You choose, you cruise

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With an array of boats and options, there’s an overnighter for

virtually everyone

With an array of boats and options, there’s an overnighter for

virtually everyone

Boats are a compromise, as most owners will attest, especially midsized boats under 30 feet. And boats often reflect their owners’ lifestyles, time demands and particular avocations.

When choosing an overnighter, the prospective buyer is faced with decisions concerning fuel efficiency, cabin space, trailerability, rough-water performance, fishability, on-deck entertaining and so forth.

For Ron and Cindy Benman, finding a trailerable family boat was important in their search. The Ohio couple likes the option of trailering to Florida for a month or two during the winter, and they are considering buying a vacation condominium there. A trailerable boat, Ron Benman says, is also more convenient for repairs and maintenance.

Others might base their purchasing decisions on amenities and comfort, such as those found in the pocket cruisers built by Whittley, an Australian company and newcomer to the U.S. market.

The company produces 19- to 21-foot cuddy cruisers used for weekend or vacation cruising, picnicking, fishing, skiing. “That’s how people used to get started in boating,” says Whittley U.S. sales manager Bob Whittlock.

Still others might be looking to move up from a smaller boat. Keith Wohllebe of Tolland, Conn., owned an 18-foot Grady-White center console prior to purchasing a 25-foot Parker with an extended cabin. “It was a small boat in a big pond out there,” he says. “You got wet in the 18 all the time.”

Here’s a look at five overnighters from around 22 feet to 31 feet, and priced at less than $90,000 — from a production cabin boat to a more traditional vessel based on a commercial fishing hull.

Parker

Parker Boats of Beaufort, N.C., builds versatile family fishing boats from 18 to 28 feet, including center consoles, walkarounds and cabin models.

Ken and Wendy Pratt opted for a Parker when they were looking for something a little bigger than their Grady-White center console.

“We looked at a lot of boats, and my wife wanted a closed-in cabin after my having center consoles, and she put her foot down,” says Ken Pratt, who is 70.

The Middletown, Conn., couple decided on a Parker 2520 XL Sport Cabin. That boat and the smaller 2120 XL are Parker’s most popular models, according to Robin Parker, who is in charge of marketing and dealer support for the company.

Pratt says he and Wendy, 52, cruise anywhere in and around Long Island Sound and also do a fair amount of fishing. He is retired and spends a lot of weekdays out on the water alone. She says she occasionally will take a day off from work if Ken says the fishing is good.

They liked the way the Parker was built, and there was another feature that helped ease their transition from the center console.

“I have a second [steering] station in the cockpit so I can get outside,” says Ken. “That’s definitely a big plus with the Parker.”

“We absolutely love it,” Wendy says. “Then, of course, you start to look at what do you do next? But Parker makes a 28-footer, so you never know.”

Parker’s 2530 and 2830 Extended Cabin models provide the most interior space for overnighting. The 2530 EC has a larger pilothouse and longer cockpit than the 2520 XL, and a deep-vee hull rather than the modified-vee. The 2530 EC has a suggested retail price of $83,124.

Wohllebe, the Tolland, Conn., Parker owner, bought his 2530 EC in March 2003 for serious fishing. He says he and his fishing buddies ran about 1,000 gallons of fuel through the 2530’s twin 200-hp Yamaha 4-strokes last year. Wohllebe, 46, says the group fished for everything from flounder to shark, and made several trips to a canyon offshore about 100 miles south of Niantic, Conn., where he keeps Outlaw.

Since he and his fishing partners split the expenses of fuel and bait four ways, Wohllebe says he opted for a faster boat rather than some of the more fuel-

efficient diesel-powered options he investigated.

“Fishing time is important,” he says, adding that he gets in four more hours of fishing in a day’s trip than a friend who runs to the same canyon in a 28-foot diesel sportfisherman.

Still, Wohllebe says the Parker with twin 4-strokes is itself fuel-efficient and will cruise at 30 mph all day, his major criteria in selecting the new boat. And the no-nonsense Parker is easy to clean up. “We had a lot of blood on this boat last year,” he says.

Wohllebe says there regularly are four people fishing from his boat at the same time, and they had four tuna on at once last year. He says he would recommend the 2530 EC because it has plenty of cockpit room, plus all the cabin space for sleeping and getting out of the weather.

“This boat, in a pinch, will sleep four,” Wohllebe says. “It really sleeps two very well. You can grab some shuteye and get back to fishing or whatever you’re doing.”

