Written by Kyle Barnes

by Holly Dukeson

A true classic gentleman’s cruiser with feisty performance.

The Alaska 49 Sedan is designed and purpose built from the ground up for the east coast of Australia’s cruising grounds by Leigh-Smith Yachts. These vessels are built in a 21,800m2 shipyard, which occupies a 193-metre shoreline with its own marina and is capable of building vessels up to 130 feet. Leigh-Smith Yachts in Sanctuary Cove is the only place in the world to procure one of these.

Family ties

The Leigh-Smith family has been selling boats in Australia for over five generations and I was shown around the vessel by the latest recruit into the family business, Tom Leigh-Smith. “When it comes to the Alaska 49, the way the vessel is finished and the cost of the vessel at $1.7m to $1.8m makes it extremely good value compared to a lot of its direct competitors in the marketplace.

“The boat was developed from the ground up. This is my family’s brainchild that has been continuously worked on from the idea’s inception. We are coming up to hull number 100 and have been building these vessels for 21 years. From Alaska’s inception, every single hull has evolved while staying true to the core meaning behind the boat.” “It’s a very traditional boat with lots of timber, true nautical styling and we are constantly tweaking and modernising the brand’s timeless design, engineering and onboard systems. Alaska Motor Yachts are the pride of the Leigh-Smith Yachts team, a pride that each owner shares and takes with them long after the sales process. With every new Alaska, direct input from new and used owners alike further refines and evolves the future product. It’s this willingness to listen and learn from the end user that ensures the designs, performance and finishes in the Alaska range continue to astonish buyers and exceed expectations.”

Elegant lines

The lines on this vessel and its broader shape are elegant and practical. From her waterline up to her flat-hooded saloon there are all the trademarks of cruising experience and know how. Setting it off aloft is a fantastic looking radar arch and behind that is a huge space which doubles as a home for a large tender. The vessel is constructed from hand-laid fibreglass, a long process that takes three months to mould in order to prevent air into the glass mix which in turn rigours the hull against osmosis. The hull is split chine with a three-quarter keel, which sits around six inches below the lowest propeller point in order to protect the props in case of grounding – unlikely with the navigation equipment aboard! Tom says with a long range cruise speed of 9 knots you are burning around 32 litres per hour, but as I soon found out this spirited hull is capable of 20 knots plus, and where it sits in the sweet spot in terms of planing is most efficient around 17 knots.

Naval heritage 

I walk around the vessel, at times forgetting she is brand new, the naval heritage runs deep within her bones and around every corner there is a salute to the maritime past. Traditional hand-built high gloss cherry timber with boat building craftsmanship coupled with stunning fabrics and cutting edge composites all combine for a really wonderful interior space. You will literally feel the thousands of man hours in every vessel as you pass through each carefully designed purposeful area of the boat. There is a luxurious C-shaped settee aft with two built-in sofa seats opposite to starboard which complement the wide plank teak and holly floor. The hood lining and benchtops in the galley shine light back onto the woodwork, making the whole saloon fresh and vibrant while maintaining its link to the past. The galley takes up the entire saloon forward of the diner and aft of the helm station, with lashings of room and wide, fresh benches. Being all on the one level, with only a few steps down to the accommodations and a step into the cockpit, this is a truly social boat ready to host family and friends. The visibility runs all the way from the aft swim platform through the fold-away glass doors at the rear of the saloon up to the helm station. The starboard helm is what I can only describe as a modern classic, hewn out of the cherry timber on sand-coloured panelling. It controls the twin Cummins QSB 480 HP engines and thrusters both ends of the hull. The head up position is centred by a large multi-function display surrounded by smaller display panels for a full ship management system. And the flat panel in front of the helm houses the round chrome dials and gauges for more engine room intel as well as the thruster controls and electronic throttles. Right next to the helm is a dog-down bulkhead door preventing water ingress, another is mounted opposite the helm on the portside. One is very impressive with hidden compartments, revealing the remote control Dockmate, which is simple to use from any position on the ship.


