Express pleasures

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Whether dayboating or cruising, you get plenty of options with the new express cruisers

Whether dayboating or cruising, you get plenty of options with the new express cruisers

The express cruiser is a balancing act. Popular as a cruising platform, the boats also are expected to attain a certain level of performance and with sleek good looks to boot.

Express owners might make a quick run to their favorite waterfront restaurant for dinner, cruise the coast for a weekend getaway, or explore a river system during a week’s vacation on board.

“We find that people are doing all kinds of things with them,” says Roe O’Brien, vice president of marketing at Freedom Yachts/Legacy Yachts, which recently introduced a 42-foot sedan that will be available in an express version. “Some people are using them for cruising; some people are using them as big dayboats. It’s really all over the place.”

The new Bayliner 325 was designed with day

boating in mind, while keeping open the option of overnighting. Still other builders focus on providing the most ample overnight accommodations.

“People do want the ability to spend one or several nights aboard a boat,” says Duffy Stenger, Regal Boats vice president of marketing and sales. “The majority of our customers are cruisers.”

Kim Slocum, president of Rinker Boats, says more and more baby boomers aspire to have coastal vacation homes. An express cruiser docked out front provides a versatile platform to spin around the harbor, set off on a cruise, or, with some models, pull the kids or grandkids on a water toy.

And it’s not just boaters moving up from a smaller runabout or center console who are buying express cruisers. “We even see a number of people coming out of larger boats into a sleeker express cruiser,” says Tyler Choyke, Four Winns vice president of cruiser development. A boater might sell an aft-cabin cruiser because they don’t have as many people coming with them or they don’t want something so big and heavy, he says. Express boats are pleasing to the eye and easy to handle, he says, and most won’t require a captain.

Sea Ray media services specialist Mike Hungerford points out another characteristic that draws people to express boats over other cruising vessels. “The difference between express cruiser customers and a sedan customer or a sedan bridge customer is [express cruiser customers] like one level,” says Hungerford. “When you’re in an express cruiser type of cockpit everybody’s in one party.”

Nor do the boats have a flybridge to climb, says Bentley Collins, marketing manager at Sabre Yachts. And the addition of a hardtop — standard on many models — can keep boaters out of the sun and elements for all-weather cruising, while maintaining express-boat convenience. “With the hardtop express, and certainly the hard-back enclosure as well, you take it to the next level,” says Collins.

He says owners of Sabre’s 38 and 42 Sabreline Hardtop Express boats have been running back and forth from New England to Florida. “The hardtop has really redefined the express,” says Collins, who points to Tiara’s Sovran line and models being produced by Hinckley and Legacy as examples. “It’s really gotten people out of the sun — out of what we call the Monday morning suntan — and back into cruising mode.”

With or without the hardtop, express cruisers — with their open cockpit and bridge deck configurations — are fun, social boats. Four Winns’ Choyke says he met two buddies at the Norwalk (Conn.) International Boat Show, with side-by-side slips at their marina, who bought identical new express boats to cruise together. To Choyke, this embodies the express cruiser lifestyle.

Here’s a look at eight new express cruisers from 26 to 50 feet. Most have a bridge deck helm station a couple steps up from the cockpit, sleeping accommodations forward, a midcabin, and a galley with a stove, microwave, refrigerator and more. Prices range from $82,000 to around $875,000.

Sea Ray 260 Sundancer

Sea Ray’s new 260 Sundancer provides overnight accommodations in a trailerable package. It measures 28 feet overall, including a standard swim platform, and has a beam of 8 feet, 6 inches.

“It’s very versatile,” says Hungerford. “It’s going to be a good coastal boat as well as a good river boat.”

Making the move from a runabout to a boat like the 260 opens up new cruising possibilities for boaters, says Hungerford. “Now they’re overnighting away from home and overnighting away from the dock,” he says. Since the Sundancer is trailerable, he adds, owners won’t have to stick to their home lake or river.

The layout below calls for a V-berth/dinette forward and a guest midcabin aft. Between the two is a fully enclosed head compartment with shower to starboard and a galley to port. The galley comes equipped with a molded-in sink, refrigerator, microwave and butane stove. The cabinets are Formica with a cherry-wood look, and the dinette table has a burlwood Formica surface.

“For a 26-footer that’s pretty plush,” says Hungerford.

Topside, the helm station has a sliding bucket helm seat with a flip-up bolster, tilt-wheel power steering, Raymarine VHF radio, and SmartCraft instruments. There is a curved lounge seat to port; a wet bar is located abaft the lounge. The cockpit has more lounge seating with a sunpad filler cushion.

Owners also can choose such options as air conditioning and a generator. “For an entry-level boat, it’s just stocked with amenities,” says Hungerford.

