Eschewing the ubiquitous centerline path, the off-center bow walkway of the Cruisers Sport Series 328 struck me as smart. While the asymmetry of this bowrider-with-a-cabin’s deck plan might give some boaters pause, testing revealed myriad merits to the layout. For details plus opinion regarding its construction and performance, read on.
During 2013, no less than five boat manufacturers debuted outsize bowriders that incorporated belowdecks accommodations. In addition to Cruisers Sport Series, Chaparral, Cobalt, Formula, Monterey and Regal build these big, sporty day boats. We also know of some even larger models in development and due to debut during 2014. The longest of the current crop, Formula’s 350 CBR ($353,910 powered like my test boat) also utilizes off-center bow access.
These day boats target boaters who ply big water, with a big crew, and crave the ability to keep everyone comfortable, happy and entertained for a long day afloat. That description may be obvious given that berths and galleys are incorporated into a supersize design. But you must run a boat like the 328 to really get it — that is, to fully appreciate the amalgamated goodness that comes from the amenity-rich bigness.
Twin 380 hp MerCruiser Bravo Three sterndrives hustled all five tons of the 328 across Green Bay at 55 mph. The 328 hurtled onto plane, and though test day dawned muggy and still, we crossed our own wake at successively faster speeds looking for the point of pounding and didn’t find it. Hard-over turns were executed at speeds to 40 mph.
Visibility from the 328’s helm is 360 degrees of awesome, whether docking, snaking through a crowded harbor or running in open water. Unlike aboard many bowriders, the skipper is not forced to stand to see over guests’ heads while running. That’s because the 328 features a step down into the bow cockpit. This also provides for deep, secure seating. High backrests enhance crew comfort, yet do so without obscuring the view from the helm. The seating also provides psychological comfort: You feel like you are in, rather than on, the boat. There is room for eight in the bow.
You can fill the bow lounge to create a sun bed, similar to the “playpens” popular aboard wake boats. These cushions, as well as a table, tuck into the capacious stowage built in beneath the lounges. There is a wind-blocking door in the walkway, to the bow, though we feel this needs a latch to keep it closed and rattle-free. Just below the door, a hatch in the step-down opens to reveal a trash can. Forward, we discovered a deep anchor locker concealing a windlass.
At the boat show or showroom, take a minute to remove the trash can and peer into the bilge. Take another to stick your head into the anchor locker and look around. You’ll discover that neat-seamed biaxial fabric is used in the laminate and that fasteners securing hull and deck actually penetrate both flanges and are spaced properly; you’ll see the use of high-quality heavy-walled hose — double-clamped, of course. You’ll find wires chafe-protected, properly supported and terminated with crimped and sealed connections intended to last. You’ll see room enough for several hundred feet of anchor rode. These are signs of quality that even a novice can see. Take the same time aboard competitive craft and compare. Cruisers builds a very nice boat.
The cockpit also boasts abundant amenity. There is a double-wide articulating lounge either side of the bow walkway, serving as helm and companion seats while cruising. Pulling a tube? Spin the portside seat around for your spotter. Anchored in the cove? Spin both seats around and, in conjunction with the aft lounge, a conversation pit is created. With the bow lounge’s capacity to seat an additional eight, I envision this boat serving as the center of the action in a raft-up.
The aft lounge provides a seamless transition to the oversize swim platform. It’s an electrically convertible chaise that forms what I’ll call a triple-wide sun pad. Run your hands across the upholstery and note the rich mix of texture and the triple stitching that accompanies the colors. A transom walkway is to starboard.
Head belowdecks and you’ll at once understand the logic for the off-center bow access: It allows for one big cabin instead of the split accommodation arrangement found aboard other gigabowriders, like Chaparral’s 32-foot-6-inch by 10-foot 327 SSX ($247,320 powered like my tester). Here we discovered an L-shaped settee that converts to a queen berth; an enclosed head with shower and a cool-looking clear sink; a flat-screen TV; and, for cooking, a sink, refrigerator ($2,140) and microwave ($550). Options include air-conditioning ($4,795), an inverter ($3,915) and a gas or diesel generator (starting at $17,485).
The 328’s cabin is quite roomy, and headroom, at 6 feet, is generous. Couple its size with a pair of skylights plus opening ports, and any notion of “cave” is quickly dispelled.
Boats like the Cruisers Sport Series 328 make so much sense for so many boaters. But there’s more to making a good one than lopping off the front of a cruiser’s cabin, upholstering the berth with exterior fabric and calling it a bowrider. Overall, the Cruisers Sport Series 328 rates as one of the best in this new and burgeoning class of pleasure boat.