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Old 15-08-2016, 13:31   #1
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In the market for express cruiser - have questions

Hi all - I'm a new member here. I have been in the market for this boat for several months now but I am just confused about what is the best choice for us. I am an active member in other vBulletin forum sites and I know they can be the best place for advice and information in the world! So I thought I would post here and hopefully get some direction. Thank you in advance!

Last year, I relocated my young family to the coast of South Carolina, and we are fortunate to have a wet slip - it is 36' long and 13' wide. It is in our neighborhood and very accessible. We have two young girls, age 4 and 2. My wife is a novice boater. My experience is very limited in recent years, though I grew up on the water on the Gulf coast - my parents were sailers and I spent many weekends and summers on the boat throughout my life until I went to college. In my teens I owned a small center console and I took several boater safety courses. So while I have that background, I am not an accomplished boater. But with this new boat, I intend to take several hours of training, actually operating the boat, by a licensed captain instructor and I intend to refresh my boater safety course. And, of course, I will be taking it slow and very cautious until I build that confidence.

So I'm trying to figure out what boat is right for us and I think a fairly small cruiser appears to be the right answer. My wife loves coastal living but is always concerned about the kids getting baked in the sun all day, so a nice cockpit with good shade is essential. Also, I think that having a cabin where my kids can retire to watch a movie or something is a good recipe to extend our water time . . . they are still young with short attention spans. I think these factors discourage getting a smaller bow-rider or runabout.

Also, I'm not concerned about fishing the boat, I have two friends with great fishing boats that go out all the time, if I ever have the fishing urge. I'm not looking for water sports. I'm looking for day cruising, visiting water accessible sites, anchoring for lunch and a swim . . . and some light overnighting. All things considered, including the size of my slip, I have been doing heavy research in the market for express cruisers in the 27-32 foot range. We love the down-easter cruisers (e.g. Back Cove) but they are quite a bit more expensive than their express cruiser counterparts, and they usually carry more beam - I think 11' is about the narrowest that I have seen in excess of 26'. With my 13' slip, that doesn't leave much for my operational inexperience.

I think that the cruisers in the 28' range would be a bit less boat for me to handle and would give me a bit more room in my slip - but those boats are single engines (and result in having to operate a fairly large boat with a single engine . . . and bow thruster) Whereas the 31 and 32 foot boats have twin engines and more space given their beam . . . but present greater challenges in handling with their size (and my slip). However, I have demo'd a 32 with twins and a joystick control and I was blown away by the handling of that set-up. I know some of the purists think the joystick is cheating, but I'm not out to impress anyone with my boat-handling skills! I just don't want to damage anything or embarrass myself and if it takes a joystick, so be it.

So here's my question (thanks for bearing with me through all of this context!): would you recommend that I go for the slightly bigger boat that will probably handle better with the twins and joystick control, or should I take the approach that the smaller the better . . . at least for now given my experience level.

Any responses at all are appreciated!
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Old 15-08-2016, 15:08   #2
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Re: In the market for express cruiser - have questions

I'm not going to offer advice, but I can tell you that we had a 28.5' express cruiser for 10 years and loved it.

We did exactly what you plan to do. We went on day trips, weekend overnights, and one or two vacations a year. We took out our kids and their friends.

A smaller, lighter boat can get you "there" faster. Ours had a single engine; cheaper to maintain and run, plus it allowed more deadrise for a better ride in chop. It was no trouble to handle, even in wind and current. We had a full bimini with vinyl sides so we were in out of the weather and the sun. A mid cabin with a full-sized mattress and a vee-berth, as well as a dinette that folded down to another berth. We had 5 people aboard for a week once.

You'll also find lots of express cruisers with twin engines, which makes handling even easier. Many will have bow thrusters, but that may be overkill. I'm not a huge fan of joystick control, so I can't help you there.

A true "down east" hull is great, but if you're looking for good use of interior space, take a hard look at the layouts. Many are what I'd call "picnic boats" with lots of cockpit and not much inside. Others are more like custom converted fishing boats that don't have the engineered-in amenities of a mass production express cruiser.
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Old 15-08-2016, 15:33   #3
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Re: In the market for express cruiser - have questions

I looked at several express crusiers. I want to spend up to two weeks and travel more in the boat I get. So now looking at trawlers.

