Craft 360 Express — By Capt. Bill Pike — December 2001
|Part 2: Packet Craft 360 Express continued|
Take the batteries, for example. I counted a total of five premium LifeLine AGM (Absorbed Glass Mat) units onboard our test boat, one dedicated to each engine, one to the optional genset, and two for house usage. Not only was I happy about the number and type--some 36-footers have only half as many, all of the conventional "flooded" sort which cost about half what the no-maintenance, more powerful, better performing AGMs do--but I was also happy to see them installed well above the waterline, under the cushions of the comfy L-shape cockpit settee. This practice, common on commercial boats, tends to extend the life expectancy of the electrical power supply--and therefore of the VHF--in the unlikely event of an emergency influx of water into the bilge.
Several other engineering details push the Express well above the norm for this size and type of vessel. For starters, instead of one, two, or three piddly bilge pumps, the Express has four Rules, each with a whopping 3,700-gph capacity and a pricey, magnetic-reed-type Ultimate automatic float switch. Then the optional genset is not in the main machinery spaces, but in a separate compartment farther aft under a cockpit hatch, with a dedicated Fireboy fire-extinguishing system that's separate from the one in the engine room. Two fire-fighting systems are always better than one. Also, the welded-aluminum saddle-type fuel tanks gravity feed into a low, central daytank, which simplifies plumbing and obviates fuel-related list problems. Moreover, to nix the risk of freshwater contamination, the sanitary system pulls its supply water from a separate, dedicated welded-aluminum tank. And finally, getting the test equipment hooked up and operating was facilitated by flexible, aviation-type fuel lines with swedged, threaded fittings, easily accessed and nicely labeled fuel shutoffs, and a wonderful bulkhead-mounted Stewart-Warner pump that prevents air-lock problems with the flick of a switch.
I climbed into the six-way-adjustable driver's seat almost immediately after finishing in the engine compartment. Visibility and ventilation were excellent. Not only could I see ahead without obstruction, but I could also turn and directly eyeball both port and starboard quarters. And with the side windows slid back, the two aft-facing Lewmar Ocean-Series hatches in the hardtop open, and the vents in the three windshield panels cranked out, the ambiance at the helm was cool and breezy.
I was as captivated by the performance of the Express as I'd been by her engineering, although a lack of sporty sea conditions precluded a rough-water wring-out. High-speed tracking was arrow-straight, cornering was mannerly but a bit wide (about average for inboard running gear), bow rise out of the hole did not significantly affect forward visibility, and slow-mo going in channels evinced no wanderlust.
Such behavior is attributable to the savvy positioning of the longitudinal center of gravity, but also stems from the shape of the hull, which I'd examined earlier at the nearby Island Packet plant. Except for draft-reducing prop pockets, which are rectilinear for added lift and better tracking, the running surface is straightforward, with a couple of lifting strakes on either side of centerline and a skeg, again for tracking. The running gear is pretty mainstream, too, with four-blade Nibral props and large, slightly counterbalanced, wedge-shape (high-speed) rudders.
Backing the Express into her slip after the sea trial proved to be a bit challenging, not because of any boat-related factor, but because the current across the opening was moving lustily enough to cant the entrance pilings. However, after a few false jabs, I managed to throttle the Express robustly home, thanks to my guardian angel's intercession and a set of properly adjusted, very responsive Teleflex mechanical engine controls.
Once we'd got tied up and I'd regained my composure, I went below to check out an interior clearly evolved from the sailboat side. It consists of a large forward cabin with a double island berth and a teak-and-holly-soled main cabin that contains a U-shape galley, dinette opposite, and head with a wraparound vanity and shower, but no separate stall.
There are two major highlights topside. The first has to do with overall cosmetic fineness. While this obviously results from care and expertise, it also depends on superb underlying essentials, which consist of high-modulus knitted fabrics infused with specialized resin-application equipment, top-of-the-line gelcoat, and a carefully engineered foam-filled, all-glass stringer/grid system. The second highlight? An anchoring system that includes a standard Delta anchor, Sprint 1500 low-profile windlass, and cavernous chain locker under a stout hatch with ample fender stowage behind StarBoard batter boards. Practical? You bet.
But then practicality and usefulness are the qualities that make the Packet Craft 360 Express one of the sweetest 36-footers I've set foot on in some time--with or without sails.
Packet Yachts Phone: (727) 535-6431. Fax: (727) 530-5806. www.ipy.com.
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This article originally appeared in the January 2003 issue of Power & Motoryacht magazine.