Look up the word “utility” in the American Heritage Dictionary, and you’ll find the following: used, serving or working in several capacities as needed. And when it comes to boats, that can be a tall order.
Sure, there are plenty of boats that perform well the mission for which they were designed, but what if your boating style is more diverse? Perhaps anchoring is more appealing to you than tying up at a marina. Or maybe you bring along stand-up paddleboards, kayaks and a dinghy. You might simply prefer a boat with plentiful deck space that allows you to enjoy the wildlife and scenery around you. And let’s not forget about fishing — while underway or at anchor.
If any of this is clicking with you, a relatively new class of boats aimed at adventure and exploration might be your ticket. A common theme among these utilitarian boats is not just space for stowing gear and water toys, but also deck layouts that create versatile outdoor seating and lounging arrangements, with easy access to the water.
Here are four of the newer entries in this increasingly crowded segment. It’s worth noting that there are at least a dozen other boats that merit consideration, including larger and smaller versions of some of the models mentioned here. Regardless of which one suits you best, there’s a lot to love about these fun and adventurous boats.
Tiara Q 44
If you saw the new Q 44 out on the water you might have a difficult time identifying it as a Tiara. That’s because it looks nothing like anything the Michigan-based boatbuilder has ever offered.
The Q 44 “Adventure Yacht” has an open layout and a focus on outdoor entertaining and recreation. And, yes, there’s great utility in the boat, too. The layout includes a single-level deck that runs from the forward end of the main saloon aft to the swim platform. Adjacent to the helm and port-side companion seating are power sliding doors that further open the area to the outside. Abaft the helm and companion seating — and open to the stern deck — are twin aft-facing L-shaped lounges that can be converted to a dining space with a drop-in teak table.
Perhaps the most unique element of the design is the island galley, which sits just forward of a large convertible seating module on the aft deck. Inside it is a grill, sink, Isotherm refrigerator and plenty of stowage for cooking gear, utensils and plates.
And that convertible bench seating on the aft deck has some tricks of its own. Beneath it is a huge stowage area, easily accessed with the help of two gas-assist struts. The bench seat also can be converted to a large sunpad in a few quick moves.
Behind the aft bench seating is the teak-topped swim platform, which can be ordered with hydraulics that lower it into the water. This is where you can launch the gear you have stowed on the cabin top. Tiara offers a number of racks to stow bicycles, canoes, kayaks and other water toys.
The downside to all this deck space is less interior room. Instead of a separate master stateroom, the Q 44 has bow seating below that folds together to form a double berth — and it’s open to the rest of the below-deck spaces. These spaces include a partial galley, an enclosed standalone shower and an enclosed head.
Twin Volvo Penta D6 diesels mated to IPS600 pod drives, which deliver a top end of about 36 mph and cruise speeds in the upper 20-mph range, are standard. Twin 550-hp Cummins QSB6.7 diesels and Zeus pod drives are optional.
LOA: 45 feet, 6 inches BEAM: 14 feet, 11 inches DRAFT: 3 feet, 9 inches DISPLACEMENT: 25,000 pounds TANKAGE: 350 gallons fuel, 118 gallons water STANDARD POWER: twin Volvo Penta D6 IPS600 PRICE: $798,000 CONTACT: Tiara Yachts, Holland, Michigan, (616) 393-7163. tiarayachts.com
Cutwater 30 LE
The Cutwater 30 LE is a different take on the utility theme. It has the convertibility and modularity of this type of boat, but it also has no-fuss exterior and interior spaces. That means minimal upkeep and maintenance. There’s also not a splinter of teak on the exterior to take time away from your cruising plans.
Still, this is a sharp boat with lots of features that allow owners to transform it to serve many purposes — whether that’s launching a kayak, entertaining guests in the cockpit or fishing off the stern. The large swim platform is surrounded almost completely by waist-height stainless-steel rails but with enough room spared for launching a dinghy or kayak. Access to the cockpit is through a transom door to starboard. A bench seat in the transom can be flipped to face forward into the cockpit or aft over the swim platform — a configuration that feels purpose-built for casual angling at anchor.
Also in the cockpit are two cleverly hidden seats that flip outboard from the coamings and over the water, creating additional seating for four people. A teak cockpit table slips into two quick-release bases to create an outdoor dining space. To open up the main saloon to the aft cockpit, Cutwater engineered an aft bulkhead panel that hinges up and stows against the cabin top.
In the saloon, the starboard dinette sits over a midcabin stateroom with a double berth. The dinette can be converted to a two-person berth by using an insert cushion. The backrest of the forward dinette seat reverses to create the two-person helm seat. The master stateroom is forward, with an en-suite head and shower.
Back outside, not an inch of space goes unused on the cabin top. The 30 LE comes standard with a 140-watt Kyocera solar panel mounted on the top’s starboard side, and the port side has enough room to accommodate optional Thule bicycle, kayak or paddleboard quick-release racks. On the bow, a flip-down ladder facilitates beaching and exploration ashore, though you’ll need a beach with a somewhat steep drop-off because of the boat’s 2-foot, 5-inch draft. A 435-hp Volvo Penta D6 diesel is standard.
