There are many ways to go cruising and many cruisers out there. No matter which type of boat you like the most (see Top Five Cruisers: Motor Yacht, Express, Aft Cabin, Sedan Cruiser, and Convertible Boats, if you haven’t made up your mind just yet) one model or another is sure to fit your idea of ideal. Among the seemingly countless choices, these 10 stand out in our minds as great platforms for exploring new ports or rediscovering the ones you’ve already visited.
CHRIS CRAFT 36 CORSAIR: Couples Only
Few American-made cruising boats have lines that are prettier; the elegant Corsair with its graceful tumblehome aft, bow flair forward, and terrific teak accents, will turn as many heads and raise as many eyebrows as the sexiest Italian build. While the 36 (38’2” LOA; 12’6 beam) could be defined as a luxury day boat, accommodations in the cabin (namely, an aft cabin with double berth), make this a great choice for a couple that wants to cruise in high style on a boat that’s constructed to high standards. There’s evidence of quality construction (resin-infused hatches, a spotless engine compartment, stainless hardware all around, and fine woodwork below), and the 36 delivers solid performance, too. With a pair of MerCruisers, it should top out near 44 mph. Hot Feature: the centerline walkthrough to the swim platform, which serves to make afternoons on the anchor all the more enjoyable.
AZIMUT 50 MAGELLANO: Clean Cruiser
Azimut is perhaps best known for its fashion-forward Med-style sport cruisers, but this Italian builder also has a line of long-range boats that are clean and green cruisers. Among them is the 50, which is powered by the award-winning Easy Hybrid System that couples diesel engines with electric motors. The propulsion can move this 51’4”-long, 15’3”-wide boat at an almost silent eight knots under battery power alone. When operating on twin common-rail diesels and throttled way back, the 50 can travel more than 1,000 miles. Throttle up and the twin diesels will yield an 18-knot cruise and 22-knots at top end. The 50 has its share of slick features, too, including a choice of four accommodation plans. Hot Feature: the “bow salon” entertaining area on the foredeck, for open-air entertaining.
REGAL 28 EXPRESS: Ultimate Portability
Who says the trailerable family cruiser is a thing of the past? Regal proves you can have big fun and enjoy long weekends on a boat that can be towed behind the SUV. This 28’10”-long express has a trailerable 8’6” beam, along with a truly livable interior that’s made all the more comfortable with triangular-shaped windows that draw more natural light into what could have been a dark, cave-like space. Cruising-friendly features include an oversized head compartment with six feet of headroom (the builder calls it the largest in this LOA class) and cabin accommodations for four people. Few boats this size can offer this much living space, along with a roomy cockpit for active families. Hot Feature: the cockpit’s Ultra Lounge, a sun pad on the transom, has a four-position backrest. It serves double duty as either a full tanning bed or bench seat.
VIKING YACHTS 42 CONVERTIBLE: Cruise and Fish
Many boaters think of fishing when they think of Viking, but these boats are also top-notch cruisers. The 42 (42’7” LOA; 15’10” beam) is the entry-level model in the convertible lineup and it’s a great cruiser because of the three cabins on the accommodations level. It’s a good choice for the owner who plans to cruise with children, other couples or a few fishing buddies. The trio of cabins comes complements of the fuel-efficient pod drives that are installed farther aft, thereby freeing up more usable space. Power is a pair of 440-hp Cummins MerCruiser diesels. Cruise speed is 28 knots; top end a respectable 30. That performance is enhanced by Viking’s proven saltwater-ready hull. Here’s a boat that can make long-distance hauls for both fishing and cruising most anyplace an owner wants to take it. Hot Feature: a huge amidships stateroom.
GRAND BANKS 43 EU: Classic Trawler
If there’s an archetypal boat for cruising it’s a trawler, and Grand Banks builds some of the finest. Grand Banks is perhaps best known for its Heritage series. The newest addition to the line is the 43 Heritage EU. At 43’4” long and with a 15’8” beam, it’s the successor to the 41 EU, only the 43 offers a larger cockpit, a new second head, bigger staterooms, a roomier flybridge, and Zeus pod drives coupled to Cummins 480-hp diesels. The power produces a top speed near 25 knots and a high cruising speed of 20 knots. At the same time, the 43 EU provides a comfortable and stable ride at displacement speeds. Solid performance across a wide range of speeds comes courtesy of the modified-V hull that made the 41 so popular. Hot Feature: the 43EU is new, but it still looks the part of a classic Grand Banks with lines steeped in a nautical tradition.