Bayliner 325

Bayliner says it put the emphasis on socializing with its new 325 express cruiser, the largest boat in its fleet. “Some boats are set up a little more for living on,” says Matt Guilford, Bayliner marketing services manager. “This boat’s set up more for entertaining.”

Guilford says an owner can host 12 people comfortably aboard the twin-sterndrive 325. In addition to ample seating below deck, the 35-footer’s double helm seat swivels until it’s flush with the gunwale to create one large U-shaped lounge in the cockpit, which also has a wet bar. A molded fiberglass radar arch is standard.

“The boat’s all about family interaction, and so having all the seating face each other was a big deal for us,” says Guilford.

Below, there’s a convertible V-berth dinette forward with seating that extends aft on the port side, as well as a private midcabin with a double berth. A galley and head compartment with shower occupy the starboard side. The saloon — Bayliner calls it the “living room” — has large side windows.

Bayliner also has introduced the new 265 express cruiser, which retails for $45,722.

Regal 3360

Large “cat eye” side deck ports and a panoramic bank of cabin windows forward give the 3360 Commodore Express a sleek look and a good dose of sunlight below.

“When you walk into the cabin of this particular boat there’s an abundance of natural lighting, so you don’t feel like you’re in a basement or a cave,” saysStenger, the vice president of marketing and sales.

The cabin has an open layout from the forward queen-size berth through the saloon and into the midcabin. The midcabin, a step down from the

saloon, contains banquette seating that converts to another queen-size berth. Privacy curtains separate the forward berth and the midcabin from the

saloon, which has a LeatherCrest dinette to starboard and a cherry dining table. The dinette folds out, giving the 3360 sleeping accommodations for six. There is an additional upholstered seat, a galley and a stand-up head with shower to port.

The bridge deck uses what Regal calls “cockpit forward” seating, consisting of a C-shaped lounge with a high-low table adjacent to a double helm seat. The helm seat rotates 90 degrees to face the C-shaped lounge, Stenger says.

“It’s a very sociable seating arrangement,” he says. “A lot of the entertaining aspects on an express cruiser seem to take place in the cockpit.”

Additional bench seating is located in the lower cockpit. A Bimini top, radar arch, cockpit carpeting and air conditioning are standard.

Four Winns 348

Four Winns teamed up with naval architecture firm C. Raymond Hunt Associates to create its 348 express cruiser, the latest in the Michigan builder’s Vista line. (The 378 Vista also has a C. Raymond Hunt hull.)

“It’s particularly dry, smooth and stable — very seakindly in tough conditions,” says Choyke, the vice president of cruiser development.

Tom Wenstadt, Four Winns technical manager, says the 348 actually has a hull design for each of two available drive systems. The hull for the inboard V-drive configuration was designed completely by Hunt, while Four Winns designed the sterndrive hull in-house and the Massachusetts naval architecture firm reviewed it. The two drive systems are equally popular, Wenstadt says.

There also are options for the 348’s cabin layout. The standard layout has a centerline island berth forward with a privacy curtain, while an optional layout has a bulkhead separating the forward area from the main saloon. The head has a separate shower, the galley comes well-equipped, and a 15-inch flat-screen television/DVD player is standard. The cabin is finished with a cherry-look laminate. The midcabin has U-shaped seating that converts to a double berth.

Choyke, who says the 348 has “sizzle on top of the steak,” points out that a Teleflex i6000 electronic shift and throttle control system is standard. “That’s some big boat stuff on a boat that isn’t that big,” he says.

Wenstadt adds that the i6000 system makes maneuvering much easier.

Rinker Fiesta Vee 360

Rinker Boats has filled out its express cruiser line of 25- to 41-footers with the new Fiesta Vee 360.

The boat’s elevated helm station has a double helm seat, and there is a curved companion lounge to port. A cockpit galley abaft the helm station has a sink, built-in blender, refrigerator/freezer and icemaker. An aft bench seat rounds out the cockpit.

Below deck, the saloon, with 6 feet, 8 inches of headroom, has a convertible dinette and a 15-inch flat-screen television. The boat has a full galley and is equipped with a central vacuum system. The private forward stateroom has a V-berth and a 13-inch television with DVD player, and the midcabin’s settee and table convert to a berth. The head compartment has a separate shower.

Standard power is from a pair of 5.7 Volvo Penta sterndrives.

Rinker president Slocum says the Fiesta Vee 360 is designed for fresh or salt water, as an increasing number of the Indiana builder’s customers come from coastal areas. “Several years ago we made a concerted effort to upgrade our boats for salt water,” says Slocum, who has been with Rinker for 31 years. He says the company switched to 316 stainless steel and fortified the boat’s components, such as wiring harnesses and terminals. Rinker also offers Volvo Penta Ocean Series drives, a composite drive system Slocum calls a “home run” for saltwater boating.

