"Mid Size Power Boats": A Guide for Discreminating Buyers - by David Pascoe


Cruisers 4270 Esprit


LOA 44' 0" Speed 30.4 knots
Beam 14' 0" Engines Cat 3126, 420 hp
Draft 3' 6" Options Crusader 454's
Year 1997   Volvo 370, 430 hp

It's not without good reason that we are advised not to judge a book by its cover, an admonishment that certainly applies here. We've long associated Cruisers, Inc. with entry level boats of the sort that are more suitable for inland than maritime use. They've attached names such as "Villa Vee" to numerous models, a moniker that conjures up more of an image of a sea side resort than a sea worthy boat.

Of course, the times and companies can change, and this one certainly seems to have done so. At least if we can draw any conclusions from this particular boat. We regret that we haven't any photos to show, owing to an accident with our camera.

Stylistically, there's little to distinguish this boat from many other large express models. She's your typical open express a la Sea Ray and a host of others. What did catch our attention, however, is that this is not the usual Cruisers quality level of years past. The one impression it does not give is that of a floating motel room.

Stylistically, it's every bit as racy as all the other offerings but with a twist. This boat seems to incorporate some pretty good design, along with a decent level of quality. The beauty is a bit more than merely skin deep. Most notable was a lack of design stupidities so commonly found in other boats that seem like a mere party platform than serious cruiser.

First Up: Ergonomically, I found little to complain about. Ease of movement around this boat is really very good. Mercifully, they did not fill up the cockpit area with so much lounge seating that there's no room left to move around. They've left enough space to permit a free-moving traffic pattern without any serious bottle necks. You can almost run forward from the swim platform to the forward cabin without falling over anything. A very nice traffic

The cockpit seating is L-shaped off to starboard, with the helm set to starboard as well. The helm bench seat will seat only two, and thus does not take up too much space. We find this to be a major fault with many large expresses where too much seating manages to make even a  large boat cramped.

The cockpit affords two means of entry, first via the platform and second via the port side where there is a step molded into the liner. If you want to board by the starboard side, well, you just have to walk on the upholstery. One way you can tell for sure the difference between fresh and salt water builders is that they seem to assume that you can always board via the stern platform. You see, they don't have tides on inland lakes and usually floating docks. For those of us in coastal areas, this is often a big problem.

Cabin Layout has an unusual aft cabin with twin berths, set back under the cockpit. Naturally, you do not have full head room here, but I found this layout to be much more attractive than the overly large lounge area found in the Sea Ray 450 where a very large lounge area resides where the aft stateroom is placed in this 4270. This  aft cabin area is very private, particularly with an adjoining head and shower. This is the kind of layout I'd want for cruising with two couples or children. If you're strictly a party hound, then something like the Sea Ray may be more suitable.

Yet another aspect that I found very attractive is the galley. Set to starboard and immediately forward of the helm area, it is semi-enclosed, being somewhat U-shaped. The inboard end is anchored by a full size upright frig, and yet still has plenty of counter space, as well as storage. This is a galley in which serious meals can be prepared but for one thing. The 125V Kenyon 3 burner stove top just doesn't cut it. In fact, we're finding most of these new boats have 125V stove tops that take about an hour to boil water. And that's no joke. A serious stove needs to be 250V.

Opposite this is a stretched oval table and lounge seating. And it's here that there is some sacrifice of space for general socializing. This cabin layout is much more suited for cruising than partying. While the lounge is plenty big, there is no room for any other furniture and no other seating. That means all the people sitting there are all more or less facing the same direction - to starboard. Again, this makes for more of a cruising than party boat.

The forward cabin is the usual largish double berth on centerline. The good news is that there is a bit of an isle up each side so you don't have to crawl in bed head first on hands and knees. The master head is plenty big with a stall shower. Heads are VacuFlush.

The interior is served by three Cruisair air conditioners, but there is only one deck hatch so if the A/C isn't working, ventilation becomes a problem.

Machinery Well, here we go again with the Caterpillar 3126 engines and their cylinder head problems. These engines were supposedly fixed but we found carbon in the cooling system of one engine, which usually means that there is a compression leak somewhere.

This is a great boat if you never have to go into the engine compartment. The engines are set very close together, and for a boat this size, the engine compartment is amazingly small and cramped, with both the engines and fuel tanks crammed in back there. This is no dream boat engine room for the do it yourselfer.

This one came equipped with a 9kw Kohler generator that is barely adequate for the total power demand. It also has a sound box cover that we were unable to open up. The layout of systems is rather poor. In order to reach components we had to crawl over batteries, switches, mufflers, wires and cables. There is a large deck area behind the engines, but the systems components are set down like salt falling out of a shaker. In order to reach one thing, you crawl over another. On your knees. Ouch!

In attempting to check the transmission oil, we were unable to get the dipsticks out because of components installed above. The engine intake sea cocks are installed in a deep hole and can't be reached, as are the sea strainers so that you can't see whether they're fouled or not.

Servicing the mechanicals in this boat is a serious drawback. Granted, you can remove the large deck section above, but only after removing all the seating, and probably requiring the use of a crane. That's reserved for major repairs.

