400 Express — By Capt. Bill Pike —
Sometimes, Less Is More
Part 2: Though her turning radius is a bit wide, she responds nicely to the helm, handling a series of wide-open-throttle turns without a whimper.
Joinery is attractively finished in a bright cherry veneer that contrasts nicely with the handsome teak and holly sole in the galley and the carpeting in the saloon. But between the two areas is a small step; no more than a few inches high, it seems an unnecessary trip hazard. Given the saloon’s ample seven-foot-plus headroom, Cruisers might better have simply raised the saloon sole to the same level as the galley.
I noticed another safety issue during my inspection of the 400 Express’ side deck, aft deck, and cockpit areas. The side decks are only about six inches wide (a tad lean for my size-11 feet), and I found the bowrail height to be just 16 inches above deck; on my 6'2" frame, that’s not even knee-high. Worse yet, with the side curtains in place, there is no useable handhold to grip when you’re stepping from the cockpit onto the aft end of the side deck. In fairness, however, there is an alternate route to venture forward on the 400, via molded-in steps alongside the helm leading to a walk-through windshield that opens onto the foredeck. But lacking any handhold, the trip forward by that route could also be dicey in a sloppy sea.
The helm station itself is well laid out. The dual-helm seat has a flip-up bolster that gives drivers the option of standing comfortably while at the wheel. Alongside the helm is a nifty double companion seat mounted on a swivel base so that your guests can face forward while the boat is underway or turn towards the helm and cockpit area at other times.
During my performance trials of the 400 Express, I came to realize just how important that flip-up bolster might be. Trim angles of up to seven degrees (without trim tabs) while coming up onto plane hindered forward visibility while seated, but simply standing up for a moment or two alleviated the problem. Once on plane, at about 2200 rpm, the optional twin 370-hp Yanmar diesels took the hull up to its 34 mph top speed in short order, with just over four degrees of trim that offered excellent 360-degree sightlines even while seated.
Handling and course keeping were good, both at slow speed while threading through narrow channels along the South Shore of Long Island, New York, and at high speeds in the two-foot chop outside the inlet. Though her turning radius is a bit wide, she responds nicely to the helm, handling a series of wide-open-throttle turns without a whimper.
With plenty of seating in the cockpit and plenty of muscle “under the hood,” the 400 Express is a great choice for daytripping with a crowd of friends or family. But by offering less in terms of sleeping accommodations, she offers lots more for cruising couples who subscribe to the philosophy that two’s company, three’s a crowd.
Cruisers Yachts ( (920) 834-2211. www.cruisersyachts.com.
This article originally appeared in the December 2004 issue of Power & Motoryacht magazine.