Captain’s Report by Capt. Dan Armitage
With the new Chaparral 330 Signature the builder is targeting the boater seeking a quality hardtop cruiser for boating with friends and family without having to make the financial commitment to a far larger boat. The concept is to provide a boat capable of sleeping four comfortably while offering big-boat entertaining features on deck.
Fuller above the waterline forward.
The Wide Tech design feature found on the 330 Signature offers a broader beam farther forward than many vessels of comparable size, which allows the cabin to be wider.
Two different cabin interior options.
There are not many builders who offer two completely different options for the boat's interior in this class. You can opt for a wraparound lounge seat in the salon or a more conventional bench seat settee.
Wood privacy door for mid cabin.
This is a nice feature you see in forty-footers but this is the only 33-footer that has it as far as we know.
Hand-stitched diamond upholstery pattern.
This is something usually found only in the most expensive boats in class. It is a small detail, but one that signals an up-market boat.
The 330 Signature makes available optional twin inflatable mattresses for overnighting. One fits onto the lowered table forward. The other fits next the bench seat for the settee. In this way the boat can comfortably sleep five people in a pinch.
Double-wide companion seat.
Chaparral has taken good ideas from larger boats and incorporated them into the 330. Most express cruisers – no matter how large – do not have one, much less two, seats facing forward for companions. Rather, they have a bench “lounger” seat facing the helm on the port side which allows crawl-in head room for the mid cabin below.
Two-way adjustable helm seat easy at hand.
The helm seat has adjustment controls right in its own armrest so you do not have to fumble under the seat for the adjustment. These lever controls are exclusive to Chaparral, we are told..
Standard fiberglass hardtop with camper canvas.
The hardtop protects against the sun and rain and the standard camper canvas turns the boat into a three-season vessel. Raining? Just put up the front panel.
Only a couple of builders put bulletproof Kevlar into the keel and Chaparral is one of them. The Kevlar gives puncture protection if you hit a submerged object and it also allows the boat to be slightly lighter.
Triple battery set-up.
This is something that normally only appears on far larger boats, nevertheless Chaparral installs it with switches for an added measure of safety and peace-of-mind.
The 330’s standard fiberglass hardtop has a center opening hatch, grab handles, UL approved non-skid and integrated dash steps to make it safe and easy going to and from the bow when sunning, anchoring and docking duties call. The hardtop becomes a great platform upon which to mount antennas for a VHF radio, GPS, or even a radar dome. The alternative in an express boat this size is a Bimini top which looks clunky and has a dozen screws and fittings that often work loose or break because the top comes under extreme pressure when running 35 miles and hour or more. A hardtop is simply the best solution.
The 330 Signature’s standard dash design includes compass, digital instrumentation, Power On illuminated rocker switches, a DC power plug, dimmer controls, windshield wiper and mahogany tilt steering. It is shown here with the optional Garmin 5212 navigation system. All you need to add is a VHF radio.
Note the standard flat screen TV to starboard, which is adjustable for viewing from either end of the cabin, and the large hanging locker to port. The wood cabin sole is optional.
Which Layout to Choose?
Everyone uses their express cruiser in a slightly different way. Some people use them for day trips and entertaining and almost never spend a night aboard. At the other extreme, some boaters use their express cruiser as a moveable summer cabin. One of the exciting things about the 330 is that you can pick the arrangement that best services your boating style. Further, no matter which one you choose, if you want to switch functions in a pinch or on a whim, the boat will allow that, too.
The Wide Tech is more than marketing hype. The max beam of the vessel is actually carried roughly 5’ forward of where a conventional boat would begin to narrow as it goes toward the bow. This clever design results in a spacious and comfortable banquette for cozy gatherings while at anchor. For day trips it provides a large space for lunch if it is rainy. At night it provides a cozy, romantic spot for a couple to dine by candlelight. If you have never enjoyed the bonhomie of friends and family in such a cabin, particularly over a good bottle of red Burgundy, then you are missing one of the great treats of life and boating.The optional layout keeps the bed in place but lowers the foot of it to make a backrest for the huge L-shaped settee. Obviously a large table can fit in front of the settee.
