When you're checking out 30' to 35' cruisers, there are many attributes to consider-performance, range, and comfort, among others-but for most families with a couple of kids, one requirement stands above all others: stowage capacity.
Do I sound crazy? Consider this. You've stowed everything you need for a weekend cruise, but there's still a backpack full of Power Rangers action figures sitting on the dock. Know what I mean?
You won't have that problem in Carver's 33 Super Sport. This is a boat with strong performance, lots of features, and plenty of comfort, but its biggest strength is-without a doubt-stowage capacity. I've seen 50-footers that hold less.
Let's start in the cockpit, where a hatch in the port decking unveils a 2'-by-1'6"-by-1' removable bin. Nearby is a locker measuring 2'11"-by-1'7"-by-1'2", and even in the port bridge stairs is a 2'4"-by-1'6"-by-1'2" box. Up top, forward of the helm are two lockers that span 3'-by-1'3"-by-1'3". These are wide open so you can customize them with plastic tubs or strapped-down toolboxes. Forward of the salon lounge is a 2'-by-10"-by-2' locker with a hatch that needs to be supported by a gas strut or kickstand when raised. In the base of the dinette seating is a massive 2'8"-by-11"-by-12" drawer. Finally, in the forward stateroom are two hanging lockers, plus fiddled shelves in the base of the berth.
Not only is there plenty of stowage in the 33SS, but this is also the first boat I've seen in the last year with fiddle rails on all the lockers. Plus, all routine maintenance items such as the shower sump and head plumbing are easily accessed.
GOING IN. In the engine compartment, convenience reigns. The engines are mounted on aluminum L-angles through-bolted to the molded fiberglass bearers. Inspection hatches provide access to the backing bolts. Strainers are forward, and battery switches are aft between the motors. Hoses are double-clamped per ABYC guidelines, but the wires and cables should have been better supported and more neatly loomed.
Abaft the engine compartment, the lazarette provides access to the genset, batteries in a plastic box, water tank, and steering system. Kudos to Carver for sealing the trim tab lines from the inboard side of the transom.
A single cockpit locker houses the shorepower cord and utilities connections-just reach in and grab what you need. To make your way forward, there are passageways with ½"-tall bulwarks and stainless-steel rails. I like that the lower stanchion is a steel rail, not a cable. The bow cushion fastens into position with beads and tracks, not snaps.
Like its bigger sibling, the 38SS, the 33SS' bridge layout features lounge seating forward of the helm. It's a convenient way for the skipper to keep an eye on his passengers and to stay involved in family conversations. Mom can sit alongside dad at the helm, while the kids hang out up front. I didn't like the absence of a hatch to close off the bridge, which Carver said would be a special-request item. The instruments are in faux burled-wood panels that effectively reduce glare, and everything is in clear view.
On the water, the 33SS is a great boat for someone stepping up to his first twin-screw cruiser. It handles predictably at cruising speeds and admirably slices through wakes from larger yachts. When lining up to back into the slip, the 33SS responded well to frequent gear shifts without overreacting.
Looking at other 33' to 35' cruisers? Check out Silverton's 330 Sport Bridge, which retails for $211,625 with twin 375-hp Crusaders. That sounds like a big savings until you realize that a generator, two-zone air conditioning, CD stereo with 10-disc changer, windlass, icemaker, and flat-screen TVs in the salon and stateroom are options. They're all standard on the Carver. Meridian's 341 ($258,300 with twin 320-hp MerCruiser MX 6.2 MPIs) comes with a generator, but you still have to pay extra for an icemaker on the bridge and a TV in the stateroom.
EAT AND SLEEP. New for 2006, Carver switched the oversize dinette in the salon for a second stateroom. The 33SS' salon remains spacious with Ultraleather recliners to starboard when you first enter and the entertainment center with 20" flat-screen TV to port. Forward to port, the galley covers the basics, and a highlight is the nearly full-size refrigerator.
The head is also to port with a standup shower, electric commode, and towel stowage. Don't grab the towel rack in rough seas-it's not strong enough to provide support. Usually I gripe about the lack of an air-conditioning vent in the head, but remember, this is a 38' boat. Close the salon hatch, open the entry into the stateroom, and the cool air from the cabin will clear the head area quickly.
Because a queen-size berth limits room in the stateroom on a boat this size, Carver smartly used shelves in the base instead of drawers that need to be pulled out. The aforementioned twin hanging lockers are spacious, and there's even a small lounge where you can sit down to get dressed. The 15" TV is a welcome touch that lets mom and dad cozy up in the stateroom, have some privacy, and watch something other than Power Rangers.
EXTRA POINT: On a less-than-40'-long cruiser, space is at a premium, so Carver used a new Kenmore product called the Brew N Wave, a microwave oven with a built-in coffeemaker.