Schaefer 303

Formula for Fun

By Andy Adams

When company founder Marcio Schaefer designed the Schaefer 303, he managed to really dial in the formula for fun and proof of that success are the more than 1,500 Schaefer 303’s that have been sold globally by this Brazilian boat builder. The 303 is their most successful model so far. The Schaefer Yachts brand has just come to Ontario and our test boat was imported by Yacht Solutions for their shared ownership program, starting at their location in Toronto’s Outer Harbour Marina. Of course, other new 303s are available as well.

The Schaefer 303 was developed primarily as a day boat for having fun with family and friends going sight seeing, doing water sports, swimming, diving and fishing as well as other activities, but where many day boats in this size range mainly focus on the accommodations above decks, the Phantom 303 also has a very usable cabin with head, vee berth and a mid-ship master berth so you could easily weekend aboard, especially with a young family.


Port-Side LoungerThis comfortable port-side lounger lets a guest stretch out and converse with the driver.

Approaching from the pier, the swim platform immediately impresses with its large size and easy access into the cockpit. There is a large aft-facing bench seat for swimming and tanning. The Schaefer 303 could be used like a 32-foot open runabout, but it features a large arch over the cockpit area. This is quite substantial and very functional carrying lights, speakers and also, being fitted with a towing eye for wakeboarders, or tubing. The main function of the arch however, is to serve as the mounting point for the large Bimini roof and windows. With the roof up, guests are protected from the elements and it almost feels like an enclosed boat. The large clear sections bring in plenty of light and let you keep driving through inclement weather.

From the helm area, steps lead up through the swing-open windshield section to the twin sun lounges on the fore deck. This also gives access to the anchor locker, electric windlass and ground tackle. The anchor shaft passes through the bow making a neat and attractive installation and there is a generous locker for chain and rope. Stainless-steel railings provide security.


The transom walk-through is on the port side while the starboard side features u-shaped seating that could accommodate eight to ten people easily. The centre-mounted table is ideal for drinks or dining and storage for large items is available under the seats.

Handholds are thoughtfully located throughout the area. Also, there are a wide range of interior upholstery and colour choices available. An appealing feature is the port side aft-facing sun lounge seat that includes an armrest. Relax and tan while facing the driver and enjoying a conversation aboard the quiet and solid Schaefer 303.

The Twin Volvo Penta V6 280 Stern DrivesThe twin Volvo Penta V6 280 stern drives are easily accessible for service checks.

In the cockpit floor is a hatch that gives access to the large, welded aluminum fuel tank. All Schaefer yachts are built to be NMMA Certified and the aluminum tank includes two fuel shutoffs and easily accessed fuel filter system. The hot water system is also located in this area for easy service.

Opposite the seating is the cockpit galley that has the delightful feature of a lighted glassware cabinet and our test boat had a set of Schaefer glasses and stemware. Drink holders located throughout the boat can accommodate both regular glasses and stemware. At night, blue foot-lighting is an attractive feature and underwater lighting is available too.

The cockpit galley unit includes hot and cold water, a sink, optional Isotherm refrigerator and it can also be equipped with an optional electric grill, but that requires the generator option. If it were my 303, I’d mount a conventional barbecue on the stern instead unless I wanted the generator for other purposes.


The Double BerthThis is the double berth that lies athwartships under the helm. Accessed from the port side, it’s bright and comfortable thanks to hull-side windows. Schaefer offers a selection of interior finishes and options.

The cabin is down four steps and features a lower galley with a cooler and storage for provisions. The test boat was equipped with a microwave, an aftermarket induction cooker and a coffee maker. While the test boat did not have a generator, it does have a very large battery bank and an inverter to run the onboard features like the microwave, television and so on. Schaefer yachts has also equipped the boat with AC outlets ready to go.

Another popular feature is the Fusion stereo system. These days Fusion is owned by Garmin. The test boat had a Garmin display at the helm. It’s part of the Volvo Penta Glass Helm and these onboard systems integrate beautifully together.

Glasses LockerThe attractive lighted glasses locker in the cockpit.

The cabin includes seating for inside dining in the bow, and this area can convert into two berths. There are overhead storage lockers, attractive lighting fixtures and a generous deck hatch for light, ventilation and safety.

