Cruise Craft is right at the forefront of boat manufacturing in Southern Queensland having been in the business of making fibreglass boats since 1967.
Renowned for their capability as offshore craft the Explorer range – from 4.85 to 6.85m – has now been graced with the addition of an entirely new 530 model, which is going to fulfil a lot of family boating or dedicated fishing requirements.
With an emphasis on cockpit size, and relevant features to suit the anglers in the family, the 530 Explorer also has a decent sized cuddy cab with all its associated benefits of extra sea keeping ability, dry storage plus somewhere to shelter or, with an infill, spend a night.
Cruise Craft has produced a great all rounder with the Explorer 530. I saw it as a ‘right sized’ sort of craft in that it can be easily towed with a family six sedan or wagon and, with its bimini on a rigid Targa frame that can fold to windscreen height for ease of storage, it presents as a lot of boat for the money.
Right up front there’s a moulded bowsprit with associated hardware. There’s also a stainless steel split bow rail running aft to the rear of the cuddy cabin with its three-piece windscreen and covering bimini.
The 530 Explorer’s cuddy cabin is very streamlined. It by no means dominates the hull, yet it is a tremendous bulwark against seas in all conditions and, along with the craft’s deep cockpit at 71cm and gunwale height of 177cm, serves to give the boat true offshore capability.
The sleek cabin features a pair of well-padded Vee berths, with storage under them. An infill is available if family boating requirements might see a full weekend on the water from time to time. I found that the deep floor within the cuddy made sitting very comfortable with the soft padding of the wide overhead shelving providing a very convenient backrest. Three wide steps built into the front of the cuddy allow through-cabin anchor access via a forward cabin access hatch that opens to port, as does the anchor locker hatch.
Within the sheltered area aft of the windscreen a strong windscreen rail offers a handhold, as will the bimini frame, if one is needed in unkind seas. Most times though I’d wager that driver and first mate would be more than happy to be seated on the very strongly made Cruise Craft seats with their high back rests.
Hand holds and storage shelves were built into each side of the cockpit adjacent the seats, while around the knee area were recesses to cater for a fire extinguisher (port) and EPIRB to starboard. An underfloor, plumbed storage compartment was recessed between the seats. The first mate also enjoys a wide grab handle recessed into the dash with a flat storage area in front of it.
At the helm the dash layout of the Cruise Craft consisted of paired I-Command gauges for the 130 E-Tec astern, a compass uppermost on the flat area behind the windscreen, a marine radio to starboard. On a lower level was a bank of switches for various functions plus the ignition key with forward controls for the outboard engine mounted neatly on the side.
The Cruise Craft’s adjustable driver’s seat gives the driver the option of either sitting to drive with clear visibility through the windscreen or, in unfavourable conditions, standing to drive while braced against the seat.
The carpeted cockpit of the Cruise Craft reflected the sheer fishability of the rig. Full length wide and very deep above floor side pockets were easily able to carry gaffs, a tag pole and whatever else might be needed for a day of serious offshore fishing.
Additional features included a live well in the starboard transom corner, cockpit side coaming to stand against while bracing the feet under the side pockets; a recessed grab rail on each gunwale, paired rod holders in each aft quarter to compliment the five on the bimini plus the two mounted on the transom’s bait station, which comes with a cutting board and grab rail.
Other stern features were a fold down lounge and a locking transom gate with ladder and grab rail. Buyers will also note that the Cruise Craft has a full width, off floor transom shelf on which the engine battery and other items can be set up with ease. A transom sump with auto float bilge pump is standard.
With over four decades of boat building backing them Cruise Craft has defined ride and handling in their watercraft to the extent that exceptional could well be the norm. There were no disappointments as we put the new Explorer through its paces.
For the record, it was not a good day, but the craft impressed me with its soft and entirely controlled ride. The manner in which it tracked effortlessly through wash and displaced water from other passing craft and overall stability and smoothness of ride made this a wonderful craft to be in.
The 20 degree Vee hull simply ironed out bumps and thumps as we charged over chop at 50kph and the only water that came aboard came straight from the clouds. In the rain we were very grateful for the strong bimini and the heavy duty clears over the helm area.
The craft’s handling was very hard to fault. Instant response to the wheel via the non-feedback steering was the norm and full lock turns or runs back over our wash brought instant response as the 130 E-Tec pushed the solidly built hull with ease.
Performance from the quiet and very smooth 130 Evinrude E-Tec left nothing to be desired; note though that the strongly built 530 Explorer is rated for outboards up to 140hp. We got the Explorer up on the plane at 2800rpm and 17.8kph. The GPS saw us travelling at 22.3kph at 3,000rpm. 4,000rpm saw 40.3kph recorded, 5,000rpm gave 53.8kph and 5,500rpm saw us scooting around at 62.1kph.
I liked a cruising speed of 45kph at 4,500rpm, which saw the E-Tec as a mere hum astern. Responsiveness is a trait of these state of the art direct injection two strokes and the 130 E-Tec certainly had plenty of response with just a touch of throttle seeing the craft surging ahead powerfully.
This is a very well constructed and laid out fishing boat, but buyers may use their 530 Explorers as family boats (towing, water sports, general cruising) as much as they will for fishing. Sea keeping ability of the hull with its high bow and cuddy is a major strong point and the cockpit features included for the angler ensure that the dedicated are not going to be disappointed.
I’d see four anglers fishing in the Cruise Craft’s wide cockpit without much trouble. The stability of the hull with its strong chines and strakes make this rig very easy to like whether fishing in the bay or well offshore is your aim.
Widely acclaimed by boating press and boating fraternity alike since release in 2010 the Cruise Craft Explorer 530 is a tremendous boat given its modest size. Rated for up to five persons and with absolute capability to carry them with ease, it’s a lot of boat for the money with build quality and overall finish top shelf. While it’s acknowledged that all boats are a compromise of one form or other, there are few compromises about this craft.
Carried on a dedicated Cruise Craft trailer the rig was easily launched and retrieved by one person. The rig is $58,200 as tested. For more information on the Explorer 530 visit www.cruisecraft.com.au .
|Overall length on trailer:||6.7m|
|Height , targa folded:||2.30m|
|Transom deadrise:||20 degrees|
|Engines:||115 to 140hp|
|Engine fitted:||130 Evinrude E-Tec|
|Towing:||Family six sedan, wagon.|