Well known and respected among knowledgeable boating enthusiasts around Australia, the Caribbean range has had a comparatively low market profile and has, perhaps, been overlooked by many seeking to buy a thoroughbred. Established in 1958 and based ever since in Scoresby, Victoria, the company is now run by the third generation of the founding Spooner family.
Through all the highs and lows of the Aussie boating industry over nearly six decades, and with all the technology changes in that time, Caribbean boats has survived and thrived, with a current range of runabouts to flybridge cruisers from around 6 to 15m.
The parent company is International Marine, which built the world-famous, US-designed Bertram boats under licence for quite some years, during which time that brand and Caribbean became almost synonymous. Partly because of that association, but more so because of its consistent attention to build quality and a reputation for seaworthiness and longevity, Caribbean craft are highly regarded by those ‘in the know’.
In a genuinely exciting move for the hitherto rather conservative brand, Caribbean has released its first-ever sedan cruiser – the 420 Express. Using the proven hull from its 40 Flybridge Cruiser, the business has created a showcase for the craftsmanship its talented workforce is capable of producing.
From the moment you step onboard, the quality of the materials and the workmanship in the cabinetry and overall finish is immediately noticeable. While previous Caribbeans have all been well built and finished, this 420 Express just takes everything to a new level in the way that the quality is presented. New interior design and fabrics, along with designer-selected fittings, make the difference and match the best of interiors from other Australian boatbuilders.
Competitive pricing has been kept in mind, though, with prices starting around the $690,000 mark. This heavily optioned first 420 is around $820,000 – including a desalination unit required for South Australian waters. More typical optioned-up 420s will be just under $800,000.
Andrew and Mary Craddock, of Marina Adelaide and the associated Marina Boat Sales South Australia, were inspirational in the creation and development of the 420 Express, having suggested that the sedan-style cruiser with an upmarket finish would meet a growing market trend. Mary is an interior designer and selected the fabrics and finishes that have been used, with several optional colour schemes available.
HANDSOME, PRACTICAL FITOUT
The 420 is the first of a planned range of such designs – a 510 Express is the likely next model, with perhaps a smaller cruiser after that.
The layout remains practical and adopts the growing trend toward single-level living. The large extended boarding platform and the generous open cockpit are both teak surfaced for gloriously traditional appeal.
Although not quite as dedicated to angling as Caribbean’s flybridge models, fishing is still well catered for, with a livebait tank in the transom (that could be used as a cooler) and with side lockers that leave space below to tuck toes under when fishing across the aft side decks.
In the port forward quarter of the cockpit is a large wetbar with fridge/freezer and good storage space. There’s massive under-sole stowage, and a neat aft-facing seat to starboard.
A sliding door leads into the main saloon, with a leather-upholstered lounge to starboard that converts to a three-quarter berth beneath a fold-up bunk. To port is the dinette with U-shaped seating around a beautifully finished table; optionally, the dinette can be converted to a double berth.
The galley is forward of that, and features plenty of workspace, Metaline splashbacks, polished-teak drawers, sink with flick-mixer tap, microwave, fridge and freezer, and a four-burner induction cooktop usefully protected with a fiddle rail.
Opposite the galley is the helm, with a superb chair for the skipper behind a stainless steel wheel, and a large dash panel dominated by two Raymarine 12in touchscreens.
Down a few steps further forward, there’s a guest cabin to port with extra-wide under/over berths. That’s across the companionway from a large bathroom with separate shower stall. A second door into the bathroom opens to the owner’s stateroom forward, with an island double berth, hanging lockers and provision for a TV.
All the fabrics, surface finishes, overheads, carpeting and carefully chosen fittings work together with fine craftsmanship to exude a sense of relaxed luxury that will be easy to maintain.
There’s good access to the engine room under the saloon sole and the visible engineering is top-class. On the outside, the deck hardware is just as good, with sensible, high stainless guard rails around the foredeck and side passages, grab rails along each side of the cabin top, well-sized cleats, bollards and fairleads intelligently located around the 420 Express, and a good bowsprit carrying the anchor that’s secured by a power windlass. Moulded steps make it easy to get into and out of the cockpit, while a door in the transom connects to the boarding platform.
NIMBLE AND QUICK
The helm position shows off Caribbean’s experience, too, with an excellent layout and a very comfortable fore/aft adjustable seat with a flip-up bolster and a neat swing-out footrest, so either sitting or standing to drive is equally gratifying. The twin 500hp Cummins QSC diesels make easy work of idling the 420 along and then smoothing it up onto the plane.
There’s surprising punch for such a large cruiser, with a real jump-out-of-the-hole acceleration that continues relentlessly, so you’re at 24 knots (44.5km/h) or more before you know it. That level of thrust and nimble handling with responsive steering makes the 420 Express feel almost like a skiboat to drive – it’s a real pleasure at the helm.
With a top speed of 32.2 knots (59.6km/h) at 2650rpm and easy cruising in the 22 to 25-knot range (40.7 to 46.3km/h) at 1900 to 2100rpm, the 420 is an ideal passage-maker for offshore running, and even more so for enjoying Australia’s countless inshore waterways. It’s a snap to handle, so newcomers to waterborne weekends need not worry about getting in and out of marina pens, although the optional bowthruster sure helps in that regard.
Throughout the 420 are many thoughtful touches, such as doors with magnetic catches and fold-down hanging hooks, self-closing drawers, an engineroom video feed, powerful trim tabs, dipstick for the fuel tank (as well as a fuel gauge), remote-control saloon blinds and so on.
The only way you can fully appreciate the boat is to be onboard … and that’s recommended if you’re at all thinking of investing in the multiple benefits of a sedan-cruiser lifestyle.
CARIBBEAN 420 EXPRESS
Overall length: 13.16m excluding swimplatform
Sleeping capacity: 4 to 7 persons
Fuel capacity: 2000lt
Water capacity: 650lt
Power (as tested): Twin Cummins QSC Diesels 373kW (500hp) each
Price from: $690,000 (ex factory)
Price as tested: $820,000 (ex factory)
More information: International Marine, tel: (03) 9763 7233. Web: caribbeanboats.com.