres of water, which Bill plans to boost with the installation of his desalination machine. “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 desalination system. “All the boat’s water goes through the filter. The reason for this is that you tend to get water stains in the loo and like most boats if water sits for a while a tank-taste from the drinking water tanks.”

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. There is no sunroof as the Hirn’s prefer to stay away from the sun. But Dean and Ryan located a strategically placed Manship SS deck hatch overhead the helm position with an Oceanair sunblock/flyscreen system ensuring ventilation or full block-out is available on demand.

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

Other standard features include 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 the side power thrusters for ease of manoeuvring. The standard vessel has full LED lighting and a 6.5kva Onan and 3kw inverter offering excellent onboard power generation on Leigh-Smith’s next 43 arriving shortly.

Owner’s options see the tender typically located on Snap davits or even a hydraulic Freedom Lift can be fitted, as with electronics and a full customised Sheridan interior linen package. They even pre-plumb and leave a circuit for underwater lights and a desalination unit if the new owners so desire.

Sitting regally on her custom-made 15-metre Seapen enclosure, dry and protected from marine growth, Bilandra has been Bill’s “man cave” as he tinkers about in preparation for their maiden voyage. The Seapen itself is a miracle of engineering and much more than a raised berth. “I just text ‘down’ to the digital receiver and it lowers into the water,” says Bill. “Then I text ‘up’ and it raises the boat and the water drains out. It is a marvel. It is a major investment, but it means a hell of a lot less maintenance,” observes Bill.

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 to make some adjustments before we start cruising—locally for the first six months or so, then up to Fraser Island, Lady Musgrave and eventually, the Whitsundays. But yes, I think it’s perfect—perfect for us.”


The Alaska 43 starts at $899,000. Contact Leigh-Smith Yachts at Sanctuary Cove for more details.

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