Cruise Craft Explorer 595 and 625 Hardtop Boat Test

Brisbane-based Cruise Craft have a long history and an enviable reputation for excellent quality boat design and construction. Their Explorer range, including the popular 595 and 625, has always been a winner, but the addition of a hardtop has added a substantial level of protection, comfort and practicality for offshore gamefishing, as Warren Steptoe discovered during a storm.

Cruise Craft Explorer 595 and 625 Hardtop Boat Test

Boat Test Cruise Craft Explorer 595 and 625 Hardtop: PROTECTION FROM THE ELEMENTS
Author and photography: Warren Steptoe

This boat test ran in ISSUE 109 of BlueWater magazine – MAY-JUNE 2015

For the complete feature, including all photos and information captions, you can purchase back-issues here

Cruise Craft boats are built on Brisbane’s southside by a third generation family-owned company founded in 1946. Their Explorer series is an outstanding line of boats. Some might consider the Explorer 530, at 5.3 metres long, and the 5.7 metre Explorer 575 to be too small for serious offshore gamefishing, but the outstanding ride and general ‘fishability’ puts the whole line on a pinnacle among Australia’s offshore fishing boat cum family day boat genre.

I’ve tested and fished from the whole range, along with Cruise Craft’s companion line of Outsiders, which follow the same size increments. As a result I have absolutely no reservation rating them as some of the very best boatsof their size that I’ve ever taken offshore.

Their ride and sea manners offshore are as good as it gets for boats in their class, and their fishability is second to none, as is their engineering, build quality and standard of finish. Among small bluewater boats, Cruise Craft are among a very small group that stand out from the rest.

When talking about fishability, it’s fair to say that Cruise Craft develop their boats more around the offshore fishing/family boat genre than pure bluewater gamefishing per se, although it’s equally true that their cockpit layouts are nevertheless spot on for it.

Fishing Comfort

Few boatbuilders design their cockpits as well as Cruise Craft. The sides are high and support your legs with your toes tucked underneath, the way a good bluewater fishing boat should. This support is continuous around all three sides of the cockpit, with a moulded non-slip deck in between. A lot of owners carpet their deck, although preferences vary between individuals.

Cruise Craft’s upholstered bolsters around the cockpit sides take fishing comfort on rough water to the next level, testament to their determination to create boats suitable for family and social boating alongside serious fishing usage. Over several iterations they’ve also developed a transom lounge that stows completely out of the way into the aft bulkhead when not in use.

This company’s heritage of offshore fishing as opposed to pure gamefishing shows in a transom workstation that few of their boats hit the water without. This Cruise Craft workstation is something of a functionality work of art, with rodholders, a knife-friendly rigging surface, a sink to thaw bait (which drains overboard), tackle stowage and an optional integrated deckwash. When gamefishing, some may feel the workstation compromises the centre of the transom, but it easily lifts out and can be left at home, leaving the transom as clear and unobstructed as an outboard powered boat can be. Then when you head out bottom/reef fishing you can add it back, at which time you’ll find it an almost essential piece of furniture.

Offshore Capability

Two of the most practical of Cruise Craft’s Explorer range for trailerboat gamefishing are the 595 (5.9m) and 625 (6.2m) models. Compared to the battlewagons many times their size frequently featured in BlueWater, there are obvious limitations, but as observed before, a great many readers successfully gamefish from boats just like these. For most of us, life dictates that offshore capability must be balanced against real world budget restrictions and the ability to operate, store, tow and launch the boat.

For these people it’s relevant that the 6m mark represents a particularly sweet spot in that balance, which sits very well indeed alongside complementary advantages of the offshore fisher/family day boat genre now so popular in this country.

One of the best things about Cruise Craft boats in this context is that setting them up for bluewater sport/gamefishing isn’t in any way compromised, although it will probably deserve consideration during fitout – and of course budgeting.

To fit outriggers, rod racks, radio aerials, GPS and perhaps small radar transceivers, as well as the navigation/fish-finding electronics necessary for serious bluewater fishing, requires not only increased investment in the hardware itself, but in framework above the helm to support it all.

To remain comfortable during the long offshore trips that gamefishing often entails, particularly with chilly starts, burning hot sun or rain, shelter should also be given serious consideration. It is the weather-defying shelter offered by Cruise Craft’s 595 and 625 Explorer Hardtops that brings these two boats under review.

Hardtop Advantages

The advantages of a hardtop are far more than simply adding a convenient place to mount a rod rack, outriggers, radio aerials, GPS and radar transceivers. To begin with, these hardtops clearly improve vision around the boat from the wheel.

A boat with a conventional wraparound screen and clears suffers from the intrusion of the windscreen frame. Despite the greatly improved quality of clears these days, vision through them isn’t even nearly comparable to what you can see through the expanses of glass beneath these hardtops.

Without a hardtop these are outstanding boats, but when we took the hardtop versions out from Brisbane’s Manly Boat Harbour for BlueWater’s photo shoot it was startling how much the addition had improved them.

