New generation Explorer

David Toyer | VOLUME 26, ISSUE 2
It's a case of design refinement rather than significant change.
CruiseCraft has gone back to the drawing board with its new 530 Explorer.

The 530 Explorer is an entirely new boat for CruiseCraft – one that makes up part of the Brisbane boat builder’s range of “new generation” models. But having said that, there is not all that much that looks entirely new in this model. There is still the same styling, the same quality, attention to detail and all the usual things found in many of the established older models.

CruiseCraft long ago got a number of things right with its boats. The company found the right combination in terms of hull length and beam; after years of tests and evaluations it got the underwater hull design down-pat and recognised the significance of transom design in a successful trailer boat. In the words of CruiseCraft boss, Kevin Nichols: “If it ain’t broke and it works, why change it?”.

Consequently, it is a case of design refinement rather than significant change when it comes to the creation of the 530 Explorer. As far as appearances go, you won’t see much that distinguishes this from any other CruiseCraft, but refinements are there, and this boat nicely rounds out the company’s Explorer cuddy cabin range, from the 485 through to the 685.

The ‘new generation’ design of the 530 has a waterline beam that is wider than that which would normally be expected for the 5.3 metre hull length, and there is more depth inside the boat itself, without any increase in overall height. In simple terms, this means good high thigh support around the cockpit and ample headroom inside the cabin, without raising foredeck lines. By maximising the beam at the waterline and further aft, it means a more stable boat at rest and one that can potentially plane flatter and using less power.

SMALLER IS BETTER

With price being such an important consideration these days, the ability to gain good performance from smaller engines is important and the 530 is a prime example of this. With the smaller engine, the kerbside weight can also be kept down, and in this instance the approximate 1600kg weight means there is a very broad range of popular midsized family sedans and SUVs that are capable of comfortably towing the boat.

The 115hp four-stroke Yamaha, which is the recommended minimum power rating, does everything that is asked of it. The 530 gradually slid onto the plane with just the smallest of throttle openings. I tried to use as little power as I could just to see how the boat would react and it simply increased speed as it slid up onto the plane. If I used the throttle a little more generously, the boat just came onto the plane without any effort at 2000rpm (13-14 km/h) and with about level engine trim.

The skipper has a great view of the water ahead from the slide-adjustable seat and there is plenty of space to stand between the bulkhead and the front of the seat. The low planing trim means there is no obstruction of the driver’s view and the instruments and electronics are mounted where they are easy to read.

I thought the best cruising range was around 4000-4200rpm for a speed in the area of 38-42km/h. This is not spectacularly fast cruising, but it’s more than adequate. Top speed worked out to be around 67km/h.

Our test was done with two adults on board. I’d suggest that if you’re likely to be carrying a heavy load most days, you might want to consider upping the power a bit.

The ride is comfortable and dry and with a foam-filled hull, there is the expected quietness to the ride. With the 130lt underfloor fuel tank, a cruise range of around 250km could be expected.

CLEVER CLEARS

While we didn’t experience much in the way of very rough conditions or a lot of wind-blown spray during our test session, one detail that took my fancy was the sail track built into the top of the windscreen extrusion. The bottom zip section of the clears slides into the sail track. In combination with a flap which clips down to cover the join, a far more water resistant seal is achieved. The chances of taking water up under the clears and onto the dash are, therefore, considerably reduced.

The CruiseCraft Explorer series is all about providing boats for the family as well as for the serious bluewater fisherman, and doing so without any compromises.

Having said that, I would still rate the 530 as first and foremost a fishing boat. It incorporates all the usual features. The cockpit is big and deep, with a clean, uncluttered floor and a walk-thru transom gate. It also boasts padded coamings on three sides and a generous recessed toe line under the side storage pockets.

Additional fishing options (included in the as-tested pricing) include stainless steel rod holders and bimini canopy, plumbing to the aft quarter deck live bait tank, salt water deck wash and a lift-out bait cutting board that sits nicely over the engine well, without affecting full engine tilt.

FAMILY FRIENDLY

But when it comes time to pack the rods away, you are left with a great family boat designed to make every family member feel right at home. You will find the usual CruiseCraft quality of finish and the one-piece internal liner that turns up the sides of the hull, resulting in a much cleaner, smoother interior, with the only visible joins being around the storage or recess inserts.

The cuddy cabin has the usual adult-size vee bunks with storage underneath as well as side parcel shelving.

While the cuddy cabin does have adequate headroom when seated, there was a distinct lack of cockpit seating on the test craft for additional passengers beyond the skipper and first mate. For them, the two large upholstered pedestal seats, mounted on sturdy stainless steel frames, provide comfort and stability, but for anyone else in the cockpit, it’s a case of standing room only.

However, CruiseCraft does offer a very neat, flush-fitting and folding rear lounge as an option. From what I have seen in other CruiseCraft models, the hinged aft lounge doesn’t impede on the ‘fish ability’ of the boat. It’s also a little easier on the eye than the minimalist clip-down curtain that hides all the under-well stuff as per the test boat. But that’s the buyer’s choice and the aft lounge does add a bit to the price tag.

While I still maintain that the 530 Explorer could be described as primarily a fishing boat, at the end of the day it can easily fulfil either a family cruising or hardcore fishing role. Sure, the test boat was more fishing orientated, with its absence of a rear lounge and the extras package. But ultimately, the 530 is very much a dual purpose boat in the mould of the rest of the Explorer range.

Now into its 65th year of powerboat manufacturing, CruiseCraft remains a wholly family-owned business that is now being run by the third generation of the Nichols family. These young people are putting their enthusiasm into maintaining the company tradition for quality and detailed finish, while at the same time aiming to build better, market-leading boats that offer value for money. In my opinion, this Explorer 530 goes a long way to meeting those goals.

SPECIFICATIONS: CRUISECRAFT EXPLORER 530

Hull length: 5.3m

Length overall: 5.76m

Beam: 2.33m

Deadrise (transom): 20 degrees

Fuel: 130lt

Kerbside weight: 1600kg approx.

Maximum load: 5 adults

Maximum power: 140hp

Test power: 115hp four-stroke Yamaha

Price (as tested): $57,209 (incl. trailer, regos, safety gear)

The test boat was supplied by Wynnum Marine, Wynnum, Qld, tel (07) 33969777. For more information, go to: www.cruisecraft.com.au.


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