Pocket cruisers: the comfort is big


If you’ve watched any home- or DIY-related cable television recently, you likely know about the tiny-home trend. These microhouseholds (some the size of large shipping crates) are all about simplification, getting rid of unnecessary material possessions and living with less. That’s all good as long as you’re OK with showering in your living room.

Back Cove 30.

Fortunately, boaters don’t have to go to such extremes when it’s time to scale down their cruising programs. Thanks to pocket cruisers — smaller powerboats designed for passagemaking — a couple can cruise simpler, burn less fuel and minimize expenses for maintenance and upkeep, all without sacrificing too much comfort. 

Pocket cruisers are enjoying a sort of renaissance, with the trend spurred partially by the financial crisis of 2007-08, when folks were forced to tighten their boating budget belts. Today, there’s a model out there for just about everyone, with varying degrees of utility, elegance and style.

Cutwater C-302 Sport Coupe

Cutwater Boats is known for fitting a ton of innovative features into a small package. Built in Washington state by Fluid Motion — the same folks who build Ranger Tugs — Cutwater pocket cruisers can be trailered anywhere. Think of them as SUVs of the sea.

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The C-302 Sport Coupe was introduced last year to provide a more casual, sleeker and open version of the company’s C-30 Sedan and C-30 CB (flybridge) models. Powering the C-302 with twin Yamaha F300 4-stroke outboards allowed Cutwater to open up the cockpit and underdeck stowage, as well as enhance performance. The C-302 has a top end in the low-40-mph range, riding a single-step hull. The boat cruises efficiently in the low 30s.

Using outboards instead of inboard power also simplified the spaces inside the gunwales, creating extra space where inboards might otherwise be installed. One example is the cockpit, a virtual backyard patio with a sink and grill at the transom, foldout seats at the corners and on the transom, and a pair of benches that fold outboard from the cockpit gunwales over the water. Cutwater thought of anglers, too. A live well is under the electric grill, which is removable, and rod stowage is off the after end of the hardtop. For water sports, stand-up paddleboards or kayaks can strap to the cabin top.

The cockpit opens into the main saloon, where convertible seating creates different hang-out options alongside a galley and a berth that’s hidden under the dinette seating. As in other Cutwater boats, repositioning the dinette seatbacks creates an aft-facing cockpit seat or a bench seat at the starboard helm. A comfy island berth is in the stateroom below with a separate enclosed head/shower. 

LOA: 30 feet • BEAM: 10 feet • DRAFT: 2 feet, 5 inches • DISPLACEMENT: 9,800 pounds • TANKAGE: 300 gallons fuel, 80 gallons water, 40 gallons waste • POWER: twin Yamaha F300s • SPEED: low-40-mph top, low-30-mph cruise • PRICE: $304,937 • CONTACT: Cutwater Boats, Monroe, Washington, (800) 349-7198. cutwaterboats.com

Ranger Tugs R-29 S

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The trailerable Ranger Tugs R-29 S is an evolution. It replaces and builds upon the R-29 that helped cement Ranger Tugs’ place in this market. The new boat has more modern lines, innovative features and a layout that more cohesively mingles the deck and interior.

Lying in the belly of the R-29 S is a Volvo Penta D4 diesel rated at 260 ponies, mated to a stainless-steel shaft and bronze propeller. Press the throttles, and the R-29 S tops out at 20 knots. Most folks will want to pull back to around 15 to 17 knots, where the diesel runs most efficiently. Ranger Tugs included bow and stern thrusters with a wireless remote to keep the R-29 S nimble and agile come docking time.

Unlike its predecessor, the R-29 S has a hardtop that extends over a portion of the cockpit. Those traveling in southern climes will appreciate the extra level of protection from the sun. Flip-out seating is also in the cockpit, along with a refrigerator and a sink. An expanse of insulated, tempered glass lifts vertically to open the saloon to the cockpit. A door expands the open area.

The R-29 S pilothouse is airy — its cabin top is generously peppered with opening hatches and fixed glass ports. A dinette and galley round out the saloon, and a sleeping berth is under the dinette. An offset island berth is in the forward stateroom, which has an enclosed shower/head, stowage, port lights and opening hatches.

