2015, September; Sydney Harbour: In a genuinely exciting move for the hitherto rather conservatively-regarded Caribbean brand, the company has released its first-ever sedan cruiser in the 420 Express. Using the proven hull from its 40 Flybridge Cruiser, brand-owner International Marine has created a showcase for the craftsmanship its talented workforce is capable of producing. From the moment you step onboard, the quality of the materials used and of the workmanship in the cabinetry and overall finish is immediately noticeable.
Well-known and highly respected by knowledgeable boating enthusiasts in Australia, the Caribbean range has had a comparatively low market profile and is perhaps overlooked and under-rated by many seeking to buy a thoroughbred. Established way back in 1958 and based ever since in Scoresby (Melbourne), the company is now run by the third generation of the founding Spooner family.
Through all the highs and lows of the Aussie boating industry over nearly six decades, and with all the technology changes in that time, Caribbean boats have survived and thrived with a current range of runabouts to flybridge cruisers from around 6 to 15 metres – a boat for anybody and everybody.
The parent company is International Marine which built world-famous US-designed Bertram boats under licence for quite some years in which time that brand and Caribbean became almost synonymous. Partly because of that association, but more so because of its constant attention to build quality and its reputation for seaworthiness and longevity, Caribbean craft are highly regarded by those in the know.
However, until now, the focus of the boats has been more on practical simplicity in fit and finish, and the larger flybridge cruisers have been oriented more toward serious offshore fishing, rather than attempting to move ‘upmarket’ with higher levels of interior design and materials to attract buyers looking for more luxurious family cruising.
That’s not to say that other and previous Caribbeans have not been well built and finished – they indeed have been, but this 420 Express just takes everything to a new level in the way that the quality is presented. New interior design and fabrics along with designer-selected fittings make the difference and match the best of interiors from other Australia boatbuilders.
Competitive pricing has been in kept in mind though, and the target market will appreciate investment levels being kept below that of brands such as Riviera and Maritimo. Pricing starts around the $690,000 mark and this heavily-optioned first 420 is around $820,000 (including a desalination unit required for South Australian waters); more typical optioned-up 420s will be just under $800,000 (all pricing at time of writing).
Inspirational in the creation and development of the 420 Express have been Andrew and Mary Craddock. Andrew owns Marina Adelaide and the associated Marina Boat Sales South Australia; when he again took on a Caribbean dealership, he suggested that the sedan style of cruiser with an upmarket finish would meet a growing market trend. International Marine responded enthusiastically and worked with Andrew to produce this resulting achievement as the first of a planned range of such designs – a 510 Express is the likely next model with perhaps a smaller cruiser after that. Mary is an interior designer and selected the pleasing fabrics and finishes that have been used, with several optional colour schemes available.
The layout remains practical and adopts the growing trend toward single-level living as opposed to the split-level style of flybridge accommodations. A large extended boarding platform and the generous open cockpit are both teak surfaced for gloriously traditional appeal. Although not as dedicated toward angling as Caribbean’s flybridge models, that sport is still well catered for with a live bait tank in the transom (or it could be used as a cooler) and with side lockers that leave space below to tuck under toes when working close-hand across the aft side decks.
In the port forward quarter of the cockpit is a large wet bar with eutectic fridge/freezer and good storage space, and there’s massive under-sole stowage. A neat aft-facing seat to starboard would be handy and other casual seating could be spotted around in convivial fashion. A sliding door leads into the main saloon with a leather-upholstered lounge to starboard that converts to a three-quarter berth beneath a fold-up bunk. To port is the dinette with U-shaped seating around a beautifully finished table; optionally the dinette can be another convertible double berth.
The galley is forward of that with plenty of workspace; its features include Metaline splashbacks, polished teak drawers, a sink with flick-mixer tap, microwave, fridge and freezer plus a four-burner induction cooktop usefully protected with a fiddle rail. Opposite the galley is the helm with a superb chair for the skipper behind a stainless wheel and a large dash panel dominated by two Raymarine 12-inch touch-screen nav-aid displays.
Large windows all around bring scads of light into the whole area, and the close association of the helm and galley will keep cruising couples in loving communication as one steers and one cooks, with easy swapping between roles for those respecting gender-tasking equality.
Down a few steps heading further forward finds a guest cabin to port with extra-wide under-and-over berths. That’s across the companionway from a large bathroom with separate shower stall. A second door into the bathroom gives direct access to/from the owner’s stateroom right forward with an island double berth, hanging lockers and provision for a TV should the gentle lapping of water heard as background serenity through the strong fibreglass topsides lose its never-ending appeal.
All the fabrics, surface finishes, overheads, carpeting and carefully chosen fittings work together with fine craftsmanship to exude a sense of relaxed luxury that will be easy to maintain. There’s good access to the engine room under the saloon sole and the visible engineering is top class.
Externally, the deck hardware is just as good with sensibly-high stainless guard rails around the foredeck and side passages; a good bowsprit carries the anchor secured by a power windlass and then there are well-sized cleats, bollards and fairleads intelligently located around the 420 Express. Grab rails along each side of the cabin top aid safe movement fore and aft, and moulded steps make it easy to get into and out of the cockpit – a door in the transom connecting it to the boarding platform.
The helm position shows Caribbean’s experience too with an excellent layout and a very comfortable fore-aft-adjustable seat. The latter has a flip-up bolster and a neat swing-out foot rest so either sitting or standing to drive is equally gratifying. The twin Cummins QSC 500-hp diesels make easy work of idling the 420 along and then smoothing it up on plane.
There’s surprising punch for such a large cruiser with a real jump-out-of-the-hole initial acceleration that continues relentlessly so you’re at 24 knots or more before you know it. That level of thrust and nimble handling with responsive steering make the 420 Express feel almost like a skiboat to drive – it’s a real pleasure at the helm.
With a top speed of 32.2 knots at 2,650rpm and easy cruising in the 22-25 knot bracket (1,900 to 2,100rpms), the 420 is an ideal passage-maker for offshore running, and even more so for enjoying Australia’s countless inshore waterways. It’s a snap to handle so newcomers to waterborne weekends need not worry about getting it in and out of marina pens, although the optional bow thruster sure helps in that regard.
Throughout the 420 are many thoughtful touches such as doors with magnetic catches and fold-down hanging hooks, self-closing drawers, an engine room video feed, powerful trim tabs, dipstick for the fuel tank (as well as a fuel gauge), remote control saloon blinds and so on. The only way you can fully appreciate the boat is to be onboard and that’s well recommended if you’re at all thinking of investing in the multiple benefits of a sedan-cruiser lifestyle.
Length: 13.16 metres
Beam: 4.30 metres
Draft: 1.15 metres
Net Weight: 11,200 kgs
Sleeping Capacity: 4 -7 persons
Fuel capacity: 2,000 litres
Water capacity: 650 litres
Power (as tested): Twin Cummins QSC Diesels 373 kW (500 hp) each
Top Speed: 32.2 knots