LOA: 30 feet BEAM: 10 feet DRAFT: 2 feet, 5 inches DISPLACEMENT: 10,200 pounds TANKAGE: 180 gallons fuel, 80 gallons water STANDARD POWER: Volvo Penta 435-hp D6 diesel PRICE: $284,937 CONTACT: Cutwater Boats, Monroe, Washington, (800) 349-7198. cutwaterboats.com
There’s modularity and convertibility from the NC11’s bow to its stern, but the cleverest bits are found in the main saloon and aft cockpit. It’s all done with an eye toward bringing the outdoors inside.
Aft in the cockpit is a three-person bench with lots of features. In its normal position, it seats three people and separates the teak swim platform from the aft cockpit. Pull a couple of pins, slide it forward, and the swim platform acreage increases by a third — great for staging kayaks, stand-up paddleboards, a dinghy or swimmers. You can also flip the bench’s backrest down to form a huge sunpad. Slide the whole thing back again, and you’ve expanded the space in the cockpit for entertaining. There’s also lots of stowage underneath the bench — big enough for paddles, PFDs or even a small outboard.
The NC11’s convertibility theme continues forward in the main saloon. A four-panel sliding door separates the saloon from the cockpit and easily glides open to port or starboard. This creates a single-level indoor/outdoor living space stretching from the stern to the saloon, where the dinette is particularly shrewd in its design. The forward bench flips up to create bow-facing companion seating opposite the port-side helm, and the aft bench flips aft to create additional seating for a dining space in the cockpit. The dinette table is removable, which means it can be placed in the cockpit to create an outdoor dining space for six people.
There is less room on the hardtop for ancillary gear than in other boats of this type, but the reason makes the sacrifice totally worth it. The forward third of the hardtop is fitted with an integrated glass and aluminum sunroof that electrically slides open. Further opening up the interior is a sliding side door to port of the helm station.
Below deck are accommodations for two couples in separate cabins that share an enclosed shower/head. Additional sleeping quarters can be created with an insert for the saloon dinette.
Twin 200-hp Volvo Penta D3 diesel sterndrives are standard, with 330-hp D6 diesels available as an option. Expect a top speed of around 35 mph and a cruise in the mid-20s with the standard power.
LOA: 36 feet, 6 inches BEAM: 12 feet, 3 inches DRAFT: 3 feet, 3 inches DISPLACEMENT: 13,062 pounds TANKAGE: 190 gallons fuel, 66 gallons water STANDARD POWER: twin Volvo Penta 200-hp D3 diesels PRICE: $314,800 CONTACT: Jeanneau America, Annapolis, Maryland, (410) 280-9400. jeanneau.com
True North 34 Outboard Express
The True North 34 Outboard Express saves nearly a foot of draft by utilizing outboard power instead of shaft-driven props, delivering you to places few powerboats this size dare to go. And with option packages aimed at scuba divers, kayakers and anglers, this boat definitely has adventure on tap.
The design motif emphasizes creating an intimate connection between those on board and whatever land- or waterscape they’re exploring. The builder accomplishes this by having most of the living spaces on a single level that’s open to the outside, with a focus on water accessibility. And like other boats in this class, the outside is devoid of time-robbing teak trim and other maintenance items that keep some boats at the dock instead of out cruising.
The cockpit has plenty of seating, with an upholstered bench at the transom and another just abaft the partial saloon bulkhead. An optional dive door in the starboard hull side facilitates water access, as do gunwale-mounted swim ladders that stow away under the cockpit. A fishing configuration adds live wells in the cockpit sole, as well as rod holders and outriggers and additional rod stowage under the cabin top. In lieu of the live wells, a watertight stowage locker is standard, providing room for swim fins, a small deflated dinghy, fenders and more.
Like to dive? The builder will fit a stainless-steel scuba tank rack in the cockpit. And, of course, there’s plenty of room for kayaks, paddleboards and other water toys on the cabin top.
The main deck/saloon features a dinette, galley and the helm station. It’s open to the cockpit but can be fully enclosed with Isinglass when the weather turns nasty. Windows wrap the entire space, giving it an open and airy feel, and a large central hatch enhances ventilation. Below, the master stateroom features a double berth that can be expanded with a filler cushion. There’s also an en-suite head and shower.
There are upsides to outboard power on a boat such as the True North 34. The 4-strokes are quieter than their diesel counterparts and can be trimmed up in skinny water. There are virtually no fumes, no running gear below the waterline and no exhaust or raw-water cooling plumbing to fuss over. Performance with the twin Yamaha F250s is impressive and efficient, offering a top end in the middle 40-mph range, with cruise speeds of about 20 mph and the two engines using 11 to 12 gph. n
LOA: 34 feet, 9 inches BEAM: 12 feet, 4 inches DRAFT: 2 feet DISPLACEMENT: 11,250 pounds TANKAGE: 300 gallons fuel, 85 gallons water STANDARD POWER: twin Yamaha F250s PRICE: $345,000 CONTACT: True North Yachts, Warren, Rhode Island, (401) 247-3000. tnyachts.com
This article originally appeared in the December 2015 issue.