BOAT TEST: CRUISE CRAFT EXPLORER 685

By: Rick Huckstepp


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Cruise Craft have a reputation for producing impeccable craft and, in a reverse role, have borrowed from the more family oriented Outsider range to develop the serious fisher, the Explorer 685.

BOAT TEST: CRUISE CRAFT EXPLORER 685
CRUISE CRAFT EXPLORER 685

FROM THE ARCHIVE: First published in TrailerBoat #220, Aug 2007

 

Cruise Craft's Explorer range of boats has been available for a number of years but their 685 model, borne out of necessity for those wanting a more hard-core fishing boat, has only been on the water since March this year.

The new Explorer evolved from its sister ship the Outsider 685, which offered a more family orientated rig that could have a galley installed for overnighting with the family.
The Explorer we tested had just returned from the Toyota Fraser Island Fishing Expo which dished up the normal couple of rough days for those towing their boats to Orchid Beach. This writer was at Waddy Beach's launch and retrieve gutter each afternoon to see the fleet return and the Explorer 685 was one of the very last to leave the high seas so we were keen to get aboard ourselves to see how it handled in the rough.
The test day was out of Cabbage Tree Point, southeast of Brisbane, and a run through the smooth waters and islands led us to the coast at Jumpinpin Bar, between North and South Stradbroke Islands. The tide had started to run out against the swell and the resulting mash of dirty, rough and unpredictable water was evident right through the shallow channel.
Once through and heading northeast, we took the boat 13km into an oncoming swell of between 1 and 1.5m with some sea atop, and drift fished the reef bottom in 60m of water wide of North Stradbroke Island.
Dead in the water with a sea anchor off the aft starboard corner, the boat maintained a stable attitude with three large adults moving around in the spacious cockpit.
The wind picked up from 10 to 20kts in the same direction as the swell which climbed up to 2m. Heading back towards the 'Pin the 685 proved to be very responsive in a following sea and a cruise speed of 35kmh was easy with the pair of Verados running at 3500rpm.
Catching up on some deep troughs the boat came off the top of the swell and climbed up and over the other side without burying the bow in the steep wave. There was no spray generated onto the windscreen until we changed direction and put the wind onto the forequarters. The ability to keep the bow from burying is a result of a very buoyant forefoot at the keel line and flared bow out to wide forequarter gunwales.
Steering on this boat is hydraulic at the helm and power assisted with Mercury's own pump system bolted down in the transom bulkhead stowage area. It feeds independent hydraulic rams attached to each Verado and both engines are connected with a drag link. This system proved very effective in reducing strain at the helm, and manoeuvring at speed in all directions over the 2m swell could be done with the tip of a finger. This is as good as hydraulic steering gets!
The boat also has a big stern and reversing into big chop and swell was done without any drenching and the counter rotating 19-inch props gave this rig firm direction when backing up.
With the hammer down, we got the rig marching along at 75kmh at 5500rpm on the smooth water. One could call that 'full noise' but in reality there wasn't much of that, the Verados performing quietly throughout their rev range.
The cockpit deck is not self draining, rather it has two large plugs that are removed when on the hard. The cockpit deck features a flat centreline and a 12mm fall each side that feeds water and rubbish into a gutter which empties into a bilge area. The bilge has the fuel filter and deckwash pump fixed to its wall as well as a float switched bilge pump. A flat area has been manufactured in the mould on which to mount wet box transducer assemblies. Access to this area is by removing the lounge which runs from the starboard side, two-thirds the way across the transom bulkhead. With the backrest permanent, the base is easily folded and recessed into the bulkhead leaving enough room between it and the deck for barefoot toes when fishing or standing at the bait rigging station.
The other third of the transom bulkhead features a half-step through passage with a nylon door and below that a hatch holds one of the three batteries aboard.
The deckwash is plumbed into the top of the bulkhead next to the rigging station and a ring on the side of the table holds the nozzle. Good idea this, as one does not have to reach over and get people out of the way to access it when these accessories are plumbed into an aft corner.
Stepping out onto the engine platform a telescopic folding ladder is rebated into the non-slip deck.
A five-drawer tackle cupboard is fixed into the cockpit liner aft of the starboard sidepocket - which itself is spacious - and at the end of it are the isolator switches for batteries.
Two large killtanks are installed in the cockpit deck which has lift-out carpet, and another large compartment features between the two dashboard chairs.
Both of these seats are mounted on a stainless steel frame and large ice boxes are installed underneath. These boxes are made by Eva Cool and have modified lids -held open with an elastic cord attached to each seat - hinged halfway that make for easy access without having to remove the box. The ice boxes, retained on the floor by corner chocks, have a lug on each corner so they can be held down by their handles.
Both of these seats have forward and backward movement but do not swivel. This is about to change on future models; as until now the manufacturer has not found a suitable swivel/sliding chair to suit the rail system on which they are mounted.
In the liner next to the passenger is a two-tier stowage pocket that holds plenty of gear, and a lockable glove compartment also has two shelves. The door leading to the cabin is lockable and slides behind the helm station.
The test boat had the full regalia of instrumentation to play with. Lowrance's LCX-25 depth sounder was mounted on a RAM bracket while the LMS 6500 chartplotter is also a screen for the radome fixed on the bimini. Simrad Auto Pilot was installed along with Mercury's Smart Craft station.
A rebate next to the skipper's right arm held the binnacle controls for the motors. The controls are mounted on a base allowing them to slope inwards making for a more comfortable hold for the skipper.
Cruise Craft have kept the cabin fisher friendly also. One steps onto a quarter-round moulding in the aft end of the leg well and accesses the large berths. A portable toilet is installed under the infill and, with both sections and the head removed, there are two steps in the forward end of the well allowing one to step up and put the upper torso through the hatch in the roof of the cabin. This puts the decky right on top of the ground tackle rather than having them lean forward, straining the back. Fitted to this boat is an anchor winch and plough anchor.
The bar work on the targa is oversized and stylish, with cursive shapes to that on the sides offering plenty of strength to hold the radome and extendable cockpit shade.
Those of you that cruise the boat marketplace would have realised that this company is well known for its attention to detail and impeccable finish to its products. Nothing has changed with this model with its quality and finish - it's a rig that anyone would be proud to own.

 

 

WHAT WE LIKED


Excellent handling at the helm
Well designed ice box system

 

 

NOT SO MUCH


No swivel chairs but this will change in future models
Fuel filter in bilge (it would be better external being a potential leak point on any boat)

 

 

 

Specifications: Cruise Craft Explorer 685

 

 

HOW MUCH?


Price as tested:                $133,425
Options fitted:                 Numerous but breakdown unavailable from
                                        manufacturer

 

 

GENERAL


Material:                          Fibreglass
Length overall:                 7.20m
Beam:                               2.5m
Deadrise:                         20 degrees
Weight:                           3300kg w/ motor and trailer

 

 

CAPACITIES


Fuel:                               310lt
Water:                             50lt
Rec. HP:         225
People (day):               7
People (berthed):         2

 

 

ENGINE


Make/model:             Mercury Verado x 2
Type:                              Four-cylinder DOHC supercharged EFI
Rated HP:                        135
Weight:                           239kg
Gearbox ratio:                 2.08:1
Propeller:                        19-inch counter-rotating

 

 

SUPPLIED BY


Cruise Craft Boats Pty Ltd,
1308 Lytton Road,
Hemmant, Qld, 4174
Phone: (07) 3390 4877
Fax: (07) 3390 5756
Web: www.cruisecraft.com.au
Email: peterb@cruisecraft.com.au

 

 

WORDS Rick Huckstepp


Originally published in TrailerBoat #220

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