Beneteau Swift Trawler 30

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Beneteau’s plan with the Swift Trawler 30 was to expand the overall lineup and compete in the pocket cruiser market. The builder accomplished this by scaling down the Swift Trawler 34. Similarities include a flybridge, cockpit and interior design. There’s a single stateroom on the 30. (The 34 has a master and a guest setup below.) Both boats have glass doors that open to create a cohesive living space between the cockpit and saloon. The Swift Trawler 30 is just about as speedy as her big sister, capable of 26 mph and cruising around 15 mph. A single Volvo Penta D6 diesel makes it happen.

Some differences in the Swift Trawler 30 include transom doors that swing open to connect the cockpit with the swim platform. The shower and head are separated below — that’s noteworthy because you won’t have to wipe everything down after each shower, as you do when the head is part of the same compartment. The stateroom has an island berth and better hanging locker stowage than most boats in this size range. The saloon has a couch-style dinette that converts to a sleeping berth, and the L-shaped galley is in the forward port corner. The whole setup is trimmed out in Beneteau’s signature minimalist styling. 

LOA: 32 feet, 9 inches • BEAM: 11 feet, 7 inches • DRAFT: 3 feet, 5 inches • DISPLACEMENT: 13,224 pounds • TANKAGE: 185 gallons fuel, 80 gallons water • POWER: 370-hp Volvo Penta D6 diesel • SPEED: 26 mph top, 15 mph cruise • PRICE: $277,800 • CONTACT: Beneteau Powerboats, Annapolis, Maryland, (410) 990-0270. beneteau.com

Jeanneau NC 9

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A new concept. That’s what Jeanneau is promising with its NC 9, a boat that is like a Transformer: Start flipping and sliding seats and other components, and they take alternate forms to serve different purposes.

A few things make this pocket cruiser stand out in its size range and class. The full-width electric sunroof in the main cabin is one of them. It opens up the skies above the saloon when it’s sunny and seals everything tight when Mother Nature crashes the party. Another unusual feature is the cockpit bench seat. It’s installed on sliders, moving forward or aft to create more cockpit space — or to expand square footage on the swim platform. Interesting innovations in the saloon include a starboard dinette with seats that flip back and forth to pull double duty as companion seating across from the helm, or as a bench seat facing the cockpit. And the NC 9 has a master and a guest cabin — not many boats in this class do. 

A 260-hp Volvo Penta D4 diesel mated to a Duoprop sterndrive is standard. It’s good for around 29 mph of top end, though most folks will cruise in the high teens to low 20s. Those with a need for speed can opt for a 300-hp Volvo Penta D4, which pushes the top end into the mid-30-mph range and ups the cruise speed a few notches. Because of its moderately aggressive vee bottom and sterndrive, the NC 9 handles more nimbly than many comparable boats, perfect for carving up the miles along the Intracoastal Waterway. 

LOA: 30 feet, 11 inches • BEAM: 10 feet, 4 inches • DRAFT: 3 feet, 9 inches • DISPLACEMENT: 10,648 pounds • TANKAGE: 79 gallons fuel, 42 gallons water • POWER: 260-hp Volvo Penta D4 diesel • SPEED: 29 mph top, 21-23 mph cruise • PRICE: $300,000 • CONTACT: Jeanneau America, Annapolis, Maryland, (410) 280-9400. jeanneau.com

Marlow Pilot 32

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In 2012, builder David Marlow bought Mainship Corp. and began building trawlers under the Marlow Pilot brand. The Marlow Pilot 32 is perhaps the most original pocket cruiser in this roundup. She was conceived as a couple’s boat, just like the Mainship 31 Pilot that preceded her.

Distinctive features include the reverse stern, whose center section opens aft to form a swim platform. Though the 32 has a smaller cockpit than many pocket cruisers this size, the design is intended to maximize interior space, especially in the main saloon. Long, comfortable lounges are to port and starboard — one with a dining table in front of it and the other as a stand-alone relaxation area.

The skipper gets a swiveling captain’s chair, as does the companion sitting to port. Three steps down are a galley, forward berth and enclosed shower/head, in a layout similar to those aboard many express cruisers.

Twin 75-hp Yanmar diesels are mated to saildrives — unusual for a powerboat. The hull also has twin keels to enhance tracking and directional stability. The twin-Yanmar setup reportedly has about a 16-knot top end and cruises nicely around 10 knots, delivering a 900-mile range. Options include single 220- or 260-hp Yanmar diesel power for more grunt.

