When you have to run right into the teeth of a sou'wester, it's nice to be on a boat that planes easily and holds plane at a low speed. Why? The former eases the pitching and plunging as the boat climbs out of the holes of steep, short-period waves. The latter takes most of the pounding and slamming out of your crossing. Fortunately, Doral's new 310 SE flashed both of these skills shortly after I left Bosun's Marine on Cape Cod and headed into a white-capped Vineyard Sound.
Equally important, the 310 SE handled calm water impressively. Response to both helm and trim was excellent. And the 310 SE posted one of the quickest top speeds for a cruiser this size: 50.3 mph. Ruggedly built and affordably priced, this stylish French-Canadian import rates must-see status for anyone shopping for a midsize cruiser.
REALITY CHECK. One thing I noticed that I didn't like was the installation of the burled-wood instrument and switch panels on the helm. They weren't sealed in place. Yes, they were fastened with plenty of screws, but there was no silicone caulk to keep water out. Grab the edge of one with your finger and pull. You'll find a gap that's big enough to allow water into the wiring below. However, that was my only complaint from the driver's seat.
THE HIGHS: Here's a cruiser that can run with the big boys. Great handling. Solid construction. Canvas is top quality. Gotta love all those sexy French curves.
THE LOWS: Footing at the anchor locker should be more stable. Stern cleats are poorly positioned. Shower sump pump's installation will make servicing difficult.
Powered by twin 280-hp Volvo Penta 5.7 Gi DuoProp stern drives, the 310 SE was a joy to run. Its moderate-V hullform, combined with the extra lift provided by the twin-propped Volvo Penta drives, got me up on plane as quick as a runabout. Then, because the boat could hold plane at just 13 mph, I was able to set a course for Gay Head without rattling my teeth.
Boats in the 310 SE's class should stay on plane and in control at 15 mph or less, with tabs and drives trimmed fully down. (Single-prop stern drives probably won't allow such low speeds because the reduced blade surface can't carry as much load.) One top competitor in this category is Sea Ray's 300 Sundancer ($155,251 with twin 260-hp MerCruiser Bravo Three stern drives).
At higher speeds, the 310 SE felt solid. Reentry was quiet; shuddering and rattling was nonexistent. Downsea, the 310 SE tracked beautifully, entered the troughs cleanly, and rose easily to each wave. If you boat on a big lake, an open sound, or the ocean, you'll love how this boat handles.
I was also pleased with the 310 SE's ability to turn 150 rpm more than the Volvos are rated for. That means when you load the boat with gear, or operate on a hot, humid day, the engines will rev right where they should.
MORE THAN MEETS THE EYE. There's hardly a flat surface anywhere aboard the boat. Graceful curves flow from bow to stern, which is great for the sake of appearance, but I'd like to see a flat foot space near the bow for handling the anchor. Both the Sea Ray 300 Sundancer and Monterey's 302 ($122,083 powered like our test boat) provide better footing at the anchor locker.
At the stern the 310 SE's extended swim platform provided secure boarding even while lugging cases of tools and test gear. A pair of pull-up cleats on each corner of the platform allows stern-to docking without cluttering the platform and provides the perfect purchase for tying off to a float when anchoring and swimming.
Unfortunately, the 6" cleats on the transom were poorly placed. The fender rack and the transom door are in the way of lines belayed to these cleats. Doral says it intends to relocate them.
Between stem and stern there's little to fault. The cockpit's U-shaped companion and helm lounges are thickly padded. And the helm lounge slides aft, increasing its capacity from four to seven. Add the filler cushion and it's a great sunpad. Leave the filler out and you have the cockpit space of a larger boat.
The wetbar's top is finished in a dark gray gel coat. It has the aesthetic appeal of granite and cuts the glare while you're slicing limes. A drip rail keeps stuff from rolling off. Open the hatch concealing the optional icemaker (part of the $8,000 Platinum Package) and notice its through-bolted hinges. Durable.
Now check out the gap above and below the hatch, which provide ventilation for the icemaker and a pass-through for your blender's power cord when it's plugged into the outlet situated here. Look closer still and you'll see the clear plastic bumpers that dampen the rattles that thin, vertical hatches are notorious for when underway. This is a terrific study in how to get the details right.
Supported by stainless-steel bows that fold against the arch (which also folds for low bridges and easy overland transport), the canvas is easy to stow. It's gasketed where it meets the windshield, and Velcro splashguards cover the zippers. Pulls are oversize for a good grip. Factory canvas often leaves much to be desired, but Doral provides one of the best canvas enclosures I've ever seen.
LE CABIN. Belowdecks, parchment-colored overhead and bulkhead coverings provide a bright setting while retaining a warm feel. Blond, bird's-eye maple cabinetry and beige settee upholstery anchor the decor.
There's standup access to the aft berth, along with a nifty vanity and a small built-in seat. Sitting headroom is ample here. Make this your bunk, and leave the V-berth and convertible dinette to your guests.
The head is to starboard, and Doral has plumbed the a/c and heat here for your convenience. This 6' boat tester felt comfortable mounting the equipment and found plenty of stowage for towels and such. A panel here provides easy service access to the helm's wiring.
It's too bad the shower sump pump, located beneath the companionway steps, is so difficult to get at. It's not the location but the installation that makes this so. The shower sump, which typically requires monthly servicing, is buried behind a tangle of hoses, pumps, and wiring. This needs to be more accessible.
While you have the companionway steps up, check out the stringers and bulkheads. All the limberholes have been sealed to prevent water intrusion. Although this is a labor-intensive step, it's a necessary one that too many boatbuilders neglect. Which, in a nutshell, illustrates the 310 SE's best attribute. With a few exceptions, this boat is designed and built with great attention to detail.
LAST WORD. Impressive craftsmanship on one fast, sexy boat.
Displacement (lbs., approx.)...12,500
Minimum cockpit depth...1'9 1/2"
Max. cabin headroom........6'3"
Fuel capacity (gal.)...............166
Water capacity (gal.)...............40
Price (w/standard power) ...............$128,000
Price (w/test power) ...............$128,000
STANDARD POWER: Twin 280-hp Volvo Penta 5.7 Gi V-8 gasoline stern drives.
OPTIONAL POWER: Twin gasoline stern drives or V-drives to 840 hp total; twin diesel stern drives or V-drives to 710 bhp total.
TEST BOAT POWER: Twin 280-hp Volvo Penta 5.7 Gi V-8 gasoline stern drives with 350 cid, 4.00" bore x 3.48" stroke, swinging F5 DuoProp propsets through 1.78:1 reductions.
STANDARD EQUIPMENT (major items): Anchor locker w/ anchor washdown; folding radar arch; cockpit wetbar; snap-in carpet; hot/cold transom shower; cedar-lined hanging lockers; CO detector; AM/FM/CD stereo w/4 speakers; VHF; depthsounder; microwave; 2-burner stove; refrigerator; shower stall; vacuum-flush commode; windshield wipers; full camper canvas enclosure; 3-battery system; battery isolator; trim tabs; water heater; 110v shorepower w/cord.