The out­board rev­o­lu­tion con­tin­ues as this new day cruiser en­ters the mar­ket with triple Yama­has.

Boating - - FRONT PAGE - —Randy Vance

The con­nec­tion to the water was sports-car crisp thanks to the Op­ti­mus 360 power steer­ing and Yamaha elec­tronic throt­tle and shift. As we ac­cel­er­ated, we thumbed the trim switch, rais­ing the drives to lift the ves­sel higher, freer from the drag of the sea. At full throt­tle, the chines astern were nearly clear of the spray and the 385 felt like it was about to lift off. Yet it stayed hooked up, and even ac­cepted some au­thor­i­ta­tive steer­ing in­put and re­sponded to it with­out com­plaint.

In port, the Op­ti­mus 360 Joy­stick steer­ing gives con­fi­dence to dock this boat like a run­about: Nudge the stick in the di­rec­tion of travel and the boat crabs side­ways, or twist it and the boat piv­ots steadily. I can’t imag­ine own­ing a boat in this class with­out this pop­u­lar elec­tronic con­trol sys­tem.

BMW is cred­ited with the term “sport sedan,” and it changed the way car builders mar­ket their wheels. The 385 makes its mark on the ves­sels called sport cruis­ers and will likely force com­pet­i­tive brands to step up their game.

The deck de­sign gives this cruiser a sporty feel of lux­ury, and ex­cit­ing seat­ing for the largest of crews. After view­ing its pro­file and not­ing the cabin win­dows be­low the rub rail, step­ping to the dock re­veals a sur­prise — an open-bow seat­ing area. And it’s enor­mous.

On the star­board-side, there is a dou­blewide sun lounge with a fold-down arm­rest. A filler cush­ion, in­cluded, covers the synthetic teak sole to com­plete a dou­blewide sun pad. There’s a sin­gle-width lounge with fold­ing arm­rest on the port side too. With­out the cen­ter cush­ion, the en­tire area could seat six to eight with­out crowd­ing, and the cup hold­ers are tucked in back be­hind the cush­ions (un­der the bol­ster pads so they won’t be jos­tled by bois­ter­ous pas­sen­gers).

Seat­ing in the cock­pit is even more gen­er­ous. First, for the first mate, there is a dou­ble seat. A fold­ing step de­ploys be­low to rest feet, or leave it stowed with the bol­ster up and en­joy a stand-up view over the bow.

An L-shaped lounge be­gins be­hind that seat, and as it turns the cor­ner to the tran­som, the seat bot­tom widens aft to a nearly 6-by-6-foot sun pad. In cruis­ing mode, it is di­vided into for­ward- and aft-fac­ing seat­ing by a mov­able back­rest. For sun­bathing, slide the seat back for­ward and you’ve got a cool sun lounge with a view of the water be­hind.

On out­board cruis­ers, the tran­som area is usu­ally so com­pro­mised that there is lit­tle use to it, but that wasn’t the case in the 385. A clear path be­tween port and star­board quar­ters ties the cor­ners to­gether. The board­ing lad­der de­ploys from the side, keep­ing toes clear of the props upon re­board­ing.

Out­board of­fer­ings are ex­pand­ing among cruiser and bowrider mak­ers — and the 385SE has mer­its in both cat­e­gories. Sea Ray also of­fers cruis­ing bowrid­ers but strad­dles this 37-foot class with a 35 and a 40 called the 400 SLX. The lat­ter of­fers 2 feet more cen­ter­line length and an ad­di­tional foot of beam. It uses the space well with spa­cious liv­ing quar­ters .

If the deck plan is made for fun and games, the cabin be­low is made for ro­man­tic in­ter­ludes. Step through the pas­sage at the helm con­sole and you’re greeted with a TV lounge for an easy es­cape from the sun. Air-con­di­tion the cabin — we would — and there’s where a cozy night can be had in the dou­blewide aft berth. We didn’t ex­pect that much space be­low, nor did we ex­pect it to be so prac­ti­cally laid out.

The head com­part­ment is equally im­pres­sive on the port side. The usual ap­point­ments are there in a com­part­ment that is roomy, well-il­lu­mi­nated and easy to ac­cess.

The Monterey 385SE with Yamaha power is as ex­cit­ing at top speed as it is at rest, whether you are re­lax­ing to a pow­er­ful fac­tory-in­stalled stereo or knif­ing into the water in a per­fectly ex­e­cuted dive from the tran­som.

The flush-mounted nav­i­ga­tion dis­plays give the helm sta­tion a mod­ern look that ana­log gauges can’t ac­com­plish.

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