Drop any number of names on Rinker's new 310 Express Cruiser: weekender, peoplepleaser, portable vacation station. I prefer to call it a switch-hitter, a more-than-competent boat at serving two primary cruising functions. First, it's the largest-volume cruiser for its length that I've tested, with enough space to sleep eight for a weekend and stow all their gear, plus food and supplies, in an organized fashion. Yet, some nifty engineering applied to the topsides arrangement also makes it ideal for those whose boating pleasure comes from entertaining a crowd for a day on the bay. Doubling the possibilities for using the boat means more value.
Step onto the swim platform and settle into the rumble seat. It's a great place to view the harbor while nursing a sundowner. Move the lines from the boat-mounted cleats to the pop-up cleats mounted on the platform's aft edge, and you can mill about without playing jumprope. The four-step ladder, a rung more than many cruisers sport, eases reboarding after a dip.
Swing open the transom door. The cockpit galley's solid-surface counter is fiddled so your salsa won't slide off when you're rocked by a wake. a hidden blender flips into service from below. The sink is lidded, and a shelved locker resides below (many of the stowage areas aboard the boat are shelved, providing better organization than builders who simply provide large, open spaces). There's also room for an optional grill, plus your choice of either the ice maker or refrigerator/freezer options. In the backsplash are electric battery switches. Close to the boarding door, this location is convenient for powering up when coming aboard or powering down after buttoning up.
The amenities keep coming. The aft lounge offers sitting, reclining and laying-out positions. The long portside lounge can seat a crowd. slide out its optional filler to create a cockpit sun pad in the european style. now swivel the helm bench to face aft, and you've created a conversation pit. This arrangement, plus standard camper canvas, means you can party on despite the weather.
I wasn't overjoyed with the little 6-inch-by-6-inch bow-access steps, though the big, wide helm console and equally generous companionway might have suffered were the steps larger. once forward, I found the pitch of the bow pleasantly shallow. The windlass is fitted with foot switches and hides beneath a hatch.
Go belowdecks. The companionway's sliding screen allows passengers to keep cool without air conditioning or a fly swatter.
The cabin sleeps five: two in the V-berth, two in the aft cabin and old uncle bernie on the convertible salon settee by simply pulling out the filler. The V-berth is ringed with cabinets instead of shelves. a changing seat is incorporated into the aft cabin entry. The galley features a backsplash recess for stowing bulky items like chips and paper towels. A residential-size trash can, one of three aboard, fits below. Full overlay cabinet doors provide a clean, frameless look. Plenty of light, ventilation and blond-laminate woodwork accented by brushed-nickel hardware invoke a fresh feel.
The head is a fiberglass module for ease of maintenance. The deep vanity, a vent port and ample throne room provide function. A faux-granite console inset plus the upholstered mirror frame lend style. Express cruiser design rightly prioritizes accommodation space over ride quality and performance. a full bow, lots of windage and a wide beam do not a sea boat make. That said, the 310 express cruiser attained plane smoother than most. It climbed imperceptibly over its bow wave and didn't abruptly drop into its running attitude. In Lake Erie chop, I deemed a 26 mph head-sea speed truly comfortable. At higher speeds, the boat didn't groan, though a green crew in rougher conditions might have. The boat, in essence, can take more abuse than its crew.
Running at all points of sea - upwind, downwind and on the beam - and using various trim and speed settings, and even pulling hard-over turns at full throttle, the boat exhibited no handling foibles. you could hand the helm to your teenager while checking the paper chart.
Emphasis on space is thankfully carried into the engine bay. Touch a switch. The aft cockpit rises for wide-open serviceability. for a quick stick check, lift the day hatch. narrow but wide, you can get to the front of each engine through this without having to duck beneath the console. Though the aft bilge pump will be painful to service, seacocks, filters, the water heater, batteries and other maintenance points were easy to grab. High on the bulkhead, the main ground buss is as dry and accessible as can be for this first stop in an electrical troubleshooting regimen. The shower sump and forward bilge pump, located beneath the aft berth, are a cinch to service.
Just a few months earlier we tested Sea Ray's 310 Sundancer, which achieved nearly identical performance as the Rinker, topping out at 45.1 mph with twin 260 hp MerCruiser 5.0L MPI Seacore Bravo Three sterndrives ($172,900). These netted about 15 percent better economy across the cruising band. It carries 6 inches less beam and is some 600 pounds lighter. still, the 350 MAGS in my Rinker, also available for the Sea Ray, might be a better choice in real-world conditions: loaded with owner gear, a full crew, the canvas erect and sporting some bottom growth. (In fact, I tested the Rinker in the swell and chop of Lake Erie, while the Sea Ray test was conducted on the flat water of Tennessee's Little Tellico River, showing how performance varies with power and sea conditions.) Sea Ray's bow access was easier, though the transom platform stowage held some water, whereas that aboard the Rinker drained completely. The Sea Ray has a neat dinette booth instead of the traditional settee found aboard the Rinker. Sea trial both and you make the call.
Contact: 574-457-5731, www.rinkerboats.com