— By Capt. Patrick Sciacca
One Classy Cruiser
|Part 2: The 4550’s galley also benefits from the boat’s spaciousness|
While the 4550 is well laid out above decks, she’s just as attractively arranged below. The space here, which is accented throughout with standard cherrywood, is, unlike many express boats, voluminous, with headroom averaging 6'5". But the most impressive feature is her aft master stateroom. The catty-corner, queen-size berth provides nearly full walkaround access. There’s also a vanity, en suite head, and, on my test boat, an optional ($1,486) and quite cool whirlpool tub with French doors that open directly to the master. (You definitely don’t see that on boats this size every day). Another set of doors links the tub to the head, while a full-length cedar closet provides space for a couple’s bathing suits, dress suits, shorts, shirts, and more.
The forepeak VIP is no slouch, either, sporting a queen-size berth, walk-in closet, and separate door that leads to a full head. A third stateroom with two berths for the kids lies just aft and to starboard of the VIP.
The 4550’s galley also benefits from the boat’s spaciousness, with room for a standard two-burner electric cooktop, Sharp microwave/convection oven, and U-shape dinette just forward of it. A J-shape settee adds more seating across to port. If you’re into cruising for the day, week, or even longer, this below-decks layout makes the 4550 quite comfortable for the family or a couple and a few friends.
However, one place where things got tight for me was the engine compartment. I’m only 5'7", and with just three feet of squat room in the compartment, which is accessed by lifting the saloon sole, I found that doing anything other than basic maintenance inboard would be a chore. Outboard access is adequate for taking a quick look, but I wouldn’t want to work down here for long. On the plus side, Cruisers did a good job of labeling all systems here, so in the event of trouble, you can quickly identify the culprit. Still, I’d be willing to give up some headroom in the saloon to enhance overall engine access—but then again, at 5'7" I don’t need a lot of headroom.
From her European-inspired rounded windows to her spacious below-decks area, I liked what I saw on the 4550—especially considering she was a prototype—but I was wondering how this hybrid would perform. I found out, running her in the Atlantic. With naval architect Mike Myers, a member of the design team, at the wheel, we made several speed runs in two- to three-foot seas. With her solid-fiberglass bottom and stringer system and balsa-cored hull sides to stiffen the structure while reducing weight (34,000 pounds dry), our 4550 hit a respectable top speed of 32.5 mph, with her optional twin 480-hp Volvo Penta 75P diesel inboards turning 2680 rpm. Thanks to 22x29 4-blade Nibrals, she came up to speed gradually and deliberately.
However, I noticed that at WOT the hardtop shook, perhaps because it had just a lone support on centerline, which made it susceptible to lateral movement. Myers told me the single support was an attempt to improve sightlines. Although sightlines were great, Myers said that the design team would be going back to its time-tested, double-support hardtop for the production version to eliminate this movement.
That said, I welcomed the shade from the hardtop as I took the wheel from Myers and ran the 4550 from standing still to WOT, spun her on her length, and performed other maneuvers. The standard Teleflex steering was real-time responsive, and the optional Volvo Penta single-lever electronic controls had comfortable detents. From an express boat point of view, the 4550 is high-sided (17'7" from her keel to the top of the hardtop), and wide yet smooth turns are the order of the day. For operating in close-quarters, I’d spend the $9,907 for the optional SidePower bow thruster; it helped me make minor moves much easier. By the time my day on the 4550 ended, I’d concluded that she handled well, rode dry, and would be a lot fun for the cruising family.
When a company introduces a new concept to any industry, there’s always a risk, but for those who take the risk, there can be great rewards. I give kudos to Cruisers Yachts for being bold in offering this new design, and the fact that it has already addressed the hardtop issue is to me a sign of commitment to quality. Taking into account this boat’s roominess, comfortable cruising layout, nicely finished interior, and attractive styling, I suspect this risk will be rewarded in the form of a busy production line.
Cruisers Yachts Phone: (920) 834-2211. www.cruisersyachts.com.
This article originally appeared in the June 2003 issue of Power & Motoryacht magazine.