Caribbean Open 32 Review

Issue: September 2001

The Modern Boating team has tested quite a few imported boats lately, so the opportunity to try out a true Aussie sports boat was a refreshing change. Australian boat builder Caribbean has a different approach to the imported vessels putting a much greater emphasis on outdoor space and less on accommodations. The end result is a rig that’s ideal for a weekend away fishing.

Customising is also a key word with this Victorian-built boat, so you can make your rig truly individual. The list of extras on the first Open Series 32 was so vast that after 16 weeks of pre-delivery work the final boat was a Michael Jackson of its former self!

Nathan Ghosn from Sylvania Marina emphasised that they set new rigs up to the owner’s personal requirements. In this case it was obvious the owner had some pretty serious fishing in mind and a fair amount of stylish outdoor entertaining.

Sylvania Marina has been in the Caribbean (once branded as Bertram) business for years and is the largest Caribbean dealer in Australia. So when Nathan and his team put a new boat together they draw from a wealth of experience and relationships with suppliers that have been running for decades. The result is a top quality Aussie boat.

When accepting the commission to customise this boat it didn’t take long for Nathan to establish that his customer needed a premium sportfisherman package with all the bells and whistles. The customising included a teak and stainless steel marlin board, teak cockpit floors, teak comings, a wooden steering wheel, rod holders, pop-up fender cleats, rod guards, tackle locker, stainless steel Targa top with rocket launcher rod rack, outriggers – let me get my breath back – deck wash pump, padded combings, trim tabs, plumbing for live bait, rear fridge/freezer and cockpit bar fridge all supported by three extra 200amp hour batteries.

But wait, there is more! The boys really got carried away with the instrumentation. On top of the standard array of gauges they added a 10″ Simrad colour chartplotter, a 1KW 10″ colour sounder, autopilot, 27Meg radio and a VHF set. Just for the record, the standard gauges included rudder indicator; fuel; tachos; standard Cummins engine instrumentation; and water tank level. With all this extra stuff added it is no surprise that the team’s first impression of the Caribbean 32 was “we want one”!

I have to admit I have admired the work of Sylvania Marina’s shipwright, Anthony, before, because I recall seeing a lovely laid teak deck on a Bertram 28 called Silzy at Port Stephen during a fishing comp. The quality of the work caught my attention to the extent that I got the shipwrights details from the Bertram 28’s owner for future reference, because my own boat has laid decks.

Before we put to sea the team spent quite some time pottering around in the cabin area. The 32, has plenty of space below with the head on the port side of the stairs and galley to starboard. Next to the galley is an L-shaped settee and table. There’s a double berth forward of the seating area, which is the only sleeping accommodation provided with this set-up. A bit more natural light below decks though a hatch, or porthole, would help and an extra berth wouldn’t go astray, but as we all know there are always some compromises when setting up a fishing boat.

In exchange for the reduced accommodation, the galley is extremely spacious and well equipped with another Engel refrigerator (that comes standard) and a microwave that utilise the standard 2000w inverter. The shower/head is possibly the most spacious we’ve seen on a boat of this size and includes 240v power points, exhaust fans and 12v lighting.

Moving up into the cockpit, the teak work epitomises classic marine styling that will endure the test of time. This boat will still be turning heads in a decade, or even two, with her classic style, teak decks, wide teak combings and modified swim platform.

The cockpit layout is split into two areas, helm/lounge and an aft open platform. The elevated helm and lounge area has double seating at the wheel and a spacious L-shaped settee on the port side. There is also another fridge behind the helm seat.

No doubt the open aft deck is where most the fun will take place. From here you can access another huge fridge/freezer and a heap of fishing facilities, including a built-in tackle locker on the starboard side and a sink unit beside the fridge/freezer that lifts to give access to the engine room.

The engines are underneath the helm station, which allows the use of direct shaftdrives. Some other craft in this class have the engines aft powering through V-drives. This means an extra berth can be positioned under the cockpit floor. The trade off being all the engine weight is astern. With this set-up you lose a berth, but gain some vast under deck storage areas and have the engines weight forward, which translates into easier planing.

Aft mounted engines are easier to access, but this engine room seems reasonably spacious if any major work was required. It is also possible to remove the cockpit seats and floor to gain better access to the engines. One good thing we notice is that each stern gland has its own well, so any water from these glands won’t end up slushing around the engine room.

We headed out on a glassy Botany Bay under clear blue skies, so it is hard to comment on the boat’s rough water handling, although once up and running the rig is stable and soft riding. Historically, Caribbean boats have a solid offshore reputation, so we are confident this has been passed on to the 32 sports.

The twin 220hp shaftdrive diesels spin the optional four-blade Tienbriege props. This set-up gets the rig comfortably on the plane at 2000rpm with the GPS reading 18knots and the boat doesn’t feel as though it has to work its way out of a hole to get onto the plane.

Instead it moves smoothly from displacement to planing aided by trim tabs, the forward engine weight and the hull’s moderate deadrise. Once up and running, 2100rpm produced 20 knots and 2400rpm 23knots, before the engines wind out to 2600rpm producing a top speed in the 26-28 knot range. In tight turns the twin diesels hold their own, only needing a little nudge to keep the hull on track.

Overall, testing this first and unnamed Caribbean Open Series 32 was quite an enjoyable affair. The vessel enjoys consistent qualities derived from a production hull with an individuality attained through customisation. The combination works together to create a pleasing and lasting impression. Off the shelf the Caribbean will cost around $260,000, but the test craft cost in the vicinity of $320,000.

Engine Room
Twin 220hp, six-cylinder, 508kg Cummins Diesels spinning optional four-blade Tienbriege props power the test boat. Cruising at 2400rpm each engine consumes approximately 34lt per hour. At a maximum 2600rpm, fuel consumption is 42lt per hour. The standard engine set-up includes Austral three-blade props. Caribbean is also considering the option of supplying the craft with lighter, similar powered, Yanmar diesels.

Story & Photos by Andrew Richardson