Some boats prick your senses as soon as you step on board, shooting electric excitement through your chest and up the back of your neck. At first glance, the Packet Craft 360 gave me no such feelings. Here, I thought, is the sailboat manufacturer Island Packet Yachts trying to address the ever-growing popularity of the Down East-style express cruiser. I felt nothing.
The more I poked around, though, the more I saw attention to detail and clever engineering. The hair began to stand on the back of my neck. This is not just another Down East wannabe, and this company is worth a look for its boats and more.
Bob Johnson, president of Island Packet Yachts, and his staff work to provide boat owners with the kind of service typical of the luxury automobile industry. Take the Packet Partnership Program, a standard feature on the Packet Craft 360 that took form after Island Packet contacted Cummins and Yanmar about service program ideas. The program provides scheduled maintenance by an engine manufacturer's certified mechanic at the yacht's slip, and includes all scheduled maintenance and service checks for two years.
The 360 also comes with a 10-year limited warranty against osmotic blisters. PolyClad 2, Island Packet's bottom gelcoat system, allows for such a warranty after 22 years of sailboat-building experience.
"We have yet to build a perfect boat, but we strive every day to accomplish that," said Bill Bolin, the company's sales and marketing director.
Above the waterline and on all topside surfaces, Durashield gelcoat provides exceptional gloss retention. The use of two gelcoats with varying properties is just one of many details that accentuate the 360's value.
"Our target is for warranty not to exceed one-half of one percent," Johnson said. "In the past three to four years, we have achieved a little less than three-tenths of one percent."
That's a good thing, raising the warranty bar for the entire powerboat industry.
The 360's hull design has tunnels that reduce prop angle, providing a draft of 2 feet, 8 inches. The boat planed quickly during our sea trial, and the helmsman never had to stand on tiptoes to see over the bow. At all rpm ranges, the 360 had an excellent running attitude, even without the use of the standard Bennett trim tabs.
Still, the boat is very responsive to the tabs. Tight turning at cruise speed produced a feeling similar to that aboard a smaller high-performance boat. She never wanted to fall off or skip out. Backing and close maneuvers were sure and definite, and Teleflex hydraulic steering made handling the wheel effortless, regardless of speed and turns. This is a fun boat to run and operate.
Her helm deck is well laid out for comfort, whether you're running or kicking back on the hook. The standard dual-pedestal Stidd helm seat, the Dino leather-covered rim wheel, and the Faria instrumentation beautifully complement the durable synthetic wood-grain cluster. The entire helm pod is hinged at its base to ease installation and service on the dealer- and factory-installed equipment. Controls are placed to allow an effortless reach while sitting or standing. Experienced helmsmen likely will select the power adjustment option on the Stidd helm seat. The wet bar is a nice feature not often seen on smaller express-style yachts. Remember those small, functional side-vent windows on American-built automobiles that disappeared with Jimmy Carter? They are back on the 360, eliminating the greenhouse effect of many express-style yachts.
An angled, molded shorepower alcove in the cockpit's starboard after corner has standard dual 50 amp service and corresponding circuit breakers secured in weather-tight Hubbell hardware. The alcove also houses a hot/cold cockpit shower, Hubbell communication ports, engine hatch lift switches and cockpit lighting switches. Better still, the alcove is hinged and positively secured for easy access to the maintenance side of all components. There is even a dedicated shorepower cord hawse through the transom gunwale, a detail many builders treat as an afterthought.
Revealing her builder's cruising sailboat heritage, the 360's decks are wide. Well-placed grab rails are mounted to the fiberglass hardtop, stout enough to be used as lifting points when the hardtop is installed. Stanchions are through-bolted with backing plates. A low-profile Sprint 1500 electric windlass is standard, as are a 35-pound Delta self-launch anchor and 150 feet of HiTensile chain.
One thing I did not expect from a sailboat builder's first entry into the power world was a well-engineered engineroom. A center deck hatch allows easy checks while under way, but I would recommend using the electric hatch lift to raise the entire helm deck for pre-trip checks. This allows easy access into the engine compartment and excellent visibility of all components.
Two saddle tanks and one centerline day tank provide 300 gallons of fuel. The centerline day tank consumes a lot of the height of the engine compartment and makes using the center deck hatch a bit awkward. Fuel fills are on both sides of the boat, and all three tanks can be filled from one fill thanks to 11/2-inch crossovers with stainless-steel isolation valves. Racor fuel filters are standard.
The cabin is simple but can accommodate a family for a weekend getaway. An island berth is forward, flanked by shelves and cedar-lined drawers. Standard Lewmar hatches with shades and screens, and a sliding cabin door with a screen, provide multi-directional ventilation. Air conditioning is optional, but factory prep for the system is standard. The UltraLeather-wrapped L-shape dinette converts to a sleeper adequate for a couple.
The head has a two-door entrance, allowing entry from the forward cabin and the saloon. The standard vacuum toilet has a dedicated freshwater tank.
My guess is this is the first in a series of Packet Crafts to come. With a fine heritage and loyal customers looking to put away the sail, the company may start leaning toward the trawler market.
It would be a welcome addition, following Johnson's philosophy that "it doesn't cost much more to do it right."
Contact: Packet Craft, (800) 828-5678; www.ipy.com.