The optional hardtop adds a lot of utility to the Cruisers Yachts 350 Express and when she’s buttoned up with cruising canvas one has a three-seasons boat. We find fall is often the best time of the year to go boating in the Northeast U.S.
One of the secrets of Cruiser Yachts’ success is that it has long recognized that every boat owner uses his boat differently – i.e., has a slightly different. Cruisers Yachts has recognized that phenomenon and offers standard boats for day cruising and entertaining, then puts on the options list lots of amenities and some necessities for longer cruising.
Having said all of this, the one goal that almost every owner has is entertaining. It is here that the Cruisers Yachts' models generally excel, and the 350 Express is no exception.
Our test with the twin 320-hp Mercruiser 377 MAG yielded a top speed of 41.9 mph.
The deck of the 350 Express can be one long entertainment platform. Much is made of the walkthrough windshield access being made for more secure movement up to a tossing and rolling bow when needed, but it also serves another purpose. It facilitates guests moving forward to the sun pad and aft to the dining table while at anchor. Kids will like diving off the bow, swimming around to the stern, then doing it all again, racing through the cockpit, climbing through the windscreen to the bow.
The aft sun lounge is optional and features a flip-back seat. Fender storage is to starboard and a four step re-boarding ladder is to port.
Wide open space below is a signature aspect of many Cruisers Yachts, and has been for years. The 350 Express below is typical of Cruisers Yachts' approach: the mid-cabin is set-up to be used primarily as a conversation pit adjacent to the salon. It is open with no bulkhead. Likewise, the bow of the boat where the double berth goes is also open to the salon. The result is that the 350 Express can comfortably handle a crowd below without them feeling cramped and claustrophobic.
When accelerating, the bow comes up just 10-degrees and I had no loss of visibility of the horizon. She comes up to planing speed in 6.3 seconds. At about 20 mph, the bow comes down to its normal cruising attitude of 5-degrees bow rise. To get the bow to come down faster, don't be shy about adding power to get the speed up.
Some operators might try to bring the bow down before reaching 20 mph with the tabs, or even bring the outdrive trims up. That would be a mistake. If one tries to "artificially" lower the bow, they won't get any performance benefit, and in fact they'll even start losing speed. Bring the tabs up, and leave the drives down and it's a much more solid feeling ride. I reached 20 mph in about 10 seconds and then the boat settled down into her proper cruising attitude.
One High Standard
In our tests of other Cruisers Yachts we have mentioned that the builder uses the same equipment and materials for all of the boats in its line. That is to say the same high-quality steering wheel that goes on the 380 Express, for example, also goes on the 350 Express. The company does this for two reasons: First, it reduces its inventory and parts numbers; second, it helps assure that the same quality that goes into the big boats goes into its smaller ones.
The Cruisers Yachts 350 Express is both an entertaining platform for day boating and a coastal cruiser. Button this boat up with cruising canvas and run her for three seasons.
Our test boat had an empty weight of 16,500 lbs. (7,484 kg), and with half fuel, two people and test gear, we had a test weight of 17,546 lbs. (7,959 kg) With a pair of 320-hp MerCruiser 6.2 L 377 MAGs turning a set of Bravo III outdrives, we reached a top speed of 41.9 mph at 4700 rpm. At that speed, we were burning a combined 47.7 gph while getting .9 miles per gallon for a range of 183 miles.
Best cruise was found at 3500 rpm where we were running at 27.3 mph. Now we were getting a 23.1 gph fuel burn and getting 1.2 miles per gallon for a range of 247 miles.
The height of the rail at the working end of the bow is 23" (58.4 cm). Notice the split chaise lounge.
Starting at the bow, we have a hatch covering a Maxwell windlass and the hawse pipe for the anchor rode to go into the anchor locker. But there's no access to the underside of the locker to address any tangles that may occur.
Cruisers Yachts eliminates side decks on the 350 Express to maximize cockpit space. Its signature walkthrough windshield permits secure access to the foredeck. The latches for the walkthrough windshield are interconnected, and there are gaskets all around to prevent annoying rattling while underway.
There are foot controls just behind the hatch, and up on top of the rail is a remote control spotlight… all standard. Our test boat was equipped with the optional chaise lounge sun pad with adjustable back rests and substructure and both halves sit up separately from each other. Three deck hatches add natural light and ventilation to the cabin below.
Our test boat was also equipped with the Axius sterndrive joystick. Notice the VesselView display to port.
The 350 Express has an attractive and functional instrument panel. On our test boat's center panel housed an E90 widescreen display as part of the base electronics package that consists of the depthfinder and GPS as well. An upgraded package is available that adds a 2 kW radar and replaces the digital depth gauge with a DSM 300 temperature and depth.
The steering wheel is stitched leather, something that is very classy. Engine instruments were located port and starboard of the navigation screen. Throttles were mounted on a 45-degree angle rather than horizontal as I prefer them.
With an observer bolster, the captain has a second armrest. Notice the adjustment bar for the seat. I found it kept hitting the back of my leg when I was standing, which can be annoying.
