The blues has B.B., basketball has Bird, and literature has the Bard. Dayboating? For power touring the lake - skiing, partying, entertaining - Cobalt has long set the standard. Why? Because of its high construction, finish, and performance criteria. The company starts off with the same raw materials - the same notes, the same ball, the same language - as everyone else. But at the end of the day what it produces is something...more. As a result, the cost of sitting at the helm of a Cobalt is akin to the price of a courtside seat during the playoffs.
But with the introduction of the 360, Cobalt's playing a different venue. The construction values are still there, along with the lofty price and performance. And though it provides overnight accommodations, it's by no means destined to be a weekend cruiser for four, despite its LOA. What's different about the 360 is that its hullform, size, and range make taking the gang say, to the Bahamas or across Lake Michigan just for lunch a viable option. It's a bluewater boat that doesn't forsake a dayboat's focus on cockpit amenities in favor of a cruiser's sleeping capacity. No, it's not perfect. But then, even B.B. misses note now and then.
NEW CATEGORY? Cobalt is not alone in recognizing the needs of amenity-oriented boaters who enjoy big water in small clips. Formula's 370 Super Sunsport ($261,450 with twin 415-hp MerCruiser 502 MAG MPI Bravo Three stern drives) is probably the most direct comparison. Like the stepped-hull 370 Super Sunsport, the Cobalt features a wave-slicing hullform and high-horsepower engine packages so you can traverse big water comfortably, confidently, and quickly.
THE HIGHS: Run it. Dayboating comes to the big water. A serendipitous mix of amenities and accommodations. Construction values are topnotch.
THE LOWS: Test boat proved sensitive to drive trim. Remote-mounted water-separating fuel filters are needed. High topsides incongruous on such a quick performance boat.
Turn the keys, slip the lines, and see for yourself. Twin 415-hp MerCruiser 502 MAG MPI Bravo Three stern drives make the 360 levitate horizontally onto plane before riding on its lines. Acceleration throughout the power band, even near its 57.6-mph top end, is exhilarating. Say "Jump!" and the 360 asks, "How high?" This is a necessary attribute for staying ahead of the big seas a bluewater dayboat like this might encounter. Ironically, as a result of not enough transom angle to allow the drives to fully tuck under, our prototype test boat had a limited trim range. Trimming up more than a skootch caused the boat to porpoise. Cobalt promises that this problem will be rectified, either in the mold or by shimming the drives on production models. Despite the glitch, the 360 held plane at just 17 mph. The ability to stay on top at low speeds is important in an open-water boat so it can maintain control in rough seas. Most boats rely on maximum negative trim to stay on plane at that slow speed. That the Cobalt could achieve this, and plane so effortlessly, is a testament to the veracity of the hullform's design and the boat's balance overall. Want further confirmation? Run it through the wake-wave, slop-chop we did at WOT. Now, tell me you wouldn't be comfortable piloting this boat offshore.
ON A MISSION. So, you can take it on Buzzard's Bay or Lake of the Ozarks when wind and wakes keep other boats in their slips. But how does it fare as a party platform? Step onto the teak swim platform (option pricing for the 360 had not been established at press time) and stroll through the wide centerline walkway. There's no scuttling over a sunpad as you would aboard a go-fast. In fact, the transition from swim platform to sunpad to cockpit is seamless. Run this scenario: With the hook set in a quiet cove, you leave the helm. Popping an hors d'oeuvre in your mouth as you pass the Corian-topped wetbar, you strip off your shirt and dive overboard. Having checked the dash-mounted water temperature and depth gauges, you know the water is just right. You come up smiling as your two teenagers and their friends sun themselves on the aft sunlounge. Elbows on the platform now, you adjust the stereo's volume using the optional transom-mounted remote. You smile at your wife who is rattling ice cubes in her gin and tonic, despite the fact that she's reclining at the companion lounge opposite the helm. On the way home, no one feels left out. Unlike many cruisers, this dayboat provides a view of where the boat's headed from every luxuriously upholstered seat in the cockpit.
Ergonomic balance of this order is an intangible. But there are some facts to which we can point. One of these is the 360's deck profile. From the rubrail, below which the deck joins the hull, you'll note that the deck rises almost vertically rather than curving inboard as on most other boats. This produces an interior cockpit width we taped at 9'11" - as wide as those aboard boats sporting a 12' beam. Of course, this eliminates the sidedecks you might find aboard a similarly sized cruiser. By making the 360 look too high in profile, we could argue that this detracts from its otherwise sleek looks. But that's another intangible. Because at 9'6" to the top of the arch (11' with our test boat's radar installed), its bridge clearance is lower and its lines sportier than a conventional express cruiser's.
Still, the 360 is very much a dayboat, so don't expect a cruiser's accommodations belowdecks. For instance, the cabin offers just 6' of headroom and a mid-cabin berth that's best suited for stowage. Its highly raked, performance-oriented bow stem means there's less stowage below the Ultraleather V-berth. The focus here is on the head, which, with shower and faux-granite lid concealing the commode, we found to be as comfortable as those aboard 40-footers. Another positive factor is the wedge-shaped, faux-granite-topped galley, which is an ideal spot for making snacks and sandwiches. Fine carpentry describes the hardwood shelves and cabinets. A fiddle on the dinette table kept the soda I spilled from caffeinating my notes. This is a boat for those who already have a waterfront cottage, not those seeking a floating variation of one.
BULLETPROOF. With details such as a Kevlar-reinforced hull and engines mounted on through-bolted beds that span the inboard side of its fiberglass stringers, the 360 is built as well as it's finished. We took exception to the lack of remote fuel/water separators. Our test boat relied upon a pair of engine-mounted primaries. Secondaries, with inspection bowls, could easily be mounted in the compartment for the optional genset just forward of the engine room bulkhead.
Another big dayboat is Sunseeker's 34 Superhawk ($284,551 with twin MerCruiser 502 MAG MPIs). This has a standard teak cockpit and platform and a 240-volt AC system, which decreases the amperage used by accessories; the 360 offers a 110-volt system. Given the existence of the Sunseeker and the Formula, we can't say that Cobalt owns the big-water, day-cruising category. But it should share equal billing with some very good company.
LAST WORD: The powerboat enthusiast's perfect complement to a waterfront home.
Displacement (lbs., approx) ........10,500
Transom deadrise ..22º
Minimum cockpit depth...11"
Max. cabin headroom..6'0"
Fuel capacity (gal.)...174
Water capacity (gal.)..35
Price (w/standard power) ........$217,905
Price (w/test power) ........$245,523
STANDARD POWER:Twin 315-hp Volvo Penta 5.7 GXi/SX V-8 gasoline stern drives.
OPTIONAL POWER: Twin MerCruiser or Volvo Penta gasoline stern drives to 940 hp total; twin Yanmar diesel stern drives to 600 bhp total.
TEST BOAT POWER: Twin 415-hp MerCruiser 502 MAG MPI Bravo Three V-8 gasoline stern drives with 502 cid, 4.47" bore x 4.00" stroke, swinging 26" pitch Bravo Three ss propsets through 2:1 reductions.
STANDARD EQUIPMENT(major items): Bimini top; leather tilt wheel; Auto-retract trim tabs w/indicators; power helm seat; Zero-Effort controls; AM/FM/CD stereo w/6 speakers and remote; air compressor; icemaker; removable cockpit carpet; bow scuff plate; head w/ shower; microwave; refrig erator/freezer; single-burner stove; water heater; battery charger; dual 30-amp shorepower.