Craft 360 Express — By Capt. Bill Pike
|Sailboat builder Island Packet intros an instant powerboat leader.|
Good things take time. For more than a decade now, Island Packet Yachts CEO and MIT-trained naval architect Bob Johnson has been thinking about designing and building a powerboat, something in the mid-30-foot range with diesel engines, a no-nonsense planing hull, and the dashing good looks of a pilot boat or rough-and-ready coastal search-and-rescue vessel.
Most anyone who's visited a boat show in the last 20-some years knows Johnson's designed many a sailboat in his day, bluewater thoroughbreds for the most part, with ocean-crossing potential, top-notch detailing, beefy scantlings, and excellent resale values. But Johnson's a guy who's intrigued by challenges and possibilities. And with several other sailboat builders successfully working the midrange powerboat market these days, with one type of New Englandy, express-style dayboat or another, it was only a matter of time before he tried the promising little niche himself.
The result is the Packet Craft 360 Express, in my opinion one of the savviest, most nicely thought-out powerboats of its type to hit the market in recent memory, not only in comparison to vessels from other crossover sailboat manufacturers, but with vessels from manufacturers who've been doing powerboats, and only powerboats, for years.
I tested the prototype in Largo, Florida, recently and became an instant fan just moments after cracking open my test gear cases at the back of the cockpit. While there's a centerline day hatch in the raised bridge deck (for the routine checking of bilges and fluid levels), the whole thing lifts via electro-hydraulic actuators to expose the machinery spaces. This kind of setup is typical of express-type vessels in general, of course, and engenders virtually unlimited headroom over, and elbow room around, the engines--endearing qualities to a fellow like me whose job entails messing about with fuel lines. But the Express's arrangement offers even more accessibility and attractiveness than most, primarily due to the extensive travel of the actuators, but also due to a host of related engineering features, both in and out of the engine room, that add frosting to the gateau.
This article originally appeared in the January 2003 issue of Power & Motoryacht magazine.