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Arrive in style

Express boats combine a contemporary look and a good turn of speed, with a layout that creates a social space from the helm to the cockpit.

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Take a look at an older express cruiser from about 30 to 45 feet. Chances are, the plastic curtains that bridge the gap between the windshield and hardtop are wrinkled and yellowed from UV exposure.

The enclosure’s zippers, the glossy white dash that amplifies windshield reflection and a wide radar arch further impede sightlines. Perhaps the centerline windshield passage forward lacks a handrail.

Below, a shortage of natural light and dark upholstery and cabinetry make the space cave-like. It’s even darker in the cramped midcabin. The galley is big, but the placement of the stovetop, sink and microwave appear to be poorly thought out. The faucet may swing over a burner, and the burner cover, when open, blocks the microwave.

The good news is that builders and designers have eliminated most of these problems in today’s express cruisers. The plastic curtains are gone and the ventilated windshield extends up to the hardtop. The radar arches are thinner. Dark dashes have replaced the bright white ones. Larger portlights and hatches pull in more natural light, and the galley components work seamlessly.

The express cruiser continues to evolve. Late this summer, Sea Ray introduced the outboard-powered 370 Venture, an express with twin 300-hp Mercury Verados concealed in compartments that double as lounges. The design results in reduced engine noise levels and more interior space — a lot more. “The aft cabin is now twice the size,” says Dan Robinson, director of program management for Brunswick Boat Group, parent company of Sea Ray. “Plus it has allowed us to incorporate large portlights.”

Designers and engineers have worked hard to increase the express cruiser’s living space and brighten the cabin with natural light, says Erin Schwarz, a design manager for the Brunswick Boat Group. Sea Ray uses woods and upholstery that are lighter in color. Companionways are larger, and the entrance to the midcabin is bigger.

Changes to the helm and dashes have increased headroom in the midcabin on some Sea Ray models, including the 350 Sundancer, Schwarz says. “On this boat, someone sitting in the midcabin can carry out a conversation with someone sitting on the V-berth,” she says.

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Sea Ray has downsized its galleys, using the freed-up space for more seating and generating what the builder calls “conversation zones,” Schwarz says. “People just aren’t cooking big meals in the galley,” she says. “So why make the galley big? They use the cabin to socialize and relax.”

The express cruiser, in some iterations, has become an all-season boat. The bridge deck area can be buttoned up with side and aft enclosures, then heated or cooled. The windshields are larger and nearly free of obstructions. Gone, for the most part, are those wiper motors that some builders mounted to the top of the windshield.

In addition, the hardtops on some of these boats are built with sliding overhead hatches, such as the Sealine featured here.

Boat companies have broadened the express cruiser genre, creating subsets such as the Down East express (see accompanying story) and the “sport yacht.” The Pursuit 36 Sport Yacht, which is expected to debut at the Oct. 25-29 Fort Lauderdale International Boat Show, is the latest example of the express genre’s diversification. Like the Sea Ray Venture, outboards will power this boat. Also, it has a lower profile and a more aerodynamic look than many express boats.

Regardless of the style, express cruisers share several characteristics. The cockpit is usually open to the bridge deck to create a space that promotes socializing. And there’s a good reason they’re called “express” cruisers: They zip right along, with cruise speeds from 20 to 30 knots.

Joystick helm control is common on today’s express cruisers. Mercury’s Axius system for sterndrives can be found on Sea Ray models, for example, and Volvo Penta’s sterndrive joystick powers several Regal express boats. You’ll also find pod drives with joystick controls on some of these boats.

“We are investing incredible amounts of money in our future in product development and engineering because, let’s face it, people want the latest and greatest,” says Rob Noyes, Sea Ray vice president of marketing.

The six express cruisers featured here are powered by a variety of propulsion systems. Two are powered with Volvo Penta IPS, one with Volvo Penta sterndrives or IPS, one with a single sterndrive, one with twin Mercury Verado 4-strokes and another with twin Yamaha F350 4-strokes. The boats range from 28 to 47 feet.

Regal 28 Express

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With a single 300-hp Volvo Penta or MerCruiser dual-prop sterndrive, the Regal 28 is a good choice for those who want an express with the fuel economy of a single-screw boat. The Regal 28 gets 2 mpg at 25 mph with the Volvo Penta package, according to the company.