Taking a vacation with the family or another couple presents its own challenges and opportunities. While the forward settee can be broken down at night and converted into a double sleeper, the fact is that is a hassle as bed linens must be broken out and put away. Far better is to have a dedicated double berth made up all of the time to eliminate this fire drill. Because a couple of feet of the bed folds down to make the back of the L-shaped settee there is plenty of seating for four people around a table, very much as before. Once dinner and drinks are over, the table is stowed in its dedicated spot, the bottom of the bed is flipped up, the privacy curtain drawn, and lights out. Both couples or parents and kids have their private sleeping areas.Further, for large families the settee can be made into a double for kids. We would give them a couple of sleeping bags and be done with it. No muss, to fuss.
The 330’s cockpit has a self-bailing fiberglass liner with a diamond pattern non-skid deck surface covered with standard sectional, snap-in carpeting. Cockpit seats are constructed using expanded vinyl with hand-stitched diamond-pattern accent panels. The cockpit is illuminated with indirect courtesy and Tri-Color overhead LED lighting. Note the integrated toe-kicks molded in under the fiberglass seat bases. This is an unusual detail and is indicative of how meticulously this boat was designed.
Chaparral offers nine power options for U.S. consumers ranging from the standard twin 5.0 L 260-hp engines from both Volvo Penta and Mercury to twin 5.7 L 320-hp engines from Volvo Penta. There is also a twin Volvo Penta 2.4 L 200-hp diesel option. Joysticks are available with the 5.7 L options from both engine makers. Boaters using this boat in saltwater should definitely consider the Volvo Penta OceanX package or the Mercury Seacore model. Both of these packages employ special alloys, coatings and devices specifically designed to reduce corrosion problems. We have not tested the 330 so can give no performance numbers or handling information.
Comparison with Other Boats in Class
When we use BoatTEST.com’s comparison feature we see that the 330 is one of the lighter boats at 12,900 lbs., dry, and has one of the narrowest beams at 10’6”. She also draws 41” which means her waterline footprint is less than other boats with roughly the same size designation. What does all of this mean? First, it means that Chaparral is following the new trend in the industry by giving the boat a numerical model designation that is consistent with its length overall, which in this case includes the integral swim platform. Second, it means that the 330’s Wide Tech forward sections and interior layout options allow the boat to have more useable space inside than would otherwise be possible. Indeed, she has 6’8” headroom in the cabin, which is as much as any boat in class, yet she still has a pleasing profile. Third, the light weight – helped in part by her Kevlar keel – makes the boat easier to push which should pay off in several ways: 1) getting good performance with smaller engines; 2) better fuel economy thus lower operating costs; 3) lower out-of-pocket cost in the first place; 4) higher WOT speeds if you choose to go with the big engines.
Observations About the Chaparral 330 SIgnature
Like all boats the 330 has her compromises. The head is a wet head, but all boats in class make this compromise. The galley is quite small with no counter space except for the glass stove top burner. (A salon table comes standard so we would use that as the counter.) But these are small compromises compared to the tremendous amount of room, livability and versatility that the rest of the boat offers. Remember, this is a 33’ boat not a 40-footer.We think the Chaparral 330 Signature is a remarkable boat for a number of reasons, including its interior layout option, its three-across helm arrangement, its mid cabin privacy door, its robust list of options, and of course its standard hardtop with cruising canvas. It is simply a well-thought out boat in a relatively small express cruiser package. To a great degree, we think you get the utility of a 40-footer in a much smaller boat for a lot less money.
Standard and Optional Features
|Carpet: Cockpit||Standard Snap-in|
|Outlet: 12-Volt Acc||Standard|
Boats More Than 30 Feet
(It's quick and FREE!)