Issue: July/August 2005
Cruise Craft has a reputation for building outstanding boats and its latest, the Explorer 625, is no exception. If there’s one thing the Nichols clan do outstandingly well, it’s fishing boats with family use in mind. The sister boat to this one, the Outsider 625, has been with us since 2001, the year after its bigger sister the Outsider 685 won Modern Boating’s Fishing Boat of the Year. The following year, its little sister Outsider 575 took out Modern Boating’s overall Boat of the Year.
With this sort of heritage this test boat had a lot to live up to. It’s similar to its sister the Outsider 625 and follows Cruise Craft ‘s established practise of Explorer models being geared for fishing and Outsiders developed more for family use.
In either case, safety is paramount. To comply with positive buoyancy rules (soon to be introduced to Australia), our test boat, and indeed all new Cruise Craft boats, feature foam flotation material between its hull and moulded interior liners. This safety addition also has other positives. Foam filling makes the latest Cruise Craft boats quieter over the water and even ‘tighter’ in terms of stiffness and integrity. Structurally, Cruise Craft boats have always been ‘tight’, but the latest foam C filled vessels are tighter and quieter than ever before.
But there’s more… The large below deck storage compartment in the helm area, fitted to all Cruise Craft off shore fishers and commonly used to stow fish, also benefits from the foam filling. This turns the compartment into a very effective icebox to keep the fish even fresher!
The entire interior of the Explorer 625 is superbly finished with moulded panels.
The exception is the underside of the cabin roof. Some new Explorer owners will opt for the roof to be lined for aesthetic reasons, but even then, the interior of the boat will remain easy to clean.
Inside the cabin, the Explorer 625’s bunks aren’t long enough for adults to sleep on. This interior space is donated to the fishing room out in the cockpit.
The cabin is a place to store gear when fishing, and a retreat during family outings. Storage lockers beneath the bunks are lined too.
Cruise Craft ‘s home in southern Queensland is situated near several notorious bar crossings, that are constantly affected by strong south easterly winds, so ‘nice’ calm water is rarely a part of boating. For bar crossing safety the Explorer 625 has an armoured-glass windscreen and a self-draining cockpit. It also has a stout grab bar across the windscreen frame, plus grabbars strategically placed on the back of the helm and passenger seats, in case the crew needs to grab on quickly.
A pair of simple, yet comfortable, bucket seats mounted on stainless steel frames give ample storage space for tackle boxes, a small icebox with picnic goodies and maybe a bag full of towels and bathers.
It’s comfortable to drive the boat seated because the buckets have formed cushions and well placed footrests on the cabin bulkhead, but it’s even more comfortable standing. On fishing trips everyone tends to stand while travelling and the Explorer takes this into account. Four people can stand, two between the seats and the cabin bulkhead, and two more behind the seats using the grab bars on the back of the seats for security. The helm seat is adjustable and an adjusting slide for the passenger seat is an option.
For social use, the optional aft lounge makes sense. It fits the boat’s dual character neatly, because it can be stowed away flush into the aft bulkhead while fishing, or quickly folded out for the family.
A bait rigging/cutting board unit, which sits above the transom is an option few Cruise Craft boats leave the factory without. Next to this to port is the transom door. There’s also a folding ladder for boarding over the swim platform. To starboard there’s a big bait-well/live-well with some optional plumbing.
Upholstered cockpit coamings are standard. As are the side pockets with rod/gaff racks. You expect to be able to tuck your toes in under the side pockets of any fishing boat and you can in the Cruise Craft cockpit.
The stainless steel framed Targa/bimini top and rocket launcher seen in the photos are options you won’t want to do without. They provide protection from the sun, and the addition of clears between the bimini and windscreen make the helm area weatherproof when required.
The Targa top stows six rigged rods up out of the way and allows for mounting of radio aerials and a pair of outriggers. Undoing a couple of nuts and bolts lets you fold the Targa top back and reduce height of the screen frame should you need to get the boat and trailer through standard height garage doors.
Typically Cruise Craft, the anchor locker on the short foredeck is too small to hold a decent size reef pick, but serious reef anglers will deploy their anchor and float from a basket in the cockpit. For social anchoring though, soft bottom ground tackle stowed in the locker is easily accessible through the cabin hatch.
Out on the water, the Explorer shows it’s lost nothing during its transition from the hull shared with the Outsider 625. Like its sister, the hull lift s onto the plane with little fuss and planes at barely 8 knots, 8.2 knots in fact.
This low speed performance has earnt the boat an enviable reputation as a rough water performer. It is also interesting, in light of the popularity among anglers for four-strokes, that the older style twostrokes remain a cost effective power option for this rig. The 150hp Johnson is the latest ‘cleaned-up’ Bombardier version of an old favourite. And it retains a power to-weight ratio contemporary technology still strives to achieve, also coming with a competitive price tag. Perhaps a fourstroke, or new tech two-stroke would deliver better fuel economy and certainly lower emissions, if that’s an issue.
But for a boat destined to cross the coastal bars of southern Queensland, and spend a lot of time fishing off shore, the good ol V6 grunt has plenty going for it. Basic boat, motor, trailer packages start from $56,995. As tested, this top rig came in at $65,495 including a few options.
Queensland boat builders Nichols Brothers have been at the forefront of the Australian boating industry since Roy Nichols established the company in August 1946. The company launched the Cruise Craft brand in 1960 and its first fibreglass model in 1967. Today, Cruise Craft has around 14 Boat of The Year titles, and many other accolades to its credit. The Cruise Craft range includes walk-around, cuddy and half-cabin boats, bow-riders and runabouts. Around Australian boat ramps you will often see many of the original Nichols Bros timber cruisers and its first fibreglass models, still giving excellent service to current day owners.
The Cruise Craft Explorer 625 was powered by a 150hp two-stroke Johnson outboard. Perhaps a fourstroke, or new tech two-stroke, would deliver better fuel economy and certainly lower emissions if that’s an issue with any new buyer.
In calm seas with only light winds with two adults onboard Cruise Craft Explorer 625/ Johnson 150hp spinning a standard aluminium 17’prop recorded the following rpm-to-speed readings.
Speed to RPM: 3.2 knots @ 550 rpm, 8.2 knots @ 1850, 35.5 knots @ 5300.
DEADRISE: 20 degrees
MAX HP: 200hp
REC HP: 150hp
BASE PRICE: $56,995
+ Overall ride
– Short bunks
Story and Photos by Warren Steptoe.