By Tom Tripp
Cutwater 28: Versatile and Fuel-Efficient
The makers of Ranger Tugs pack innovative comfort, protection, and performance into their new trailerable cruiser.
In the Cutwater 28, small families and couples have a new option when looking for a pocket cruiser. More than just a new boat, the CW 28 shows some serious innovation in design and features that will make for better coastal cruising. Cutwater Boats is a new brand from Fluid Motion, LLC, the builders of Ranger Tugs, in Washington State.
When you first approach the Cutwater 28 at the dock, you see a sleek, good-looking sedan cruiser reminiscent of a Down East-style boat, but with fuller hull sections forward. The dark blue of hull #19, the boat we tested, was nicely combined with a white house structure and stainless rails and trim. Some of that trim turned out to be more than just pretty. For example, forward on the bow just below the anchor pulpit were LED “docking lights,” a nice touch for tying up in a dark marina or looking for a mooring ball at night when it’s too close to see with the spotlight. Clearly, the designers have used boats like this under real-world conditions; something that doesn’t always seem to be the case.
The CW 28, however, is more than nice accessories. In fact, with its single diesel and standard bow and stern thrusters, it could be the first wave of many future boats. The Yanmar diesel runs quietly and without any smoke or overpowering exhaust fumes, and gives the boat impressive fuel efficiency. Even at a top speed of more than 23 knots, you will still be getting better than two nautical miles per gallon. And the bow/stern thruster combination, with its wireless controller option, makes handling around the docks effortless.
The Cutwater 28 I sea-trialed was provided by Prestige Yacht Sales, in Stamford, CT. I rode with Tom Pilkington, who demonstrated the wireless thruster controller when we left the dock on a hot summer afternoon. The twin electric Side-Power thrusters give the driver joystick-like control. In fact, almost everything about this boat that otherwise looks fairly normal has something unusual and innovative that takes it a step above, often a big step.
Boarding the boat is simple via the huge swim platform. My test boat had the optional stainless safety rails but all boats have a molded trailing indent that fits small fenders; a nice touch for stern-to docking. Most of us have jury-rigged fenders to protect our swim platforms, usually without real success.
The aft cockpit – which incidentally, is the only area of real difference between the Cutwater 28 and its smaller sister, the Cutwater 26 – has a two-person bench seat built into the transom. The cool thing is that it flips over and becomes an aft-facing seat for sipping a cocktail while at anchor. The forward port corner of the cockpit has a built-in nest for a cooler, and storage below for the barbecue grill. Below that is access to the optional 2.7kW generator (required if you want AC). On the starboard side, the forward corner hosts a sink with fresh hot and cold water on an extendable faucet-wand. You can also order a second steering station here if you’re a hard-core fishing addict. I don’t think it’s needed for docking, given the dual thrusters and their wireless remote, but you have the option.
The saloon continues the old/new theme: The galley is to port with dual-fuel (electric/alcohol) stove (diesel is an option), convection microwave, stainless sink, and under-counter fridge-freezer. There’s a swiveling companion seat all the way forward to port. On the starboard side of the saloon is a convertible dinette, which can be used as a 7-foot berth for two. The forward bench of the dinette flips over and becomes a raised bench seat for the captain. Clever. The aft dinette bench lifts to reveal the entrance to a mid-berth under the dinette, which could theoretically host an adult couple, but which is more likely to be the secret hiding kingdom of a couple of imaginative kids. On the starboard aft bulkhead of the saloon are the battery and electrical panels, neatly organized.
The helm has a large dash, angled perfectly, which on my boat was fitted with a single 10″ Garmin chartplotter, networked with a radar and fish/depthfinder. A Garmin radio and autopilot — also with wireless controller — and the Yanmar engine display panel completed the electronics suite. This is a package available from the factory, but there’s ample room on that panel for a geek like me to fill it with at least two 10″ screens and lots of other sub-panels (even if I don’t really need them).
The windshield offers great visibility and a pair of nice Imtra wipers will move the water away nicely, although I’d bet most buyers will want to add some washers to those wipers. In fact, the visibility all-around is fabulous. Huge sliding windows port and starboard and four overhead hatches bring plenty of light and fresh air into the boat.
The cabin forward has a V-berth, with a table in the middle that lowers and is covered with a filler cushion to expand the sleeping area. A cool little breakfast nook in the aft port quarter of the cabin features a sink, microwave, and coffeemaker. The head is aft to starboard and has everything you need, even if it’s a bit cozy.
Driving the Cutwater 28 is nothing but fun. The Livingston father and son team who own Fluid Motion LLC designed a unique stepped hull with a keel pad, reverse chines, an aft keel that protects the prop, and a series of strakes that control both water and air flow. The result of this complicated arrangement is a boat that transitions nearly seamlessly from trolling speed up onto a full plane – from under 12 knots to almost 24 knots. You need to manage the trim tabs: There’s a lot of natural lift in the bow and you want to bring it down to get the fine entry to slice through chop. Also, let’s face it, this perfectly trailerable boat has the traditional 8.5-foot beam to conform to trailering limits, so at high speed in the water you’ll probably want to fine-tune the lateral balance. It’s not hard to do and doesn’t take away from the nice handling manners of the boat, which leans modestly into turns but wants to pop upright quickly when you release the turn. Laying to in a beam sea, the boat calms itself in one and a half rolls, a typical recovery period, and it’s not uncomfortable.
The fuel economy is really excellent — 23-plus knots at better than two nautical miles per gallon. Many trawlers won’t do that at seven knots. At seven knots in the CW 28, you’re burning only a little more than 1.6 gph, which is 4.3 nmpg. At high speed, the range with 100 gallons of fuel is better than 200 miles, and of course if you want to slow down the range goes way up.
When you push the throttle all the way forward, the 260-hp Yanmar 6BY2 diesel winds up quickly, and aside from some turbo whine, it’s nice and quiet. Even at full speed, I was able to converse normally at the helm, and noise levels in the cockpit at that speed stayed in the mid-80s (dB-A) and had as much to do with wind and water noise as the engine. The turbo whine can be corrected with a different available aftermarket air intake, although the company is working with Yanmar to implement an integral improvement. Either way, it’s not a big deal, nor difficult to eliminate.
There are far too many other interesting features to cover fully here, but a short list would include the electric lift-powered engine hatch in the cockpit, the sport rack on the cabin roof for kayaks or other gear, and the clever anchor pulpit that has a gate in the rail and a full-length retractable ladder for climbing down to the beach when you take the boat into the shallows. Speaking of the anchor, there’s a nice Lewmar windlass with foot pedals at the bow and duplicate controls at the helm, not to mention a stainless protection plate on the stem so the anchor won’t swing against the gelcoat.
Finally, all this innovation and flexibility comes at an eminently reasonable price. The boat I tested, with full electronics package, satellite TV, swim platform rails, wireless controls for thrusters and autopilot, and the nifty solar panel topside that will keep the batteries charged, is priced at about $209,000 from Prestige, with a trailer. The current base price is about $170,000. Its smaller sister, the Cutwater 26, is nearly identical, but with a shorter and simpler cockpit, and runs about $30,000 less.
For more information, visit Cutwater Boats.
- Tom is the publisher of www.OceanLines.biz, a website about passagemaking boats and information. He is also a contributor to Chesapeake Bay Magazine who has been at sea aboard everything from a 17-foot homemade wooden fishing boat to a 1,000-foot-long, 96,000-ton, nuclear-powered aircraft carrier.