Cruisers 500 Express
FEBRUARY 2005
 
   
Length overall 52'3"
Beam 15'6"
Draft 44"
Displacement 46,000 lb
Fuel Capacity  500 gals
Water Capacity 150 gals


The galley (above) sweeps along the port side, with a big flat screen TV built in above the fridge. (Below) The midships master stateroom features a trio of vertical opening portlights on either side.




The helm looks like something you'd find on a Lear jet, with a Ferrari-esque wheel.

It was one of those sharp-focus days in November on the Chesapeake, with the north wind blowing down Kent Narrows and the sun glistening off the workboats running along Prospect Bay. Gary Bouthillette, general sales manager at Warehouse Creek Yacht Sales, was there on the pier to show me the new Cruisers 500 Express.

We had just passed the 540 up on the hard and had a chance to inspect its similar bottom. This modified-V hull showed off some unique features you'd expect to see only on a high-performance boat, like steps cut into the chines about amidships and again a little farther aft, the hard reverse chines and the lateral strakes, not to mention Cruisers' ubiquitous propeller pockets. With this bottom image in mind, I was expecting a fun ride.

The Cruisers 500 is an express boat taken to its farthest logical extension. In other words, it's big. It's about 46,000 pounds of boat. Seeing it there at the dock, you wouldn't expect such a big boat to handle like a runabout.

Step onto the broad swim platform. Notice the wide bench seat facing aft with all the storage underneath. Lift up the hatch behind the bench and discover the davit capable of launching up to 800 pounds of dinghy. Step up through the transom gate to the raised cockpit and you'll see a huge lounge curved around an adjustable table. There's an entertainment center to port with an electric barbecue grill, sink and bar storage and a flat screen TV/CD/DVD unit facing the lounge. In the forward corner there's a large refrigerator/ice maker and a counter on top with an AC outlet where you can plug in the blender.

A hatch in the sole provides access to the engine room, where twin Volvo D12-712-hp diesels are housed. These are connected with V-drive transmissions to the running gear, allowing the engines to be placed relatively far aft for maximum living space forward. While there's not quite stand-up headroom in the compartment, there is adequate space to get at the engines from every angle.

The helm deck is two steps up from the cockpit and surrounded by a raked-back, stainless-rimmed windshield. A pane on the port side opens to provide access to the broad foredeck. There's an L-shaped lounge to port. The helm to starboard looks like something you'd find on a Lear jet, with stepped dashes providing room for the Northstar 6000i chartplotter, the Furuno radar display, Volvo Penta monitor screens, and all the gauges and switches. The custom leather- rimmed adjustable wheel is quite Ferarri-esque, and the Volvo Penta throttle controls are latte-smooth. There are twin adjustable bucket seats. There's very little distortion in the curved panes of the windshield, and the top of the frame is high enough to not disrupt the view for the seated pilot. However, I did find the curved plastic enclosure between the top of the windshield and the hard top difficult to see through, so operating the boat while standing wasn't a comfortable option.

The cockpit and the helm deck are fully enclosed with zippered plastic sides and a hard top. This hardtop is worthy of mention. While many express cruisers these days boast a hardtop, most of these are, to my eyes, an unsightly slab of flat plastic slapped on top of an otherwise sleek design. Functional but graceless afterthoughts. On this boat, Cruisers has sculpted a hardtop that blends with the lines, providing a bit of a swoop-down effect. Viewed from inside, the top provides a great deal of headroom, an oval tinted sunroof, and two opening hatches. 

Broad stairs lead down the companionway to the main saloon, with its rich burled maple cabinetry. A faux-leather settee curves along the starboard side around a fold-out dining table. The galley sweeps along the port side, with its broad expanse of Corian countertop. A big flat screen TV/DVD/CD entertainment center is built into the paneling above the side-by-side refrigerator/freezer. A microwave convection oven is built into the cabinet above the two-burner flush-top electric stove. A double-bowl stainless sink is mounted in the corner. Underneath the counter there are such luxuries as a dishwasher and trash compactor, in addition to such necessities as deep drawers and storage cabinets.

The guest stateroom lies in the bow, designed with a double island berth, a large cedar-lined hanging locker and overhead cabinets. A small entertainment center is mounted into the bulkhead. A door leads into the enclosed head and shower shared with the main saloon.

The master stateroom is amidships, spanning the full beam of the boat. A trio of vertical opening portlights on each side let light and air spill into the cabin. The queen island berth is flanked by built-in bureaus, providing plenty of storage in drawers and cabinets underneath broad expanses of beautifully finished wood countertop. A cabinet in the forward corner hides a washer/dryer unit. The forward bulkhead houses an entertainment system with yet another flat screen TV/DVD/CD. The private head features a Corian-topped vanity, porcelain marine toilet, and a big enclosed shower stall.

We headed south onto Prospect Bay over relatively calm water with a rising tide. It was an extraordinarily smooth ride. I was surprised when I looked at my hand held GPS and saw we were doing better than 27 knots. We were doing agile turns at 35 knots, actually turning inside the circle of our own wake. There was hardly any rise in the bow as we came up onto plane, and there was good visibility from the helm fore and aft. It was a bit loud with that cathedral hardtop and the enclosures, but we could still carry on a civilized conversation. At 2120 rpm, we were doing 30.8 knots. The engine monitors indicated we were burning about 55 gallons of fuel per hour at that speed. Full throttle gave us 34.4 knots at 2360 rpm, with a fuel burn rate of 70 gph. Overall, quite a fun ride.