The boat’s beam of 8 feet, 6 inches allows it to be trailered without special permits. “With a boat of this size, people want to experience boating in different areas,” says marketing coordinator Paul A. Kuck II, son of CEO Duane Kuck. “With a trailer, they have that flexibility. In Florida, for instance, they can go up to Jacksonville for the weekend or down to the Keys for a few days.”

An optional bow thruster will help with docking. The cockpit’s focal point is the “Ultra Lounge,” a sunpad with a backrest that can be set at four angles.

The builder has done a good job using large hull-side portlights and overhead hatches to bring natural light into the cabin, with light-colored settees and galley components. Regal also uses a bamboo covering for the cabin sole to keep the cabin light bright. A couple of portlights in the midcabin, which has a full-size queen berth, illuminate this space nicely, too. The V-berth converts to a dinette, and headroom in the head is an impressive 6 feet.

LOA: 28 feet, 10 inches BEAM: 8 feet, 6 inches DRAFT: 2 feet, 10 inches DISPLACEMENT: 7,585 pounds SPEED: 41 mph top, 24 mph cruise with 300-hp Volvo Penta sterndrive FUEL: 72 gallons POWER: 300-hp Volvo Penta or MerCruiser sterndrive PRICE: just under $100,000 (with power) CONTACT: Regal Boats, Orlando, Fla., (407) 851-4360.

Pursuit 36 Sport Yacht

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The 36 Sport Yacht is the first in a new line of high-end, outboard-powered sportboats from Pursuit. “This boat is probably in the middle of a whole family of product we are going to develop,” says George Hetzel, vice president of sales and marketing for S2 Yachts, Pursuit’s parent company.

That family will range from about 26 to 40 feet. “We’ll go where there is the most opportunity for success,” marketing director David Glenn says. “We certainly see an opportunity above and below this mid-30-foot boat.”

The 36 will be one of the first boats to be outfitted with Yamaha’s new joystick helm control and steering system. “As soon as that technology is available we’ll have it at the retail level,” Glenn says. Yamaha communications manager Martin Peters says the joystick system will be available sometime in 2013.

The Pursuit’s outboards will be completely covered, which should reduce engine noise levels and maintain a clean look at the stern. And the stern platform will surround the outboards, Glenn says.

Pursuit plans to display a 36 Sport Yacht at the Fort Lauderdale and Miami boat shows.

LOA: 41 feet, 2 inches BEAM: 12 feet, 6 inches DISPLACEMENT: 17,000 pounds POWER: twin Yamaha F350s FUEL: 275 gallons PRICE: unavailable CONTACT: Pursuit Boats, Fort Pierce, Fla., (772) 465-6006.

Sea Ray 370 Venture

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The 370 Venture includes many of the aforementioned improvements to the express cruiser, from the well-lit interior with an inviting midcabin to the safer windshield walkthrough, anti-glare dash and slimmer radar arch. The boat’s power package — twin outboards in compartments that double as sunpads — allowed the builder to push the engine room bulkhead as far aft as possible, creating enough space for a double berth and hull-side portlights in the midcabin.

“Our first goal with the 370 Venture was to develop the first true hidden outboard cruiser in the marine industry,” marketing vice president Noyes says. “In the future I think you’ll see a lot more outboard innovations. We’re certainly looking into it.”

Sea Ray used bright, natural tones throughout the cabin to give the 370 Venture an open, airy feel. The cabin has a relatively small galley so there’s more seating, but it includes a refrigerator and microwave. The head, across from the galley, has a separate shower.

On deck, grab the large rail to port of the companionway as you traverse the relatively large steps that lead to the windshield walkthrough. The cockpit features a large U-shaped settee on the port side and another L-shaped settee on the starboard side.

LOA: 37 feet, 2 inches BEAM: 11 feet, 3 inches DISPLACEMENT: 15,432 pounds POWER: twin Mercury Verado 300s FUEL: 200 gallons SPEED: 41 mph top, 32 mph cruise PRICE: unavailable CONTACT: Sea Ray Boats, Knoxville, Tenn., (865) 522-4181.

Cruisers 41 Cantius

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The express cruiser is all about socializing, and that’s apparent with the Cruisers 41 Cantius, which has a locker with stools on the swim platform. The boat functions well in both hot and cold climes with an enclosed, climate-controlled main deck living area, says Jon Viestenz, product manager for Cruisers’ parent company, KCS International.

