Carver 450 Voyager: This Way Up

MAYBE IT'S THE TIME OF YEAR, OR maybe it's the time of life, but for the past month or so I've been dreaming of moving back aboard. This is a most impractical fantasy: The last time I lived aboard I was unencumbered by wife, cars, mortgage, possessions, editors, huge monthly bills- I could carry everything I owned in a couple of medium-sized duffle bags. But while 20-some years ago I was happy sleeping on the anchor chain if necessary, today I want a boat with comfort- even real luxury, like Carver's Voyager 450.

Although Carver calls this slick-styled motoryacht the Voyager Pilothouse, it doesn't have a true pilothouse. It does have a well-defined lower helm station, a skipper-friendly command post that fulfills both function and fantasy. Once ensconced at the helm, surrounded by navigational tools, gauges, levers, and so forth, I felt more like a jet pilot than a Boat Tester. Raised a couple of steps above the salon proper, the station includes both an extremely comfortable helm seat (electric six-way adjusting is a $695 option) and a plush Ultraleather- upholstered lounge that seats three, or sleeps one.

Carver 450 Voyager Test ResultsWATCH YOUR HEADING. The first time you climb into or out of the pilot's seat you'll bump your head on a molded-fiberglass module that holds both the radar display and chart plotter. Making entry and egress less risky to the noggin is a fold-back armrest, which on the test; boat mounted a joystick controlling the Raypilot autopilot ($10,700). The test boat was also equipped with a Raytheon electronics package ($25,895) that includes a R41XX radar, with a second display on the flying bridge, and two Raychart 620 plotters. To starboard, a sliding door opens onto the sidedecks, which are a shade too narrow for my liking, although they are manageable.

The neatest option aboard the 450 Voyager is a video-camera system ($2,695) that doubles as an aft-facing electronic lookout. The lower helm station's height combines with the boat's steeper-than-average running angle to block sight lines aft, but a glance at the black-and-white monitor shows what's closing in on you from astern, as well as what's happening in the cockpit. A second camera in the engine room lets you keep an eye on crew working there. Switching between the two cameras takes just the push of a button. Add to this a four-station intercom system ($1,775), and you've got a nice set-up that adds safety and convenience.

The electronic engine controls are Twin Disc Power Commanders, and on the test boat they didn't include a synchronizer, which costs an extra $2,490, so matching engine speeds takes a bit of fiddling. There's a synch gauge to help you out.

The Carver engineers have soundproofed the 450 Voyager so well that you can hardly hear the diesels, especially from the flying bridge. This means you cannot use engine noise to " tune" the motors into synch by ear. When I faced aft for reversing drills, the first couple of times I tended to get the twin Cummins totally out of whack, thanks to scant audible feedback from the diesels and no manual feedback from the resistance-free controls.

MIRROR IMAGES. The Carver's nicely styled layout is basically what you'd expect: one forward stateroom, another one amidships, a head for each and galley up, adjacent to the salon. I wasn't crazy about the mirror over the queen-sized berth in the midships master, but I liked the 13" TV ($895) and private stereo system (also $895). Strangely, the optional washer/dryer is adjacent to the berth-the test boat had side-by-side units ($2,795), but you can opt for a single Combomatic instead ($3,405). I think I'd opt for neither, use the locker for extra stowage, and wash my clothes ashore.

Both heads also have mirrors overhead. I can't think of any time that I am less interested in seeing myself, but the mirrors do make the compartments feel more spacious. In place of the standard PAR electric MSDs, the test boat had two Vacuflush MSDs ($1,495 each) and an overboard discharge system ($845) for at-sea convenience.

POWER TO THE PILOTHOUSE. Standard power for the 450 Voyager Pilothouse is a pair of Cummins 330B diesels, but I recommend opting for max muscle: twin 418-hp 450Cs from the same company ($31,600). At 26,500 pounds dry, the boat will weigh in at close to 35,000 pounds with fuel, water, supplies and crew, and you need serious horsepower to move that kind of bulk around at the cruising speeds to which we've become accustomed. The extra cost of switching to the bigger engines isn't onerous compared to the boat's base price of $424,995, but if you're pinching pennies, at least opt for a step above standard power: twin 344-hp Cummins 370Bs.

Working on the twin diesels was more convenient than I thought at first glance. Access to this space is through a large hatch in the cockpit sole, which opens to expose the genset, fuel tanks and rudder posts. The Racor fuel filters/ water separators are mounted out here not as convenient as I'd like. Duck forward through the bulkhead to visit the engines, resting on deep, hollow fiberglass stringers reinforced with aluminum plate under the mounts. Carver uses no wood in the 450 Voyager's structure, instead opting to mold the bottom-support grid in one piece over a male plug, then glass it into the hull with. Knytex biaxial fabric. From inspecting various holes drilled in the grid system, I figure that its wall thickness averages more than ½", making it plenty tough. The only structural wood in the boat is the Baltek balsa coring that's used in the topsides.

The air-conditioning unit and water heater live on the centerline, between the engines and under an easily removed, carpeted box that may be a nuisance for engine work, but which proved to be a co1nf ortable place to sprawl out and spread tools when playing Mr. Mechanic.

THE BOTTOM LINE. Our test boat was tricked-out with almost every option, including a bow-thruster ($13,895); flybridge davit ($9,895) and dinghy cradle ($795); Maxwell windlass with anchor and chain ($5,980); 13.5-kw Kohler genset in place of the standard 9.5-kw unit ($5,650); Cablemaster shorepower cord ($3,615); and reverse-cycle a/c ($12,995). Its list price increased accordingly to nearly $590,000. You can have a super-equipped 450 Voyager Pilothouse for about $525,000.

The folks at Carver say that many customers interested in the 450 Voyager Pilothouse have also checked out Cruisers Yachts' new 5000 Sedan Sport. Similar in philosophy to the 450 Voyager, the 5000 is bigger (49'6" LOA by 15'4" beam and 35,000 pounds), has three staterooms, a lower helm station less impressive than the Carver's) and a variety of engine options, up to twin 581- hp Detroit 6V-92TIA diesels linked to V-drives. A nice feature of this boat is amidships stairway between the lower station and the flying bridge; the 450 Voyager has bridge access only from the cockpit. But while Cruisers Yachts' 5000 Sedan Sport is well-built, it doesn't have the Carver's wood-free, all-fiberglass hull and structure. With twin 391-hp Caterpillar 3126TA diesels, base price for the Cruisers Yachts' 5000 is $586,450, including a/c and a 13.5-kw genset.

Which boat to choose? Don't ask me. I'm just getting comfortable here on this anchor chain.

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This review/article originally appeared in Boating Magazine, November 1998 and is written by Mike Smith. For more great boat reviews, visit their website and subscribe at: https://www.boatingmag.com/subscribe-to-boating-magazine