In addition to hitting certain design, structural, performance, and luxury standards, a truly good cruiser should also improve the view of the waterfront upon which it is moored. Monterey hits all these targets with its new 320 Sport Yacht. Well-fitted and equipped in style, this express handles smartly and is delightful to look at. Seeking a new midsized cruiser? You must check out this boat.
Symmetry, Harmony, Utility
Good aerodynamics aren't important to a vehicle that rarely exceeds 40 mph. The sweeps, swoops, and curves of euro-style boats are completely arbitrary, unless, of course, they appeal to your personal taste. On the other hand, if a boat is built to fulfill its mission, form follows function and the result should be a good-looking vessel.
The 320 Sport Yacht's nearly straight sheerline displays a slight reverse, the result of the bow flare worked in by the designers. This results in higher freeboard carried all the way aft, which provides more interior volume for bigger accommodations. Plus, a boat with higher freeboard rides drier, too. Check out the entry -- the bow at the waterline. From dead ahead, you'll see some convexity to the shape between the waterline and chine, particularly at a point just forward of the windshield. This helps the hull of the 320 Sport Yacht deliver the soft ride in chop I experienced while testing. A soft ride isn't all about lots of deadrise -- and with "just" 17 degrees at the transom, this boat proves it. As the bow descends into the waves, that subtle curvature allows the hull to slow down before the water hits the flat surface of the chines and slams. Boats with straight panels between keel and chine forward are arguably faster, but also wetter, plus they sink deeper and more quickly into waves before fetching up.
The radar arch is tall, square, and angular, although the leading edge of its crosspiece was given a radius. Guess what? There's plenty of room on the uprights for proper grabhandles to safely allow walking forward as well as enough space on the cross spall to mount all your antennae and lights. What's more, you don't have to duck when walking through the windshield. And those little notches at the base of the uprights might be called indulgent, but when I boarded the 320 Sport Yacht from the side off a fixed pier, these ensured a happier landing for my size 13 boat shoes.
Now stand at the helm, an area where Monterey is way ahead of the pack. Racy and highly styled, this raked panel with its matte gray finish might be written off as a mere affectation. But that low angle allows more instruments and controls to fit within a more user-friendly space: Just think of the boats you've run in which you had to drop your shoulder and reach low to hit a switch or cock your head to view a gauge through the wheel spokes. Plus, the angle and color negate glare. I'm not just talking about the "bloom" of light that causes eyestrain by reflecting off light-colored surfaces. I'm referring to the reflection of the helm console in the windshield, which worsens visibility. Dark colors don't show up in the windshield like light ones do. Many of the 320 Sport Yacht's competitors have yet to learn that lesson.
The 320 Sport Yacht's accommodations are smartly engineered, too. The cockpit TV ($3,000) is wired to the stereo for better audio quality. The canvas, secured by boltrope and track, has a rubber gasket to seal it against the windshield. The cockpit air conditioning ($5,917) has blowers at the helm and in the cockpit. Order this, and you'll appreciate the gasketed canvas more for its climate control than its weather protection. I, however, would swap out the doublewide flip bolster helm bench. Each helm seat on the Sea Ray 310 Sundancer ($206,043 with twin 300-hp MerCruiser 350 MAG Bravo Three stern drives) has its own flip bolster, allowing both skipper and mate to sit or stand independent of the other.
Of course, the 320 Sport Yacht's aft seat is tough to beat. This "sun island" is three seats in one: a sunlounge, a forward-facing cockpit seat, and a transom rumble seat. Ingeniously, it fits in with the starboard lounge to make a big, social U-shaped seat.
The aft cockpit sole is the engine hatch and lifts electrically. But there's also a manual man hatch. This allows engine access without having to displace the crew, handy if something needs checking while away from the dock. The fluorescent lighting is great, too, providing even illumination with little shadow. I was more impressed by the rigging. The wiring, plumbing, and rigging aboard Monterey's boats are robust and easily serviceable. The 320 Sport Yacht is no exception, although, it wasn't perfect. Because its lever hit a hose, the through-hull for the air conditioner's intake couldn't be closed. Monterey promised to correct this problem in production models.
Belowdecks, the 320 Sport Yacht is fitted with the features typical of larger cruisers. There's a seat to cover the commode while showering, and the ports are frosted for privacy. Like the towel bar? It's designed to withstand 400 pounds of pull, per ABYC recommendations, as are all the grabrails aboard the 320 Sport Yacht. The faux- granite vanity top overhangs its base cabinet, providing knee room while using the sink.
The refrigerator is stainless steel. The salon sole is built from composite wood. Instead of scattering the instruments and engine control modules about the boat, an equipment closet houses them all. The cabin headliner is fiberglass. Check the snack table that folds out of the settee's backrest. Now pull on the seat cushions. This sofa converts to a bed more easily and elegantly than any I've ever tested. The V-berth is full-sized. The list goes on and on. Check out the 320 Sport Yacht and complete the tally yourself.
MSRP: Standard power - $213,486 Test power - $216,902
Contact: 352.528.2628 www.montereyboats.com