Carver 33SS Review

Issue: June 2006


You’ll feel more at home afloat on this boat than in your own living room.


In my next life I want to be a naval architect and/or boat designer. In this life I don’t have what it takes; if we do get another lap of the block in the afterlife, perhaps the Gods will confer on me the skills I missed out on this time around.

Take this US-built Carver 33SS. What options did the designers pursue before they settled on this configuration and layout. How many times did they argue late into the night about what they wanted this boat to be, and how they planned to get it?

This is an 11.66m, 38ft 3in hull, measured from the stem to the aft end of the landing platform. No one is too sure why it’s called the 33, as it certainly has nothing to do with hull length.

After they burned the midnight oil, Carver’s designers decided to place the engines amidships and to drive through conventional shaft s. They pushed the profile of the superstructure way forward (as smaller cars seem to be doing) which doesn’t look great on paper but looks fine in life. The long coachroof gives the designers massive internal volume, with room to place galley and dinette amidships, to have a huge saloon and a four-seater flybridge.

The owner’s cabin is in the bow, with a queen-sized island double bed. The bathroom is en-suite with the owner’s cabin and a second door in the companionway for guest use. The bathroom has a separate shower cubicle with glass door and an electric toilet.

Instead of trying to squeeze in a second cabin, the designers chose an adjustable pedestal for the dinette table, allowing it to lower and form a double berth. The seat back cushions are Velcroed in place; tear them off and they help form the double bed.

The galley has a two-burner electric cooker in a glass top, Corian workbench, microwave, upright fridge and freezer.

Aft of the dinette/galley line on the portside is a lounge chair and to starboard a deep, cushy lounge which folds out to form a double bed. Richard Pym from Pathfinder Marine Sydney, the Carver importers, got plenty of practice at the 2005 Sydney Boat Show unfolding and setting up this lounge. By the time we tried the boat he had got it down to four seconds.

Excuse me if I rabbit on about the Carver’s interior, but this is the feature that really sets this boat apart. The designers have placed moulded stairs each side of the cockpit. They give you access to the sidedecks which are raised well clear of gunwale height. What does this achieve? It means the saloon exploits the hull’s full width, up to waist height anyway, which adds to that internal volume. The d?cor on this boat was in American cherry wood, with fabrics in off -white and beiges.

The 33SS is a family boat, no question, but Carver haven’t forgotten the old man. The cockpit floor is reinforced to take a game chair, there’s no fixed cockpit furniture and the driving position is at the aft end of the flybridge, so the skipper can see what’s happening around the cockpit and transom.

You can also option a baitwell, fish boxes, rod holders and rocket launchers. The navigation light is high to help with night time reversing. You can have a bow thruster if you want, but with twin engines, you can surely squeeze her into the marina’s inner-most berth.

There are engineering points to discuss, too. The 33 has two battery chargers, one linked to the genset batteries so the boat can never run out of power. There is a separate switch for the engine battery in the hold so little fingers can’t get to it. Americans face serious fines for discharging sewage overboard so the relevant valve is hidden.

Our boat had twin 330hp Crusader petrol engines, 5.7lt V8s. You can have bigger engines, but 660hp is sure to be enough.

Richard Pym and his partner at Pathfinder, James Mark Anthony, are big fans of the Crusaders. “They are based on a GM block and have full freshwater cooling which includes the risers and manifolds,” says Richard.

“In the past five years, closed fuel systems have helped address the safety aspect of petrol,” adds James. “And you need to do 1000 hours a year to justify the purchase price difference between petrol and diesel.”

The 33 hull is not a constant deadrise design, it’s what they used to call a warped-plane hull, which means the vee flattens towards the stern. There are no tunnels for the props.

On some boats, a warped-plane hull can mean the bow lift s a lot when planing, but on the 33 the bow-lift is small and, as the only driving position is upstairs, you don’t notice anyway. It simply jumps onto the plane.

The boat rode well and was nicely damped fore-and-aft , which means there was no jerking in the motion on the flybridge.

We took the 33 out to sea looking for swell, but it was perhaps the quietest day off the Sydney coast since James Cook didn’t stop here in 1770.

At speed, the hull makes only a moderate-sized hole in the water, a purely subjective measure of a boat, but to me it signifies an efficient hull, efficiently-driven.

The designers and builders of Carver boats aim to make new owners feel as comfortable afloat as they would be at home.

The price includes way too much stuff to mention; reverse-cycle aircon, LCD TV with DVD, even doona cover, sheets, pillows and towels. Pathfinder includes what they call the ‘Cruiseaway package’, which includes safety gear, registration, two years of antifouling and service. They encourage and help owners to get their licences.

The Carver 33SS (Super Sport) is an interesting and original piece of work which packs a lot into its length. The familiar view of American boats is that they are all alike, but this is not the case. In the US, builders can define their own niche and the size of the market ensures there will be plenty of buyers.

And Carver’s USP is fitting a lot into a moderately-sized hull, without inhibiting performance and handling.

But if the 33 is a piece of work, have a look at its big sister, the 38SS. It’s 39ft 11in, which is 20 inches longer than the 33. Designers have managed to fit two cabins and head on the lower level, plus a full saloon above.

Test boat had twin 330hp Crusader petrol V8s with shaft drive.

LOA: 27′
BEAM: 8′ 6″
DRAFT: 1′ 11″
WEIGHT: 3122kg
MAX HP: 320hp
FUEL: 322lt
PRICE: $129,990