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BOATS

BOAT TESTS

Cruisers 330 Express

Here at PMY, we're fortunate to enjoy the use of a different boat each summer, which we take out for product testing, entertaining clients, and of course, our leisure. Last summer's Cruisers Yachts 447 Sport Sedan provided my first chance to actually weekend aboard a boat from this Oconto, Wisconsin-based builder, and I was impressed with a number of her attributes, particularly her entertaining spaces. A sea trial six months later of a considerably smaller model from the same builder, the 330 Express, proved that maximizing the use of space is something Cruisers Yachts has a knack for doing regardless of size.

As I rendezvoused with Russell Davis, Cruisers Yachts' director of marketing, and the 330 at Fort Lauderdale's Pier 66 Marina, I took note of her profile: The trio of opening ports in each hull side, which has become a Cruisers Yachts trademark, are raked to follow the flow of the broad stripe of the optional taupe finish. When I looked up, Davis was coming from below decks. "It's not the heat, it's the humidity," he remarked, referring to the morning's muggy weather as he waved me on. I quickly boarded the 3'2"-wide swim platform (finished with optional CareFree synthetic teak decking) and stepped through the transom gate and down a centerline companionway into the saloon.

The coolness, courtesy of standard 16,000-Btu Cruisair air conditioning, was as welcoming as the ice-cold water Davis handed me. But what really struck me was the volume of the space I was standing in. I can't recall another similar-size boat with a below-decks area that felt as open and airy as this one. The light afforded by the aforementioned ports and the 6'6" headroom certainly helped, but the real difference was the elimination of the side decks, allowing the designers to make the area full beam. Adding a walk-through windshield ensured good access to the foredeck.

Some builders take advantage of added living space by adding superfluous accommodations, but on this boat the interior designers' Midwestern common sense is front and center. There's only one stateroom, a forepeak master with walkaround queen berth; a curtain that stows in the hanging locker provides privacy. A bulkhead and pocket door are optional, but the curtain is a better choice, as it gives the galley and settee a larger footprint. Aft, where a number of raised-helm boatbuilders might add that second stateroom, is a comfortable, U-shape settee with dining table, perfect for dinner for four. And those dinner guests can bunk here as well, as the settee converts to a double berth. For movie nights, the 15-inch Sole LCD TV is mounted on a cabinet door in the galley; when opened it can be seen from anywhere below decks.

The same levelheaded approach applies to the above-decks layout. A bimini top provides shade for the starboard helm's double companion chair and port L-shape settee, which seat five comfortably. Just aft and to starboard, a six-seat, C-shape settee has a section that converts to a sunpad. My test boat had an optional Norcold fridge/freezer at the port-side wet bar but no ice maker; I'd opt for both to cut back on trips below decks. And since the bar has a generously sized synthetic countertop next to the sink and stowage directly beneath, I'm guessing Cruisers Yachts will add a grill to its list of options so boaters can partake in one of the most enjoyable post-cruising events: barbecues.

The practical approach evident in the 330's living spaces carries over to her performance. A light breeze and a stalled high-pressure system over South Florida meant that the largest waves we'd likely encounter would be in the oft-crowded Port Everglades Inlet. So after idling from the slip and reaching the inlet, I firewalled the Teleflex mechanical throttles, which were stiff and misadjusted, and the optional twin 375-hp Volvo Penta gasoline inboards propelled the 330 to 35 mph at 4000 rpm in less than 20 seconds. At this speed her modified-V hull busted through the confused two- and three-footers with a refuse-to-slam, dry-as-a-bone aplomb; her Sea Star hydraulic steering has no power assist and didn't need it. Once outside, the 330 hit 41.2 mph at 4650 rpm while burning 65 gph, but when I backed off to 3500 rpm (30.5 mph) she got more than 1 mpg and a 227-mile range.

The 330, with a base price of $239,770, should fit in nicely among the builder's armada of express cruisers from 28 to 56 feet. And with Cruisers Yachts' a la carte approach to options, you can outfit her as you choose. For example, you can pick from 13 diesel and gasoline twin engines from MerCruiser, Volvo Penta, and Yanmar in stern drive, V-drive, or inboard configurations. Now there's the kind of Midwestern common sense that should have coast-to-coast appeal.

For more information on Cruisers Yachts, including contact information, click here.

This article originally appeared in the July 2007 issue of Power & Motoryacht magazine.