The Cutwater 28 is the newest creation of Fluid Motion, LLC, which is owned by John Livingston and his father, David. These are the folks who introduced the Ranger Tug 25 six years ago and quickly followed that boat with a 29 and more recently a 27. Last year Ranger Tugs ranked #5 in inboard powerboat sales over 24' (7.38 m), according to the builder.Granted that the Ranger Tugs were probably the smallest and least expensive boats in the 24'+ inboard category, nevertheless its growing sales into the teeth of the worst recession since the big D is no easy feat. And perhaps it is an object lesson for the whole boating industry as to where the market is moving, as consumers recalibrate their expectations and material needs to the reduced resources available.
The Livingstons sensed an opportunity with the same general demographic of customer with a vessel that did not look like a tug. After all, some people, particularly those not from the Northwest of the U.S., consider recreational tugs a "character" boat and an oddity on the water. (Tugs have been commonplace in the Pacific Northwest because of the prolific barge and logging traffic on the waterways there. Live-aboard tugs are all over the place and are treated with something bordering on reverence by the locals.)So the mission was to go where the competition wasn't in a vessel that was not a character boat, but still had charm, and was distinguished from the ubiquitous Euro-styled express cruiser. Making it trailerable and affordable assures the widest possible market acceptance -- appealing to people moving up and down and even over to power from sailboats. The builder has even added a small fishing component on the Cutwater 28 to cover that base as well.
Why A Downeast Style?
Downeast express cruiser designs were inspired by Maine lobster boats just as the Ranger Tugs had been inspired by the logging tugs of the Pacific Northwest. And just as companies like Nordic Tugs and American Tugs proved that small replicas of these workboats could have buyer appeal, so, too, had brands like Eastbay, Sabre and even Hinckley proved the concept of making a popular cruising yacht based on a Maine workboat's exterior styling.The folks at Fluid Motion think that the Downeast style will have a broader appeal than the mini tugs. Indeed, even Vicem, located just outside of Istanbul, Turkey builds the Downeast style and sells them around the world -- for millions of dollars. But the two new Cutwater models -- 26' and 28' -- are targeted to the other end of the spectrum from Vicem. This is a boat almost anyone can afford. It is Everyman's Downeast cruiser.
Boat For The Times
Single-engine trawlers got traction among boaters in the early 1970s thanks to a couple of OPEC oil embargos and soaring fuel prices, and the time is right for a single-engine vessels once again. With one big difference -- the Cutwaters weigh 5,900 lbs. and 6,400 lbs. (2,681 kgs. and 2,909 kgs.), respectively, and with a 8' 6" (2.6 m) beam, they are...(drum roll, please)... trailerable!This one design detail takes advantage of the greatest fuel saving system ever created for the wide-ranging cruising family -- America's fantastic Interstate highway system! You might get only 10 or 12 mpg in your truck towing a Cutwater, but that is a lot better than 2 or 3 mpg in the boat as you travel to your cruising destination, and it's a lot faster, too.
The Little Engine That Can
The Cutwater 26's single Yanmar 4-cylinder diesel develops 180 mph (metric horsepower) at 4000 rpm and is rated at 137 mhp continuous at 3600 rpm. The 2L common-rail diesel weighs 569 lbs. (258 kg.) without its marine gear. The Cutwater 28 is powered by a single 6-cylinder 3L common-rail Yanmar 6BY2 260 which develops 260 mhp at 4000 rpm, and is rated at 198 mhp continuous at 3500 rpm. A spokesman for the builder said that the 28 will go about 5 knots faster both at cruise and at WOT than the Ranger Tug 27. That means that the new Cutwater 28 should be able to cruise efficiently at 20 knots and have a WOT approaching 25 knots. We cannot at this time verify those numbers because we have not yet tested the boat, but we are planning to in the near future.
We asked the folks at Cutwater why they installed a more expensive diesel engine in their boat rather than gas since it was designed for the American market. The answer was that while the company's goal was to produce an affordable boat, low-price was not their only objective. "We wanted to use the same engines that have served our customers so well in the Ranger Tugs," said the spokesman, "and the advantages of diesel are obvious." Indeed, the Yanmar 6BY2 is 166 lbs. (75.4 kg.) lighter than a typical 5.7L Vortec block gas engine that typically develops from 220- to 300-hp at from 4600 to 5000 rpm. The 6BY2 3L engine also has a smaller envelope than the 5.7L gas engine. A diesel's prodigious low-end torque, plus the Cutwater's unusual hull design, help the boat get up on plane quickly, according to the builder. There are far fewer things to go wrong on a diesel, they generally have a much longer useful life, and of course they have the advantage of safety. Single diesel power is fuel miserly at cruise which means the boat has a greater range, can have a smaller fuel tank and carry a lighter fuel load. Having diesel power as standard equipment also sets the Cutwater apart from other boat lines.
