Issue: March 1999
For more than two decades, Whittley have been the quiet achievers of the boating industry, designing and building trailable cruisers that are outstanding in their innovative use of space and attention to detail. They seemingly have a thorough understanding of the manner in which people use boats, and this is no better illustrated than in the Whittley Cruisemaster 700. Simply, I am yet to see a trailable cruiser that makes better use of space.
The Cruisemaster 700 is a family cruising boat that doesn't segregate one part of the boat from the other. The cockpit, galley and vee berth area all flow into the one, providing room for adults to move about and stretch out, and for the kids to sit and play. While such a layout is fabulous for daytime cruising, it is just as well suited to overnighting, weekending, or short-term cruising for a young family. It takes just a little juggling of seating and some setting up of storm covers to convert the sleeping accommodation. Privacy may not be as great as some of the imported maxi-trailer sportscruisers, or the compact non-trailable models, but it is far more practical and better thought-out boat that opens up the whole craft for the most important period of the boat's use daytime leisure. The Cruisemaster 700 is also a great boat for a couple. It has everything for extended cruising, and is such an easy boat to launch, retrieve and handle. In what is still a traditional express-cruiser style boat, Whittley have done a lot in the moulding and styling department to guide this boat into the next millennium.
The raked transom and integrally-moulded boarding platform, swim ladder and transom door are all contemporary features seen on new imported sportscruisers. Similarly the 'frameless' wrap-round screen, the rounded mouldings, and the flush-fitting deck hardware have helped the Cruisemaster present a very modern and stylish package on the water. But it is in the layout and the thoroughness of the fitout that the Cruisemaster 700 really sets itself ahead of the others. The cockpit has plenty of storage and seating, the helm station is and integral part of the boat, the galley is generous and comprehensively equipped and does not intrude into living space. The double berth in the bow can be screened off for night-time privacy, but by day is an extension of the boat's liveable space.
Galley facilities such as pressure hot and cold water, fridge and microwave, plus an abundance of lighting, can combine to draw a large amount of power while at anchor. Whittleys have taken measures to ensure that there's never the risk of flat batteries. While a hard-top solar panel powers up the lighting circuits, what Whittley call the 'intelligent power management system' keeps check on power usage and batttery drain and will cut off power draw when battery power drops to a designated level, ensuring that there is always power to start the engine. Apart from being designed to avoid owners being stranded by excessive batttery use, this system supplemented by the solar lighting panels reduces the reliance on shore power. Propulsion for the Cruisemaster is provided by a single MerCuiser sterndrive, with power options that include petrol and diesel engines in the 200 to 300hp range. Standard power is a 5-litre 220hp V8 with a Bravo sterndrive, and I would say this is all the power that is needed.
This gives a top speed of just under 40 knots, but more importantly this small V8 has the power to get the boat on to the plane without too much hassle and hold a comfortable cruise speed in the low to mid 20 knot range at around 3000-3500rpm. At cruise speed the engine noise levels are extremely low and, no matter where passengers sit, conversation is extremely easy. The helm station is an absolute delight. There is space for everything, all set into a multi-tiered moulded console that is highlighted by burr walnut inlays. On the top tier is a special range of VDO engine and operational instruments. Set just below eye level, and reasonably well shielded from direct sunlight and glare, these instruments are easily monitored and clear to read. Next tier down has a Lowrance Global Map 2000 GPS recessed directly over the top of the wheel, with a strip of fuses and switch panels either side. To the side of the wheel is the usual key switch, communication equipment and GME radio/cassette and if anything at all needs to be upgraded in this layout, then it's this last piece. In today's music age a radio/cassette is old hat. Update this to a CD player!
The single lever throttle/gear control is well positioned alongside the driver, though you do have to stretch down a little when standing up through the hardtop hatch. But then I doubt if this level could be positioned ideally for both situations. The hardtop hatch is superb. It opens the cockpit when the weather doesn't demand full protection for the occupants, enhancing air flow and passenger comfort while improving the driver's vision immensely when the boat banks through turns (taking out the enormous blind spot resulting from the hard top) . In addition, it's such a pleasure to be able to stand up behind the wheel and poke your head through the hardtop when cruising serenely along some quiet waterway. With a 210 deadrise, the hull provides a reasonably comfortable ride. Since the maximum beam is limited to maximum trailable limits, the hull will react to strong cross winds and significant movement in passenger loading; consequently, the electric hydraulic trim tabs are a very worthwhile option. They are very quick acting and very positive, making it possible for the driver to ensure a comfortable and steady ride for his passengers. The tabs are not needed for anything other than load balancing and port/starboard levelling of the boat, so don't try using them for any other trimming of the boat.
The hull will respond very positively to the sterndrive trim, so use the leg to adjust boat trim to suit water conditions, planing trim and to simplify the movement onto the plane, and keep the tabs solely for port/starboard trimming. When first launched at the 1998 Melbourne Boat Show, the almost $80,000 price tag (plus trailer) was seen as a potential stumbling block for the Cruisemaster 700. Also this wasn't a trailerboat that could be towed by the family sedan it needs a light commercial or heavy duty 4WD. But despite some initial hesitancy at the price, the Cruisemaster 700 has everything to be a success. It directly addresses the functioning of a trailable family cruise boat, making full use of every square centimetre of space in an open plan that is functional, practical, and where necessary, adequately private. Most importantly, the Whittleys have not over-optioned the boat with luxury items or gimmicks, concentrating on equipment and facilities that are an essential part of the boat's operation. This is one very well planned and thoroughly detailed boat. Everything has a purpose, every piece of equipment is well planned and logically placed. In all, a simply stunning boat for its role.
Words & Photos by David Toyer.