2014, Botany Bay: The Cruise Craft Explorer 595 HT (for Hard Top) is one of the latest models to carry that famous brand which has become synonymous for top quality fishing boats that are strongly built and well designed to handle Australia’s typical offshore angling conditions.
The 595 designation refers to the 5.95 metre hull length, although the integral bowsprit takes it out to 6.35 metres overall. Rated for outboards to 200 hp, the review 595HT was graced with a Suzuki 175 four-stroke on the transom and, with a number of options, was priced by Hunts at a tow-away package price of $99,784. That may vary by the time you read this, or with different power and options, but its representative of the value in this Cruise Craft.
The Australian boating industry has seen many highs and lows over the decades, from boom times to recessions, high interest rates to low, strong to weak Aussie dollars, floods to droughts and from overseas takeovers to cheap imports. Being able to thrive let alone survive through all this takes a particular brand of determination and perseverance - and of outstanding ability and service.
So I was most privileged for this review to see how two Aussie family companies have overcome every challenge to be at the top of the game after nearly 70 years in the marine trade.
In 1946 Roy Nichols began building timber boats and today, at a site in the Brisbane suburb of Hemmant that it has occupied since the early 1960s, the Nichols Bros family company thrives under the Cruise Craft brand with a third generation at the helm. In a remarkable parallel, also in 1946 Edwin Hunt established a showroom in the southern Sydney suburb of Blakehurst with a range of wooden launches and dinghies. On that same site today Hunts Marine continues most successfully under the guidance of its third generation of the family.
Since 2007, the two companies have worked together with Hunts Marine being the Sydney and NSW South Coast dealer for Cruise Craft. With such a proud heritage and lengthy record of success, it’s no surprise that the boat seen here was perfectly presented and performed to every expectation. Peter Benston, sales and marketing manager for Cruise Craft, flew down for the day’s outing on Botany Bay as an example of the company’s professionalism and to ensure that we had all the details we needed.
The 595 HT is a good-looking boat carrying graceful lines that embody a typically serious fishing rig with higher topsides forward to work safely in rougher conditions and with a lower gun’l aft to aid working rods and lines around the back. A sturdy guard rail protects the side decks and extends into a pulpit around the bowsprit with a good size anchor locker and efficient deck hardware. All this confirms that the Explorer has been thoroughly thought out for its intended purpose.
Construction is to Australian AS1799 Standards and carries a seven-year warranty. A below floor girder system and fully-moulded one-piece cockpit liner add strength and longevity, and safety is enhanced with moisture and fuel resistant two-pack foam filling the cavity beneath the floor with foam sheeting up the sides to the gun’ls. This foam filling also makes the boat quieter.
The hardtop configuration makes for a protected helm position with headroom for six-footers and taller to stand comfortably. The hardtop is a double moulding for strength and a smooth finish inside and out; a stainless frame across the back carries six rod holders in rocket-launcher fashion as well as LED lights for the cockpit and a riding light. The glass screen and the side windows reach right up to the hardtop so there are no gaps to admit spray or wind. The side windows slide open though, so you can easily control ventilation. Open or closed, the tall glass panels admit plenty of light, and visibility in all directions is nigh on perfect. An optional Perspex lockable sliding door can secure the forward cockpit.
I found the helm seat comfortable and had an easy reach to the rubber-rimmed stainless-spoked wheel. A recessed footrest was also positioned just right and there was an unobstructed view of the gauges and the compass right in front of me. The gauges were on a secondary angled panel in front of a much larger primary panel above the wheel where electronic navigation aids could be mounted for convenient sighting and operation.
A small recess to the right held the ignition key and safety cut-out with its lanyard, and next to that was a builder’s plate with all the required load and safety information. Behind that the throttle/shift control was well placed and lower down was another neat recess that housed a GME Acusat Digital EPIRB. To the left of the wheel was a switch panel above a GME VHF marine radio. Altogether, the helm area was an ideal spot to enjoy the performance that the Explorer and Suzuki could provide.
At virtually six metres, it’s quite a big boat, but good hull design meant that not a lot of throttle was needed to lift it on plane and bowrise was minimal with the Suzuki trimmed right in. The outboard’s trim angle is not critical and you don’t need to constantly adjust it, but perceptive skippers will find the 595 quite responsive to trim adjustments when seeking the most efficient running angle for any given conditions.
