The original picnic boats were converted fishing craft, between 30' and 40' long. Their size ensured a smooth ride, even if there were whitecaps dotting the bay. Plus, they were big enough for an extended family to spend the day without feeling cramped. A functional head, a modest galley, and convertible settees may have allowed for the adventure of sleeping aboard. But mostly these amenities served to enhance the pleasures of the day. The crew returned to the dock at sundown, tromped a wooded path to the house, and slept ashore, dreaming of tomorrow's boat ride.
Larson's 370 Day Cruiser is heir to that legacy-you need only look past its sleek, express cruiser lines. Topside, its arrangement is the familiar combination of lounges, wetbar, and large swim platform that facilitate partying aboard any modern express. But belowdecks the layout is atypical. It offers socializing space that can happily accommodate if you decide to turn things into a weekend event. It's a cruiser designed for the way many of Boating's readers have told us they use their boats. Are you one of those boaters?
Look forward from the 370 Day Cruiser's companionway steps. No bulkhead or hanging locker defines a forward berth. Nor is there a distinctly separate dinette. Instead a continuous lounge runs along the entire starboard side, from companionway to bow, where it fishhooks back along the port side. It ends at the galley's lighted wine cooler and glass-fronted cabinets occupying the space where you'd expect a hanging locker. A big, circular table, inset with a compass rose and varnished to a high gloss, takes the place of the typical island berth. The table is mounted on an electric pedestal. Push a button, and it drops to form a berth. But that's not the point. With the table up, you can seat eight here, another five along the starboard side, and for kicks, three or four more in the aft cabin lounge, which also converts to a berth, best suited for napping kids.
The galley features a full-size upright refrigerator. Typically, express cruisers, such as the Cruisers Yachts 360 Express ($314,570 with twin 375-hp Volvo Penta 8.1 Gi V-drives), feature an under-counter refrigerator. Larson's use of the residential-style upright unit makes the 370 Day Cruiser's galley counter shorter. But that big upright will hold a Super Bowl party's worth of snacks and drinks. Even the appliance choices drive this boat's mission home. Though about the size of that aboard a 30-footer, the galley counter does have a two-burner stove under a cutting board lid, which sadly lacks a microswitch to cut the power should the lid be closed while the burners are on. Regal's 3760 ($279,665 with twin 370-hp MerCruiser 8.1S Horizon gasoline V-drives) is equipped with this safety feature. The 370 Day Cruiser also sports a microwave and coffeemaker, plus a reasonable array of cabinets and drawers.
Another departure from the norm that helps the 370 Day Cruiser's cabin serve as a party room is its small head. To save space and maintain utility, the commode is within the shower stall. It serves as a seat when bathing.
When comparing boats, you have to consider the 370 Day Cruiser's decor. Like the layout, it's beyond the norm both in styling and in the cost of materials used. Sure, the buckskin Ultrasuede upholstery might be found aboard any number of cruisers, as would the faux-stone counters. But other features are obviously above par. That compass rose in the forward table is marquetry, not a decal beneath varnish; the electric pedestal is a large-diameter cylinder of wood, and its edge band is solid wood strip carved to look like three-strand rope. A compass rose suspended from the headliner, carved-rope crown molding above the hull windows, and rounded hullside pilasters continue the motif. Accents include a gloss wood frame for the overhead deck hatch and brass swing-arm sconces with small white shades mounted on the bulkheads. Burled-wood paneling glows, the cherry and holly sole is unique and inviting, and the vessel sink in the head is sure to evoke praise. This cabin could be your new favorite seaside watering hole-without a moldy fishing net mucking up the ambience. Add in the standard 32" flat-screen TV, the wine cooler, and the lighted glassware cabinet, plus mechanical niceties like Nibral props and digital engine controls, and you can see where the money is.
The 370 Day Cruiser's mission recalls many boats of yore, and its decor may further evoke that spirit, but its performance, like its angular profile, is modern. Twin 370-hp MerCruiser 8.1S Horizon DTS V-drive inboards power this boat to 36.2 mph. Its 173-mile range at 30 mph gives it long enough legs to explore plenty of shoreline in a day's run, or, more likely, provide three or four day-long trips before needing to refuel. However, you might want to run a little faster.
At speeds under 4200 rpm (32 mph on test day) the 370 Day Cruiser boat sits back on its heels more than is typical. Inordinate inclination, coupled with thick, high, chaise-style bow lounges, impairs visibility from the helm. I had to stand to see except at wide open throttle.
Minnesota's St. Croix River didn't challenge the 370 Day Cruiser's ability to handle chop. But I'd bet that its 22-degree deadrise would make mush out of the rough stuff. Back at the dock, it spun easily into the slip, better than some, as the props aren't buried in overly deep pockets, and that deep-V, deeper than most, acts like a keel. Hey, that's one more link with the day boats of old.