(2520 XL) LOA 25 feet, 4 inches BEAM 9 feet, 6 inches HULL DRAFT 15 inches DISPLACEMENT 5,300 pounds (dry) HULL TYPE modified-vee TRANSOM DEADRISE 16 degrees FUEL 154 gallons WATER 10 gallons SPEED 30 mph cruise, 40 mph top (with a Yamaha F225) BASE PRICE $64,703. Parker Marine Enterprises, Beaufort, N.C. Phone: (252) 728-5621. www.parkerboats.net

Whittley

Whittley Cruisers this year is bringing its vision of affordable family overnighting to the United States.

The Whittley Cruiser 660 — the Australian Marine Industries Federation 2003 Australian Boat of the Year — will be one of the first boats introduced to the U.S. market. Sales manager Whittlock says the 660, a 21-foot, 8-inch cabin boat, and other Whittley models from its new Georgia plant will be renamed to reflect American measuring conventions.

The Euro-styled Cruiser 660 has a fiberglass hardtop with a retractable moon roof over the bridge deck. A camper canopy for the cockpit is standard and creates a large enclosed space when combined with the open design of the cabin companionway. There is no full bulkhead separating the galley from the bridge deck, and the two share a long side window. The galley comes standard with a stove and a sink.

The starboard side of the cabin has a shower and marine head, while a full-length berth with inserts occupies the bow area. There is also a retractable shower on the integral swim platform.

The Cruiser 660 is available with a variety of power options, from a gas or diesel sterndrive to single or twin outboards. Cruising speed ranges from 29 mph to 48 mph depending on the engine package, according to the company.

Trailer-boating is fairly popular in Australia, Whittlock says, and the 660 should be easily trailerable, with its 7-foot, 10-inch beam.

“They are clearly the best trailerable overnighters either built or available in Australia,” says Chris Wright, vice commodore of the Whittley Club of Queensland, Australia.

Production on several models in the Whittley lineup is scheduled to begin at its new facility in Willacoochee, Ga., this summer. The company is gearing up to supply dealers by early 2005, Whittlock says, adding that the full line of Whittley boats eventually will be produced and available in the United States.

LOA 21 feet, 8 inches BEAM 7 feet, 10 inches DRAFT 34 inches (drive down), 20 inches (drive up) DISPLACEMENT 5,291 pounds HULL TYPE deep-vee TRANSOM DEADRISE 20 degrees FUEL 54 gallons WATER 42 gallons PRICE $57,000. Whittley Cruisers USA, Gurnee, Ill. Phone: (847) 336-4322. www.whitt

ley.com.au

Caledon

Jeffrey Heintz says he had been looking for the right overnighter for a couple of years when he came across the Caledon 25, an outboard-powered pocket cruiser with a traditional look. The 25-footer is based on a British Columbian commercial fishing hull.

“I fell in love,” says Heintz of Ellington, Conn. He says he bought hull No. 1 and took delivery from Ontario boatbuilder Richard Villmann in June 2001.

Villmann and the Caledon Boatworks team — the small, family-run business includes Villmann’s wife, Rebecca, and his father, Richard Villmann Sr. — use fiberglass construction and PVC foam coring to build the semidisplacement pocket trawler. The hull and deck are glassed together from the inside for one-piece construction, according to the company, and solid half-inch fiberglass is used on the boat’s bottom, foredeck and around the cleats.

“It seemed indestructible,” says Heintz, 59, who has run Summertime in seas up to 8 feet. “It seems like it can swim through anything. It tracks well and keeps the bow up.”

The Caledon draws just 24 inches with the outboards down. “You can take the thing anywhere,” says Heintz. It also has great ventilation and cedar woodwork for a nice aroma, according to Heintz.

Heintz estimates that he spent 100 nights aboard the boat. He and his wife, Amy, often spent two or three days at a time in the bay off Napatree Point, R.I., and even slept three or four people on the 24-foot, 10-inch cruiser.

He recently sold his Caledon because he needed a larger boat that could sleep more people. “I’ve always got it in the back of my mind that when my grandchildren get big enough I’ll ask Richard [Villmann] to build me another one,” says Heintz. He says he enjoyed the small company’s hands-on, personal approach to boatbuilding.

Villmann says most customers opt for twin 50-hp outboards ($83,000 base price) rather than the standard twin 40s ($79,000 base price). A 2-foot hull extension also is available, which lets the Caledon accommodate twin 90-hp outboards.

