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BOATS

BOAT TESTS

Cruisers 385 Express

With any luck, my wife won't read the following test of the Cruisers 385 Express Motoryacht, a speedy, extraordinarily comfortable aft-cabin cruiser that'll debut at the Miami International Boat Show in February. Not that I've tossed in anything inflammatory. Far be it from mois to shoot my mouth off about personal stuff just to keep readers reading Power & Motoryacht.

Nope! What I'm worried about is a myth I've concocted over the years featuring me as a stalwart, overworked boat-testing hero constantly tempting fate on the high seas—except, of course, when I'm slaving away over a hot word processor. If my wife gets a load of the next few pages, in which I'm naturally constrained to shoot for accuracy and candor, she'll immediately see what really goes on during tests of sumptuous, condo-esque vessels like the 385, and she'll say to herself, "Hmmm, ol' Bill's got it pretty good out there on the boat-test trail. Maybe he needs to be workin' harder around the house!"

Here's how my test of the 385 started. As Cruisers rep Don DePouw invited me onboard, he remarked on the heat wave that was currently sauting Fort Lauderdale and, more particularly, Pier 66 Marina, an opulent little spot on a stretch of the Intracoastal Waterway there. "Man, it's hot," he said, adding, "come on in and cool off, Bill."

I accepted smartly. And within seconds I was splayed out in the 385's saloon in full, kick-back mode, with a frigid Diet Coke in one hand and a press release touting the "incomparable comfort" of the boat's layout in the other.

The claim was not exaggerated. Our saloon was configured with a long, L-shape leatherette sofa to starboard and an equally expansive dinette with crescent-shape leatherette sofa and cherry table (in lieu of an optional, dinette-style setup with fore-and-aft seating) to port. The arrangement was conversationally practical and transcendentally cushy. More to the point, DePouw seemed positively stuck in the sofa on the port side, with his fingers laced behind his head and his legs stretched straight out. And I was experiencing mobility problems myself, thanks to the double incliner in the sofa to starboard.

And man! Was it cold!

Our test boat had two bone-chilling, 16,000-Btu Cruisair combo units, each installed in the saloon area, in heavily sound-insulated compartments (one under the companionway steps and the other under the dinette sofa), in keeping with Cruisers' notion that operating noise from air-conditioning equipment should be minimized where possible and all but eliminated in sleeping spaces. "Not bad, eh?" asked DePouw with a grin. I swear I could see his breath when he made the observation.

The encompassing scene was luxurious. The saloon's overhead was lofty (6'6" from thickly carpeted sole to vinyl headliner), and its width generous. Nothing boosts habitable interior space onboard a cruiser like poofing out the superstructure, although the strategy certainly narrows the side decks—in the 385's case, to little more than the width of a deck shoe. Thanks to a huge windshield forward as well as a couple of equally huge, flush-fit, over-under windows along the sides, I found my vantage point in the saloon let me both retire from the world beyond and simultaneously keep tabs on it.

Other possibilities presented themselves. In the aft starboard corner, within easy reach of my incliner, was a top-of-the-line entertainment center with a standard Sharp Aquos TV and an optional Sony Home Theater system. And forward on the port side, beyond the dinette, was a U-shape galley that was the equal of any other I've seen on a midrange motoryacht. "Better wring this puppy out soon," I told DePouw. "If I get any more relaxed, I'll never get up!"

We sea trialed the 385 on the Atlantic, just south of Lauderdale's jetties. The experience was an eye-opener. While liveaboard comfort and roominess are characteristics that stand out dockside, speed's the biggie offshore. Average top hop was 36.5 mph. When I dialed our 420-hp Volvo Penta 8.1 GXi gasoline inboards back to a 4,000-rpm fast cruise, we still got approximately 30 mph, 0.72 mpg, and a range of 192 statute miles. Not bad for gasoline propulsion, and optional diesels are likely to do even better.

I enjoyed my test drive. The ride in two- to three-foot seas was smooth and bone-dry. Steering was sporty, visibility from the helm was excellent, and running attitudes were shallow and efficient. In fact, the boat evinced no bow rise whatsoever up to and slightly beyond 2000 rpm, thanks to the effects of saddle-type fuel tanks amidships and the lift inherent in comparatively small prop pockets with reduced shaft angle. My only complaint was the way the split Teleflex Marine mechanical engine controls behaved while I was backing the 385 into her slip: They felt stiff and in need of adjustment.

Once we were tied up, it was dj vu all over again. DePouw and I went back to the air-conditioned ambiance of the interior to check out the VIP forward, with its unusual double berth to port and single berth to starboard. The master, with its walk-around, semidiagonal queen, was aft, and the engine room, accessed via hatches in the saloon, was cooled by the frosty wafts prevailing there. Details included two large heads with roomy, separate stall showers; clean, schematic wiring and plumbing runs, and excellent access to the centerline genset in the ER.

I actually felt rested once I'd completed the test of the Cruisers 385 Express Motoryacht, to such an extent that I was able to ease on over to 15th Street Fisheries for stone crabs soon afterwards. DePouw went along, and as I remember, I promised not to tell his wife if he wouldn't tell mine.

Cruisers Yachts
(920) 834-2211

This article originally appeared in the December 2005 issue of Power & Motoryacht magazine.