Slocum adds that Rinker will introduce a Fiesta Vee 380 for 2006.

Marlow Prowler 375 Panther

David Marlow of Marlow Explorer Yachts has entered the express cruiser market with a new Prowler Yachts line, the first of which is the Prowler 375 Panther.

The traditionally inspired hardtop cruiser is built at Marlow’s modern facility in Xiaman, China. The Core-Cell cored fiberglass hull is vacuum bagged and infused with a modified epoxy resin, and the lamination schedule calls for carbon fiber and Kevlar.

There is plenty of woodwork throughout the 375, such as teak toerails and grab rails, teak-faced cabinetry, teak mirror frames, teak and fiberglass swim platform, and cedar-lined hanging lockers in both the helm area and forward stateroom. The interior can be finished in teak, cherry, maple or mahogany, according to the company, and owners can choose between a teak-and-holly or teak-and-ebony cabin sole.

The layout calls for a galley-up arrangement to allow more room in the cabin, which has an L-shaped dinette to port and a head compartment with shower to starboard. The forward stateroom has a centerline queen-size berth.

The cockpit has additional seating and tables.

Inboard diesel options range from twin 315- to twin 500-hp Yanmars. The big diesels are estimated to push the boat to 46 mph.

Pricing was unavailable but is said to be about 40 percent lower than other comparable boats, according to Prowler Yachts’ public relations agency Rankin & Associates.

Sabreline 38 Hardtop Express

The new Sabreline 38 Hardtop Express follows in the wake of Sabre’s successful 42-footer introduced in 2003. “The popularity of that boat led us to believe that we needed to replace our old 36,” says marketing manager Collins. “We knew we had struck a chord in terms of the styling and layout of the 42 Express.”

The 38’s bridge deck has standard Stidd helm and companion seats, a wet bar with refrigerator to starboard, and a forward-facing bench seat with table to port. A settee is optional in place of the companion helm seat.

An Eisenglass or hard enclosure for the aft end of the bridge deck is optional.

Below, the boat has an L-shaped settee to starboard with an inlaid cherry and maple table that converts to a double berth. A full galley is to port. At the forward end of the saloon is a bulkhead that the builder says conceals such systems as heating and air conditioning, as well as a pocket door to the owner’s stateroom. A standard flat-screen television and DVD player are recessed into the bulkhead. The stateroom has a centerline queen-size berth and private access to the head and shower compartment, to port.

Sabre stresses topside safety, with wide side decks, wooden toerails and molded-in non-skid, says Collins. “The contemporary express boatbuilder makes getting from the cockpit to the foredeck a life-threatening experience,” he says, noting that those builders are giving up some side deck security for interior volume.

Cruisers 500 Express

The 500 Express from Cruisers Yachts is designed with such high-end amenities as a natural cherry interior, lighted liquor cabinet, and large vertical portholes.

Don DePouw, Cruisers Yachts vice president of marketing, says people buy express cruisers for style and performance but consider them lacking in creature comforts. “We’ve overcome the objections some people have with the accommodations,” he says.

The vertical portholes — three to a side — let light into the master stateroom, located amidships beneath the bridge deck. The stateroom has a centerline queen-size island berth, two cedar-lined hanging lockers, and a private head and shower. “We’ve partnered the style and performance of an express cruiser with the accommodations and the light, airy feeling of a sedan bridge or aft-cabinmotoryacht,” says DePouw.

A private forward stateroom can be set up with a centerline queen-size berth or twin berths.

The saloon has a crescent-shaped convertible dinette and standard 20-inch flat-screen television. (A 30-inch flat screen television also is available.)

A full galley with optional dishwasher and trash compactor is to port, and a second head with shower is forward of the galley, accessed from the saloon or the forward stateroom.

Topside, the 500 Express has dual helm seats and a companion lounge to port. Two steps down from the helm area is the cockpit, with a large U-shaped lounge and table, wet bar and space for an optional electric grill. The boat also has a hardtop with a skylight and ventilating hatches.

SEA RAY 260

LOA: 28 feet BEAM: 8 feet, 6 inches DRAFT: 39 inches (drive down), 22 inches (drive up) DISPLACEMENT: 7,500 pounds HULL TYPE: deep-vee TRANSOM DEADRISE: 21 degrees TANKAGE: 84 gallons fuel, 28 gallons water ENGINE OPTION: gas or diesel sterndrive SPEED: 38 mph top, 30 mph cruise SUGGESTED PRICE: $82,000 CONTACT: Sea Ray Boats, Knoxville, Tenn. Phone: (800) 772-6287. www.searay.com