A couple of steps down from the saloon and bridge reveal the owner’s suite on the starboard side. This opens up to the companionway with large double doors with the head of the bed against the engine room bulkhead with plenty of natural light by way of curved rectangular portholes and reflective surfaces. It has its own head and rain shower. The laundry area is located by lifting the steps which come down from the saloon into the accommodations and there is an abundance of space for storage next to the washing machine/dryer. Towards the bow is the second cabin where a V-berth arrangement awaits your guests, again with plenty of light courtesy of the skylight and gloss wood. Up on deck this boat has beautiful lines with practicable applications drawn from what is clearly real sea experience. The foredeck is long and spacious with big flat areas and you can even pull back on some of the skylights so you can button a sun lounge into place. The rails are hip-high and it is one foot after the other skirting around the gunwales beside the saloon. But don’t forget those side doors from the bridge that get you out on the bow quick sticks from both sides of the saloon. The side gunwales also have fabulous gates which would be particularly handy when rafting in the evening.

Outer edge

Boarding from the stern is a decent sized fixed platform with a barbeque and rod holder. The particular vessel we were on had a hydraulic boarding platform bolted and reinforced through the hull further aft, to which its 1.2-metre length made a good addition in terms of a large, safe place to board smaller craft, dive from or simply sit at water level and enjoy the view. Through the starboard transom door, is a large cockpit space that opens up into the saloon via the aforementioned double-chrome framed doors and two large saloon windows. It virtually makes the inside indistinguishable from the cockpit except for the small step and change of flooring underfoot. The cockpit itself is a large 4.2 metres wide, just shy of the beam of the boat, with a fitted L-shaped dining arrangement and a -legged table. For the afternoon drinks hour there is an ice maker to port and a fridge to starboard – neatly tucked away on the saloon bulkhead.

Staying stable

Down in the lazarette there is plenty of storage space as well as a Quick MC2 Gyro humming away and doing a fabulous job of minimising roll and pitch especially when large vessels roared past on the Broadwater. These are a nifty idea that can be fitted, or retrofitted, to most vessels, from just 20 ft up. The Quick MC2 Gyro is physically smaller than other brands and great for this style of boat. They also do not require any through-hull work with Quick MC2 being air cooled rather than water cooled like some of the others.


We didn’t have time to leave the confines of the flat, calm Broadwater but I sighted the following fuel consumptions.

Full fuel tanks, light winds, quarter fill fresh water.

  • 9 knots @ 32lph
  • 13 knots @80lph
  • 17 knots @110lph
  • 18.2 knots @ 125 lph
  • 20 knots @ 180lph

It is important to note, while conducting these quick tests, the ambient engine noise whether you are standing over the engine rooms, in the saloon or down in the bow is quiet and reflects great sound engineering qualities. You are perfectly able to talk to one’s fellow crew with a quiet “inside voice” rather than competing with the rattle and hum of the engineering. 

The Alaska 49 is actually 53-feet overall or 16 metres on the nose. Put that together with a 4.25 metre beam and you have a big volume vessel, and combined with the water maker and fuel capacity, it presents itself as an excellent mid-range cruiser. If it’s simple boating with minimal maintenance and a focus on luxurious living spaces that you are after, this established performer is truly one of the best motor yachts on the market today.


  • Boat Design Name: Alaska 49
  • Style: Sedan
  • Price: Available on request
  • L.O.A: 16 m 53’
  • Beam: 4.25 m 14’
  • Draft: 1.2 Mm 3’10”
  • Fuel Capacity: 2,560 Litres 676 Gals
  • Water Capacity: 780 Litres 206 Gals
  • Weight: (Dry) 19,000 Kg 41,900lbs
  • Std Marine Engines: Twin Cummins QSB 480 HP
  • Generator: Onan 11KW with Sound Shield
  • Air Conditioning: Marine-Air
  • Navigation: Raymarine Axiom Pro Hybrid

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