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BOATS

BOAT TESTS

Carver 43

As I made my way through downtown Green Bay, Wisconsin, to the Harborside Yacht Center, I expected the Carver 43 Motor Yacht to look unlike any Carver I'd ever seen. I'd been told her exterior design resulted from a collaboration between Carver and industrial design guru BMW Group DesignworksUSA, and as she came into view, sitting stern-to at the marina on the Fox River, the result of the collaboration was apparent. I recognized many elements of Carver's popular Motor Yacht line, such as the lower cockpit and upper-aft-deck layout on the 41- and 44-foot Cockpit Motor Yachts. But missing were the signature elongated side windows, replaced by long, single windows whose sharp angles accentuated the contours of her hull. Gone also were the oval ports. Instead, she was graced with two elongated windows per side that blended in with the hull. There was no evidence of excessive top-heaviness. Instead I was looking at something vaguely reminiscent of BMW automobiles: an aggressive stance with sharp lines, all seamlessly integrated.

But stepping aboard, I quickly realized that while most of Carver's clientele will appreciate the 43's refined new looks, the company hasn't forgotten about its stock in trade: family-friendly functionality. Boarding her through the transom gate (she also has a 16-inch-wide door on each side to accommodate fixed docks), I noticed that her swim platform—nearly four feet long, full-beam, and with a 1,000-pound capacity—could easily hold a PWC or 13-foot RIB. Kudos to BMW and to Carver on its design: Despite the fact that this was the optional hydraulic platform, it appeared to be an extension of the hull and not a tacked-on afterthought.

But while the swim platform and lower cockpit are good staging areas for water activities, most of the 43's alfresco goings-on will likely take place on the aft deck, which is three steps up and on the flying bridge. The aft deck's standard wing doors and hardtop provide an escape from the weather yet still permit open-air enjoyment. The area's comfort level for boaters will likely be enhanced with the optional canvas enclosure. However, the doors are only 20 inches wide, a bit narrow for well-fed boaters.

There's also likely to be plenty of action on the flying bridge, where Carver's retained the layout that works so well on its other flying-bridge models: easy access from the aft deck by a wide, molded-in stairway; room for four on a starboard-side, C-shape settee; two helm chairs; and, for the helmsman, a smart, easy-to-read instrument layout. Visibility forward and to port and starboard is excellent, but naturally limited aft; the only way to see the stern from the helm is to look over the starboard side, so docking in close quarters will likely be a two-person operation, even with standard bow and optional stern thrusters. Even so, Carver makes the most of of an area that will probably be crowded during cruising by not trying to stuff in superfluous features that would compromise the flying-bridge effectiveness.

In contrast to the new exterior, Carver chose not to alter things too much below decks. The 43's layout is similar to that of other models in its Motor Yacht line, with the two staterooms—one fore and the other aft—separated by the saloon and each served by en suite heads. It's a layout that, while conventional, maximizes both comfort and privacy.

The aft, full-beam master stateroom, three steps down from the saloon, affords a real retreat. Its location enjoys generous sunlight through windows on three sides, and with 6'6" headroom, a walkaround queen to port with stowage below, a 25"x27"x37" cedar-lined hanging locker, and a vanity/desk to starboard, the 43 proves she's not just a weekender but is able to cruise a week or more. Up front, the forepeak VIP is cozy, but what it lacks in size and stowage capacity it makes up for in comfort. The en suite shower is to port, separate from the head and occupies potential stowage space (so there's no hanging locker), but there is stowage to port and starboard above the V-berth that'll easily handle more than a weekend's worth of a couple's belongings.

The 43's roomy saloon and well-appointed galley further exemplify Carver's commitment to making maximum use of space. The former has a welcome full-beam configuration and 6'8" headroom, and it benefits from plenty of natural light from the big side windows and forward-facing, three-panel windshield. It's also tastefully furnished, with a pair of Ultraleather chairs to port and a starboard settee that converts to a double berth. Like the galley—forward and three steps down to port—the saloon's finished in Carver's trademark cherry. The galley has the essentials, like a large Nova Kool 'fridge/freezer, two-burner cooktop, Sharp microwave/convection oven, Black & Decker coffee maker, and plenty of counter space. But perhaps most impressive was the stowage: A family of four could easily put enough groceries here for a week or more.

The dead-calm conditions prevent me from commenting on the 43's ability to handle snotty seas, but I was impressed with her average top speed of 32.1 mph and quick acceleration to WOT, courtesy of optional twin 480-hp Yanmars. However, despite her good performance results, I concluded that the test boat was underpropped for two reasons: First, the Yanmars are rated at 3300 rpm, and at WOT our test boat twin diesels were running at 3400 rpm. Second, fuel burn was about 8 gph less than it should theoretically be.

Also notable was how quiet she ran: At WOT I measured 77 dB-A on the flying bridge, allowing for easy conversation. A look into her engine room, accessed via the saloon's sole, revealed beefy sound-attenuation panels of fire-resistant aluminum-faced melamine foam on the removable access panels as well as the bulkheads.

While the exterior look of the 43 represents a new direction for Carver, the builder clearly has not forgotten what made it successful. It has successfully translated the innovative lines proffered by the BMW design team into a boat that's recognizably a Carver, with all of its Midwestern sensibilities of versatility and value firmly intact.

Carver Yachts
(920) 822-1600

This article originally appeared in the December 2005 issue of Power & Motoryacht magazine.