BOAT TEST: CRUISECRAFT 530 EXPLORER
With its new Explorer 530 model, Queensland boatbuilder CruiseCraft launches the first of a new generation of boats. What’s more, says Warren Steptoe, these designs will gradually be introduced across the range.
TEST: CRUISECRAFT 530 EXPLORER
At first glance the Explorer 530 certainly looks familiar - it could be described as "classic" CruiseCraft in the way its sheerline curves just like the larger Explorer models do. However, closer inspection reveals there are some changes. The hull, for instance, is noticeably deeper through the forefoot and has a lower cabin line. Compared to previous models of similar size, the 530 also has significantly more interior space, while below the chines the revision retains CruiseCraft's tried and proven underwater shape.
That makes sense because CruiseCraft's Explorer and Outsider models, as well as the Resort and Executive models, have long been recognised in the industry for sharing one of the best small boat hull designs in the business. It's a design that can be scaled up and down appropriately thanks to state-of-the-art production technologies recently introduced by the third generation members of the Nichols family, which has owned the company since 1946.
CruiseCraft has come a long way since Roy Nichols began building boats more than 50 years ago, and three generations of boatbuilding skill will become evident once you have a closer look inside the Explorer 530.
The mouldings comprising the interior are especially complex. It takes a bit of looking and thinking about what you see to comprehend the way they work together to facilitate the fitout and future servicing. The way appropriate panels can be removed (unlike with most other boats) must have consumed jaw dropping amounts of costly development time.
However, that pales to insignificance compared to how the interior mouldings work with each other (maybe "bond with each other" is a better description).
If you look closely you'll discover that the interior mould continues right up to where the hull and upper deck moulds join, effectively forming a "tub" inside the hull. When pressurised structural foam is pumped into the gap between the hull and this interior moulding, the whole thing becomes a single unit with formidable strength and integrity.
And out on the water it shows. The Explorer 530 was unbelievably quiet across the kind of chop that normally creates lots of rattling noises from water crashing against the hull. Another thing you'll probably notice only after it's brought to your attention is a lack of little graunches and creaks found in lesser hulls as their various parts flex against each other.
Across choppy water this new "unitising" technology, as some call it, means exactly that - the hull acts as a singular unit. It's innovative, it's industry leading, but most of all it's awesome! It also means the Explorer 530 meets the stringent international CE Certification standard, something few Aussie-built boats can boast.
ATTENTION TO DETAIL
Stepping away from the boat's structure, impressive though it is, I was delighted to find the attention to detail involved in developing this first new generation CruiseCraft was evident in other areas as well.
For example, the clears fitted between the windscreen frame and bimini top to shelter the helm area in our test boat were fastened with sail track. This is a great way to prevent chill drafts and spray from sneaking through in the way it does with traditional press-stud fastenings. Looking up, I found that the neatly crafted bimini top overhanging the windscreen provided the sort of shade that was equivalent to wearing a hat. Which I suppose you are. Kind of...
Maintaining a decent size cockpit for fishing in a 5.3m boat means the Explorer 530's cuddy has to be more about sheltered stowage space than about the cabin. The cockpit is actually quite deep for a 5.3m boat, with space around the periphery for supporting your legs and digging in your toes. It's an exceptionally well-balanced design that was clearly designed by anglers.
The aft bulkhead features a foldaway lounge with a transom door portside, a baitwell to starboard and the mandatory baitboard perched in the centre.
In the helm area, the optional frame-mounted seats visible in the test boat can store tackle boxes and iceboxes underneath. On the dash, plenty of space is available for the big GPS/sounder units preferred by serious offshore fishers. There's a second (smaller) upper dash area for engine instrumentation with provision for a marine radio off to one side. Our test boat had a GME VHF in situ there.
Underfloor, between the helm and passenger seats, is a spacious locker that is ideal for storing bulky items like snorkelling gear. A floatswitch-actuated bilgepump, battery leads, isolator switch, and an EPIRB are all standard. Other standards items include: a fire extinguisher; nav lights; aft boarding ladder; transom door; stainless steel bowrail; windscreen grabrail (vital in offshore boats); quality compass; carpet in the cockpit; and a 130lt underfloor tank with a dash-mounted gauge.
Considering the quality and comprehensiveness of all this standard equipment, CruiseCraft boats aren't the cheapest new models around - but you get what you pay for.
The test model was a $57,200 package set up by Brisbane CruiseCraft dealer Wynnum Marine. It had a 115hp Yamaha four-stroke, the previously mentioned seat frames, plumbing for the livebait tank, and a deckwash. It also came with the transom workbench, bimini top, and rodrack.
As for performance? CruiseCraft has designed the Explorer 530 to perform well with 115hp motors - and that it did. Minimum planing speed measured on the GPS was 6.4kts (11.7kmh) at 2600rpm. Fuel efficient roughwater cruising speeds between 11-19kts (20.4-35.2kmh) needed 3500 and 4000rpm respectively, while top speed with a 17in pitch Yamaha prop was 35kts (64.7kmh) at 6100rpm.
On top of all that, there's more good news for people who don't own 4WD tow vehicles. One of the design requirements for the CruiseCraft 530 Explorer was that its towing weight remains around 1600kg, allowing for it to be moved on single-axle trailers by medium size sedans.
Is there anything not to like about CruiseCraft's Explorer 530? No sir!
On the plane...
Standard equipment inventory
Ease of fitup and future service
Great fishing-friendly layout
Formidable structural integrity
Dragging the chain...
Nothing to report
Specifications: Cruisecraft 530 Explorer
Priced from: $48,500
Options fitted: Seat frame, bimini top and rocket launcher, transom workbench, plumbing for baitwell and deckwash
Price as tested: $57,209
Type: Deep-vee monohull
Material: GRP laminates
Length: 5.3m (5.76m LOA)
Towing weight (BMT): Approx. 1600kg
Min. HP: Not specified (115hp recommended)
Max. HP: 140hp
Make/model: Yamaha F115A four-stroke
Type: 16-valve, DOHC, four-cylinder, in-line
Rated HP: 115
Gearbox ratio: 2.15:1
Propeller: Yamaha s/s 17in pitch
1308 Lytton Road
Hemmant, Qld, 4174
Tel: (07) 3390 4877
31 Fox St
Wynnum, Qld, 4178
Tel: (07) 3396 9777
Originally published in TrailerBoat 264.
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