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BOATS

BOAT TESTS

Cruisers 500 Express

I tested a Cruisers 455 Express Motoryacht last year, and the most striking area of that boat was her enormous full-beam aft master stateroom. It wasn’t just the standard queen-size berth, vanity, full-length cedar closets, and en suite head that impressed me. It was how the builder also comfortably fit in a whirlpool tub concealed behind two French doors; another door connected the head and tub area. It was one nice arrangement. Why do I mention this? Because Cruisers is a builder that makes the most out of every cubic inch of volume, and my subsequent examination of its prototype 500 Express, reinforced my earlier impression.

After boarding the 500 at Kydd’s Marine in Freeport, New York, I immediately headed below decks to inspect the aft master stateroom. I figured Cruisers couldn’t possibly offer the same kind of room normally found on a motoryacht on this express boat. I stepped down the optional cherrywood steps and made a quick left into the master. Noting that the stateroom takes up all of the boat’s 15’6” beam and boasts 6’6” headroom, I quickly realized Cruisers could and did do it. Like the 455, the 500 has a queen-size berth (6’7” x 5’0”) and en suite head with Tecma MSD (no room for a tub, though). In addition, I looked in the cedar-lined closet to starboard, where you could easily hang several dresses or suits. Another closet to port is home to an optional Splendide washer and dryer ($2,386). Adding to this room’s voluminous feel were six vertical portholes (three to port, three to starboard) that allowed light to enter the room and reflect off the satin-finish cherrywood interior, washing the space with natural light. This stateroom is a great example of maximum use of minimum space. It also turns the 500, which at first glance looks like a solid weekender, into a comfy place for the voyaging family or possibly a liveaboard couple.

The master is the most impressive living space on the 500; however, her forepeak VIP could be a master on many other similar-size express craft. The room comes with a queen-size island berth or twin berths. The twins work well for the cruising family with children who want their own space. Your kids and/or guests can access the second/day head with shower just aft and to port of the forepeak. It’s accessible from both the VIP and saloon.

The saloon, which offers NBA-class 6’7” headroom, features the same warm satin cherrywood found in the staterooms. It also sports a standard Ultraleather crescent-shape convertible dinette/sofa to starboard that can easily seat eight for cocktails or to watch a flick on the 30-inch Sharp Aquos LCD TV, a $6,286 option (a 20-inch is standard). A JVC home entertainment system is inset below the TV.

Whether you’re heating popcorn while watching Master & Commander on DVD or making a full-fledged meal for your cruising buddies, the galley, just forward of the TV, is up to the task. The 500’s standard cooking amenities include a Sharp microwave/convection oven and a two-burner Princess cooktop for preparing morning omelets or frying up some lunchtime mahi-mahi, as well as a Nova Kool under-counter refrigerator and freezer in which to save the leftovers. For easy cleanup, a Fish&Paykel dishwasher, like the one on my test boat, is optional ($2,286).

Now eating, watching flicks, and doing cocktails is great, but eventually everyone will want to venture outside and take in the sea air. For your guests, there’s a lounge across from the helm seat to starboard as well as a dance floor-like space in the cockpit and a U-shape lounge to starboard. A standard wet bar, U-line refrigerator, and ice maker across from the lounge ensure no one goes thirsty. My test boat also had the optional Force 10 electric grill for a little barbecue action. A hardtop and enclosure are standard here and offer welcome relief from blinding sun or bad weather.

For the helmsman, the starboard-side helm station features Teleflex SeaStar hydraulic power-assist steering, single-lever Volvo Penta electronic controls, and a full array of optional Raymarine electronics. Kydd Marine’s Dennis Smigiel, who accompanied me on the test, started up the 500’s standard 675-hp Volvo Penta D12 diesel V-drives. These engines are accessed though a centerline cockpit hatch, and the engine room offers space reminiscent of the master stateroom. I was able to just about stand up (I’m 5’7”) and reach over the powerplants. This should make working here a breeze. Outboard access is equally plentiful, and all hoses and wires here are labeled.

With the engines warm, it was a short run to Jones Inlet where I recorded a top speed of 42 mph with a fuel burn of 71.6 gph at 2330 rpm. The 500, which has a modified-V hull form composed of a solid fiberglass hull bottom and balsa-cored sides, ran at a comfortable cruise of 35 mph at 2000 rpm with a fuel burn of 47.4 gph. This gives the 500 a range of 332 statute miles at cruise speed, surely enough for a New York to New England jaunt.

The inlet was slick calm during my wheel time thanks to a Bermuda high, so I gave that power-assist steering a workout with several hard-over and S-turns at cruise speed. The 500 responded quickly, and aside from the smooth wheel, her agile handling could be attributed in part to the boat’s “nose cone struts,” which decrease turbulence, provide clean water flow to the props, and reduce cavitation. My test boat also maintained a respectable running angle and clean sightlines forward, with one exception: Between 1500 and 1750 rpm her trim angle hit 6.5 degrees, obscuring the view forward until she got over the hump. The view of the compass was also obscured, which, Cruisers told me, is being corrected.

I had a couple of other issues with this prototype vessel. The first was a hardtop devoid of handrails, although Cruisers says there will be handrails on the production version. I also had a tough time getting my 5’7”, 165-pound frame through the opening foredeck windshield. Cruisers says that on production models the walkthrough will be widened by eight inches to ease the transition forward.

While Cruisers may be in the process of tweaking a few things for the production line, the 500 Express remains a boat that offers sleek styling, a warm and voluminous interior, good range, and liveaboard comfort. So if you’re a weekender or voyager looking for a patch of peaceful water in a spacious setting, this just might be the vessel to get you there.

Cruisers Yachts
(920) 834-2211

This article originally appeared in the August 2004 issue of Power & Motoryacht magazine.

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