Hardware can tell you a lot about a boat's intended use. Take the Hallett 285 Party Cruiser. The catamaran-based deck boat has ladders on the bow and stern. It also has entry gates on each side.
Translation? The 285 Party Cruiser was designed to be used as a social platform that likely will find itself beached bow-in so passengers can climb from the boat to the sand. Those who can't wait will be able to hop off the sides or stern and into the surrounding shallow water.
Hallett introduced the 285 in early 2005 as the larger sibling to its 260 Party Cruiser. The company sent it to our 100-mph roundup with an 800-hp engine, and it topped 105 mph. This time around, however, the builder outfitted the model with a HP525EFI engine from Mercury Racing, which has been the most popular choice among buyers of the boat.
We had to admit we were a little spoiled by our first encounter with the 285 Party Cruiser. But the truth is the demand for 100-plus-mph high-performance deck boats is much lower than that for models that run in the 70- to 80-mph range. Equipped with a 525-hp engine, our test model might have been slower, but it was a lot more practical.
Top speed for the boat, which ran its power through a Bravo One XR drive with a 1.5:1 ratio and a 26"-pitch Hering four-blade stainless-steel propeller was 78.8 mph. Fast enough, especially with a crowd on board.
The 285 Party Cruiser didn't rocket out of the hole—time to plane was 7.4 seconds—but it did accelerate decently. From a standing start, it reached 63 mph, which also happened to be its cruising speed at 4,000 rpm, in 20 seconds.
Midrange pop was good, as the boat ran from 30 to 50 mph in 5.8 seconds and from 40 to 60 mph in 7.8 seconds. Power limitations made themselves apparent at the upper end, as the boat took 13.8 seconds to run from 40 to 70 mph.
The 285 Party Cruiser earned strong marks in handling drills from both of our test teams. In low-speed maneuvers, it leaned slightly to the outside. In higher-speed turns, the catamaran held a level, comfortable attitude. Tracking was excellent, though when the boat was trimmed for maximum speed it did develop a slight hop.
In what little rough water we were able to find, the boat rode softly. It also appeared to be impervious to load distribution and crosswinds.
Hallett vacuum-bagged the hull and deck for the 285 Party Cruiser, which was constructed of vinylester resin and triaxial Knytex fiberglass and cored with balsa. Stringers ran full length and were tied into several bulkheads, none of which displayed print-through on the hullsides.
Mold work was straight and clean. Though not intricate, the boat's in-gelcoat graphics were as crisp as its tooling. A stainless-steel rubrail fit the seam between the hull and deck without gaps.
Deck hardware consisted of functional pieces such as Accon Pull-Up cleats and stainless-steel handrails. The boat also was outfitted with hardware for two bimini tops—one forward and one aft. Both will be much appreciated on a scorching day at Arizona's Lake Havasu or another Colorado River hot spot.
A screw jack opened the hefty fiberglass engine, which was connected to the transom by a pair of stainless-steel hinges. Solid mounts and L-angles through-bolted to the stringers held the big-block engine in place. Wires and hoses were supported by stainless-steel cushion clamps and, for the most part, tidy. The bilge was finished with spattered gelcoat.
For access to the cockpit, Hallett provided a starboard-side transom walk-through. There were three steps into the boat, and the top step was covered with snap-in carpet. Several sections of snap-in carpet also were used to cover the boat's sole.
The seating layout consisted of an L-shape lounge that ran from the transom to the entertainment console on the port side of the boat, a double-wide helm seat and two forward-facing lounges. That left plenty of wide-open space for moving about the boat, and thanks to lockers below most of the
bottom cushions that space shouldn't get cluttered with gear.
Some items could be tucked away in the entertainment console. The molded station was outfitted with an electric cold-water sink, a removable cooler and a pair of cupholders. Opposite, the head locker in the driver's console also could serve as a stowage area.
The helm station was laid out with Faria gauges, a mechanical drive-trim indicator and a tilt steering wheel that had the Hallett logo in the hub. The white-rimmed gauges were installed in red bezels that matched the bezels for the stainless-steel hardware throughout the boat. White rocker switches activated the accessories, and a throttle and shifter from Livorsi was mounted on an extension from the gunwale. To keep the breeze off the driver and co-pilot, the builder supplied an acrylic windscreen atop the dash.
In the sole between the forward-facing lounges was a large ski locker with a hinged lid. There also were stowage spaces under the bottom cushions for the lounges, and each compartment had a removable bin. The
forwardmost section of the bow, which was covered with snap-in carpet, was accessible through an access gate—the same type of gate that was used for port and starboard entry and exit.
A wide range of power is offered for the 285 Party Cruiser, and we know the boat can handle a lot of it. But for the money and the intended use of the boat, the HP525EFI mill is a good call. It's a solid power choice that will keep drivers engaged as they take their friends and family in maximum comfort from spot to spot.
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