SEA RAY 450 SUNDANCER: People’s Choice
If there’s one boat series that’s responsible for getting more families out cruising, it’s the Sundancer line from Sea Ray, which couples slick American styling with modern features and sporty performance for a middle-of-the-road price. At 45’5” long (13’2” beam) the 450 is in the sweet spot for serious cruising. It’s large enough to excel at most cruising missions like traveling long distances to new ports, and sitting stylishly at a yacht club or anchored out. The enclosed bridge deck, the open salon, and the aft-cabin media room allow this boat to entertain and/or sleep a crowd, all the while retaining an open and fluid layout. Shoji doors and solid-wood cabinets in the cabin make for the type of modern décor the company has built its reputation on. Then there’s the good serviceability and top-notch components, elements that attest to the quality of the build. Hot Feature: joystick-controlled Axius propulsion is standard.
BACK COVE 34: The Downeaster
Back Cove of Rockland, Maine, throttled onto the scene in 2003 in response to a demand for a simple and easy-to-use Downeast-style cruiser with the look of a lobster boat and the fuel efficiency of a single diesel. Ten years later, the line has many loyal followers: There are more than 500 of these pretty hulls roaming the world. The 34 (34’4” LOA; 12’ beam) qualifies as a top cruising boat because it offers great value and style, and the type of practical systems and features a salty Mainer admires. For overnighting, there’s an island berth and a large head with stall shower. On the helm deck, a fully galley serves a dinette for four with a pretty inlaid table that’s just one fine example of the boat builder’s dedication to craftsmanship and tradition. With a 480-hp Cummins, cruise is at 26.8 knots. Hot Feature: engine access is excellent as the helm deck, including the port-side dinette, lifts hydraulically to expose the mechanical systems below.
INTREPID 400 CUDDY: Performance Fanatic
There’s leisurely cruising, and then there’s flat-out performance in a boat equipped to accommodate a couple of passengers for a long weekend. Intrepid’s 400 Cuddy (40’ LOA; 11’1” beam) rides on the builder’s reputable stepped hull that’s built specifically for powerful outboards. This semicustom builder is known for the way it thoroughly tests each prototype hull to ensure the driver feels no intimidation when taking the helm. On the 400, that procedure produces a ride that’s balanced and solid, yet fast and light. The 400 hits 65-mph at top end with triple 350-hp Yamaha F-350′s. It can go the distance, too, with a 300-mile range. While accommodations are modest for a boat this size (there’s a convertible V-berth and amidships stateroom), the space you lose in the cabin is given over to a massive cockpit equipped for everything, from fishing to diving to entertaining. Hot Feature: a dive door in the hullside makes it easier to get in and out of the boat.
CARVER 34: Solid Value
This is one of the newest models on our list, and it’s earned a place here because it offers great value. It couples good design and great comfort in a command bridge design that’s priced very competitively. There are many other boats in its size class (the Carver is 35’6” long), but few provide the same amount of usable space within the same LOA. On the C34, you’ll find two staterooms (each with a door for privacy), homelike living areas, twin inboard engines, and enough standard equipment to make this a turnkey cruiser. Its lines are full and enhanced by the 34’s broad 13’ beam. One of our favorite spaces onboard is the salon, which is open and contemporary in style. The galley is up and located aft so you can easily serve passengers in the cockpit. Hot Feature: thanks to the full beam, Carver is able to offer wide sidedecks that are made safe with tall rails. For a full review, read Carver C34 Command Bridge Motor Yacht: Meat and Potatoes.
HATTERAS 80 COCKPIT MY: Dream Machine
Let’s assume price is no object. If we’re in search of a true yacht with the legs and luxury to enable us to travel to distant ports safely and in high-style, we’ll get behind the wheel of the Hatteras 80 Motoryacht (79’10; 21’3” beam). It has serious accommodations with full-size berths in four staterooms, a galley so spacious it’s called a “country kitchen,” a large salon with an adjacent formal dining table, and a lovely aft deck. Add to that it’s build quality, which is almost icebreaker-tough in the Hatteras tradition. As such, the 80 is designed for venturing into areas less-traveled (the Shetlands north of Scotland, anyone?), as well as more conventional cruising grounds (hello again, Caribbean). It’s all within the 80′s capabilities, as the boat is equipped with a robust fuel capacity of 2,858 gallons. Hot Feature: this Hatteras, like all of its builds, has considerable cachet. With an elegant and sophisticated layout and the room to entertain lavishly, the 80 is at ease in any port and in all company.