LOA: 37 feet, 9 inches • BEAM: 10 feet, 6 inches • DRAFT: 2 feet, 5 inches • DISPLACEMENT: 11,725 pounds • TANKAGE: 196 gallons fuel, 90 gallons water, 30 gallons waste • POWER: twin 75-hp Yanmar 4JH4-TE diesels, single 220-hp Yanmar 4BY3 diesel, single 260-hp Yanmar 6BY3 diesel • SPEED: 16 knots top, 10 knots cruise • PRICE: $223,535 (220-hp Yanmar) • CONTACT: Marlow Pilot, Alachua Florida, (800) 771-5556. marlow-pilot.com

Back Cove 30

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The Back Cove 30 is a Downeast-style pocket cruiser sporting good looks, impressive performance and dual-purpose indoor/outdoor lounging space. Back Cove Yachts builds the 30; it’s a sister company of well-known Maine boatbuilder Sabre Yachts.

First looks mean a lot, and the builder created lots of livable outdoor space on the Back Cove 30. The lounge seating that lines the cockpit is broken only by a transom walk-through to the swim platform. The pilothouse’s after end is open, providing lounging space in the saloon with an outdoorsy feel and protection from the elements. Cabin-side glass adds to the sensation of being in touch with the water.

In the cabin below the main saloon are a starboard-side galley, a U-shaped dinette that can form a berth with an insert cushion, an enclosed head/shower and stowage. Opening ports and hatches lighten things up, and the teak woodwork is warm and inviting.

A 320-hp Yanmar 8LV diesel is standard, or owners can opt for a 370-hp Yanmar 8LV or 370-hp Volvo Penta D6 diesel. With 370 horses, expect the Back Cove 30 to top out around 30 to 32 mph. The boat’s sweet spot for fuel economy is around 10 knots, with a lean 4.4 gph fuel burn. If that’s too slow, 16 mph seems a reasonable compromise at 7 gph.

LOA: 34 feet, 2 inches • BEAM: 11 feet, 3 inches • DRAFT: 2 feet, 8 inches • DISPLACEMENT: 12,300 pounds • TANKAGE: 160 gallons fuel, 58 gallons water, 30 gallons waste • POWER: 320-hp Yanmar 8LV diesel • PRICE: $267,000 • CONTACT: Back Cove Yachts, Rockland, Maine, (207) 594-8844. backcoveyachts.com

Nordic Tug 26

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You could call the Nordic Tug 26 a sort of comeback kid. Nordic Tugs built around 170 of them until production ceased in 1997, but in 2009 the builder reintroduced this mini cult classic. Tens if not hundreds of thousands of miles have passed under the keels of Nordic Tug 26s, a boat that few owners let sit still for long.

The boat sleeps four, though most buyers — past and present — are couples. It’s set up perfectly for couples cruising, with a dinette and galley in the saloon, the helm and an adjacent companion seat set a few steps up in the pilothouse and an offset berth, hanging locker and enclosed head down in the bow. Aft is a cockpit for hanging out at anchor and watching the world go by. Side decks provide access to the foredeck, and the bow-mounted ground tackle is straightforward.

With a semidisplacement hull that has a long keel and skeg-mounted rudder, the NT26 is not meant to win races. Instead, she’s meant to be miserly with the funds in your fuel budget. She will cruise at 8 knots with a 260-nautical-mile range, thanks to the 150-hp Volvo Penta D3 diesel, and has a top end of 13 or 14 knots. The sweet spot between speed and fuel efficiency is around 10 knots. And you can go in just about any weather, steering from the enclosed pilothouse. n

LOA: 28 feet, 9 inches • BEAM: 9 feet, 6 inches • DRAFT: 3 feet, 3 inches • DISPLACEMENT: 9,468 pounds • TANKAGE: 100 gallons fuel, 40 gallons water, 20 gallons waste • POWER: 150-hp Volvo Penta D3 diesel • SPEED: 13-14 knots top, 8 knots cruise • PRICE: $245,000 • CONTACT: Nordic Tugs, Burlington, Washington, (360) 757-8847. nordictugs.com

This article originally appeared in the June 2017 issue.