Family friendly Executive cruiser

Warren Steptoe | VOLUME 21, ISSUE 2
The type of activity ‘real’ family boat tests are about.
CruiseCraft has come up with a special boat to celebrate its 60th anniversary. And it’s got something for everyone.

To me – and I’m sure it’s the same for readers – the main reason I love boats and boating is the escape aspect. Sure, fishing is usually why I’m out on the water, but even then, catching fish falls somewhere behind the fact that being out on the water offers an escape from concerns of the workday world.

So as much as I like nothing more than purpose-built fishing machines, when I see a really well set-up weekender like CruiseCraft’s new Executive 700, I just want to run away with it for a few days to somewhere nice. Like southern Moreton Bay, almost at my back door and a perfectly good reason to live on the southern outskirts of Brisbane…

I first saw CruiseCraft’s new Executive 700 at the Brisbane Boat Show late last year and while it was far from the water at the time, standing as it was on Wynnum Marine’s stand, it actually provided a near escape in a manner of speaking. I’d been at a fishing workshop and was wandering about feeling somewhat drained, as you do when your brain’s been picked for hours, when CruiseCraft’s Justin Nichols invited me aboard for a coffee.

Cup in hand, he showed me over the new boat before we settled in the aft dinette for some time out. This was, coincidentally, during the changing of the guard at CruiseCraft, and as one of the third generation of the Nichols family then taking the reins, Justin was full of news.

I experienced some difficulty concentrating, though, because while my ears were attuned, my mind was anchored up close to a Jumpinpin beach in the Executive 700. When I apologised, Justin just grinned and retorted that they’d have no trouble selling the boat if it affected potential customers in the same way.

When we finally got to actually test the Executive 700 some six months later, Justin informed me the company was struggling to keep up with orders. Which goes to show that boat buyers do recognise a good thing when they see it! CruiseCraft has certainly done an outstanding job with this one.

STANDING ROOM

Even on the hard at the boat show, there were several things I immediately liked about the Executive 700. Firstly, there was the fact that I could easily stand to shower in a bathroom (head, if you insist) with a domestic-size toilet. It’s something few ‘weekenders’ this size can boast, and makes a remarkable difference to general well-being during a few days aboard – especially so, I’m told, for women!

Justin also reported that another aspect of the new boat had proven a winner with the fairer sex. The Executive 700’s galley is ‘upstairs’, where heat from cooking disperses unnoticed.

The layout could be described as ‘open plan’. But whatever you call it, the Executive 700’s living area gives an impression of light and space.

Helm, galley and dinette/lounge are all on the one level and are surrounded with large areas of glass underneath a moulded hardtop. Two huge hatches ventilate sufficiently for summer boating, even in hot and humid Queensland, and an optional sliding extension on the hardtop extends shade right back to the swim platform.

Speaking of sunny Queensland, there is also the issue of ‘critters’. Some boat builders squirm when sand flies, march flies, mozzies and midges are mentioned in connection with boating. Not CruiseCraft.

Perhaps it’s because the Nichols family spends lots of time on the water, but when I asked Justin about provisions for insect protection, he pointed out that screens can be fitted with the standard camping covers, making for an insect-free boat.

The plan from there was to borrow the Executive 700 for a weekend, instead of the usual few hours spent testing the boat. However, thanks to bad weather, that didn’t happen – almost. We actually got lucky at half past the eleventh hour, and things finally worked out nicely.

The first

As we roll into 2006, it is set to be a special landmark year for CruiseCraft and its authorised dealer group as the company proudly celebrates its 60th anniversary in the Australian boat manufacturing business.

To honour the Nichols Brothers’ 60-year milestone, all CruiseCraft boats manufactured in 2006 will bear a commemorative 60th Anniversary graphic. The year will also feature a gala CruiseCraft 60th birthday party, along with a string of other notable anniversary celebrations.

Very few Australian manufacturers can boast the longevity of the Nichols Brothers in boat building. This 60th anniversary milestone is not only a testament to the Nichols family, but also to an unwavering dedication to design innovation and manufacturing excellence.

At the age of 25, Roy Nichols established a timber boat building business manufacturing everything from rowing dinghies and motor launches to commercial boats for the local fishing fleet. Several years later, Roy Nichols opened Wynnum Marine Hardware, where his two sons, Barry and Kevin, were eventually to follow in their fathers footsteps.

In 1965, the decision was made to embrace new fibreglass boat manufacturing techniques, with the first CruiseCraft fibreglass boat rolling off the factory floor in 1967. The second Nichols Brothers generation, Barry and Kevin, soon took the reigns to further strengthen the CruiseCraft name, both within Australia and in lucrative overseas markets.

The third generation is now well and truly entrenched in the CruiseCraft way of boat building, with Nathan, Justin, Danny and Darren all actively involved in all facets of the business.

CruiseCraft has continued to set industry standards in manufacturing techniques and has recently raised the bar in safety certification, with CE export compliance.

The 59th year for the Nichols family has also been worth acknowledging, with the CruiseCraft Explorer 625 taking top honours for Best Trailerable Fishing Boat at the 2005 AMIF Boat of the Year awards. That’s in addition to around 13 other BOTY titles as well as various other accolades.

CruiseCraft is a wholly family-owned, third generation Australian boat manufacturing business, operating from its Brisbane manufacturing facility. CruiseCraft boats are distributed exclusively through a network of authorised dealers throughout Australia and selected international markets.

Desperate by now to meet a pressing deadline, a morning on Moreton Bay with Justin, his wife Gennine and their two kids, Jay and Kai was organised. As boat tests go, this is the best kind.

