Cruisers 38: You win some. You win some.

MY GUESS IS THAT DESIGNERS OF MID-CABIN express cruisers have a higher rate of multiple personality disorders than the Roswellian aliens-have-taken-over-Congress set. Why? They try to please everybody. They want to build a sleek boat; but it has to have towering headroom. It must be spacious enough for visiting in-laws yet provide enough room for the big-block power a proper express needs. What's a designer to do?

Well, stern drives are a partial answer. Stick the engines way aft and voila! There's room for an additional cabin under the cockpit sole. But that entails some compromises. It works if your guests are less than 4'3" tall or have just been released from prison. Or, make the boat bigger than most expresses out there, install a pair of honest-to-goodness inboards - save some space by making them V-drives - and opt for a full-bodied, shall we say Rubinesque, look.

That's the route Cruisers took with its new 3870 Esprit. Does it work? I went down to Miami Beach to wring out the first one off the line and find out.

I have to admit to a certain prejudice, though. As a lifelong liveaboard, I like big boats with plenty of living and stowage room. The 3870 provides both. What's the tradeoff? You're not going to turn the water to steam. With the standard twin 310-hp 7.4-liter EFI MPI MerCruisers, the 3870 peaked out at 32.2 mph. And considering that it burns about 30 gph cruising around 20 mph, let's hope the Arabs don't squat on the pipeline again.

When a boat gets into this size and weight range - the 3870 tips the scales at 17,500 lbs. - I prefer diesel inboards. You can opt for 325-hp Caterpillar 3116s at a base price of $246,640, or 370-hp Detroit Diesel Volvo TAMD63Ps for $261,810. Pack that iron in, and while the top end won't differ much, you will see a significant increase in fuel economy and range.

At the helm and belowdecks, the Espirit wins the space race hands down. Top end: 32.2 mph. 

A TURN FOR THE BETTER. 

We performed our straight forward speed and fuel burn runs before getting into any fancy maneuvering. Given the 3870’s size and heft, I didn’t think it would be light on its toes when it came to helm-twisting time. A pre-teen snailboater changed my opinion quickly on that one.

The little bag-of-rags decided to do 180 and cross the channel a mast-length ahead of us while we were cruising near WOT. I came hard starboard and firewalled the port engine, fully expecting the 3870 to skid halfway to Hollywood. Nope. It dug right in and carved a piece of water as pretty and solid as if it were a wedding cake. Pleasantly surprised I slammed it over to port. Same thing. The boat performed like a Fountain on Geritol. Making sure the area was free of logs, buoys, sailboats and other debris, we backed it down, up and downwind, ran with one engine and generally put the 3870 through its paces.

Results? Excellent. The standard synchronizer and hydraulic Teleflex controls contributed to the 3870’s effortless handling, but I would give most of the credit to Cruiser’s molded-in pockets in the hull which encompass about 40 percent of the area of the props. Those pockets allow the engines to sit lower and farther aft. They also allow a reduced angle between the shaft and hull, which decreases turbulence.

While performing this derring-do, I felt like I was watching the big screen at the old Loew’s Paradise. The visibility was far-reaching thanks to a safety-glass, stainless-steel rimmed windshield that’s high enough to keep the breeze out of your eyes even if you’re a six-footer on tip-toes. The adjustable two person driver’s seat bench seat is rolled and pleated with high-quality vinyl — the kind that immediately pops back after you depress it. There’s additional bench seating for three or four facing the helm so the skipper doesn’t have to take his eyes away from the road to chat. Another half-dozen can ride on the aft bench. If you like to drop a line now and then, that bench easily removes and the cockpit becomes a fishing deck.

The three-tiered console has enough room to entertain any electronics fantasy. For those of us who make a beeline for the iron when we come aboard, the engine hatch comes up effortlessly on two gas struts without the need to move cockpit furniture. Along with a professionally laid out infrastructure like properly loomed, wrapped and corrosion protected wires and double-clamped hoses — there’s still space in the engine room for additional stowage. Don't expect the acreage if you opt for the diesels, however. 

HOME ON THE RANGE.

The real room on the 3870, however, is belowdecks. Because there are no handholds, it'll be lurch city if you're down there when underway. There is a hefty, stainless-steel rail at the companionway. Once below, though, you're on your own. At the dock or on the hook, this will be like living in your shoreside condo. The forward berth, for example. It’s a standard queen-size so you can buy your bedding at the mall and not need to have it custom fitted. Instead of the usual curtain, there’s a privacy-assured sliding accordian-like tracked separator. Two heads—one with a glass-door enclosed shower, the other with a sit-down shower—mean you won’t be tripping over your guests. And the mid-cabin quickly converts from a lounge to a double berth or twin singles, also made up with off the shelf bedding. No cave here; the mid-cabin even sports a hanging locker that’s as close to a walk-in I’ve seen on a boat in this size range.

POINTS TO PONDER.

There are a few other touches worth mentioning. Don't expect the 3870's standard Sunbrella covering to leak at the seams in a downpour. Cruisers coats those seams with Sea Mark, a waterproof wax-like substance. Few builders take this extra step. I was also mightily impressed with the foredeck arrangement. The pulpit is integral with the hull instead of the usual tongue depressor layout. The flush-fitting anchor well cover also protects the Lofrans remote-control windlass ($3,986) as well as allows easy access to the rod locker. The hatch, however, secures with a plastic latch that'll be lucky to survive the first season. This, incidentally, is in contrast to the hefty bronze deadbolt that secures the aft cockpit door.

So, what's all this going to set you back? Actually, not much. With the standard power, the 3870's suggested retail price is $199,680. For a comparison boat see Sea Ray's top-of-the-line 370 Express Cruiser. With its standard twin 340-hp MPI MerCruiser straight inboards, the 370's suggested retail is $256,000. Part of the 370's price tag is due to standards like a 7.0-kw Westerbeke genset, which is optional on the 3870.

After spending time aboard the 3870, I’ve amended my opinion of designers. They’ve got it together on this one. As for aliens in Congress? I'm keeping an open mind on that. 

CLICK HERE TO VIEW OTHER CRUISERS YACHTS CURRENTLY FOR SALE IN CALIFORNIA

This review/article originally appeared in Boating Magazine, August 1998 and was written by Stuart Reininger. For more great yacht reviews, visit their website and subscribe at: https://www.boatingmag.com/subscribe-to-boating-magazine/

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