There's an aspect of a boat, rated on a scale of one to 10, that I call "Stu's Functionality Quotient." You won't find this in Chapman's and certainly not in Webster's, but as far as I'm concerned, it's as important as the seamanship or the correct vernacular found in those two august volumes. It works this way: The first indicator is whether the boat looks like it's suited for its mission. At the dock, go-fasts for instance, appear to be straining at the leash. There's no mistaking a proper fishboat, either. It bristles with fish-battling armaments. And take those big, lumbering trawlers. Watching them sit at the dock, there's no question what they're designed for: sitting at the dock.
Express cruisers? They should look fast and homey at the same time. That's not easy. Some of them mimic sleek-profiled sportboats with "amenities" shoehorned inside, or conversely, are bulbous, high-windage creations on Aronow-inspired bottoms. Either way, express cruisers are low-ranked on the lookability scale.
Often, they fail the next indicator also. That's allowing me to get from one end of the boat to the other and from below to topsides without feeling that I'm negotiating the Via Dolorosa.
THE HIGHS: An easy-handling, well finished family cruiser with a high-performance edge. Hands-free ground tackle and acres of deck space. Not a sharp edge in sight.
THE LOWS: Careful with your docklines, that spotlight's in harm's way. How about a privacy curtain for the forward berth? Don't expect fast holeshots.
NO CROSS TO BEAR. Fortunately, Chris-Craft's design team must have had my functionality quotient in mind when it created the new 32 Crowne. Dockside, the Crowne's straightish sheer and swept-back standard radar arch give it an aura of sleekness that cunningly conceals its 6'2" salon headroom and acres of livability below. That's a near-10 on my first indicator. As far as the ability to wander around without breaking your chops? Double digits here, also. The cockpit, for instance, with its L-shaped starboard/transom and port-lounge seating - an all-hands-sized cooler neatly fits under the port bench - is deckboat-sized and will easily seat eight. And that's not counting the driver's adjustable sitdown/bolster bench with room for three, fronted by a two-tiered wood-grained instrument cluster. A smart-thinking see-through shelf will keep a chart folded and flat in front of you at all times. That bench allows the driver to sit toward the center with his two mates to starboard. However, it can be a pinch for the far-right passenger to exit without squeezing through a bench door behind or over the skipper.
Moving forward through the swingout windshield is a step-up cinch, too. The shield supports are solid stainless and well-backed. Don't expect it to wave goodbye after a few of your hefty pals use it as a jungle gym. Although handholds, also well-backed, are strategically placed along the companionway, it's a good idea to keep that hatch shut when foredeck bound while underway.