BAYLINER325

LOA: 35 feet BEAM: 11 feet, 6 inches DRAFT: 40.5 inches (drives down), 26 inches (drives up) DISPLACEMENT: 11,319 pounds HULL TYPE: modified-vee TRANSOM DEADRISE: 18 degrees TANKAGE: 175 gallons fuel, 31 gallons water ENGINE OPTION: twin gas sterndrives SPEED: 47 mph top, 29 mph cruise (with twin 320-hp MerCruiser Bravo III sterndrives, according to www.boattest.com) SUGGESTED PRICE: $121,000 (with standard twin 250-hp MerCruiser Bravo II sterndrives) CONTACT: Bayliner, Knoxville, Tenn. Phone: (888) 603-5291. www.bayliner.com

REGAL 3360

LOA: 34 feet, 8 inches BEAM: 11 feet, 6 inches DRAFT: 35 inches (drives down) DISPLACEMENT: 12,120 pounds HULL TYPE: modified-vee TRANSOM DEADRISE: 19 degrees TANKAGE: 180 gallons fuel, 52 gallons water ENGINE OPTION: twin gas or diesel sterndrives to 750 hp ESTIMATED SPEED: 44 mph top, 23 mph cruise (with MerCruiser 350-hp Magnum MPI Bravo III sterndrives) SUGGESTED PRICE: $186,143 CONTACT: Regal Marine Industries Inc., Orlando, Fla. Phone: (407) 851-4360. www.regalboats.com

FOUR WINNS 348

LOA: 37 feet BEAM: 12 feet DRAFT: 40 inches (maximum) DISPLACEMENT: 14,500 pounds HULL TYPE: modified-vee TRANSOM DEADRISE: 19 degrees TANKAGE: 230 gallons fuel, 25 gallons water

ENGINE OPTION: twin gas or diesel sterndrive, or inboard V-drive SPEED: 38-40 mph top, 22-23 mph cruise SUGGESTED PRICE: $222,831 (inboard

V-drives) CONTACT: Four Winns, Cadillac, Mich. Phone: (231) 775-1351. www.fourwinns.com

RINKER FESTIVA 360

LOA: 39 feet, 4 inches BEAM: 12 feet, 3 inches DRAFT: 36 inches (drives down), 24 inches (drives up) DISPLACEMENT: 17,800 pounds HULL TYPE: modified-vee TRANSOM DEADRISE: 18 degrees TANKAGE: 235 gallons fuel, 51 gallons water ENGINE OPTION: twin gas or diesel sterndrives SPEED: 47 mph top, 25-33 mph cruise (with 8.1 Volvo Penta sterndrives) SUGGESTED PRICE: $231,499 (with 5.7 Volvo Penta sterndrives) CONTACT: Rinker Boat Company, Syracuse, Ind. Phone: (574) 457-5731. www.rinkerboats.com

MARLOW PROWLER 375

LOA: 39 feet, 4 inches BEAM: 12 feet, 3 inches DRAFT: 36 inches (drives down), 24 inches (drives up) DISPLACEMENT: 17,800 pounds HULL TYPE: modified-vee TRANSOM DEADRISE: 18 degrees TANKAGE: 235 gallons fuel, 51 gallons water ENGINE OPTION: twin gas or diesel sterndrives SPEED: 47 mph top, 25-33 mph cruise (with 8.1 Volvo Penta sterndrives) SUGGESTED PRICE: $231,499 (with 5.7 Volvo Penta sterndrives) CONTACT: Rinker Boat Company, Syracuse, Ind. Phone: (574) 457-5731. www.rinkerboats.com

SABRELINE 38

LOA: 38 feet, 6 inches (without pulpit or swim platform) BEAM: 13 feet, 8 inches HULL DRAFT: 3 feet, 4 inches DISPLACEMENT: 21,500 pounds HULL TYPE: modified-vee TRANSOM DEADRISE: 16 degrees TANKAGE: 350 gallons fuel, 100 gallons water ENGINE OPTION: twin diesel inboards SPEED: 37 mph top, 33 mph cruise (with twin 440-hp Yanmars) SUGGESTED PRICE: $359,900 (with twin 370-hp Yanmars) CONTACT: Sabre Corp., South Casco, Maine. Phone: (207) 655-3831. www.sabreyachts.com

CRUISER 500 EXPRESS

LOA: 52 feet, 3 inches BEAM: 15 feet, 6 inches HULL DRAFT: 3 feet, 8 inches DISPLACEMENT: 39,500 pounds HULL TYPE: modified-vee TRANSOM DEADRISE: 18 degrees TANKAGE: 500 gallons fuel, 150 gallons water ENGINE OPTION: twin diesel

V-drives SPEED: 40 mph top, 35 mph cruise (with twin 675-hp Volvo D12s) SUGGESTED PRICE: $875,910 CONTACT: Cruisers Yachts, Oconto, Wis. Phone: (920) 834-2797. www.cruisersyachts.com