• Sessas are well built and not known for structural problems
  • A full mechanical survey is a must in any boat, but with an older petrol boat, ascertaining exactly how it performs during a pre-purchase sea trial is equally important

Sessa Islamorada 23

Greg Copp examines a sports boat that benefits from Italian detail in both its structure and styling…

The Sessa Islamorada 23 is proof that one does not have to dig deep to own a stylish Italian sports boat. Sessa have always been known for building solid good-looking boats without painful price tags. Like most Italian yards, they focus on the driving experience, and with the Med as a backyard, there is plenty of focus on cockpit design. What strikes you about the Islamorada is how space has been utilised in this field. For example, the double helm seat has a reversible back, enabling this seat to turn quickly into a rear-facing seat, so with the forward-facing aft seating, you can sit five around the drop-in table. For a 23-footer, the bathing platform is pretty generous, and is fitted with a hidden ladder that is long enough for swimmers to climb up easily.

Going forward is facilitated by two steps and a windscreen gate. The foredeck is pretty short, and flanked by tapering guard rails tall enough to do the job for which they are intended. With this being a 23-footer with a windlass, all you are likely to go forward for is to hang fenders. Sensibly, teak is used wherever wet feet are likely to require maximum traction. One particular aspect I like about the overall design is the absence of sharp angles. Every feature has a neat curve, which is likely to be the product of Italian styling as much as it is a safety feature in a fast boat. Just in case things get particularly lively, the cockpit has internal grab handles and upholstered padding on either side.

This Islamorada is powered by a 220hp V6 Volvo GXI 4.3L petrol engine driving through a single-prop SX sterndrive. This is a good power option for this boat as it takes up relatively little space and has a reasonable track record for reliability. The single-prop SX drive is fairly robust and more than capable of dealing with the power of the engine. It is also a fairly efficient drive that retains a good grip on the water. The alternative to the Volvo GXI is the 220hp V6 MerCruiser EFI 4.3L engine based on the same GM engine block. Though this engine has the same basic mechanical internals to the engine, the Alpha sterndrive that MerCruiser paired it with is not really on a par with Volvo’s SX drive. When the Islamorada was launched in 2001, most were fitted with MerCruisers, but by 2006 when this boat was commissioned, the Volvo had become the most popular engine choice. There were a few boats fitted with 200hp Volvo D3 diesel engines, but due to the relatively high cost in relation to the cost of the boat, not many were diesel powered.

On the water, the 220hp Volvo GXI will push the Sessa to a comfortable 35 knots, with a realistic cruising speed of 25 knots returning around 3mpg. Weighing in at 1.75 tonnes (dry), this boat has a decent power-to-weight ratio for a pocket cruiser, and coming from a yard with a good reputation for building boats with solid well-balanced hulls, the Sessa Islamorada 23 is, not surprisingly, a capable sports boat. Having a transom deadrise angle of 19 degrees, this is a medium-vee boat, which is what you would expect from a family sports cruiser. However, in keeping with its siblings it is built with a sharpish hull forefoot, with a fair degree of flair, so you can expect a reasonably dry upwind ride and, depending on sea conditions, not too much punishment.

Internally there is a small price to pay for cockpit space and sleek looks. This is in the form of 1.5m (5ft) of headroom aft of the cabin table, which makes standing by the small galley a cramped affair. In reality, you are unlikely to want to spend any time standing here anyway, and will sit on the U-shaped sofa while the kettle boils or the microwave cooks. The heads is small but is a proper sea toilet set-up, which I was surprised to find in this size of boat. The U-shaped sofa converts into a decent-sized double bed with the table dropped and an infill. Guests or children can be accommodated in the cockpit by converting the cockpit seating in an identical manner into a double berth.

Points to Consider


The engine in this boat has only done 249 hours and looks clean, well maintained and devoid of rust. However, not every example will have a lightly used engine, and older examples need to be scrutinised for their service history, especially as petrol engines do not stand the test of time as well as their diesel counterparts. A full mechanical survey is a must in any boat, but with an older petrol boat, ascertaining exactly how it performs during a pre-purchase sea trial is equally important.


Sessas are well built and not known for structural problems. However, any sports boat needs to be viewed from the perspective of finding evidence of ‘spirited use’ in the form of stress cracks in the hull or around fittings. Antifouling can often conceal stress cracking when the boat is dry, but when it has been immediately lifted from the water, most surveyors can easily identify wet streaks in the hull indicating cracking beneath. Finally on this matter, many boats have stress cracks that their owners are often ignorant of, and in many cases they can be rectified fairly easily – but factor in this cost if considering a boat with this problem.


Mildew in a cabin is not uncommon. However, boats whose cabins are predominantly used for storing wet items will be more prone to this. Have a good look under the cushions and around the portholes and even the cockpit upholstery.

Data File

  • Hull type: Medium-vee
  • Transom deadrise angle: 19 degrees
  • Length overall: 24ft 10in (7.5m)
  • Beam: 8ft 2in (2.5m)
  • Draught: 2ft 11in (0.9m)
  • Displacement: 1750kg (dry)
  • Fuel capacity: 44 gallons
  • Water capacity: 13 gallons
  • Cruising range: With 4.3L Volvo petrol engine; expect 110 miles with a 20% reserve at 22–25 knots
  • Current value: £20,000 plus





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