The weather was basically awful; its only saving grace being a patch of brilliant sunshine lengthy enough to give us a few photo opportunities. The kids had a great time, anyway.

With kids on board, it provided the perfect opportunity to test out the boat’s ‘family friendliness’. Two active youngsters, plus three adults is a big ask of any small space, and it also tends to expose any shortcomings in liveaboard ergonomics very quickly.

SPACE TO PACE

Whether at anchor or underway, there was space to move past people at the galley. The dinette had ample room for three adults, plus two active youngsters, which translates to a sociable setting for four adults.

The helm seated two adults, plus learner helmsperson Jay when it was his turn to drive. A big icebox doubles as a footrest at the helm, and it can be removed simply to take onto the beach or for cleaning.

Along the portside, the galley contains a 12-volt microwave, a 65-litre 12/240-volt refrigerator (a 240-volt shore power connection is standard) and a twin-burner stove. The stainless steel barbecue seen mounted on the swim/boarding platform in our photos is an option certain to be a popular way to round-out cooking facilities.

Another thing about the Executive 700 which impressed me when I got down to the nitty gritty was the sheer volume of storage. The galley, for example, has a spacious pantry, a pots and pans drawer and a cups and glasses rack. As anyone who enjoys weekends onboard knows, there’s no such thing as too much storage.

A rail around the kitchen bench is handy to grab for support if a passing wake rocks your boat, while also keeping things from spilling onto the floor. In its wisdom, CruiseCraft provides a round sink. (Does anybody else hate those dinky square sinks that plates won’t fit into or is it just me?) The sink comes complete with pressurised hot and cold water via a ‘flick mixer’-style tap. Freshwater comes from a 130-litre tank, with a 20-litre hot water tank for when the motor’s not running.

The toilet is a domestic-sized vacuum flush type. A small hand basin completes bathroom facilities, the tap extending on a flexible hose to serve as a shower. Most importantly, the whole interior is moulded and so is easily cleaned. As is the entire upstairs area, where there’s a sensible lack of places for crud to gather.

Inside the cabin, in fact, is the only area in the boat where easy-to-clean surfaces have given way to comfort. With the infill in place, the bunk is generously-sized and the usual shelf around the cabin perimeter will swallow plenty of gear – as will more stowage space beneath the bunk. The cabin is well ventilated by a big hatch and three opening portholes.

Against the bows is a flat screen TV, with speakers for the sound system mounted each side. Both DVDs and CDs can be played.

HIDDEN ENGINE

The dinette becomes a full-size double bed when converted, or an L-shaped lounge sans the table. Once again, available space underneath is utilised as stowage – except, that is, for the area inside the aft bulkhead, which is occupied by a V8 MerCruiser powerplant. But it’s so well integrated into the transom that it’s effectively not there.

Access to the transom door is via a clear walkway beside the dinette, meaning you don’t have to clamber over a seat to go out onto the swim platform – or to return dripping saltwater and sand.

A second freshwater shower is provided aft and a folding telescopic ladder stowed in a recess on the starboard side helps make the very aft end of the boat a swim platform by nature as well as name. This extends far enough out to cover the sterndrive leg and has a rail around its periphery to grab onto from the water.

At the bows an electric anchor winch hides away in the rope locker. It can, of course, be operated from the helm. The Executive 700 comes with dual house batteries, plus a starting battery, all fitted with isolator switches.

Driving the boat is a genuine pleasure. The 5-litre MPI V8 MerCruiser provided ample torque to get the boat moving post-haste and the hull handles like a much smaller and lighter craft.

A dual-propeller Bravo 3 sterndrive leg certainly helps power delivery and propeller grip in turns is such that this fairly large boat can be thrown around as hard as common sense allows. It’s surprising, in fact, to see the speeds coming up on the GPS because there was so little fuss accelerating or maintaining speed across the wind chop that developed during our test.

Being foam-filled and having carpet lining the ceiling, both inside the cabin and under the hardtop, makes for very muted noise levels to a point where non-boating people would have little idea how quickly they’re being transported.

Almost unnoticed up on the hardtop is what I can only describe as a roof rack to hold a rubber ducky for going ashore, or wake toys if preferred. The boat certainly has the performance to play tow boat, if required.

After the test session, our run back to Manly featured gusty winds associated with a rain squall. A nasty wind chop developed and how the boat handled these inclement conditions is best described by pointing out that little Kai dozed off during what would certainly have been a rough ride in a lesser boat.

With an appropriate tow vehicle, the Executive 700 is trailerable without special permits.

SPECIFICATIONS

CruiseCraft Executive 700

Hull Length 7.0m

LOA including bowsprit and swim platform 8.61m

Beam 2.5m

On Water Complete Weight 2700kg (not including trailer)

Fuel Capacity 240 litres

Freshwater Capacity 130 litres (plus 20-litre hot water system)

PERFORMANCE

CruiseCraft Executive 700/Mercruiser 5.0L MPI/Mercruiser Bravo 3 sterndrive

Situation Variable wind gusts, rain and mild chop at time of test on Moreton Bay

Load 3 adults plus gear for a day on the water, full fuel and water.

Propellers 20-inch pitch Mercury

RPM Speed (Knots) Comment

2800 9.7 Minimum Planing Speed

3500 20.3

4000 24.1

4500 29.1

5200 35.2 WOT

For more information, visit CruiseCraft’s website: www.cruisecraft.com.au


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Boat Test
Runabout
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