Performance As you'd expect for a 44 foot boat weighing 19,500 lbs, it's plenty fast, 30.4 knots tops. With power assist steering and a tiny wheel, it was like driving a car. Low speed performance is not impressive. The operator has a terrible time docking on both occasions. Part of that was his fault, the other ho-hum maneuverability.

The engine room insulation seems well done as the sound levels within the cockpit were quite low, and we did not have to yell in order to be heard.

Seakeeping   As is  frequently the case, we had only a 12" chop for our sea trial, yet this translated into feeling every little wave when standing on the cabin sole. Her bottom shape is very much akin to a Sea Ray, with a very full bow and flat entry. The cabin area while underway at speed was quite noisy.

While we did not get to do an ocean trial run on rough water, you can expect that with her very light weight, her rough water performance is not going to be spectacular. And judging by her hull shape, we'd guess that she handles about like most others of her class, perhaps even less favorably.

The bow has a huge overhang. Although there's no pro forma pulpit, the bow is bottle-nosed like a dolphin. There is a large slot here for the anchor that leads into a triangular bow hatch were the windlass, electrical controls and rode are stored. The only problem is that when you stuff the bow into a wave, the water will come gushing up under that hatch cover and probably take it right off its plastic latches.

Worse yet, there is no manner of sealing this hatch, so that the windlass and electricals got wet and crapped out. Two major and uncorrectable faux pas here.

But, there's another one. Attached to the intergral swim platform is an extended platform of the bolt-on type. This creates an overhang of 3-1/2 feet. It doesn't take much imagination to determine what will happen with the vessel stopped out at sea with 3 foot waves rolling. You got it! The waves will take that platform right off the boat in a heart beat.

These points generally sum up what we mean about boats with an inland rather than an oceanic flavor.

Overall Quality  Basically pretty good. There aren't any maintenance nightmares with this boat (other than the engine room access). The use of molded plastic parts is minimal. One problem is that the primary means of going up to the foredeck is over the helm and through a door in the windshield. Hopefully, you already know that there's no way in heaven or  hell that this can be made water tight, and that water is going to pour all over the area up under the windshield. Our boat had never been out in the ocean, so this hadn't happened yet,

Construction  Hmmm, hate to say it, but we haven't a clue as to how it's built. Less than 10% of the internal hull was accessible or visible. If there's anything broken or going wrong within, there's no way of knowing.

Banging around on the bottom, however, she sounded fairly substantial. The sides and decks are surely cored, but we don't know about the bottom. We can at least tell you that the bottom and hull sides do not appear to be flimsy. Nor was there any apparent problem with the deck joint as the rub rails were undamaged, and there were no stress cracks in these areas. That's always a good sign.

Meanwhile, there were no blisters on the bottom.

All of the deck areas seemed fairly substantial. They don't give when walked or jumped on. The cockpit hatches have good gutters and there was no problem with water leaking into the engine room.

Summing Up  We were pleasantly surprised, having anticipated yet another family type or party boat cruiser that just didn't measure up to a decent level of quality. This one does. Overall, it seems a good effort to produce a boat of mid level quality that is quite consistent from the square end to the pointed end. Value-wise, this is a heck of a lot of boat for the money. In comparing new costs versus resale, it definitely stacks up a better deal than Sea Ray.

RATING:

Posted April 19, 2000

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David Pascoe Power Boat Books

Buyers' Guide to Outboard Boats Surveying Fiberglass Power Boats (2E)

David Pascoe - Biography

David Pascoe is a second generation marine surveyor in his family who began his surveying career at age 16 as an apprentice in 1965 as the era of wooden boats was drawing to a close.

Certified by the National Association of Marine Surveyors in 1972, he has conducted over 5,000 pre purchase surveys in addition to having conducted hundreds of boating accident investigations, including fires, sinkings, hull failures and machinery failure analysis.

Over forty years of knowledge and experience are brought to bear in following books. David Pascoe is the author of:

In addition to readers in the United States, boaters and boat industry professionals worldwide from over 70 countries have purchased David Pascoe's books, since introduction of his first book in 2001.

In 2012, David Pascoe has retired from marine surveying business at age 65.

Biography - Long version

Articles at
docksidereports.com

 

David Pascoe's
Power Boat Books

Mid Size Power Boats Mid Size Power Boats
A Guide for Discriminating Buyers
Focuses exclusively cruiser class generally 30-55 feet
With discussions on the pros and cons of each type: Expresses, trawlers, motor yachts, multi purpose types, sportfishermen and sedan cruisers.
Buyers' Guide to Outboard Boats
Selecting and Evaluating New and Used Boats
Dedicated for offshore outboard boats
A hard and realistic look at the marine market place and delves into issues of boat quality and durability that most other marine writers are unwilling to touch.
Surveying Fiberglass Powewr Boats
Surveying Fiberglass Power Boats
2nd Edition
The Art of Pre-Purchase Survey The very first of its kind, this book provides the essentials that every novice needs to know, as well as a wealth of esoteric details.
Marine Investigations
Pleasure crafts investigations to court testimony The first and only book of its kind on the subject of investigating pleasure craft casualties and other issues.
Readers
Worldwide
Over 70 countries
Countries List
Links to Each Chapter Contents with Excerpt at:
David Pascoe Power Boat Books davidpascoe.com

 

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