MANY of us would have seen the old Quintrex CruiseAbouts on the water over past decades – they were one of the company’s oldest models and featured the famous Quintrex flared bow. The latest incarnation of the CruiseAbout, however, comes from a different mould. It’s the first generation of the company’s family-friendly pontoon boat.
Pontoon boats have had a steady increase in acceptance in Australia. Get onto an American lake, and they’re as common as PWCs on the Gold Coast any given Saturday, but it’s only recently that I’ve really started to see several on the water in Australia.
Pontoon boats are designed to fit the whole family on the water at once. And that includes grandma. They’re simply a big, open deck that’s surrounded by seating and an array of outdoor conveniences.
Previously, the choice of a pontoon boat brand was simple – it had to be an imported one – but now Quintrex is offering a full-featured pontoon that’s made in Queensland.
On the test day, as we idled from the confines of the Gold Coast City Marina, Quintrex’s workshop whiz Colin Bilson commented that the CruiseAbout is a rarity on the Gold Coast. It’s a boat that’s rated to carry 10 persons and costs under $50,000. He was spot-on.
The CruiseAbout 640 is not a small boat. With a 6.53m overall length and weighing in at 1.2 tonnes (boat only) you need a 4WD or large sedan to tow it, but tow it you can. The 2.46m beam fits nicely under maximum width regulations.
As expected on calm water, walking around the craft is like walking around your lounge room at home. Come to think about it, the interior fit-up is more comfortable than mine at home, although it didn’t have a TV.
From the top, the test model was fitted with the optional extended bimini with clears and screens that totally enclose the craft. Although we didn’t take the rig on an overnight run, the screens looked effective enough to keep most little biting insects at bay. These coverings can be dismantled in sections to expose or cover the parts of the boat that you need for any given situation.
Boarding is easy – either from the beach through the front door or from the dock through the port side door. Both doors operate on a mechanism where the door lifts slightly in its hinges and drops into a notch that keeps it closed.
Nearly half the pontoon’s perimeter is lined with comfortable, padded seats, all of which feature some sort of under-seat storage – be it for your overnighting gear or the engine’s cranking battery. For’ard, there’s a small T-top table that has built in beverage holders and in front of the helm, there’s a kitchen-style work area, complete with sink (that drains to a wastewater tank), ice box and food storage areas.
The helm is not dissimilar to most other Quintrex boats in the range – with a comfortable driver’s seat and the suite of engine and boat instruments, switches and gauges built into the rotomoulded dash. A 27mHz radio and a CD player complement the Lowrance electronics and allow your crew to travel, fish and anchor in safety.
Under the deck is where the CruiseAbout gets interesting. A standard craft is fitted with two aluminium pontoons that are manufactured from 3mm plate. An optional third pontoon can be added and this re-rates the maximum horsepower from 75hp to 90hp. These pontoons have small spray-deflectors up front.
Driving pontoon boats takes a little getting used to. It’s not that they’re difficult – on the contrary, they’re as easy as driving a car, but an experienced boater will notice that there’s no real point where the boat jumps onto the plane. Also, with the outboard out of sight and muted substantially by the gunwales, boaties who are used to driving and trimming a boat by the sound of the outboard and a glance over the shoulder will find that they have to get used to driving off the instruments.
The CruiseAbout isn’t about to set any water speed records in the near future, but its ease of handling and operation suits its target market just fine. I would have liked to see hydraulic steering and a night-light on a $40,000+ boat, but I’m sure that refinements such as these will creep into the model range sooner rather than later.
Something blokes don’t think about is privacy on the water, but when it comes to getting the missus out on the briny, a shower/toilet enclosure would be handy. The 640 does this stylishly with a neat fold-out change-room that emerges from the rear sun lounge when you push and pull it the right way.
The 640 CruiseAbout is available as an Instant Boating Package, on a trailer and fitted with a Johnson 50hp outboard and backed by a three-year factory warranty for $43,450 (which works out at $230 per week). This includes all registrations and safety gear, but doesn’t include dealer delivery charges.
Call Quintrex on (07) 5585 9898 to locate your nearest dealer or to get hold of the July to December 2004 Instant Boating catalogue.
Length overall - 6.53m
Beam - 2.46m
Depth - 0.80m
Material thickness - 3.0mm
Maximum hp - 75
Fuel capacity - 80L
Water capacity - 35L
Waste water tank - 35L
Number of persons - 10
Price as tested - $43,450