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You’ll find better windshield designs, more interior volume and plenty of natural light in the next generation of express cruisers

Center console builder Everglades Boats has jumped into the express cruiser fray with two models - a 35-footer (the 350EX pictured) and a 32.When you think express cruiser, you may envision a twin inboard production boat with a swollen cabin. You know it’s a speedy vessel (hence the “express”) with cruising capability of around 30 mph and a top speed of about 40 mph, but it’ll likely do a bit of pounding in more than a 2-foot chop.

The windshield wraps around the bridge deck, with starboard-side sit-down helm and the companion seats. A Bimini or hardtop provides shelter, and see-through filler sections (that often wrinkle and yellow within months, decreasing visibility) can be snapped or zippered into place for more weather protection. Since it’s also a “cruiser,” the boat also has ample overnighting accommodations. But the berths, settees, galley and head are often crammed into a cabin that lacks natural light.

Things have changed. The half-dozen express cruisers here — five of the six are new models — offer refreshingly different design and styling elements. These developments help the boats better carry out their missions.

Pod drives are replacing inboards and sterndrives on some models, giving these boats better fuel efficiency, increased interior room and joystick maneuverability. Volvo Penta’s IPS powers the Chaparral 400 Premiere and Cruisers 470 Sports Coupe, while the Zeus system (Cummins MerCruiser Diesel) provides the punch for the Sabre 42 Express.

Now how about smoothing out that ride. Some of today’s express cruisers are built with the necessary deadrise forward to shoulder aside seas without sacrificing cabin space. Case in point is the Chaparral 400 Premiere, which has a relatively narrow forefoot for wave-slicing. But the builder has increased interior space by designing sponson-shaped sections in the bow above the chines.

On deck

An express cruiser’s deck layout shouldn’t isolate the helmsman, says Bentley Collins, vice president of marketing and sales for Sabre Yachts, of South Casco, Maine, which is represented here by the Sabre 42 Express. “There’s a social connection from the helm to the cockpit,” says Collins. “Everyone is together. That, to me, is the epitome of the express boat.”

Collins compares Sabre’s express boats to its sedan models. The sedan’s saloon area, including the galley, is on deck, and the “house” is closed, separating it from the cockpit. On an express, the saloon is below in the cabin, and the house opens to the cockpit.

In this group, the Maine-built Ellis Patriot 36 — specifically the one owned by singer/songwriter Billy Joel — does a very good job of promoting social interaction. Like some Carolina fishing boats, the Down Easter’s helm console is on centerline on the bridge deck, with ample bench seating on both sides. “It’s good for passengers, it’s good for fishing, and it makes sense,” Joel says of the layout (see November 2008 Soundings).

You’ll notice that these express cruisers have been built with large front and side windshields to maximize visibility for both the helmsman and passengers. And say goodbye to those frustrating windshield filler sections. All of the boats in this roundup have windshields that extend to the hardtop, and vents have been cleverly designed into the windshield to keep the bridge deck area cool.

Also, builders are increasing natural light below deck, incorporating large windows into the hull sides to illuminate saloons and staterooms. Again the Chaparral stands out, with its long horizontal windows that bring light to the galley and dinette area. On the Cruisers 470, the aft stateroom and saloon each benefit from six windows — three on each hull side.

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