MasterCraft 300: Breaks from Tradition with New Cruising 30-Footer - 02/11/2009

Tomorrow at the Miami International Boat Show MasterCraft will debut its new “300.” It will be a watershed boat for the Tennessee builder which has been known for 40 years for its up-market tournament ski and wakeboard boats. In MasterCraft’s announcement press release it said, “We’re no longer just a ski boat company.” With that one sentence and the boat pictured above, MasterCraft is venturing into the domain of Formula, Four Winns, Larson and other American builders who have heretofore defined the modern high-end 30’+ express cruiser. This is a strategic – and possibly brilliant – corporate move; one designed to give MasterCraft’s future a potential not realistically possible as long as it is mired in the hammer-and-tong ski/wakeboat competition. We could be wrong, but we detect the fine hand of Roger Penske behind this radical move.

MasterCraft  300
MasterCraft is taking aim at the 30’+ prestige cruising boat market with its exciting new pickle fork yacht with an 11’ beam.

MasterCraft says that it is “…charging head first into the cruising world” because many of their customers’ children are moving on to college or careers and so Mom and Dad are ready to go cruising. A second reason is because MasterCraft has detected what they call a “comeback” audience of people who are down-sizing from cruising boats in the 45-foot range, but who have become used to the amenities and quality of larger boats.

MasterCraft  300
Sink and refer or ice maker go behind helm and companion seating. Note off-center thru-windshield bow access.

The 300 is designed for “bigger” water than the lakes and rivers where ski/wakeboard boats are traditionally used. The company has designed this boat for large lakes, huge reservoirs, sounds and estuaries like the Chesapeake Bay and Long Island Sound.

Pickle Fork Creates Room

MasterCraft has taken a radical step by building something outside of their core business and the innovation fostered by the highly competitive ski/wakeboard business will certainly be needed there as they go up against companies that have decades of experience and goodwill in the 30’+ category. Even more interesting is that MasterCraft is using its “Twin-Tip” pickle fork bow design to enter this cruising area. We can’t think of another boat over 30’ currently being built with this design concept. In the boat business, this sort of thing is considered a bold step.

MasterCraft  300
Note that the anchor placement which keeps the deck clean. This boat has a bow thruster.

There are several advantages to the “Twin-Tip” design (which has the hard chines carried up to the port and starboard tongs of the pickle fork.) Some of the advantages are: 1) It creates a lot of room in the bow; so much so that the 300 has a 6’6” athawartship bunk forward, thereby picking up room further aft. 2) Naturally, this also creates more deck area on the bow, making anchor handling easier. 3) The 300’s 11’ beam is carried farther forward than otherwise it would have been. A company spokesman said that according to their measurements of cruising boats in the 33’ to 35’ foot range, their new boat has the room of a 34-footer in both the cabin and in the cockpit.

On the other side of the coin, people will naturally ask at what sea height and boat speed does the blunt bow begin to pound?  me traditionalists might be slow to adapt to the new esthetics of the design until there are more of this design on the water and MasterCraft’s stated market for this boat are baby boomers who are much more conservative than their kids.

MasterCraft  300
Looking forward the galley is to port and double athawartship bunk is forward of the round settee.

Italian Design Idea

Italian boat builder Angelo Molinari produced pickle fork tunnel hull raceboats in the 1960s. These boats had twin sponsons. They were widely copied and are used still today on the race circuit. A few years ago MasterCraft was the first builder to introduce the pickle fork concept in modern times, adapting it to a monohull. Soon Tigé came out with their own ski/wakeboard boat using the concept. Within months Four Winns and Regal brought out their own pickle fork designs in the runabout cruiser field 26’ and under. It remains to be seen if more companies follow MasterCraft’s design bread crumbs over 30’.


MasterCraft also wanted 6’2” headroom below and has achieved that at the base of the companionway. Clearance in the head compartment is about 6.’ Below, a round settee makes into the second double berth. To port the galley has a microwave, sink, refer/freezer and an optional single-burner stove top.

MasterCraft  300
The radar arch is standard, but the hardtop with tinted glass is optional.

The high freeboard is put to good use below the cockpit sole where the company has placed a large equipment bay that is accessed by a hatch between the helm and companion seats. This is exactly where builders of express cruisers have been putting the “mid cabin” bunk for the last 30 years or so. But on the 300, the space is used for the Kohler 7.3kw gas (CO-Safe) generator, A/C compressors for cabin and cockpit, tankage and storage space.

The radar arch is standard and can be fitted with an optional “hard top” with 5 pieces of tempered tinted glass which the builder says filters out 90% of harmful UV. An Isinglass package is available as an option so the boat can be buttoned up for cruising or entertaining in colder climes or on rainy days. We like this option for the obvious utility that it adds to the boat.

Engines and Joystick

Standard engines are twin MCX 350-hp Indmar driving through ZF V-drive transmissions. 6 liter gas engines are an option, as well as twin 350-hp CMD diesels. With the standard engines, the boat will have an MSRP of under $300k.

You can order the 300 with ZF Joystick Control. This model has a bow thruster, and the joystick software coordinates the vectors among the three stationary props. While this arrangement is not as nimble as a joystick with pod drives, it is also not as expensive, heavy, or as cumbersome. For this size boat it may well be the best propulsion system.

MasterCraft  300
Twin 350-hp Indmar V-drives are easy to access from the helm area.

We will be testing the new MasterCraft 300 in the near future so stand by for an in-depth look by one of our captains in both video and written report.

Basic Specifications--
LOA with swim platform 33’9”
LOA without swim platform 30’4”
Beam 11'
Displacement 12,500 lbs.
Fuel Capacity 200 gal.

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For more information, visit MasterCraft’s website --

Read BoatTEST’s 2007 article on Roger Penske buying MasterCraft --

See tests of MasterCraft boats --