There are literally hundreds of express cruiser boats out there to satisfy a family’s interest in spending time on the water. Ideally suited for family fun, these high-speed day cruisers can quickly make it out on the lake or river to get to the beach or sandbar so the kids and pets can spend the day splashing in the water. These boats are ideal for making lasting memories of laughter, sunburn, and family chaos.
The large cockpit and extended swim platform are perfect for fun times both on and off the boat, and the typically open helm is perfect for spending time together after you get there. Open seating for relaxing with friends and family members, often with an outdoor grill and fridge to keep the party outside. Many boats use filler cushions to transform L-shaped seating into a spacious lounge area, Owners buy an express cruiser to entertain, play, and relax.
The boats come with a variety of propulsion options, from pod drives, stern drives, straight running gear, and now even a couple of large outboards are an option. Most express cruisers come with two large diesels for performance, regardless of running gear, and these large engines explain the higher cost of a new express cruiser. These boats don’t get the best fuel economy, nor do they have much of a range. But that is not necessary for what these boats are designed to do.
Express cruisers are not the right platform for fishing or water skiing, or long-distance cruising. They are day cruisers, although they have accommodations for a weekend in a marina, with dinner ashore after a day on the water. A full galley makes for enjoyable meals aboard when the mood strikes.
Performance of express cruisers, which are mostly between 25 and 50 feet long, provides cruising speeds of 25 to 28 knots, plenty fast enough to hit the beach and sandbar with their shallow draft. Raise the stern drive and the boats draw less than two feet.
Popular builders include Tiara, Regal, Sea Ray, Formula, Sabre, Carver, Pursuit, Four Winns, Jeanneau, and Cruisers. Most of the models in these lines offer a wash and wear exterior, with sand easily hosed off at the end of the day. You will be hard-pressed to find traditional exterior brightwork on any express cruiser. It is meant to provide carefree fun, not wow members at the yacht club.
The interiors of express cruisers highlight the functionality of the day cruiser concept, with sleeping accommodations for a family overnight. But some models are surprisingly spacious down below with nice interior appointments. A fully enclosed head is offered on most models, but the open cockpit and helm areas are where the action is. Some of the larger models have retractable hardtop to enjoy that perfect day with the family, and other have extendable bimini tops when the sun is too much.
Many express cruisers use hydraulics to lift the cockpit sole for access to the engines and running gear.
Smaller express cruisers are easily trailered to head to the lake for the weekend with just enough interior accommodations to be an overnight getaway. It is common to see these boats in marinas on the weekend after a day on the water, softly lit cockpits showcase the social center for dinner and evening relaxing, optional underwater lights on, of course.
Styling choices run the full spectrum, from traditional profiles of the Sabre and Back Cove lines, to sleek, go-fast styling one finds on the Sea Ray and Formula models. Middle of the road styling is the bull’s eye of the Tiara, a balance of beauty, function, and years of owner input.
Express cruisers are not the first choice for fishing, living aboard, or going extended distance, but that is fine. They shine at what they are designed for, which is an outstanding family experience and long days on the water.
Bill Parlatore discusses the advancement of technology and comfort in cruising boats.
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