Sargo 31

The fundamentals of a dreamboat.

by Chuck Warren
A four-hour drive across Michigan brought me to an area on Lake Huron’s coast known as The Thumb.


  • LOA: 32.7'
  • Beam: 10.8'
  • Draft: 3.4'
  • Weight: 11,244 lbs.
  • Fuel Capacity: 130 gals.
  • Water Capacity: 30 gals.
  • Power: Single 330-400 hp; twin 225-300 hp
  • Price: Contact dealer

Four continuous days of brisk September winds and rain made the trip a gamble, but thankfully the storm blew over, leaving Saginaw Bay a little overcast and choppy. It was the perfect day to test-drive the SARGO 31, which owner John J. had recently purchased.

John knew exactly what he wanted. Experience on commercial vessels and at the helm of his own boats had produced specific requirements for his next purchase. However, none of the offerings from American manufacturers satisfied all of his requirements; he either traded performance expectations for safety, or gave up safety features for comfort.

The unpredictable Great Lakes weather was a primary factor in John’s search, and each boat he tested fell short of his target. But since he was in no hurry, John kept looking. With the variety of products available in the U.S., it’s easy to forget about options that lie beyond our borders. After a 5-year search, John discovered the Finnish manufacturer Sarin and their SARGO line, which is marketed as “The All Season Boat.”

John researched all available information on SARGO for more than a year. He talked with boat owners around the world and had lengthy discussions with the dealer before finally deciding on the SARGO 31.

Since each boat is built to order, there was a 6-month wait before the boat was shipped from Finland. When asked if his boat, the Ava Jeanne, met his expectations, John replied, “It far exceeded them.” And it’s easy to see why.

The Sarin family has been building boats since 1967, and their experience and commitment to innovation and quality shows in every detail. The family is more than willing to accommodate customer requests for reasonable feature changes or customizations. John’s boat included several adjustments that were graciously incorporated, creating a much more personalized product.

The SARGO 31 has a tug-like, working class appearance: Burly and tough like a Nordic dockworker, but upon a closer look reveals elegance and style. Comparing it to a professional boxer might be best: Good looking and well-dressed, light-footed and quick, but rock solid and able to take a punch when necessary. That’s exactly what John wanted in a boat.

Finnish fit and finish

Stepping aboard, dual sliding entry doors provide easy access to the helm and salon from the wide walkways outside. Handling the boat is facilitated by 360-degree visibility and well-placed controls, which also tip up and aft to make standing at the wheel comfortable. Electronics are easily accessed on the dash or overhead, including the autopilot and standard bow thruster.

The helm and salon are bright and airy, with a standard sunroof with optional glass panel inlays overhead. The rear window also opens to allow plenty of air through the space. Ava Jeanne’s blue upholstery is complimented by plenty of teak throughout the cabin. Along with impeccable craftsmanship and attention to detail, the Finnish traditions of practicality and inventiveness are reflected in many unexpected options; everything in the boat seems to have more than one purpose.

Hinged counter sections allow access to the stove and sink, and create serving space when folded down. A cold storage drawer hides below the helm seats and a built-in cabin heater extends the boating season. The passenger seat spins to join the salon where the dining table can also be folded in half and swiveled aft to create more space.

Forward, a short descent leads to a V-berth, which is well lit by twin hull windows and an overhead deck hatch. Another door to starboard leads to a well-appointed, full-height head. Lifting the port salon seat provides access to a cozy, twin-sized aft berth with storage and a functioning porthole hidden below the salon.

Outside, stern seating directly behind the wheelhouse and on either side of the large aft deck doubles as storage, and includes a recess and 12V port for an electric cooler. A 10.8-foot beam makes it easy to picture the space alive with fishing or diving activities, especially with the standard transom door leading to a large swim platform out back. Sturdy stainless rails, cleats and even keel protection ensure safety and security.

Surprisingly single

Under the expansive access panel and perched in a beautifully engineered engine room, I was surprised to find a single Volvo D6 330-hp diesel engine. Twins are available, but John had intentionally ordered the smallest sterndrive option to keep his operation and maintenance costs down. The Volvo D6 is a powerful, reliable engine, but I was prepared to be underwhelmed with the boat’s performance and possibly even maneuverability.

I was quickly corrected. Activating the SARGO 31’s bow thruster eliminates any challenges that might be expected while docking a 31-foot boat with a single engine. Performance was another surprise since the single 330-hp engine had no trouble pushing the 11,000-pound boat through the water. And with only one fuel-hungry mouth to feed, range is increased while maintenance costs are reduced.

As John pointed the boat out into the bay, I stood in the portside doorway to get an idea of engine noise. With the boat at a comfortable cruising speed of 24 mph, I had no trouble carrying on a conversation or leaning comfortably in the doorway since the boat handled the bay’s choppy water with ease. There was no slap against the hand-laid hull, no spray over the gunnels, and I had no problem hearing John tell me about the lunch he had brought along for us to enjoy back at the dock.


In the two months since the boat was delivered, John has logged 40 hours at the helm. His family prefers day trips and swimming, and since the summer season around Michigan’s Thumb provides a great deal of attractions for those willing to take a ride, they also enjoy everything from secluded beaches and burger festivals to bird watching and local resorts.

However, many of these adventures may require a 15- to 30-mile journey, or crossing to the other side of the 25-mile-wide Saginaw Bay. Nothing can ruin a great day on the water faster than unexpected weather changes, and for John, the ability to provide safe passage home was one of the SARGO’s biggest selling points. Having already experienced 3- to 4-foot seas with six people on-board, John says he felt perfectly confident in the SARGO 31’s ability to get everyone safely home. And with a top speed of 37 mph, the boat can get you home quickly.

When asked if John had any future plans to go bigger or smaller — as many owners do after a few years of ownership — he said, “Nope, this is it. This is my dream boat.” We should all be so lucky, but maybe luck wasn’t really a factor. John put in the time and effort to find exactly what he wanted, going to great lengths to ensure he was making the right decision. He knew what he was looking for, and it didn’t matter where his search took him before he found it in the SARGO 31.

The Ava Jeanne truly is his dreamboat.



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