Hatteras GT Series: Forget Fishing -- They are Cruising Boats, Too - 10/26/2011

For years we've been saying that convertibles make excellent cruising boats. The reason we've been saying that is because BoatTEST.com's Director of Testing cruised a 55' convertible up and down the U.S. East Coast for years quite happily. Now we hear that more and more boaters are using them for cruising, and not just for fishing. And why not? For many of the same reasons they make excellent fishing boats they make great all-weather cruisers. Their hulls are easy-riding and rough-water-capable; they are fast, turning even long harbor-hops into milk runs; they have voluminous stowage, even though some is meant for fish; and their accommodations equal those of nearly any yacht their size. Add a flying bridge enclosure, and a convertible like a Hatteras GT becomes a three-season cruiser for New England or the Great Lakes.

Hatteras GT Series
Each GT model, like this GT60, has an aggressively flared convex bow that morphs into a sweet tumblehome transom evoking the graceful wooden sportfishermen of days past. This hull form is as useful for open-sea cruising as it is for fishing offshore.

Fast And Able

The Hatteras GT Series is comprised of the GT60, GT63 and GT54, the newest of the three. With designs inspired by fast, comfortable and seaworthy Carolina custom fishboats, the new models share hull forms and profiles among themselves, but are much different from similar-sized boats previously built by Hatteras. All have minimum 41+ knots top end, 36 knots cruise speed (according to the builder) and at least 400 n.m. range – plenty fast and long-legged for harbor-hopping.

Hatteras GT Series
A big cockpit makes cruising a lot more fun. Remove the optional fighting chair and this one, aboard the GT60, has ample room for diving, swimming, and all-around watersports. The mezzanine is wide enough for plenty of admirers and is shaded by the flying bridge overhang. The cockpit includes a tackle center, bait freezer, and under-sole fishboxes; all can be put to cruising uses, too.

Cockpits Are For Cruising, Too

Check out a typical "cruising" motoryacht, and you'll see lots of open-air seating – lounges, dinettes, sunpads, etc. - but usually a small actual cockpit. A GT convertible has a big cockpit, big enough for a fighting chair and a couple of mates to work around it; omit the chair and you're left with mucho space for having fun – 173 sq. ft. on the GT63. There's room for putting on diving gear and stowing spare tanks, for your kids to scatter their swimming stuff (install a removable diving ladder at the transom door for climbing back aboard). And, let's not forget, for casual fishing, maybe casting for blues or letting the kids jig for mackerel. Both make good eating, and you can grill them on a hibachi mounted in a rod holder.

Most people we know who use their convertibles for cruising have large swim platforms which are also ideal for scuba diving, landing friends in their tenders, and bringing aboard small game fish when at anchor.

Hatteras GT Series
Here's the GT60's flying bridge with enough seating for the whole crew. The helm is situated far enough aft that the skipper can watch the cockpit action without leaving the wheel, a feature that's also excellent for backing into an unfamiliar slip. Single-lever controls let him spin the boat like a ballerina on pointe; no pods required. An enclosed flying bridge is optional, and transforms the space into an upper salon, even better for New England cruising.

Since the helm is on the flying bridge, the tender (either rigid or a RIB) nestles nicely on the bow in a cradle. It can easily be launched by one person with a hydraulic davit. Some owners even keep a soft inflatable rolled up in the lazarette for occasional use.

Posh Cabins

Fishing-boat accommodations have come a long way since Hatteras built the first fiberglass convertible in 1959. Now they rival those aboard any yacht and the GT Series kicks the game up a notch. Each model has a selection of layouts with a variety of sleeping arrangements – doubles, singles, V-berths or upper and lowers. It's possible to work in a crew cabin, too. Hatteras will work with buyers on customizing a layout.

Hatteras GT Series
Can you tell this big salon isn't aboard a "cruising" boat? We can't, but this is a Hatteras GT60. Large windows provide plenty of light, the galley should satisfy even finicky chefs, and the dinette is an easy reach away. There's a 42" LCD TV and a Bose home theater. Air conditioning vents are concealed in the valences, and both smoke and CO detectors are standard.

Seaworthy and Sea-kindly

Perhaps the most important aspect of a convertible for cruising is the fact that she is by nature a rugged offshore boat. For over half a century Carolina charter boat fishermen wanted a hull that could take them to the continental shelf and back in rough conditions so they wouldn't lose a paid charter. Further, they wanted to do that fast to maximize time trolling in the fishing grounds, so the boat had to be quick. On the other hand, they also wanted to do all of this as fuel efficiently as possible because every extra dollar spent on diesel was a dollar less they netted from the charter.

This set of requirements meant that not only did the boats have to be strong, but they also had to be fine forward in the forefoot in order to easily cut through seas and not pound. Also requires was a low deadrise in the stern sections so the boat would be able to plane easily with a minimum of horsepower. Finally, the Carolina fishermen took a page from the Rybovich brothers and added a lot of bow flare to knock down the seas and throw the water out to the sides rather than up to the flying bridge.

The custom charter fishing boat builders on North Carolina's Outer Banks evolved their designs over decades to maximize all of the attributes that would make their boating offshore as comfortable, dry, fast and economical as possible. And that is where the Hatteras GTs come in. Hatteras, located in New Bern, North Carolina, just down the road from the nearest Outer Banks boat yard, did not have to look far to refine the lines of its convertibles.

Hatteras GT Series
The GT60's queen-sized master berth is either athwartships or fore-and-aft, depending on the layout you choose; in both cases the master stateroom is big and comfortable. And look at all of that wood.

That symbiosis together with the fact that Hatteras was founded in High Point, N.C. -- the furniture-making capital of North America -- means that this one company was uniquely located to also take advantage of generations of joinery workers and wood craftsmen. Little wonder, then, that Hatteras convertibles have always been yacht-like inside with top quality interior fit-and-finish -- just the kind of thing that a cruising couple would appreciate.

Convertibles Look "Yachty"

Let's face it, probably the most important aspect of any boat-buying decision is how the boat looks in the eyes of the person writing the check. Many boaters like the workboat/big game/rugged lines of a convertible, particularly one with a heritage as authentic as the Outer Banks. Some buyers simply prefer to have a boat without bunny pads all around or unusual lines that look more like a huge automobile or a floating condo.

Convertibles never look out of place no matter where you see them. They are as at home in the harbor of Monte Carlo as they are at the Australian dock in Palm Beach or anchored in front of the New York Yacht Club in Newport, RI. They simply fit in most anywhere and so their skippers can have a pride of ownership no matter where they are.

Hatteras GT Series
A Hatteras GT60 convertible cruising into the sunset can be easily converted to a cruising boat by getting rid of the tower and adding life rails and an anchor roller on the bow. We'd keep the hardtop and an cruising canvas. All told, it would be about a $20,000 conversion. Sell the tower and riggers on eBay.

The Bottom Line

We think anyone planning on extensive cruising would do themselves a favor to check out the potential of modern convertibles like the Hatteras GT Series. These boats have all the necessary attributes of "proper" cruisers, but also excellent performance and unmatched seakeeping ability. Whether you want to harbor-hop from New York to Nantucket to Nova Scotia, or circumnavigate the Great Lakes, one of these new convertibles could be just what the cruising doctor ordered.

Hatteras GT Series
Now, that's cruising! Big Caterpillars will send this GT60 past 40 knots, says Hatteras. Maybe you don't need to cruise that fast, but someday the extra speed will come in handy – maybe you want to crank off a couple of hundred miles during a weather window, or make a long run in daylight.