Schaefer has done a great job with the design of the head making it feel much larger by having a shaped door that increases the opening a lot. The head includes a mirror, storage, an opening porthole, Jabsco electric toilet system, hot and cold water and what we estimate to be about 5 feet 9 inches of headroom, so in spite of the boat’s sleek lines, you have functional standing height in the head compartment.

The HeadThe unique keyhole-shaped door makes the head compartment seem much more spacious and easier to access.

Accessed from the port side, the main event is the double berth cabin under the helm. This is comfortably open to the cabin interior and has windows in the hull sides for light and fresh air. Schaefer has made the cabin on the 303 both comfortable and versatile.

The Furnished Bow Area The comfortably finished bow area includes a removable table, space for two berths and overhead lockers as well as storage under the cushions.


Featuring a double width helm seat, the test boat was equipped with a Garmin MFD screen that included the Active Captain feature and everything integrates for your convenience. For example, this allows you to program your trip at home in advance. Everything runs off Bluetooth. Just download your waypoints to the system and run your route. Other related available features can include video surveillance, security and more. The Yacht Solutions people are also planning to get the new 3D chart system which allows you to see the sea floor through the charting software and the Ultra Vision feature.

Integrated with the Volvo Penta Electronic Vessel Control system (EVC), the Glass Cockpit enables you to monitor and control information in one place via a single interface. It provides a full overview of navigation and engine data, together with optional Easy Boating functions such as Autopilot and Joystick driving. A few “taps” on the screen and you can select whatever feature you would like. Critical information pops up as needed. Volvo uses a fob and an auto start mechanism too.

Another neat feature was the Marinco spotlight. This powerful bow-mounted spotlight can do an automatic sweep and scan to help you locate channel markers or objects in the water and it has a clever pre-programmed SOS flash as well.


The aft seating raises electrically to reveal access to the twin Volvo Penta 280 V6 sterndrives and service points are at the front for easy maintenance.

The Volvo Penta V6 engines were very smooth-running and this Volvo system is all fly by wire for shifting and steering, making everything light and precise to handle. There’s a simple switch to take you into joystick docking mode and although there is no bow or stern thruster, it seemed clear that none were needed. The boat proved very easy to manage at the dock and I applaud Volvo’s engineering for making this system so smooth and quiet. These joystick systems have come a long way in the last few years!

The Forward Sun PadThis gives a good view of the forward deck sun pad, windshield walk-through and main deck interior layout.

Equipped with the optional twin Volvo Penta 280 hp V6 DuoProp stern drives, the Schaefer 303 jumped on plane in little more than 5 seconds and proved to be very responsive to the throttles at pretty much any speed. The 20-degree deep-vee hull delivers a smooth ride, but typical for such a deep vee, the Lenco trim tabs were important to keep the boat level in the side winds we experienced on test day. Overall, the 303 was solid-feeling and confidence-inspiring with more than sufficient power for big loads of passengers or towing for water sports.

We liked the elegant Isotta steering wheel. It was comfortable to use and when docking, you slow to low speed and press a button that transfers the engine control and steering to the separate joystick that’s on the dash just ahead of the main control box. With this, you can actually drive the boat at low speeds, turn, stop, reverse, pivot and even move sideways. For the less experienced boater, this makes handling around the docks, easy, accurate and low stress.


Schaefer Yachts has found the formula for fun with the 303 model. It has big room and great features for passengers for a day on the water, while two couples or a young family could also make this their vacation getaway machine. It’s fast, fun and fully featured.


Twin Volvo Penta Aquamatic Sterndrive V6‐DPS; 6‐cylinder, 4.3‐liter, freshwater‐cooled, direct‐injected gasoline engines, 280 hp each, Duoprop drives, joystick docking.
1,500 7.8
2,000 9.3
2,500 11.5
3,000 17.3
3,500 23.6
4,000 29.6
4,500 34.9
5,000 39.1
5,500 43.9

Length OA: 9.78 m (32’1”) with integral swim platform

Beam: 2.87 m (9’5”)

Weight: 3,295 kg (7,264 lbs)

Fresh water capacity: 100 L (26 Gal)

Fuel capacity: 350 L (92 Gal)

Passenger capacity (day): 10

Passenger capacity(night): 4

Price: approximately $279,000 USD

Test boat and price supplied by Yacht Solutions,

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