The best thing about cuddy cabin boats isn't that you have a place to escape from the weather, stow tons of gear, or enclose a head. It’s that you can (ahhhhh) take a nap in comfort. So it was down-right painful to test the new Cruisers Yachts Sport Series 279, because try as I might, I just couldn't come up with an excuse good enough to remove the dinette table from its pedestal, slide it onto the berth-level supports, insert the filler cushion, and enjoy a siesta. At least, I couldn't come up with one good enough that I was sure it would satisfy the boss. So I most certainly did not (wink, wink) convert that table. Nor did I pop open the screened circular overhead port to let in a breeze. Nor did I lay down to discover there was enough room for my 5’11” frame to stretch all the way out. Wink, wink, zzzzzzz.
If you (unlike me) were to lie down for a snooze in the cabin of the 279, one thing you’d quickly notice is that there’s never an odor from the head. That’s because Cruisers doesn't put the head in the cabin; instead, it's located inside a compartment in the passenger’s side console. Smart. The downside is that this arrangement makes for a pretty tight cabin entry. I’m a skinny guy and it worked okay for me, but the stereotypical Wal-Mart shopper may find it a tight squeeze.
In the cockpit, however, you’ll enjoy gobs of elbow-room no matter what your size may be. There’s a bucket seat with a folding bolster at the helm, another for the passenger, a center-facing bench seat, and a flip-back transom seat that converts to face aft or folds completely flat for when you want a roomy sunpad.
Yet the cockpit still doesn't seem like the most spacious spot on the boat. That honor goes to the swim platform, which is downright monstrous. It comes with such goodies as a built-in drink cooler, a waterproof stereo remote, and a ski tow-eye. And the swim platform is even shaped differently than you might expect, with angled sides that make it easier to pull away from the dock without worrying about smacking the platform as you turn. Better yet, unlike those you’ll see on most other boats in this class, the flip-down swim ladder (which is completely hidden under a hatch) deploys off to the side, not the back, to keep body parts away from the propeller as you climb in and out of the boat.
If that swim platform ladder design makes you think that Cruisers puts some serious thought towards safety, then you’re right. And it’s just one example. Others can be found by swinging up the engine box. Peek down into the bilge, and you’ll see that Cruisers installs two automatic bilge pump switches. The first one is down low in the usual spot, but the second one is raised up several inches. It provides a back-up, in case that first switch gets clogged, jammed, or otherwise fails. Now crane your head back behind the motor. See the big red tank? That’s an automatic fire extinguishing system. Virtually every boat in this class has a port in the engine-box, and if there’s a fire down there, you’re supposed to jam the nozzle of a portable fire extinguisher into the port and pull the trigger. Doesn't that sound like fun? But it'll never be a worry on this boat, because if there’s ever a fire that auto-system will snuff it out before you even smell something burning.
In all likelihood, of course, you’ll never need to depend on that system because all of the combustion on this boat is going to take place inside of the powerplant. You can opt for either Volvo-Penta or Mercury stern drives, and our test boat was rigged with a 320-hp Volvo-Penta swinging a Duo-Prop (for more information on this choice, read Stern Drive Engines: Mercruiser vs Volvo-Penta). That’s a pretty hefty stable of horses, and it took us up to a top-end of 47.6-mph. Cruising speed at 4000 rpm was in the mid-30’s, and fuel economy hovered right around two miles to the gallon, even when pushing the throttle down farther.
|Fuel capacity||65 gal.|
|Water capacity||12 gal.|
Note that we had a brisk breeze on test-day, and the one foot chop was tight and steep. That’s not exactly the kind of seas that make you fly out of the water, but it’s plenty to get your teeth rattling at speeds of over 40-mph in some boats of this size. Running the 279 dead into the seas was, however, quite comfortable. Credit the steep 22-degree transom deadrise, along with Cruisers’ stout construction techniques.
Just what do I mean by stout? A great example lies under this boat’s skin, where you can’t see it. Unless, that is, you go to the Cruisers factory in Oconto, WI, which is exactly where we went. This gave us the chance to see parts of the deck being laid up. And through the translucent fiberglass resin, I could see these odd square shadows here and there. Turns out, they were aluminum plates. Anywhere a piece of hardware, a hinge, or a support would be mounted, one of these aluminum backing plates was laminated into the boat. That's a nice strong way to back up a fastener.
|Test conditions: 1 foot chop, winds 10 - 15 knots, 1 POB|
|Power||320-hp Volvo Penta stern drive, with a DPS Duo-prop Propset.|
Another high point of running this boat is its handling. Sure, most deep-V hulls dig in and carve out sharp turns. But when you crank the wheel on the Sport Series 279, the hull seems to have a grip that’s more like rubber on asphalt than fiberglass on water. You can see why by examining the boat’s chines. There’s a notch on each side of the boat about two-thirds of the way back, which creates a small step in the chine and bottom. When you carve out a hair-pin the notch grabs in and helps swing the boat around, enhancing its turning ability significantly. As an added bonus, the semi-step also aerates a strip of water running under the hull, helping reduce friction and increasing speed and fuel economy.
The down-side to choosing a cuddy cabin boat like the 279, as opposed to a bowrider like its sibling, the Cruisers Sport Series 278 bowrider, is obviously the loss of forward seating. It’s a straight-forward trade-off between open space and enclosed protected space. Which will be the right choice for you and your family? That all depends on your priorities—and (yawn) on just how much the boss will let you get away with.
For more information, visit Cruisers Yachts.