By: JEFF STRANG, Photography by: ELLEN DEWAR

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  • Trade-A-Boat

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The new Cutwater 28 from the US takes the classic sedan cruiser concept and gives it an adventure makeover. Explore new horizons, overnight or weekend at a favourite bolthole, and when formalities arise she doubles as every bit the smart-looking entertainer.


It was one of the times when a brochure showing some interesting boats for sale crosses your desk and you just feel compelled to pick up the phone and find out more. It was from Cutwater Boats. And a few things caught my eye.

The colours added appeal (believe me, in this business you sure get tired of white), and I’ve always been a sucker for the trademark lines synonymous with boats from the northwestern United States. Designers up there have a knack of drawing boats that blend good, honest working-class ethics with the refinement needed to win the hearts of the demanding go-anywhere recreational owner.

While the Cutwater range specifically is almost brand-new – released about 18 months ago in the States – this is not the first boat the company has produced. Seattle-based Fluid Motion LLC, the parent company for Cutwater, is also responsible for Ranger Tugs.

Trade-a-Boat reviewed the Ranger 27 late last year and if you saw Kevin Smith’s review (it’s available on under boat tests) you would see this is no Batman and Robin relationship. But although the Ranger Tug and the Cutwater 28 couldn’t take more contrary approaches superficially, the similarities run surprisingly deep – more on the shared positives later.


Just to dispel any confusion, there is no relationship between Ranger Tugs and the Cutwater 28 in Australia. The importer for the Cutwater 28 is Sydney-based Aeromil Marine. Interestingly, this is the company’s first foray into the boating sector, having built an impressive reputation in the aeronautical industry selling and servicing luxury aircraft like the Citation range of private jets.

I think it’s safe to say when playing at that end of extravagance and precision you know how to do things well and with 30 years in the private jet business, this is a team with well-honed skills. Chatting to managing director Steve Padgett, I got the feeling he is extremely proud of what the company has achieved and works hard stay at the top of the industry. A brochure he showed me contained all manner of sexy top-of-bill accessories on show at the Sydney CBD office, including some pretty fancy cars, so the Cutwater 28 really does complete a trio of offerings perfectly.

For Steve the Cutwater 28 is one of those "I liked the product so much I bought the company" deals.


It pretty quickly became apparent a glance wasn’t going to be enough to cover the detail on this boat, which is after all relatively small by Trade-a-Boat standards. Even before you step aboard the outfitting is impressive. A full circle at the dock revealed a clever beaching ladder hidden away under the bowsprit which sits atop a fully enclosed anchoring system. Abundant handholds are in place to ensure accessing the bow via the gunwales is as safe as can be expected.

Hanging off these handholds allowed an inspection of the roof, which revealed a notable complement of quality accessories including a stainless steel remotely-operated Jabsco spotlight, a foldaway mast complete with a Garmin radome and TracVision satellite receiver, and a fairly significant solar panel perfect for keeping the batteries in good health on the mooring, while back aft on the swimstep three permanently-fixed fenders caught my eye.

Admittedly the clearance up the side is reasonably narrow allowing the designers to maximise the space inside the cabin, but when you look at the sum of the parts mentioned thus far you have a very well-appointed boat indeed – and we hadn’t even untied yet.


Head photographer Ellen Dewar, who had already spent several hours presenting the Cutwater 28 in its very best light for the benefit of this spread, has seen a boat or two and was enthusiastically pointing out clever features here and there as I methodically made my way through the vessel. She clearly liked the Cutwater and was very impressed at how well-appointed it was, comparing it favourably to several other hulls we had looked at in this class.

The front cabin set the tone right from the outset with a classic combination of wood panelling and inviting upholstery in colours, and with lighting in keeping with the vessel’s northwestern heritage.

Interestingly a small dinette was included, which, although adding convenience, in my opinion is unnecessary as it limits the available bunk space with the full galley only feet away in the main saloon. That said, with the table lowered and the insert in place this would be an adequate overnighter for most, complete with a quality bathroom unit set-up for showering should a freshen-up be desired.

It also has a satellite TV in place, so those engrossed in the current Lions Tour, or perhaps the Champions League, need not curtail their marine adventures based on an unfriendly playing schedule.


Up in the saloon the Cutwater 28 immediately displays its brief. The enclosed-style cabin is perfect for those in cooler climes, with ample ventilation options via four overhead hatches, twin side-window sliders and full air-conditioning for the peak of summer.

The generous use of wood panelling says much for the abundant supply of quality product in the Cutwater’s homeland and adds to the ambience appropriately.

Quality detailing and furnishings aside, again it is the Transformer-like versatility and comprehensive outfitting of this vessel which most impressed. Careful design allows the space to be optimised for any mode the Cutwater is operating in.

When entertaining the dining table is capable of catering to four – albeit intimately. There’s a dedicated wine chiller and the most comprehensive galley we have seen on a 28-foot boat. It actually offers more bench space than pictured via a foldaway dickey-seat to port, so a skilled host should have no issues presenting an evening to remember with views few restaurants could rival.

Close the curtains, flick the rugby on and you transform the boat into a cosy waterside bar with your perfect selection of beverages only an arm’s reach away. Later in the evening a couple of quick adjustments turn the whole dining table/bench seat arrangement into the largest berth onboard, so there’s no need for anyone to drink and row – host-responsibility duties comfortably taken care of.

And just in case your complement for the evening exceeds the number of berths visible above decks, flip the rear seat up and you’ll find another double berth under the floor.


