IN THEIR WORDS
Born to the water, George Schurter still can’t figure out why he joined the Army instead of the Coast Guard. “I was always fascinated with [the water], since boyhood,” says the 68-year-old retired fire officer.
Schurter grew up in a boating family in New Jersey, and he’s owned a variety of inboard and outboard boats, both open and with cabins, including a 25-foot ScottiCraft overnight cruiser and a high-spirited New Jersey Sea Skiff.
Now it looks as if he’s landed his keeper: a 1999 Luhrs 320 Open, an express-style fishing machine with full cruising comforts that fits his and his wife, Diane’s, boating lifestyle to a T. The couple bought it two years ago for around $110,000.
They keep it conveniently behind their North Palm Beach, Fla., home, and there’s no plan to sell it anytime soon. “I’ve thought about it once or twice,” says Schurter. “But then I go out to fish, and I find that I’m so pleased with the way it handles that I put it off.”
The Luhrs replaced a 31-foot center console that Schurter fished extensively. “I wanted to do more cruising with family and friends, and the center console just wasn’t comfortable enough for that,” he says. So going to the 320 Open was an easy decision, since it had the attributes they were looking for in an overnighter: a cabin with amenities, the power of twin gas engines and a seaworthy hull.
It didn’t hurt that they’d owned one before, a 1994 model they ran for five years until they went to the big center console. Knowing what they wanted, the couple searched the Internet, found the boat they were looking for — in Fort Lauderdale — and made the deal. The boat was in “very good shape,” says Schurter, and required only a starboard muffler and new bottom paint. Electronics included radar, Loran, VHF and depth finder, and Schurter added a radio and depth finder to the tower helm station. But the big draw was that the couple felt comfortable with it, says Schurter. “Having had a 32 Luhrs prior to this one, I knew what to expect from the boat in regards to comfort while cruising and fishing,” he says.
The twin Crusader 454s were a selling point, too. “I’m very happy with the performance,” Schurter says. “With a clean hull and running gear, the boat will top out at just under 28 mph at 3,000 rpm. It cruises best at 21 to 23 mph.” He says the boat handles rough seas well, works for trolling and drift-fishing, and backs down on the big ones with ease. The good-size cockpit is easily accessed from the bridge deck helm station — nice when fishing shorthanded.
Schurter runs the boat from the tower helm station most of the time. “[It] has the easiest access of any small boat on the market,” he says. Lowering and raising the outriggers is easy from the tower, and the unobstructed view is just what you want when fishing offshore.
As for the cruising side, the dual-purpose express boat handles that, too. The couple has done some coastal cruising, and even taken another couple along for the ride. As Schurter puts it: “The boat fills the prescription very well.”
In other words, it’s just what the doctor ordered.
The Luhrs 320 Open (and current 32 Open) rides a modified-vee hull (19 degrees of transom deadrise) with cored topsides. The lines are clean and contemporary, the profile showing a flared bow and graceful sheer, with ample side decks and a broad foredeck. The cockpit is designed to take advantage of the boat’s 13-foot beam, and there’s considerable room for fishing, along with a standup live well, integral tackle center and transom door. It’s just a step up to the bridge deck and its centerline helm console with fore-and-aft bench seats to port and starboard.
The companionway, also on the centerline, is forward of the console. The open interior has a full galley and an enclosed head compartment with a shower to port. The lounge seat to starboard converts to a berth, as does the forward dinette. The cabin is trimmed in teak and decorated with fabrics.
The full tower normally has a set of controls, and full enclosures are available to shed foul weather. The tower’s hardtop has a locking electronics box and rod storage. Luhrs offers a variety of engines, both gas and diesel, generally in the 300-hp range. Cruising speeds run in the upper 20s, with the top end usually just better than 30 mph.
The Luhrs 320 Open is readily available on the used-boat market up and down the East Coast. A 1994 tournament model in Florida outfitted for serious angling with a tower with full controls, outriggers, radar, autopilot, GPS, VHF, generator, full enclosure, swim platform, and twin Caterpillar 3116 diesels was listed at around $125,000. A 1995 model in Maryland with twin 350-hp Cat diesels (600 hours), tower and hardtop was selling for around $145,000. A 1996 model in southern New England with twin Marine Power engines (less than 1,000 hours), full electronics, air conditioning, generator, windlass and tower with full controls was for sale for around $110,000. A “very clean” 2001 boat in Florida with twin 315-hp Yanmar diesels, full electronics — including radar, GPS, depth sounder and plotter — air conditioning/heat, generator and icemaker was listed at around $180,000 from its original owner.
The Luhrs 320 Open traces its beginnings to a 32-foot convertible that was in production for a dozen years beginning in 1988. One of Luhrs’ most popular vessels in its day, the convertible’s successful modified-vee hull was then used for an express model, which debuted in 1994 as the 320 Open. It now is in production as the 32 Open, and Mark Parker describes her as a “very handsome open express with a good deal of value built into her affordable price” in his “PowerBoat Guide” (American Marine Publishing, 2006).
Luhrs Corp. began building its reputation for modern offshore fishing boats during the early years of production fiberglass in the 1970s. Founders John and Warren Luhrs were members of a boatbuilding family, and they transferred operations from their New Jersey roots to Florida in the 1980s. There, Luhrs Corp. today builds express and convertible powerboats from 30 to 44 feet as part of the Luhrs Marine Group.
LOA: 34 feet, 8 inches
BEAM: 13 feet
DRAFT: 3 feet, 1 inch
weight: 15,000 pounds
hull type: modified-vee
TANKAGE: 340 gallons fuel,
60 gallons water
propulsion: twin gas or diesel inboards
BUILDER: Luhrs Corp., St. Augustine, Fla. (904) 829-0500.