We asked why Yanmar diesels were selected as the only standard or optional engine in the Cutwaters and the answer was because the principals of the company had been using Yanmar diesels since 1979 and like the "good support" that Yanmar gave the builder. We were also told that Yanmar has a good warranty program and has more service locations in North America than other diesel brands.
Light But Strong
Fluid Motion is located in the Puget Sound area, which is not a place known for its mill-pond boating conditions. Mariners there go out in all sorts of weather, or get caught in it as it rolls in unannounced from the Pacific. The Livingstons are used to building boats for customers in those conditions. David worked for Bayliner for years as the company's chief designer in charge of product development and was president of the company in 1988 and '89 when it was building over 50,000 boats a year. Back in those days Bayliners were the lowest-priced boats on the market, but that did not mean they couldn't handle the sea conditions in the San Juans and up the Pacific coast in British Columbia and even in the Alaskan panhandle. The marinas along that 1,600 miles of coastline are full of Bayliners to this day, and many of them were built in the 1980s. This means that David Livingston knows not only how to build affordable boats, but more importantly, affordable boats that hang together in less than ideal conditions.
Details of Construction
We are told by the builder that the hull of the Cutwaters is solid fiberglass with no coring material used. Further, we were told that the laminate schedule for the Cutwaters is the same as other boats use in that size "if not more." Divinycell PVC foam coring is used in the deck, particularly around hatches and other places where stiffening is crucial. Coremat is used in the cabin sides, roof and elsewhere and this is one of the company's means of keeping weight down without losing stiffness. Coremat is a non-woven polyester which contains microspheres and is generally used as a print-through blocker, but by using it creatively in non-structural areas a lot of weight can be saved.
Designed For Cruising
What all of this means is that just because a boat is trailerable and relatively low-cost doesn't mean that it is not seaworthy. The boat's bottom is an interesting adaptation of several design elements from totally different types of boats, melded into a new hull the likes of which is quite unusual.
The bottom is a
, something you might expect to see in a high-speed sportboat or on an offshore race boat hull where an extra knot might mean something. The builder says it's worth 1 to 1-1/2 knots at WOT and that it helps the boat get up on plane faster. We're told that the air sucked under the hull is directed out to the sides so it won't interfere with the single prop.
keel has a "pad"
running its entire length. A pad is not something you generally see on a keel so far forward. Usually they are in the aft 1/3rd of a boat on the center line. Pads are a flat surface that definitely improve speed and fuel efficiency when used in the conventional manner and have been used successfully on everything from bass boats to offshore big game convertibles.
substantial skeg keel
starts about two-thirds of the way back from the bow and runs until the prop shaft protrudes from it. This deep keel protects the prop from grounding, adds directional stability and dampens roll. Keels of this type are typically seen on large displacement cruising boats and trawlers.
Along either side of the keel is a
, as Cutwater calls it. This is a clever break from convention which is essentially a large bump in the bottom of the hull to allow the engine to be placed lower and the floor of the boat to also be lower. By being placed so low the engine drive shaft can have a down angle of only 6-degrees, which makes the prop almost as efficient as it would be on the horizontal. Typically on inboard powerboats down angles of shafts are from 11 to 14 degrees these days, and they used to be more. Lowering the floor allows Cutwater to have over 6'2" (1.89 m) headroom in the cabin. A tertiary advantage of that bottom bulge is that it slightly reduces the draft of the boat, which is just 26" (66.04 cm).
The raked stem of the bow curves downward into a
Cutwater says, "This nuance also extends the waterline to improve fuel efficiency and allows fuller sections...[in the bow allowing ]...greater usable interior space." Between the #2 and the #5 on the drawing above you can see the hole for the bow thruster. Both models also have a stern thruster. Side Power makes the units which are standard and are connected to a single battery. A spokesman said that while the thrusters are intended for little nudges for docking, they can be run for as long as two minutes or so.
The accommodations plans of the Cutwater 26 and 28 are pretty much the same. It is the basic layout we have all come to expect, but there are a couple of wrinkles that make the boat fun and more useful, as one has come to expect from the fertile minds of the father and son Livingston team.
Starting forward, there is 6' 2" headroom (1.86 m), bunks up along the side of the hull port and starboard and a filler cushion is available when the high/low table is down if you want to make it a play pen. The head has 6' (1.84 m) headroom and is a wet head. The novelty here is the fact that there is a wet bar with microwave and coffee maker standard on the C-28. And there is a standard flat screen TV on the bulkhead.
