Two large bunks, a head, galley and a large cockpit all combined in an attractive 18-foot powerboat? A few years ago this would have been scoffed at as impractical if not impossible. That was before the words "outboard cruiser" had meaning. They now describe the hottest development in boating. Basically an outboard cruiser is a small powerboat with sleeping accommodations and an outboard motor for propulsion.
Picking one cruiser out of the many models now on the market was quite a problem. However, the Roberts Weekender, built by Roberts Kit Kraft Inc. of Branford, Conn., caught my fancy in photos and on the showroom floor as being a good one to test. She's of average size and typical of the better cruisers, rather than ruggedly individualistic. Most important, she is one of the few available either as a kit, partly complete, or entirely finished.
Ben Harrison, the youthful head of Roberts Kit Kraft, drove with me from his plant up to Ledyard, Conn., where one of the Weekenders was launched and waiting. Resting at the mooring she looked both trim and comfortable. We brought her alongside the float to put on the 25-hp Evinrude we had brought with us. It was no mean task lifting the motor into place and clamping it onto the transom. Then, while Ben was installing the remote clutch and throttle controls, I entered the cabin to look around (see diagrams).
The large ports made her below decks light and airy and the general impression was one of uncramped if somewhat simple comfort for two. The headroom was sufficient for me to walk about with a pronounced stoop and more than adequate for sitting. The kit and completed basic boat include no toilet and the galley consists merely of a storage locker with counter space above it. Bunks are optional with the kit. Ben Harrison told me they keep her simple not only to maintain a low price but also because every owner wants something a little different.
We started the engine in neutral, cast off the lines and slipped her into reverse. Maneuverability while backing, of course, was excellent—a real plus for outboard propulsion. Moreover, the modern outboards, with gear shifts, remote clutch and throttle controls and remote fuel tanks (SI, June 27), have all the flexibility of inboard power installations.
Once clear of the dock we shifted into forward gear and increased speed gradually to full ahead. The Weekender lifted nicely, remaining virtually level at all speeds, with the bow rising just enough and no inefficient squat to the stern. At top speed she planed nicely—close to 20 mph—and on turns she banked in well.
Since there was little sea running, the only way we could test her motion was to turn sharply and speed back through her own quarter wave. She took it easily, with no pounding. This was not a severe test, however, because the Weekender, when up and planing, pulls a very small quarter wave—proof of efficient design. Her spray rails, regular equipment, were placed right to throw spray down and out.
One fault of some outboard cruisers is lack of stability. To check on this, I turned the controls over to Ben and clambered up to the cabin top while he turned at high speed. She felt good, so I next tried hanging off to one side from the deck, holding onto the cabin-top grab rails. Ben, at the controls, leaned out as far as possible on the same side. She still felt stable.
As we returned to the dock at slow speed with a cross wind blowing, the windage caused by high freeboard and her trunk cabin made her sail off to leeward. This is an inherent fault of the type, with little below the water to keep her from slipping.
While we removed the motor I discussed with Ben the one real flaw which it seemed to me the Weekender had. The transom was cut down to 15" height to accommodate the motor. In a heavy sea and with a dead motor the bow would head downwind, and seas slamming against this cut-down transom could come aboard and swamp her. It would be a simple matter to extend a watertight box into the cockpit so that any seas which came through the transom opening would go no further. Ben said he would do just that; and from now on Roberts will offer two such boxes—one combined with a stern seat, the other just a watertight obstruction—as optional equipment on every Weekender.
Once back at the plant we looked at the kit parts being assembled. Bottom and side panels are of top-grade ‚Öú" marine plywood. There are seven full and three intermediate frames of solid mahogany, and good news for the kit builder is the fact that all the frames are fully assembled and fastened with brass screws. Good news, too, is the fact that to ease assembly the transom and stem are preassembled, beveled and notched. The mahogany chine pieces and keel are also beveled. The trunk cabin is of good solid mahogany.
Prices vary with the degree of completeness. The kit including all parts to complete the hull, deck and cabin costs $675. A kit for completing the interior (bunks, galley, locker, etc.) adds $85. The price of additional deck hardware could range from a low of $150 to a high of $300, depending on the quality and amount of hardware desired. Taking a middle figure of $225, the entire kit will total $985. Put in an additional $600 for a 25-hp electric-starting motor with remote controls, and for roughly $1,585 and a bucket of sweat you've got a fine cruiser. Then if you want a regular marine toilet for about $100 that's up to you, though covered buckets can and have served. A stove, bunk cushions and various appointments can run the cost up further but these can be bought piecemeal and assimilated during the building.
Let's assume you want to do no work yourself and want everything the best. On top of $1,585 for the finished boat add $300 for top-grade hardware (installed), another $100 for a toilet installed, $115 for stove, icebox and bunk cushions and about $600 for an outboard. For approximately $2,700 you're in business with a fine little yacht. It's because this is in line with what you have paid for your new car and because everyone who has tried both finds the boat more fun that good outboard cruisers like the Weekender seem here to stay.
INSIDE AN OUTBOARD CRUISER
SELF-BAILING MOTOR WELL
FOLDING TABLE (UP)
STOWAGE (ship's gear)
FOLDING TABLE (DOWN)
STOWAGE (personal effects)
Length over all—18 feet
Beam—7 feet 2 inches