Moving up to a pocket cruiser

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Dave and JoAnn Leibman, 55 and 53, respectively, are experienced cruisers who live in Maple Valley, Wash., a suburb of Seattle. Now empty nesters — he’s a police commander and she’s a systems analyst for an investment firm — the couple wanted something more from the fifth boat they would own. Specifically, they wanted to move up from the cuddy cabin and sportboats they raised their family aboard.

Dave and JoAnn Leibman's Cutwater 28 is their fifth boat.

They researched the 27-footer from Ranger Tugs and thought it might be worth a closer look. They went to the Seattle Boat Show to check out the Rangers but spotted the Cutwater 28 (www.cutwaterboats.com), the sportier sister brand to Ranger. Both lines are owned and built by Fluid Motion in Kent, Wash.

Here’s how the Leibmans decided on the Cutwater, as told by Dave.

How did you know it was time for a new boat?

I’ve been boating for over 20 years, but with no children at home we usually cruise with just the two of us. With all of our previous boats — the last was a Sea Ray 260 — we found that we were not doing any fall or winter boating because driving the boat from the canvas-enclosed cockpit was rarely a good experience — too cold, too wet, the plastic windows fogged up.

What made you go with a Cutwater?

We went to the boat show to look at the Rangers but did not know about Cutwaters. When we saw the Cutwater 28 at the Ranger display, we were immediately struck by its style, speed and features. We were looking for a smaller boat that would be easy to maintain, that we might want to trailer, but that would handle the sometimes stormy waters in Puget Sound. And we wanted a boat with as many bigger-boat amenities as possible — diesel propulsion, full electronics, storage and good cabin heat.

How did the buying process go?

The Ranger folks are all easy to get to know and very easy to work with. We put our trust in the Ranger/Cutwater company and have been impressed with them ever since. We got a great price on the Cutwater and a much better than expected trade-in price for our old boat. [The Cutwater 28, with a 260-hp Volvo D4 diesel, starts at $179,900.]

What do you like about the Cutwater — design, ride, features?

We really like almost everything about this boat. The styling gets looks and compliments everywhere we go. The cockpit space makes it easy to entertain several people, considering the overall size. The flip-around rear seat is very innovative.

The ride is rock-solid, and the boat tracks well. You do have to make sure to adjust the trim tabs when passengers move around the boat, as it is a narrow boat. This is our first inboard diesel, and everything is simple to operate and simple to work on. The engine access is outstanding. Bow and stern thrusters make maneuvering in the tightest places almost effortless. The overall size of the boat has allowed us to squeeze into marinas that a larger boat couldn’t touch.

The inside is well laid out, and for a narrow-beam boat there’s plenty of storage and all the amenities we want. The solar panel has allowed us to be generator-free and pretty much use the inverter at will. We never have to worry about running out of juice on overnighters. The Garmin electronics package is impressive, although in retrospect we should have gotten the autopilot. We sleep in the aft cabin and leave the V-berth up as a sitting area, which really helps maximize the living space. The boat is a little tight for overnighting because of the 8-foot, 6-inch beam, but for a couple, the boat works fine.

Have there been any surprises?

One pleasant surprise might be how it handles in rough water. For a small boat, it does very well. We haven’t met any seas that gave us concern.

How do you use the boat — any favorite destinations?

We do most of our boating on Lake Washington, where we moor the boat year-round. We’re an hour from Puget Sound via the locks. We’ve taken the Cutwater to the San Juan Islands several times, as well as on many shorter trips to the central and south sound. This year will include at least one trip to the San Juans. We also have plans to meet up with friends on Gedney Island, near Everett. We’ll probably be lake boating on most weekends. Last year we logged about 100 engine hours.

What did you name the boat?

The boat is named Seoul Survivor II in honor of my wife, who was born in Korea and adopted to the States.

See related articles:

- Pocket change

- The small boat fleet

August 2013 issue

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