“Because of its open floor plan and size the 41 Cantius provides the ideal space for both families and couples,” he says.

It’s laid out with two staterooms and two heads. The master stateroom has a queen-size island berth and an adjoining head with a separate shower. The midship suite’s split-bunk layout converts to a queen-size berth, and guests have a private wet head with a separate vanity area.

There’s a lot to like on this boat — a standard 13.5-kW genset, a well-lit engine room with 5 feet of headroom and Volvo Penta IPS pods with joystick helm control. Twin IPS450s (330 hp) push the Cantius to 31 mph, for a mileage rating of 0.9 mpg, and she reaches a top end of 41 mph. The builder also offers IPS500s with 370-hp diesels or Volvo Penta 370-hp diesel dual-prop sterndrives. Cruisers plans to unveil the 45 Cantius at the Fort Lauderdale show.

LOA: 42 feet, 8 inches BEAM: 13 feet DRAFT: 3 feet, 9 inches (with IPS) DISPLACEMENT: 25,000 pounds SPEED: 41 mph top, 30 mph cruise FUEL: 300 gallons POWER: Volvo Penta IPS500s PRICE: $725,000 (with power) CONTACT: Cruisers Yachts, Oconto, Wis., (920) 834-2211.

Sealine SC42i Sports Coupe

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British boatbuilder Sealine International has returned to the U.S. market with a range of new models: the T50 Flybridge Motor Yacht, the C48 Coupe and the SC42i Sports Coupe.

It’ll be hard to find more versatile deck seating than there is on the SC42i Sports Coupe. (The “i” stands for Volvo Penta IPS.) The twin L-shaped settees can be positioned outboard of one another with a centerline stern walkthrough, and with the push of a button the port settee slides inboard and meets the other settee, creating a wide port-side deck.

The soft-top convertible roof system opens, and side windows also open for more fresh air. Skylights over the galley brighten the area. “It’s very much a social boat, an entertainment boat with a tremendous cockpit,” says Tom Riemann, general manager of Sealine Yachts America. “It’s also capable for two couples to go cruising for several days.”

The forward master cabin has a separate shower and head, and the midcabin’s twin berths can be moved together to create a single large berth. There’s also a second head with separate shower. The saloon has space for four to dine.

With the IPS600s, the Sealine cruises at 24 knots with a mileage rating of 1.2 nmpg, Riemann says.

LOA: 45 feet, 7 inches BEAM: 14 feet, 8 inches DRAFT: 3 feet, 3 inches DISPLACEMENT: 22,100 pounds SPEED: 30 knots top, 24 knots cruise with 435-hp Volvo Penta IPS600s FUEL: 264 gallons POWER: Volvo Penta IPS600s PRICE: $991,000 (base, with power) CONTACT: Sealine International, Dania Beach, Fla., (954) 534-7949.

Riviera 445 SUV

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A true multitasker, the 445 lives up to its SUV moniker as a crossover among Aussie boatbuilder Riviera’s three-model series, says sales director Chris McCafferty.

“I anticipate the new 445 SUV will appeal to the astute American buyer because it combines the high performance and bluewater cruising abilities of the classic flybridge with the fishing abilities of the offshore express and features the popular single-level entertaining characteristics of Riviera’s Sport Yacht series,” he says.

The uncluttered cockpit gives anglers plenty of space to do their thing. Moving forward, a mezzanine includes a starboard-side two-person settee. The saloon with galley (to port) and dining area (to starboard) separate the cockpit and the helm deck. The captain drives from a port-side helm.

The yacht rides a modified-vee hull with large hull-side portlights for natural lighting. Two staterooms dominate amidships and extend beam to beam. Two heads with separate showers and a master stateroom are forward of these staterooms.

LOA: 47 feet, 5 inches BEAM: 15 feet DRAFT: 3 feet, 11 inches DISPLACEMENT: 30,300 pounds SPEED: unavailable FUEL: 476 gallons POWER: Volvo Penta IPS500s (435 hp) PRICE: unavailable CONTACT: Riviera, Stuart, Fla., (772) 872-7260.

See related articles:


- Our short list of new boats to see at Fort Lauderdale

- Powerboats to see at Fort Lauderdale

- The express boat's traditional side

November 2012



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