The best car brands in the world know that the fastest way to a consumer’s heart—on a par with building a quality, reliable product, at least—is to make the buying process seamless, painless, and most of all, transparent. We recently went through this with Subaru, the de rigueur car on Seattle’s roller-coaster streets. We’ve always been bemused by the brand’s Northwest ubiquity, but after owning one for a few months, the reasons for this are apparent: It is comfortable, reliable, sporty enough, and versatile to do the bidding that is dished out in this area’s confused weather of persistent wet, mud, and snowy-mountain conditions. Buying the car was easy. Subaru, like other successful brands, understands that eliminating friction is the key: offer value at the time of purchase, excellent after-sales support, and a smiling face at the door. Each goes a long way toward earning repeat business.
Cutwater Boats understands this, too, and practices it with precision. The production builder, based in Monroe, Washington, has applied many of these same build-and-sell tenets to their line of hybrid sport-cruise boats, a philosophy that they also perfected with their other line, Ranger Tugs. I’m always impressed with these folks at boat shows, and the laid-back pitch philosophy starts with knowledgeable dealer and factory reps. The sales staff is upbeat, professional, and to a person, understands that most of today’s boaters just want things to be simple. What does the beginning boater want? The simplicity of operation and peace of mind that eliminates some, but probably not all, of the fear of boating for the first time. And what does the experienced boater want, the one who is dropping down in size? They likely want the exact same thing for different reasons.
If all this isn’t enough, Ranger/Cutwater’s new website is geared much more like a car-buying experience. Research until your heart’s content, whittle it down to your favorite, and configure your boat with options. The pricing is fully transparent, so each feature or amenity you want to add gets totaled up right in front of your eyes. Then, when you’re finished, email the quote to yourself, send it to a dealer near you, and get started.
In another customer-focused program that mimics the automobile industry, Cutwater offers a factory delivery program. For a fee, pick up your new Cutwater from the factory and spend two days with a factory rep understanding the boat’s systems and operation. Then, stay and cruise, attend the mammoth Ranger/Cutwater rendezvous in Roche Harbor, and ship your boat home if you don’t live in the area. This is another way that the manufacturer allows newbie owners a gateway for starting a relationship on the right foot. Brilliant.
The current Cutwater line consists of models in three sizes: 24, 28, and 30 feet. We’ll focus on the 30CB for this review, but the interesting thing about these boats is that the running performance and build is remarkably consistent, and the only things that really change are amenities, onboard elbow room, and whether or not you prefer an inboard diesel over the modern outboard-drive, when available. Many of the models come with one or two thrusters, and every one comes with a Garmin electronics package. In an attempt to make the boat as turnkey as possible, there isn’t much of a barrier between stepping onto a boat for the first time, and sailing—or trailering—her home. All Cutwaters are sold ready-to-cruise. It’s up to you whether you want to add all the bling.
On a calm, sunny February day, we had the chance to step aboard two models and test each on Lake Washington. Conditions were glassy, so I’m officially 0-for-2 on Ranger/Cutwater sea trials during vigorous conditions. Regardless, I spent time on board both the 30CB—the CB stands for “Command Bridge”—and the 24-foot Coupe, powered by a 300-horse Yamaha. The 30 is a sleek effort, available in white or optionally in blue, with a swept-back windshield and a forward trunk cabin that angles aerodynamically into the foredeck. Admittedly the CB version isn’t my favorite in this boat, or in the Ranger 29, from an aesthetic standpoint. I find the stainless up top, though necessary to support the radar arch and seating, are a little too busy. But for those who want a comfortable and commanding point of view while driving or dining, it’s hard to beat.
The interiors are simple and clean, and once you figure out how to convert the seating in their various configurations, quite handy. As a former sailor, one thing I always love about these boats is how many people you can pack into a small amount of space. The 30 is no different, sleeping six by way of the forward cabin, hidden quarter berth under the dinette, and atop the convertible dinette itself. Obviously, with a single head, you’d have to be fairly comfortable with the guests you choose to join you, and the hidden berth with that many people on a long cruise would probably benefit more as stowage.
Cutwater offers the 30 in bridge and sedan models. Packages include the Northwest Edition, which features, among other things, a diesel, forced-air furnace, upgraded Garmin suite, downrigger plugs and pads, and a propane stove. The Luxury Edition package includes air conditioning/reverse-cycle heat, a 5kW generator, and wireless remote control for the bow and stern thrusters. In typical Cutwater ingenuity, the cockpit also has been configured to host seating for up to eight adults.
On the Water
At 30-feet of molded fiberglass and just 11,000 pounds of dry displacement, the 30CB gets up quickly on her hull and carves turns with ease at speeds up to 28 knots during our test. Despite the light weight, she feels solid underfoot and drives through the water with confidence and excellent efficiency (see performance table). Much consideration was put into the hull design by John Livingston (president of Fluid Motion, the parent company for Ranger and Cutwater, and son of renowned Dave Livingston), in order to create a high-performance, planing hull that is versatile at a wide speed range, as well as solid and stable. On Cutwater’s website (www.goo.gl/AxzwXx), the manufacturer goes into helpful detail to describe the features of the design, including the skeg keel that helps roll stability, straight-line tracking, and prop protection for the single-propped, 435-horspower, Volvo D6 powerplant.