Issue: June 2003
It is a fact of life that many boats you see waiting patiently at pontoons behind the Gold Coast’s canal-side homes are doing exactly that waiting. The cynics suggest that for many of the homes here the boat is only a decoration and the owners have no real intention of ever getting afloat. On looks alone the American built Cruisers 35 is well suited to decorate. But the Modern Boating team suggests that anyone who buys one and doesn’t use it has to be crazy. The Cruisers 35 is a boat to enjoy, a boat built by people who know boats. That may sound more like slick wording from a glossy brochure than sentiments from a test team who’ve been around long enough to be cynical.
But we love boats and as we returned to Sanctuary Cove from a few hours on southern Moreton Bay in the Cruisers 35 we kept passing those forlorn craft moored at their pontoons. And it occurred to us that it would be a crying shame for an owner to do that to this boat. Our fishing hormones got stimulated when we tested a Black Watch 36 about the same time we looked over the Cruisers 35, but the Cruisers had us dreaming entirely different dreams. It speaks volumes about long weekends on the water, cruising about in a real boat (i.e. one meant to be lived in out on the water. The Cruisers 35 is apparently intended to be used for day outings and ‘long weekends.’
For day outings there is ample room for three couples plus. For longer periods two couples will have the minor hassle of converting the small downstairs aft lounge to a bed each night. Wardrobe space for four is not overgenerous. There’s a half-length robe in the forward stateroom under the TV turntable, and a reasonably-sized hanging space between the dinette and the aft lounge. Clothes storage is just enough for four for a couple of days, and would be ample for two. Which brings us to an option we were in two minds about. Our test boat had a bulkhead fitted between the downstairs saloon area and the forward stateroom. It’s an option which adds privacy for the occupants of the stateroom and for the folk sleeping on the converted lounge aft of the dinette/living area, though privacy curtains for both areas are standard equipment.
Omitting the bulkhead would open the downstairs space substantially; it is not particularly cramped, but it would be way more spacious without the bulkhead. While we are downstairs we may as well conclude the tour. The forward stateroom is obviously in the bows. Galley is to port, dinette to starboard. The head is beside the galley at the bottom of the stairs. The convertible lounge aft takes up the space between the stairs and the portside. It is set back under the helm and though headroom is a little low we did not find it to be awkward in practice. You sort of sit down into there and step forward as you stand up and, aside from its function as a second bed we really liked having a sofa-type lounge separate from the dinette.
It makes for more living space and everyone is not forced to sit around the dinette. The galley is equipped with a single-burner hotplate, a smallish sink (plumbed hot and cold) a microwave and a fridge which is a bit bigger than a bar fridge and smaller than a domestic one. There are no less than five separate cupboard spaces plus a cutlery drawer in the galley, a really practical amount of galley storage given the long weekends we have in mind. This is the kind of detail that tells us this boat has been designed by people who spend a lot of time on boats. A TV is mounted on a neat turntable which is set into the bulkhead in our test boat, allowing it to be directed towards either the saloon or the forward stateroom.
The saloon is air-conditioned as standard (reversecycle for Victorians) which is essential because there’s not an oversupply of natural ventilation down there. We would seriously consider optioning a Genset because the aircon functions only on dockside power. In a boat that begs so hard to be out on the water, hang the expense… The head has toilet and shower in one area with a curtain running around a track in the ceiling to keep things as dry as possible. There are two full- sized storage cabinets in the head and a porthole to get some of the steam out. Let’s move back upstairs. The Cruisers 35 is not a flybridge ‘ the helm is lower than that ‘ but it is high enough for reasonable vision into the water (not a bad idea in the shallows of southern Moreton Bay) and to keep an eye on the boat’s extremities when docking.
The helm is all sportboat, with a dashboard as much as an instrument panel and room for three on the helm seat. There’s a little bolster hidden in the seat directly behind the helm to raise the skipper’s eyelevel even more for tight manoeuvring. Stepping down from the helm onto the deck you pass a wet bar set along the portside to reach a roomy aft lounge/ upstairs dinette. The engine room is under here, accessible through a big hatch which lifts effortlessly on gasassisted struts. An automatic fire extinguisher system is standard equipment whether you have diesels or the petrol motors fitted to our test boat. The wet bar has a small sink unit, a bar fridge including an optional icemaker, and yet another big storage locker underneath.
The aft bulkhead includes yet another storage locker set into its topsides, and a cockpit shower is tucked in there too. Practicality is again obvious in the way the transom door can be securely latched closed or open, the better to keep errant ankle biters inboard or to reach the big swim platform across the transom proper. Naturally there was a boarding ladder, stowed under a concealing hatch. The swim platform extends open-air living even further. In nice weather we’d be happy to have eight people aboard and no one would be sitting on anybody else’s lap unless they chose to. Our test Cruisers 35 was powered by a pair of 5lt MerCruiser MPIs driving through MerCruiser Bravo III sterndrive legs.
The beauty of sterndrives in places like southern Moreton Bay, where there are beautiful beaches just begging, is that the drives can be tilted up to negotiate shallow water that is a total no-go for shaft-driven boats. A word of warning ‘ the big swim platform across the stern makes it easy to forget there are sterndrive legs tucked away beneath it. Bravo III is MerCruiser’s dual-prop leg which has a couple of benefits for big boats. Bravo IIIs offer much better propeller grip in reverse, a point never lost when docking or mooring. 6.2lt MPI MerCruisers are optional, as is diesel power from MerCruiser in the form of their 4.2lt DTronic (225 hp), again with a Bravo III sterndrive. Or you can have the Volvo option. This includes their 5lt Dxi DP 270hp petrol, the 320hp 5.7lt petrol and the KAD300 DP diesel producing 300hp, all with Volvo sterndrive legs.
Australian importers Cruiser Sales are importing the 5lt MPI/Bravo III combination as the stock boats; the other power options have to be ordered from the States. The inherent grip of the Bravo legs, aided by a pair of 260hp V8 petrol engines, pushed the Cruisers 35 from displacement speeds to planing with absolutely no fuss. At any speed the motors were so quiet you had to rely on the Smartcraft tachos to tell you how much throttle was applied. We really liked the match of the 5lt MerCruiser and Bravo III to the hull, aided by application of the trim tabs, which are standard The hull planed at around 2000rpm and 8.5 knots. Once we were up and planing we were gliding along (there was so little engine noise that gliding describes the sensation well) at 3000 revs and 17.3 knots.
At 4000 we were cruising at 27.8 knots, while 5000 revs produced 36.9 knots at which point we were not gliding so much as really moving.
Words and Photos by Warren Steptoe