LOA 24 feet, 10 inches BEAM 8 feet, 6 inches HULL DRAFT 20 inches DISPLACEMENT 4,600 pounds (dry) HULL TYPE semidisplacement FUEL 36 gallons WATER 15 gallons SPEED 17 mph top, 11 mph cruise (twin 40-hp 4-strokes) BASE PRICE $79,000. Caledon Boatworks, RR No. 1 Alton, ON, L0N 1A4. Phone: (519) 940-4493. www.cale

donboatworks.com

Glastron

Ron Benman, an IT manager and avid golfer from Solon, Ohio, considered it a stretch to get serious about boating. His wife, Cindy, a physician, convinced him otherwise, and last July the couple bought Off The Fairway, a 27-foot Glastron GS 279 sterndrive sport cruiser.

“When I’m not playing, we’re ‘Off The Fairway,’ ” says Benman, 46, adding that he often cruises to the Flats — Cleveland’s riverfront entertainment district — for dinner, or he heads out on fishing trips with co-workers. This year, they plan to cruise to Sandusky, Ohio, as well as Detroit and Canada.

“We don’t spend most of our time sitting on the dock,” Benman says.

He says they went into the search process looking for something affordable. “We weren’t really sure if we were going to get enough time out of the boat,” he says. “As we’ve discovered, we love it.”

Even if they had known how much time they would spend on their new boat, he says, he is not sure they would have made a different choice. “We feel like we made a very good decision on it,” says Benman, who describes the GS 279 as an excellent overnighter. “It’s just roomy enough for us to not feel claustrophobic on it. It has all the amenities we could want on it.”

Standard topside amenities include seating for up to nine, a wet bar with sink and icebox, a transom shower, walk-through transom gate, hydraulic trim tabs, and a Sunbrella Bimini top.

Below, the forward cabin features a combination V-berth dinette, microwave, refrigerator, sink, stove, CD stereo system, Sirius satellite radio, fiberglass shower stall with sink and head, and a hot water system. Cabin headroom is 6 feet, 3 inches. There is also a 25-inch-tall midcabin.

LOA 27 feet, 5 inches BEAM 8 feet, 6 inches DRAFT 40 inches (with drive down) DISPLACEMENT 6,200 pounds HULL TYPE deep-vee TRANSOM DEADRISE 20 degrees FUEL 72 gallons WATER 18 gallons SPEED 44 mph top (with 5.7 Gi 280-hp Volvo-Penta Duoprop sterndrive) PRICE $58,129 (with 5.7GL 260-hp Volvo-Penta sterndrive). Glastron Boats, Little Falls, Minn. Phone: (320) 632-8395. www.glastron.com

Cruisers

The 280 Cxi is a wide-beam express cruiser from Cruisers Yachts. It measures 31 feet overall, including a standard extended swim platform, and is powered by a pair of 225-hp Volvo Penta sterndrives.

The list of standard equipment with the 280 Cxi includes a radar arch with arch lights, Bimini top with front and side curtains and a camper top, walk-through windshield, windshield wiper, welded stainless steel bow rail, cockpit table and carpeting, and fender storage.

A compass, digital depth finder, Garmin color GPS/chart plotter, Raymarine VHF radio, and remote-controlled spotlight are among the standard instruments and electronics. A Clarion stereo CD player, located in the saloon, can be controlled from the helm.

There’s 6 feet, 3 inches of headroom below, where a forward double berth with privacy curtain shares some of the forward space with a galley, to port. The galley is outfitted with a microwave, refrigerator and single-burner electric stove.

A dinette, which converts to an extra berth, is to starboard in the saloon, and there is a private head with shower to port. The midcabin double berth is open to the saloon, and a standard 13-inch television/DVD player sits atop a hanging locker in the cabin.

The 280 Cxi’s hull, deck and liner are hand-laid unidirectional fiberglass with balsa coring, and a fiberglass cabin liner is bonded to the hull and stringer grid, incorporating berth and dinette bases, according to Cruisers.

LOA 31 feet BEAM 10 feet DRAFT 35 inches (with drives down), 20 inches (with drives up) DISPLACEMENT 8,500 pounds FUEL 100 gallons WATER 30 gallons SPEED 30 mph cruise, 42 mph top POWER twin 225-hp Volvo Penta 4.3 Gxi SX sterndrives PRICE $89,900. Cruisers Yachts, Oconto, Wis. Phone: (920) 834-2211. www.cruisersyachts.com n