The hull carries a fairly deep vee with 20 degrees deadrise at the transom, so the ride was soft through a chop or swell. A set of polished stainless Lenco hydraulic trim tabs (standard with all the Hard Top Models) did a great job of balancing the boat laterally and gave an added dimension to the control available to the skipper. My view is that tabs are essential on deeper vee hulls as they allow easy adjustment to get a level ride regardless of side winds or crew/load imbalance. That makes for both more efficient and more comfortable cruising.
SeaStar hydraulic steering needed mainly but a light touch on the wheel although five turns lock-to-lock is a bit more than I prefer. Directional response though was very good and the hull banked only moderately through quite tight turns whilst retaining a solid grip on the water and avoiding any slip or shudder.
Botany Bay was unusually calm on our test run, so we headed seaward until we could crest through a few swells and a light wind-blown chop. The Cruise Craft just creamed through all that both into the waves and when running before them on the return trip. There was plenty of forward buoyancy and absolutely no tendency to vary off the chosen course. Driving the boat was easy and great fun.
From a planing speed around 3,200 rpm and 25 kph through cruising around 4,000 rpm at 41 kph and on to a top speed of 71.5 kph at 6,100 rpm, both the 595 and the Suzuki were unstressed. The Cruise Craft reputation for making light work of long runs to offshore fishing spots was easy to recognise and appreciate. At rest too, the boat was stable as the waterline beam is wider than most in this class - another attribute in favour of added comfort during long spells off the coast.
The first mate benefits from a supportive seat the same as the skipper and both seats swivel to face aft on stainless frames beneath which optional coolers can be kept. The first mate is provided with another storage spot, a drinkholder and grab handle plus, lower down, a stainless foot rest and a recess where a fire extinguisher is neatly housed. Behind the seats, the cockpit is spacious with a clip-out carpet. Rod holders are in the side pockets which are above recesses that allow toes to position for better grip and balance when working larger piscatorial prey.
Across the back of the cockpit, a three-quarter lounge lifts up and folds out from its retracted placement – so providing comfy extra seating when required but otherwise maximising floor space. Dominating the back of our review 595 was an optional large bait board assembly mounted on a stainless rail. A three-quarter width lid lifted up with a shallow storage recess below whilst across the back was a knife rack with two rod holders on the sides. Two removable bait tubs can attach to the stainless rail and are perfect for holding tools or extra bait. Also attached to the board was a flexible hose with a nozzle that can be a salt water deck wash or alternatively used as a hand wash or shower. The review 595 was fitted with plumbing for a live bait tank, and an optional fresh water bladder can be installed in the 595 if salt water is not always to your liking.
There’s a walk-through door in the transom to a port-side boarding platform with a drop-down swim ladder. The side decks are quite wide and have a non-slip surface; aft grab rails are inset along the cockpit so they don’t protrude and that allows the decks beside the cockpit to be comfortable to rest against or to use as bottom-parking seats when the boat is at rest. More rod holders are in those aft side decks. A pair of PopUp cleats at the rear helps keep everything tidy when not in use, but are the right size when needed as is the rest of the deck hardware which is intelligently positioned around the 595HT.
Up front there is a good-sized cuddy cabin that allows seated height for six-footers on quality-upholstered seat cushions with stowage beneath; indeed, there are excellent storage areas right throughout the 595. An infill panel makes the seating into a double berth. A step-down from the cockpit level gives added room in the cabin, and a slightly higher ledge in front of that can be used to install an optional toilet. Then there’s another panel, slightly higher again and with a non-slip surface, that makes it easier to stand and work the foredeck through an opening hatch in the flow-coated overhead. On each side of the cabin are crescent-shaped portholes so that plenty of light streams in through those as well as the hatch. There is provision for an optional lockable sliding door for the cabin.
The 595 is also available without the hard top and is just one model in a fleet of outboard powered Explorers that range from the 485 up to the 685. HT versions apply to the 595, 625 and 685 so overall there’s an Explorer to suit every size and budget requirement. Interestingly though, at present it is the three largest Explorers that are the top sellers for Cruise Craft. The 685 is particularly popular and owners are specifying extensive options including up to five transducers in the hull, radars, satellite navigation aids and even pie-warmers! The majority of boats are fully factory-rigged with outboards and electronics, and are shipped with Cruise Craft branded trailers.
Overall, this is a top-class fishing boat that will additionally appeal to ladies and families; it shows the experience and high reputation of Cruise Craft in its design, construction, fit-out and attention to detail.
Length (overall): 6.35 metres
Beam: 2.43 metres
Deadrise: 20 degrees
Weight: 1,600 kgs (aprox boat and outboard with fuel)
Fuel: 190 litres
Power as tested: Suzuki four-stroke 175 hp
Top Speed: 71.5 kph