Through the boiling haze and crowded docks at Ft. Lauderdale's Pier 66 Marina last spring, I was having trouble finding the Cruisers 455 Express Motoryacht. Without the benefit of knowing her slip number, I relied on my interpretation of what a traditional express should look like. I had almost walked right past the Cruisers 455 when I caught a glimpse of the name printed across her transom. Seeing something a little different from a typical express boat was a pleasant surprise.
As I gazed from the finger pier, it was apparent that the boat's name was true to her mission: Express Motoryacht. With its new 455, Cruisers Yachts has successfully combined the advantages of a single-level outdoor living space with the interior accommodations and volume of a flying-bridge motoryacht. This hybrid is topped off with solid performance in an easily driven hull.
"This is what we call a crossover design", said Don DePouw, vice president of marketing for Cruisers Yachts, acknowledging the company's success with express models and flying-bridge motoryachts.
I agree with DePouw's description. If you close your eyes when boarding and open them after stepping onto the helm deck, you may think you're on a standard express yacht. For instance, abaft the helm is very express-like seating, which includes aft- and forward-facing bench settees. A wet-bar unit with a refrigerator and ice maker is adjacent to the settee area, keeping you from having to pop below for refreshments and snacks.
Cruising yachtsmen sometimes feel like bus drivers isolated on the bridge as guests sit back and chat. The helm on the 455 eliminates that problem, since it is just forward of the after seating and within earshot of guests lounging on the after settees. Moreover, another L-shape settee is directly across from the helm on the port side, allowing guests to see the action forward and talk to the captain. This is also a functional layout for families with kids, because toddlers can be secured within the helm deck.
The standard overhead configuration for the helm deck is a hardtop above the after section and a soft bimini over the helm. Our test boat had an optional full hardtop, which is the way to go, I think. Air conditioning, also optional, will expand your living area. Southerners will appreciate the sun protection and heat relief afforded by the hardtop and air conditioning. On crisp fall afternoons, the reverse-cycle heat can remove some of the chill from the air, expanding the cruising season for Northern boaters. The addition of a few deck chairs will create a second saloon-one that, for many owners, will serve as the primary living space.
The helm is tough to improve upon. One clever item is the keyless touch pad, which enables the owner to use a pass code to start the engines. This is especially nifty considering the openness-and thus the accessibility-of the helm deck. Engine gauges are in the line of sight, and the single-lever Volvo EDC controls are in a natural position, allowing easy, one-hand adjustments. The helm also has a comfortable double seat for the skipper and a companion.
Access to the decks is through one of two side doors. The side decks are a little tight, but the payoff is below, in the saloon. I would like to see a boarding gate with solid rails instead of two lengths of chain. Our test boat had a sunpad forward, another option I would suggest, especially if you are fully enclosed by the hardtop aft. The windlass is concealed in a forward locker, along with space for fenders. Two side cleats on each side were a nice surprise, since they allow forward and aft spring lines to be easily rigged. This is a feature often overlooked on much larger yachts. Exterior wind scoops wrapping around the after portion of the helm deck are designed to keep wandering fumes from flowing into the area. True enough, during a variety of maneuvers we did not experience a hint of station-wagon effect.
During our sea trial off of Ft. Lauderdale, the 455 responded quickly to the Teleflex steering and turned in one boat length. The Cruisers design team has developed a dry, well-performing hull. The twin 480 hp Volvo TAMD 75P EDC diesels pushed our test boat to a top speed of 28.9 knots and a cruising speed in the low 20-knot range. Twin 465 hp Yanmar diesels are optional, although the Volvos are a solid choice. The low center of gravity afforded by the express profile means the 455 is more stable than some motoryacht designs with similar interior volume, another advantage of the hybrid design.
The cliché that every boat is a compromise holds true for the 455. In order to maximize interior volume and headroom, the engineroom space below the saloon is a little tight. The space and systems are well executed, and Cruisers uses quality equipment. Also, every wire and component is neatly coded and labeled. Getting around and trying to service some components, however, may cause a few bruises and scraped knuckles. Access is through a hatch in the saloon.
Below the express-style helm deck is a spacious motoryacht interior. The privacy afforded by centering the saloon between the two forward staterooms and the after cabin is appealing. The saloon area easily absorbs the galley, dinette and a settee. Two sets of side windows and a front windshield allow natural light to pour in, while the cherry provides warm, tasteful accommodations.
"The beauty is, you are on one level", said DePouw. "Everybody is together."
I've been on 60-footers with galleys smaller than that on the 455. The U-shape arrangement makes it easy for two people to work side by side. I also like the fact you can see out while cooking. Stacked side windows allow anyone standing or seated in the saloon area to see the scene outside.
The two forward guest staterooms share a common head. The second stateroom, with a combination washer/dryer and two twin berths, is tucked under the saloon. This area is well suited for doing laundry and tossing stores, but it may be a little tight for some guests to sleep in. The spacious forward stateroom has a walkaround queen berth and stowage that includes a walk-in hanging locker and several smaller lockers. The ceramic-tile sole in the head and solid cherry create an elegant atmosphere.
The master stateroom is where the motoryacht portion of the 455's mission really comes out and grabs you. This stateroom is sure to make many buyers reach for their checkbooks. By situating the berth in the port corner, Cruisers was able to utilize more space in the cabin than on some similarly sized motoryachts. A large portion of this space is devoted to the stateroom. When the French doors between stateroom and head are open, the owner can watch television while soaking in the whirlpool tub. A vanity and hanging locker also are nestled in the space.
Cruisers did a great job identifying the best parts of an express boat and a flying-bridge motoryacht. Better yet, the company was able to successfully blend them into a comfortable, peppy cruiser. If you are having a hard time deciding what type of boat best suits your needs, it may make sense to consider the 455. She's one boat that cuts the compromises to a minimum.
Contact: Cruisers Yachts, (920) 834-2211; www.cruisersyachts.com. For more information, contact: (866) 922-4877