DESIGN DRIVE. The 323's seating placement also raises the freeboard to a point that could have been unattractive. But Cobalt mostly hid the height by trading its signature straight sheer for a reverse sheer. This looks good in profile but affects the shape of the bow to the detriment of those walking out on the foredeck. It's a steep slope-I measured a 9-degree incline-tapering to a narrow triangle at the anchor locker. Both the Regal 3350 and Formula's 330 Sun Sport ($204,270 powered like our tester) offer much more secure foredecks on which to handle lines and rode.
Getting on the 323's bow is no problem, however. A set of stairs slides from its hiding place in the companionway to provide secure footing. Moving aft, you'll note more cool engineering at the triple-wide companion lounge, where flip-flop backrests morph into an aft-facing recliner. Farther aft, the cockpit table swings out from a lounge backrest (you'd never know it was there) on a heavy stainless-steel assembly. At the platform you'll find another flip-flop backrest, this one serving the aft lounge or flipping out of the way to make a three-tanner sunpad. That sunpad, made of dense, high-quality foam, flips open in two places, revealing a huge cooler and bulk stowage. The neatest bit of hardware is the swim step. Mounted on the centerline, a stainless-steel pipe with a step at its bottom flips out and down, extending 1'10" below the waterline. It makes boarding easy. And because the step is the size of a bicycle seat, you can sit astride it, facing the boat, and use the swim platform as a bar. I suggest having Cobalt install a couple more of these, which they will do, for "wet" bar purposes. An actual wetbar, with refrigerator, hot and cold sink, cutting board, and stowage, resides in the cockpit.
Getting to the engines beneath their electric hatch was easy, and I found almost all service points at my fingertips. An exception being the main breakers, which were clumsily installed high and forward. In fact, they're mounted to the back of the abovedeck battery switch locker. Simply installing the mains on the other side of the bulkhead they're already mounted to would make access easy. Cobalt agreed, saying the location would be changed on forthcoming boats. But check it out to make sure. My only other gripe topside related to the under-lounge stowage. This drains to the bilge, but with the 323's high freeboard, there's no reason not to make these compartments self-bailing.
KOZY KABIN. Most adults won't stand up straight in the 323's cabin. Nor will they in the Formula or Regal for that matter. Aboard dayboats, such height isn't a requirement. But luxury is hardly forsaken. You'll find faux-ostrich coverings, a huge V-lounge smothered in Austrian leather, a comfortable head, and a minimalist galley. There's even an MP3 port installed, the first I've seen aboard a boat. A couple could spend the night, but have no delusions about camping with the kids. This cabin, like this boat, is ideal for those who boat in four-hour doses.
EXTRA POINT: Cobalt uses LED lighting topside for efficiency and durability, yet uses incandescent fixtures belowdecks for the warmer glow these "old-fashioned" lights provide.