400 Express — By Capt. Bill Pike —
Sometimes, Less Is More
With just one stateroom, the Cruisers Express caters to a neglected breed: the cruising couple.
When I was a young boy, I loved going to the circus and seeing the clowns. One of my favorite memories was seeing a dozen of them pile out of a tiny little car that seemed no bigger than a golf cart. How could they pack so many people in such a small space?
Observing the trend over the past decade to squeeze more and more sleeping capacity into boats, one might surmise that a lot of designers and builders have been influenced by similar memories. It’s almost as if there’s a competition to see who can sleep the most people in the smallest boat. Admittedly, for many buyers, maximum sleeping capacity is an important consideration. But for cruising couples, or boating families who don’t do many overnights, additional sleeping accommodations merely detract from the space they would rather have available for entertaining or simply relaxing in comfort. In fact, the latter describes my own preference in a cruising yacht-—I love having friends aboard, but I outgrew sleepover parties a long time ago. Over the years, though, I’ve found that the search for a cruiser addressing those preferences can be pretty frustrating.
Enter Cruisers Yachts’ new 400 Express. Designed with an understanding that not all customers have the same needs, the 400 offers just one stateroom, in the bow, with a centerline double berth. With a deep under-berth space, six big cabinets to either side, and port and starboard hanging lockers, there’s plenty of stowage for a cruising couple to take an extended getaway. And if guests should ask, “Where do we sleep?” I would politely suggest a quaint nearby B&B.
In truth, the saloon offers a comfortable convertible sofa that opens into a double berth. But with its luxurious Ultraleather upholstery, you’d never imagine it to be a sleeper-sofa. If you do have an occasional guest aboard, a retractable curtain offers a measure of privacy for the temporary berthing area, while dual-entry doors permit discrete access to the head from either the stateroom or the saloon.
The convertible sofa is actually part of an L-shape settee that offers seating for at least four adults, with a clever folding hi-lo table tucked into the corner of the L. With its leaves folded in, it’s a small, square unobtrusive cocktail table; when the leaves are folded out it becomes a triangular dining table big enough to set a meal without gobbling up a lot of floor space in the saloon.
One of the other nice surprises I found in the 400 Express is the view from the saloon, unusual for an express-cruiser layout. Cruisers has given the 400 three large elliptical ports along each side, at just the right height so that guests can see out, even when seated on the settee. There’s also a serious entertainment center opposite the settee, with an optional 30-inch LCD TV and Sony DVD surround-sound system.
Alongside the entertainment center is a six-foot stretch of open countertop, perfect for setting out trays of hors d’oeuvres or liquid refreshments. Opposite is a well-equipped galley that boasts a built-in Tundra refrigerator/freezer and a stainless steel double sink, big enough to handle full-size dinner plates, serving bowls, or a deep pasta pot. And seemingly everywhere I looked, there were stowage cabinets and bins—under-counter, over-counter, beneath the settee, and in almost every nook and cranny.
This article originally appeared in the December 2004 issue of Power & Motoryacht magazine.