As we rounded Wellington Point to meet the open part of Moreton Bay, north of Peel Island, we were greeted by the sight of an ominous grey squall approaching over North Stradbroke Island. Racing clouds presented alternating patches of bright sunlight and deep overcast until a grey wall of heavy rain finally sent us homeward.

How good it felt to have a moulded fibreglass roof overhead with solid glass windows each side while sheets of water ran off the hardtop. I was aboard the 595 with Cruise Craft’s Sales Manager Peter Benston when the rain came down. In the last moments before truly monstrous drops started hammering on the hardtop roof, Peter extended an optional sliding canopy out over the cockpit. If any doubts about the worth of the new hardtops remained, they were quickly dispelled as we sat bone dry in deep bucket helm and passenger seats.

As is often the case with the incredibly heavy showers experienced in southern Queensland during storm season, the rain came driven by 25-knot wind gusts. This immediately created the steep, utterly confused chop all too familiar to fellow inhabitants of the Moreton Bay region, and we knew we were in for a rugged trip home that would test any boat.

Stealthy Quiet

Cruise Craft have for several years now filled their hulls with moisture- and fuel-retardant structural polyurethane foam, effectively integrating hull and deck moulds into a singular unit with formidable integrity. The process also makes the hull notably quiet over the water and significantly increases the buoyancy rating.

I’ve noted the quietness of Cruise Craft boats in previous BlueWater tests, but this was the first time I’ve seen how effective the foam filling can be under trying storm conditions. This sound insulation should also help significantly when sensitive fish are close beneath the hull, such as when chunking for tuna or reef fishing. Equally impressive was the complete absence of any noise or protest from the hardtops and their interface with the hull and interior mouldings.

Because of the windscreen wiper fitted in front of the helm on these hardtop models, we could see through rain hitting the screen as well as you can in a car.

While it would be an insult to all concerned to state we had a smooth ride home, few small boats could have handled the conditions anywhere near as well. If previous experience with Cruise Craft boats has given me a high opinion of them, that trip raised it even higher.

All-Weather Fishing

The whole scenario illustrated the point that adding a hardtop to a Cruise Craft Explorer means you can be out fishing in comfort in weather that might ordinarily convince you to stay at home or head back to shore.

The hardtop version also proves its worth in cold weather when you might be tempted to stay indoors. Meanwhile, in hot weather the sliding glass side windows make the hardtop as well ventilated as a boat set up with a bimini and clears. Certainly the insulation properties of the moulded glass hardtop would make it measurably cooler in the tropics than the single layer of vinyl in a bimini top.

A hardtop version of the Explorer 625 has been around for awhile already, while the 595 version is a new release.

Ongoing Developments

Cruise Craft’s development program is exhaustive and ongoing, so any new model invariably features developments not seen in earlier ones. Although both these boats felt much the same under challenging conditions, Cruise Craft have apparently applied some subtle tweaks to the hull shape of the 595 version. The locking sliding cabin door available as an option on the 595 is another tweak that might sway a choice between the two.

Trailering weight is similar, with the 625 version being 100kg heavier at 2350kg so both are well within the capabilities of a medium-sized 4WD.

While both models are rated to a maximum of 200hp, Cruise Craft’s power recommendations are 175hp for the 595 and 200hp for the 625. This, in addition to a slightly larger trailer, also varies the purchase price between the two.

Both the boats seen here were matched with Yamaha 4-stroke motors of the 175 and 200hp that Cruise Craft recommend. As we approached the gap between Green Island and Wellington Point we encountered a strong run-out tide that really stood-up the chop marching before the wind gusts. Top speed is far from a consideration at such times, but I can report that both Explorer hardtops could be slowed down to 2500rpm and 15km where they stayed firmly on the plane, allowing the hulls to deal with pretty challenging conditions without any problem.

The storm prevented a thorough performance evaluation, but a previous test on an Explorer 595 powered by a 150hp Evinrude E-Tec direct-injected 2-stroke motor produced a top speed just over 70km, so these two can be expected to at least match that.

While Cruise Craft boats don’t come cheap, you get what you pay for – and these hardtops clearly add a great deal to what were already industry-leading boats.

Capacities

  • People: 6
  • Rec. power: 595 – 175hp; 625 – 200hp
  • Max power: 595 – 200hp; 625 – 200hp
  • Fuel: 595 – 190 litres; 625 – 232 litres

General

  • Type: Cuddy cabin, monohull
  • Material: GRP laminates (fibreglass)
  • Length: 5.95 and 6.25m
  • Beam: 2.44 and 2.45m
  • Towing weight: approx. 2250 and 2350kg (boat/motor/trailer)
  • Deadrise: 20 degrees (at transom)
Cruise Craft Explorer 595 and 625 Hardtop Boat Test

Boat Test Cruise Craft Explorer 595 and 625 Hardtop: PROTECTION FROM THE ELEMENTS
Author and photography: Warren Steptoe
Supplied by: Wynnum Marine

This boat test ran in ISSUE 109 of BlueWater magazine – MAY-JUNE 2015  

For the complete feature, including all photos and information captions, you can purchase back-issues here

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