Of course few people in Australia buy a boat only for what it offers on the inside. It’s an outdoor lifestyle choice no matter how you cut it and I am pleased to say the Cutwater 28 comes prepared.

Like the interior, the cockpit of the vessel is remarkably outfitted. It’s almost like the boat has featured on a reality show – something like Pimp My Ride. There is upholstered seating in every corner, some of which conveniently folds away while the rear seat effectively reverses to allow happy passengers to dangle their toes in the briny.

Other features include an outdoor helm station with visibility through to the main electronics inside, a made-to-measure chill box complete with a self-contained esky that can be lifted out to cart the fresh fish home mess-free in the boot of the car, a sink with a quality shower nozzle, under-floor storage, a barbecue and much more. The options list is very extensive and includes items like a livewell for those more fishing inclined than today’s setup would cater for.

It was also pleasing to see plenty of handholds in place, including those enclosing the aft boarding platform. This application is often overlooked by designers but adds extra confidence for those who enjoy the water but lack the genuine sea legs.

On the slightly negative, the cockpit was the one place onboard I noted some below-standard workmanship around the application of sealant here and there. Given the quality elsewhere I expect this was the exception to the rule and could possibly be put down to an apprentice yet to be introduced to the benefits of correctly administered masking tape.

In summary, it’s a comprehensive aft deck ready to serve duty in a variety of water-based pursuits. To be fair, it errs more on the side of the leisurely than the adrenalin junkie, but I suspect that will perfectly suit the vessel’s target market.


The Cutwater 28 we tested had a tidily-installed 260hp Volvo Penta D4 under the cockpit floor, accessed via a large electrically operated hydraulic ram. The Volvo D4 series is a favourite of mine, so I was pleased to see it there. The boat is also shaftdriven, which is unusual in a 28-footer these days.

And there’s a few other interesting things going on under the hull. For starters it features a stepped hull – something more commonly seen on a watersports boat – allowing air to flow uninterrupted along the aft section of the underside, decreasing drag.

The Cutwater also boasts a partial keel, a substantial skeg (which houses the prop shaft), and what the company calls a rounded shoulder into which the engine is sunk. These features combine to allow the boat to track straighter while allowing the engine to be sunk farther into the hull, lowering the centre of gravity and reducing the required shaft angle.

My test drive at speed around the harbour suggested for the most part Fluid Motion has got things pretty right under the water. The performance was impressive enough without being exhilarating and it is certainly soft for what is, at only three tonnes, a light boat for its size.

I also enjoyed the vertical alignment of the helm station as I feel it always gives a more boat-like feel rather than the sports car sensation we often experience. The classic wooden wheel adds to this very maritime experience and with quality electronics in place via Garmin – a brand Aeromil swears by in its planes – to guide the way, I could easily see myself setting course for destinations well over the horizon.

It’s being picky but I should mention that I thought the boat could do with a larger set of trim tabs as the ones in place struggled to optimise the ride this day, and in theory this is any easy fix. All-up, as a huge fan of keelboats with shaftdrive in place, I was very pleased with the ride. What they give up in nimbleness they more than make up for in straight-out comfort, safety, simplicity and long-term reliability.

Recognising that single shaftdriven vessels are not the easiest to manoeuvre back at the pen, Cutwater have mitigated the issue by installing a bowthruster. This, along with the ample cleats, good visibility and light weight ensured we had no problem getting resecured to its berth.


For me the Cutwater 28 mostly delivered on the promises of its brochure. It’s a particularly pretty vessel and appeals to those who like a boat to look like it has been designed for the voyage rather than the stopover. That’s not to say it won’t look the part at your favourite anchorage, in fact I am prepared to wager plenty of educated eyes call by to enquire of its origins.

As we stated several times the Cutwater is also extremely well-appointed, with very few items most seafarers could think of not either already in place or on the options list.

And while the boat is in no way outfitted for a princess the phrase "good and honest" is absolutely applicable. This is a particularly fair way to describe the engineering and performance as we observed it. There is some relatively whizz-bang stuff going on – the stepped hull being a good example – but the Volvo D4, the keel and the shaft skeg all win points for their long-term potential.

For those who, like me, have had their interest peaked by this boat, there is a fairly detailed website to peruse at You will see a good range of colours and a better explanation of the hull design. If you are still interested, give the guys at Aeromil Marine a call. It is my honest opinion that there is good value to be enjoyed in this vessel.

The Cutwater 28 will be on display at the Sydney International Boat Show, from August 1 to 5.


› Classic northwestern USA styling

› Highly versatile

› Extremely well-appointed

› Simplistic, proven engineering

› Very comfortable ride

› Highly reputable company


› Some finishing on the exterior could be improved

› Could do with larger trim tabs


The Cutwater 28 is a classically styled all-rounder which should appeal to those looking to realise good value in a compact overnighter. Coming all but complete with a quite staggering accessories list, including 230V power for all those essential extras, and featuring plenty of cleverly designed ideas to optimise its use, the aforementioned value is easy to visualise. To top it all off the boat rides on top-proven engineering which should stand the test of time.



$US283,800 + freight


$US186,930 + freight



TYPE Monohull

LENGTH OVERALL 8.5m (standard); 9.75m (as tested)

BEAM 2.59m

DRAFT 0.71m

WEIGHT 3084kg (dry)


FUEL 378.5lt

WATER 151.4lt



MAKE/MODEL Volvo Penta D4

TYPE Common rail electronic diesel



Aeromil Marine Pty Ltd,

3 Spring Street,

Sydney, NSW, 2000


Contact: Peter Lang, phone +61 412 593 260



Originally published in Trade-a-Boat #441, June/July 2013


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