GSA Atlanta 24

GSA Atlanta 24


If you’re looking for a mid-sized cruiser with the waist of a whippet to squeeze through narrow locks, GSA’s new production of the popular Atlanta 24 might measure up It’s a fact of life that as you mature you generally lose your trim figure and become a bit more… comfortable. And so it’s been with GRP cruisers — as the years have passed they’ve grown up and their waistlines have tended to expand… comfortably.Of course the extra width is good for the crew and not a problem on rivers and estuaries, but if you want to cruise the whole canal system you need the waistline of a whippet to pass through narrow locks. Which is why GSA has produced the ‘new’ narrowbeam-dimensioned GSA Atlanta 24.It isn’t, of course, a new design, although if you were unaware of its lineage its clean, relatively modern lines could persuade you it was. In fact, the boat began life as the popular, inexpensive Norman 24 that ended production in the early 80s. It reappeared again later that decade, slightly redesigned by Fibreglass Construction of Burnley and renamed the Atlanta 24 before the moulds eventually found their way to Shetland Boats where a few more were built under a different name. That might have been the end of the story, but cruiser builder Glenn Munford, of GSA Marine in Norwich, decided last year that there was room in the market for another narrowbeam cruiser and acquired the moulds. Bringing the boat back to the market was then a case of producing a hull and updating it and the interior using the design skills the company already had for its larger boats.The fusion of a custom, higher end boatbuilder with what was essentially a medium-priced entry-level boat is interesting and apparent as soon as you step aboard. While the basic layout inside and out remains the same, it’s far from being cheap and cheerful as the padded headlining and quality of the well put together woodwork shows.Starting in the cockpit, there’s now a comfortable, cream seat for the steerer (though it needs a footrest or your legs dangle) that folds for easy entry, a wheel, throttle quadrant, full set of instruments, and matching comfortable cream waterproof cushions across the transom and along the starboard side for passengers. Under the cushions there is a battery bay to port, fuel tank locker and storage to the rear, and gas supply and water heater on the starboard side. The whole cockpit is carpeted and covered by a blue canopy mounted on a stainless steel frame that’s simple to raise and lower, so there’s little faffing around when you simply want to get going.A central door takes you down two steps into a light and airy cabin which previous Atlanta owners will recognise. Instead of trying to redesign the layout, GSA has simply, and sensibly, brought it up to date with a few tweaks.On the starboard side as you enter there’s a small closet with hooks for coats, followed by an aluminium sink with hot and cold water and, usefully in a small boat, a smoked glass top that drops down to provide an extra work surface. Underneath that there’s a decent-sized 12/24v fridge. Further along there are Formica work surfaces, an aluminium three-ring Smev hob with a splashback and guard rail to keep the pots and pans where they belong; it’s the little extras such as these that show the boat has been built by an experienced team used to bigger things. Underneath there’s a compact Smev grill/oven with two good-sized cupboards either side.Beyond this there’s another broad work surface that butts onto a partition separating the galley from the main bed in the bow with a 240v socket below.As you’d expect in a small cruiser the bed is a sofa during the day and converts into a double at night. Its black, crushed-velvet 4in thick cushions are firm and comfortable and the bed takes full advantage of the 6ft 10in beam by extending under the gunwales. Slim headboards in the same colour as the cushions on each partition are a nice touch, as are the reading lights. The bed will just about take a six-footer lengthways.Underneath all this there are three good sized lockers for bedding – storage is all-important in small boats and this one has plenty. Even the dinette on the left side, which converts to a very tight double bed, has storage underneath both seats, a cupboard under one and a drawer under another. Lastly there’s a reasonably spacious and neat shower/toilet compartment with, surprisingly, a pump-out loo and a basin with hot and cold water and a shower. All this is topped off by the previously mentioned soft, cream vinyl padding on the sides and roof lining that, with the Houdini/escape hatch over the main bed, gives a light airy feel to the well finished cabin. A budget boat interior this is most certainly not, it feels solid and a nice place to be with pretty much everything you need which is important if you’re going away in it for a week or two.So much for the inside, but what about on the water? Power comes from a 15hp Honda outboard with an electric start. Just 15hp might not sound a lot, especially for river cruising, but this is a light-ish boat (it weighs in a just under two tons, a tad more than the previous models) so it gets up and goes quickly. Officially, the top speed is 7kt and cruising speed is five.Being relatively light with an outboard engine it’s highly manoeuvrable and will turn on a five pence piece, although we did find that the helm and throttle set-up isn’t ideal. The wheel is so close to the throttle quadrant that your hands can easily run into it, which means you really have to steer with them relatively close together near the top of the wheel. We also found the steering a tad stiff.It should be said that this boat is the first out of the moulds – although two orders have already been taken – and there are always niggles with a new boat. GSA is aware of both points and is looking at improving them.Overall this is a nice, well built boat for those who want something simple and straightforward for weekends and the odd week away. It comes fully equipped for the water and ready to go right down to fenders and lines, so there’s no long list of ‘extras’ to wade through and pay for, all you need is bedding and cutlery. Plus, you can put it on a trailer and tow it to where you want to go cruising. A trailer will cost around �3,500 extra and you will need something like a planet-eating 4×4 to tow it.At �34,950 it’s not cheap and cheerful, but it is a well built, no-fuss way of getting on the water – and being able to cruise the whole canal network.  



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