Shetland Family 4 Boat Review – Boat Buyer’s Guide on Second-Hand Shetland Family 4s



The Shetland Family 4 is a compact and comfortable cruiser that offers a good balance between cockpit and cabin space. The bright roomy cabin has comfortable single berths that easily convert into a double bed, and a table that fits between the berths at meal times to provide plenty of eating room for all the family. Shetland’s objective has always been to produce safe and reliable family performance cruisers at no-nonsense prices, and this makes the Family 4 a great second-hand buy.

Who and what was this boat designed for?

The Shetland Family 4 is a compact family cruiser for use in rivers, canals, estuaries and inshore sailing. The boat was designed and built to give comprehensive and ample accommodation in a light, trailable boat. It is ideal for carrying camping gear and equipment to those isolated spots, or for fishermen to transport their kit on excursions. The boat can also be used as a camper afloat or on a trailer.

What commentators say about this boat

Shetland family cruisers have had a consistent appeal to thousands who enjoy life afloat.

The fact the same hull is still being built today is testimony to the build quality of the Shetland marque, as it appears to be one that works.

Providing the hull is in good condition there isn’t a problem with the age of the Shetlands. They can look as good today as the day they were made and for style compare well with more modern craft.

Model variations

The Shetland Family 4 was a development of the very successful Shetland 535/536 and offered a cabin layout to include sufficient cockpit length to incorporate side benches/2 single berths. The fit and finish was more sophisticated compared to its predecessor.

The original craft features a conventional outboard well built into the transom. Later designs feature a moulded outboard pod/transom platform. This allows for a larger cockpit with wrap round seating to the stern.

The Mark 3 Personnel Carrier (1977-82) featured internal changes to operate as a work boat ideal for carrying camping gear, fishing kit and other equipment to isolated spots. It was also marketed as a boat for small ferry operations with seats for up to 10 people.

The Mark 6 Space Fish (1989-90) is the traditional Family 4 designed with no berths as a robust day boat for fishing.

  • Mark 1 – 1973-78
  • Mark 2 – 1978-82
  • Mark 3 Personnel Carrier – 1977- 82
  • Mark 4 – 1982-87
  • Mark 5 – 1987-90
  • Mark 6 Space Fish – 1989-90
  • Mark 7 Family Favourite – 1990-98


  • Length: 17ft 7in (5.36m)
  • Beam: 6ft 10in (2.08m)
  • Maximum height (excluding windscreen): 6ft 0in (1.828m)
  • Cabin headroom: 4ft 4in (1.32m)
  • Weight (approximate): 0.65 tons (590kg)
  • Maximum engine size: 70 hp o/b

What’s great about the Shetland Family 4

  • Great stability at rest and speed.
  • Easy to manoeuvre due to the proven gull wing form.
  • Easy to launch from road trailer.
  • Ample accommodation for a family.

What to look out for on a pre-owned Shetland Family 4

If you’re buying a used Family 4, owners have reported some things to watch out for and potential faults that might occur on this boat from time to time.

  • Check that the outboard starts easily (if laid up it might take a few pulls).
  • Check that operation into forward/reverse is easy.
  • Check the hull for patches or damage and look out for signs of water ingress.

Keeping your Shetland Family 4 in shape

When buying a used Family 4, regular scheduled servicing and attention to some minor points will keep your craft in top condition.

Regular servicing

Carry out regular engine and drive servicing in line with the manufacturer’s recommended intervals.


We don’t currently have any specific maintenance information for the Shetland Family 4.

If you have ever owned or worked on this boat and would like to share your thoughts, then get in touch and we’ll add your information to the page.

Laying up

We don’t currently have any specific information on laying up the Family 4.

If you have ever owned or worked on a Family 4 and would like to share your thoughts, then get in touch and we’ll add your information to the page.

Model-specific repairs

The Shetland Family 4 is not known for needing specific repairs more frequently than other boats.

Why buy a pre-owned Shetland Family 4?

This compact, no-nonsense boat is an ideal family cruiser that requires little maintenance. The basic design remained unchanged through the boat’s 25 years of manufacture, a testament to its quality and reliability. A second-hand Shetland Family 4 makes a sensible purchase.

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