I would get the largest cruiser that will comfortably fit in your available skip as that seems to be your limiting factor.



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Old 16-08-2016, 05:41   #4
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Re: In the market for express cruiser - have questions

Greetings and welcome aboard the CF, Chuck.
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Old 16-08-2016, 06:43   #5
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Re: In the market for express cruiser - have questions

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Originally Posted by superchuck500 View Post
So here's my question (thanks for bearing with me through all of this context!): would you recommend that I go for the slightly bigger boat that will probably handle better with the twins and joystick control, or should I take the approach that the smaller the better . . . at least for now given my experience level.

Kids grow.

A 12' beam in a 13' wide slip can work well enough.

Suggest you look at the longest SeaRay Sundancer and Cruisers (brand) equivalent that will fit in the slip, with however much overhang (if any) that you might be allowed. I only mention those brands 'cause they're easy to find; lots of others may well suit.

Suggest you also look at flybridge boats in that size range, too, just to compare some features. Not only do kids grow, they (and you) might get tired of living in a cave.

Twins can be nice but also relatively unimportant, given things like bowthusters and joysticks and so forth. You can sort stuff like that out after you find some decent targets to consider/critique.

-Chris
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Old 16-08-2016, 07:17   #6
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Re: In the market for express cruiser - have questions

If your looking into weekending quite a bit I would say 29-32' express cruiser meets your needs well. If your mostly day trips with occasional overnight a down east style or an express sportfish with a hardtop may work. It depends on how much space you want where and what kind of drive train you want. I prefer shafts (and Vdrives) to sterndrives so that would drive my decision a little. In general I wouldn't go to crazy about backing into a narrow slip unless there is a frequent crosswind or cross current. As mentioned if you like overnighting a lot a step up over 30' usually means alot more space in an express cruiser.

So I would look hard at whats more important to you and go from there. I think anything less the 11' or so beam should be OK once your used to it.
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Old 16-08-2016, 07:30   #7
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Re: In the market for express cruiser - have questions

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Greetings and welcome aboard the CF, Chuck.
Thank you!

And thank you all for the responses - they are each helpful.

If I had to name two boats I was considering in each of the two rigs that we're discussing, I'd say that I like the Regal 32 and the SeaRay 280. I think the Regal has the best cockpit orientation and flexibility for the 32 class (twins). I prefer its layout over the Chaparral and the SeaRay. On the smaller side, the SeaRay 280 has a bit more beam than the others and, similar to the Regal 32, I like the Sundancer's cockpit layout at the 28 length.

There are a couple of compromises -Chaparral has a 29 with twins (and a salon, which the 28's don't have - they just have V berths) but the company hasn't updated it in some time and they are dropping it from the line. Similarly, Regal has a 30 with twins and a salon but it is the older "windows express" model that I personally don't find as attractive as the other boats.
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Old 16-08-2016, 08:45   #8
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Re: In the market for express cruiser - have questions

I have owned powerboats from 16-18' ski boats, a 25' twin sterndrive to a 36' twin diesel cabin cruiser. In my experience handling a 32 vs a 28 ft boat is not going to make much difference at all. In that regard go for the bigger boat.

Regarding bow thrusters and joysticks, I think they are really unnecessary for a boat in the size range you're considering and will add a lot to the purchase price and possible maintenance costs down the road.
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Old 17-08-2016, 11:10   #9
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Re: In the market for express cruiser - have questions

My Wife and I were in the same "Boat", no pun intended, a few months ago and found what we consider the best compromise. We bought a 2000 Chris-Craft 328. With the swim platform it is 35.5'. It cruises at 24 MPH for economy and runs flat out at 52 (by GPS) MPH. The Gen and A/C make it comfortable anytime you want it. It is one of the few Cruisers with a center helm.

As for handling..don't let the thought of handling enter your mind. You learn just like everyone else. Just don't maneuver any faster than you want to hit something. I had been away from handling boats 65' and less for over 20 years and it was a snap to get back in the groove. You can do it. If you think you need assistance and training, go for it. There are lots of instructions available right here and on you tube for refresher.

As for the "Do it all", you won't find the boat that does it all well. All will be a compromise. Ya'll have fun.

Frank
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