The boats come standard with a high/low table so that this area can be used for seating for four adults. This provides some interesting options for the cruising couple. They can sleep in the mid-berth described below, use the dinette for an mini office or whatever, and utilize the forward cabin for dining. Hey, it's a thought! Or if cruising with kids...well you get the idea.Both the C-26 and C-28 are really designed for a cruising couple. While the dinette can seat four, it is more comfortable for two, particularly if they are a large two. The back of the double helm seat flips forward so that the dinette is complete. We like the nav seat on the port side of the boat which will make piloting even more comfortable for a couple. The table is a high/low and so the dinette can be made into a bed for two chums. (Psst -- The C-28 has a standard wine cooler under the helm seat.)
Flip the folding nav seat forward and you have more galley counter space than we've seen on some far larger boats. There is a two burner cook top and you can speak to the folks at Cutwater about it. They offer alcohol, electric or diesel fuel options. How about propane? The galley has two sinks, under counter frig/refer and a microwave oven.
The neat trick of the Cutwater design, just as with the Ranger Tugs, is the sleeping space that has been nestled under the dinette and galley. Abaft the dinette there is a step down into this area which runs athwartships, rather than fore-and-aft as it does on the Ranger Tugs. The space measures 7' (2.15 m) head to toe. Interior bulkheads are cherry veneer over plywood. Cabinets are made from solid teak and a teak and holly sole throughout the interior is standard on both models.
The Cockpit Is The Difference
There are two major differences between the C-26 and C-28. The first is the cockpit. The C-28 is 2' longer which gives it an additional 16 sq. ft. of space in the cockpit. Both have a seat in the transom that faces forward -- or, swivel the seat around when at anchor, face aft and watch the sun go down with a glass of nice burgundy or watch your grandkids paddle around in the water. The C-28 has a cabinet to starboard with a sink and a shower. To port both models have a cabinet where you can store your BBQ grill and ice chest. The C-28 also has the option of a remote helm station next to the cabin door for docking...or backing down on fish? Oh, and we almost forgot, the C-28 has rod holders in the covering boards. Access to the engine room below is aided by an electric hatch lift. The hatch is large and access looks to be very good. There are other hatches in the deck to access other items of equipment. There is a transom gate with locking door, which is the right way of doing it. Some cruising couples like to have a couple of folding chairs in their cockpit for sunbathing, reading or just to be more comfortable. The C-28 can probably hold four of these. The swim platform is 3' (.92 m) fore-and-aft and has three integral rubber fenders on the trailing edge. The swim ladder is to starboard. There are no center drains in the platform so we hope that the bolts and brackets that connect it to the transom are strong enough to support a ton of water on it when in a sloppy seaway.Side decks on both boats are narrow, but remember this is a trailerable boat. They are passable and Cutwater has put plenty of handholds on the roof. Forward there is a bow pulpit with retractable four rung ladder for landing on a beach, or maybe for a touch-and-go landing at a dock. An anchor windlass is not standard on either boat. Since the boat is so light, perhaps you don't need heavy ground tackle; just have a good Danforth and 30' of chain and let the old man handle it.
We plan on testing this boat soon so we will hold off making a specific recommendation until then. But in the meantime we would like to pass along an opinion we have had for 40 years about boat selection. Namely, you should match the boat you buy to the mission you have for it and for the waters that you plan to traverse. This boat is not designed to go around Cape Horn, but on the other hand you do not need a boat that could go around Cape Horn for gentle cruising in places like the Chesapeake Bay, Long Island Sound, up the British Columbia coast to Glacier Bay or over to the Bahamas in decent weather. Despite all of the articles and pictures you see in boating magazines of large trawlers, motoryachts and cruising boats, very few of them are actually sold each year. For example, in 2009, only about 2,400 new inboard powered boats over 26' (8 m) were sold in the U.S. That tells us that there are a lot of people in America -- and around the world -- who would like to go cruising but can't afford the million-dollar plus yachts that we see promoted everywhere. The folks who own Fluid Motion know that. And they have created a boat for that constituency. Our advice is to check it out, as it may be just the right compromise between dollars and sea keeping abilities that will fit your plans. We asked the owners of the company how many Cutwaters they could build this year and the answer was 49. This is a new company and they only have five dealers in the U.S. and Canada (but they are looking for more). If you are interested in the boat we recommend you call the factory and ask the whereabouts of the closest boat to you.
Standard and Optional Features
|Washdown: Raw Water||Standard|
|Outlet: 12-Volt Acc||Standard|
Boats More Than 30 Feet
Full Warranty Information on this brand coming soon!