The helm seat is quite comfortable when sitting. It's a double wide seat that adjusts fore and aft, and both the captain and observer get a flip-up bolster. I like that fact as it adds a second armrest for the captain, or it lets the navigator sit while the captain stands or uses the bolster.
However, sitting on the bolster leaves something to be desired as there is no padding on top of the bolster and a structural bar sticks right in one's bottom. (Note to Cruisers Yachts: please add the same wonderful padding that the rest of the seat has to the top of the bolster.) I also found the seat difficult to adjust and the adjustment bar kept hitting the back of my leg when I was standing. This is a common problem on many boats this size, but that doesn’t mean I have to like it.
From the helm seat there is outstanding 360-degree visibility.
Visibility from the helm was first rate, with good 360-degree sight lines. The boat comes standard with a soft top and cruising canvas. Depending on how much one is going to use the boat and where, I would suggest considering the optional radar arch with hardtop and cruising canvas. It looked amazing on the boat we tested and really added a dose of sex appeal to the 350 Express, in my opinion.
The portside lounger is curved and notice the headrest. It's quite an intricate addition, and a welcome one.
An entertainment center lies to port and options include a refrigerator or icemaker. Notice the amount of counter space for making sandwiches – or put a grill here.
The cockpit seating is quite comfortable and there are speakers and courtesy lights in the risers. An entertainment center lies to port. Options include a refrigerator or icemaker and both require 110V power so the boat will need either a shore power cord, or an optional generator. I'd also add the dual cockpit tables with sun lounge cushions.
Note that the 350 Express can seat 9 people comfortably in the cockpit.
In the center of the cockpit deck is a hatch for the engine room, and since I am the type who likes to check the engines out before each trip, and look at them when running up at the start of the day, I think one should consider the electric hatch option.
If the boater really wants to class up the 350 Express, go for the optional teak decking in the cockpit and on the swim platform and forgo the snap-in carpet.
This is one of the roomiest engine compartments I've seen in class. Everything essential is within easy access. Note that the test boat had the optional hydraulic hatch, which I recommend.
Cruisers Yachts did a great job on the engine room. It's roomy and clean, and everything is easy to get to. Our test boat was fitted with a pair of 377 MAGs, and one can opt for adding Axius, Sea Core, and fresh water cooling. Alternatively, one can opt for Volvo Penta 8.1 engines with its versions of the same add-ons.
Cruisers Yachts has pioneered the concept of openness below because it knows that its boats are primarily used for entertaining and daytime activities.
The cabin is accessed by going down a set of open stairs. The mid-cabin, which is aft of the steps and under the bridge deck, is comfortable and not isolated from the salon so conversations can be carried out easily enough between the two areas. By day this makes a good conversation pit for one group of friends, or the kids, while others enjoy the main salon. I'd like to see a privacy curtain for overnight guests in this cabin.
Below is an aft cabin within close proximity to the salon for conversations. The area converts to a berth but there's no privacy curtain.
The salon is pretty much standard with a high-low table and the galley on the opposite side of the cabin. What sets the Cruisers Yachts 350 Express apart from other boats in class is her plush bench seat that is comfortable and makes into a bed in a pinch.
Up above is a 22" (55.9 cm) flatscreen TV that is mounted to a cabinet door so it can be opened for viewing from the forward berth.
All express cruisers in class have a sofa below, but how many of them are this comfortable?
A wethead to port has plenty of storage behind mirrored cabinets. Just ahead is the galley with the usual cast of appliances. I did notice that the counter space is quite large at 30" (76.2 cm) x 25" (63.5 cm). The stove comes equipped with sea rails to hold one's pots and pans. This is an ABYC standard but all too many builders disregard this small touch. Three opening portlights vent fumes when cooking and add a lot of natural light to the already bright salon.
Forward is a queen size island berth with portlights and an overhead hatch. Storage runs along both sides of the upper bulkheads.
The galley is good-sized for a 35-footer. The counter top is Corian.
Options for the salon include decking in Amtico, Walnut, and Light Maple. Custom sheets and pillow cases are also available as an option. A premium stereo and the 22" (55.9 cm) TV are offered.
Depending on how the boater wants to power the Cruisers Yachts 350 Express, they can have the base boat for between $362k and $385k, MSRP. Then it's a matter of adding some of the other options I've discussed here depending on how one wants to use the boat.
However the owner decides to equip their 350 Express, the simple fact is, they're going to have a seriously cool, and good looking boat to show off, and don't dismiss the look of a boat when it comes to pride of ownership -- it probably ranks #1 or #2.
The 350 Express is ruggedly built and therefore heavier than most of her peers. This means that if one wants to do some extended cruising, or they get caught in snotty conditions, she might well be more comfortable than other boats in class. If they are just going to use the boat around home then they have an entertainment platform both above and below decks second to none.
For people wanting a modern-looking express in this size range we think the Cruisers Yachts 350 Express is a "must see" boat.
Originally published by BoatTest.com
Captain's Report by Capt. Steve--