Cruise Craft's Explorer 575 has the same hull as the Outsider 575, but that's where any similarities end.
Cruise Craft's Explorer 575 has the same hull as the Outsider 575; the boat that took out this year's closely contested Modern Boating's Boat of the Year awards. But that's where any similarities end.
Before we get to the nitty gritty of a boat test, let's go back to the hull. There's little point retesting a hull to which the Modern Boating's boat team awarded our highest accolade, just the same, it's worth going back over some of the ground again.
It was a chilly winter morning in the Brisbane bayside suburb of Manly when we ventured out onto southern Moreton Bay and headed for Peel Island to shoot pics for this test and a new Cruise Craft brochure.
Proceedings went well enough until it came time to return to the ramp. By then a winter wind was gusting up around 25 knots.
It was a sou westerly that cut across the flat country behind Cleveland and Wellington Point. This created a steep, almost metre high chop, which was pushing against the strong tidal flow. There was nowhere to hide from a succession of nasty little wind waves constantly slamming into the boat's port shoulder.
It would have been a hard ride in any boat with the chop coming at that angle and missing the bow's fine-entry. The hull was forced to take the swell right on the shoulder. And to make matters even worse, every now and then a wind wave passed under the transom in perfect time to hold the blunt end high, while the sharp end plummeted into the following trough.
There are plenty of expletives appropriate to describe the effect. Most of them have four letters bang, bump, bash etc, not that we could use any with our teeth rattling around in our heads.
I'm not going to insult anyone's intelligence by waxing lyrical about the soft ride. But what I can tell you is that under the circumstances the ride delivered by this 5.7m boat was most impressive.
So what differentiates an Outsider Cruise Craft from the Explorer version' In essence, the Outsider 575 has a walk-around deck, while the Explorer has a cabin and more cockpit space.
Cruise Craft tell me the Explorer's cockpit is about 100mm longer, so there's not a lot in it except the configurations.
An Explorer substitutes the portside step through transom found in an Outsider with a full height coaming that contains a bait well matching the one found to starboard in both boats.
Both the Outsider and the Explorer have good leg support around the cockpit periphery depending on whether the aft lounge has its lower cushion in place or not.
Because of the step through, an Outsider's aft lounge doesn't extend all the way across the transom, because it has to leave space for the step through. The lounge cushions on both boats fold down to keep them out of the way when not in use. This also gives the Explorer better 'toes in under' across the transom, so an angler can easily brace himself when fighting a fish.
Underneath the Outsider's step through is a locker. This means the panel extends right down to the deck. The Explorer, once the lower lounge cushion has been lifted out of the way, has uninterrupted 'toes in under' right around the entire cockpit periphery.
The folding boarding ladder that's standard on an Outsider goes on to the Explorer's options list. This is an indication of how the Explorer is slanted slightly more towards a single-minded fishing bent. Still, a standard or deluxe bait board are options on either boat.
As is the beautifully finished stainless steel Targa shade top and overhead rocket launcher styled rod rack. This is an expensive item, but you'd have to be on a very tight budget to do without.
To me, the Explorer's cabin felt roomier. This may have as much to do with an Explorer's steering and dashboard bulkhead being cut away, to leave open space between the steering wheel and the bunk cushion, instead of the solid panel fitted in the Outsider.
My 170cm was ' albeit just comfortable stretched out on the bunks in the Explorer. You'd probably need infill cushions it's another option ' to sleep in any degree of comfort. Taller folk may be somewhat cramped, but at least I could sleep. And, yes ladies, there's still provision for a portable toilet in the Explorer's cabin.
Some of the factors influencing judging during the Modern Boating Boat of the Year Awards was the way the Outsider blended family amenities with serious fishing and the way both were served without compromising each other.
In some ways the Explorer, being the newer boat, is a development on the Outsider. Improvements include a new moulded liner between the bunks, which incorporates a step to make it more comfortable for someone standing out through the cabin top hatch handling anchor and ropes. Storage pockets, set into the side panel beside the passenger and helm seats, have also gained moulded liners. It's a nice finishing touch.
One thing I found is unchanged about the Explorer was the way my face was in close proximity to the windscreen frame while standing at the helm.
People taller or shorter than I will wonder what the hell I am on about here and no, I didn't manage to blacken any eyes, or anything else for that matter, on our bumpy ride home that day.
Nonetheless, were I to own an Outsider or an Explorer (and yup, I'd love to own one) I'd have to rework the slide on the helm seat, to extend rearward travel.
Apart from this issue, running the boat home across Moreton Bay was quite comfortable whether seated or standing, regardless of the sou' westerly. The standard wrap-around bucket seats keep you in place behind the wheel and the footrest against the back end of the bunk is well positioned.
A matching pair of Lowrance's latest generation GPS and sounder were options fitted to the test boat. These were integrated neatly into the dash and positioned in the skipper's line of sight.
Actually, the test Explorer was set up pretty much as the average offshore fisho would probably like.
The interior had been kept Spartan, while many Outsiders have optioned luxuries such as a lining inside the cabin and side pockets. These add considerably to creature comforts people intent on fishing would happily do without, even if they did slip inside budget parameters.
One 'comfort' fitted to a lot of the Outsiders I've seen, which would be well worth the investment in an Explorer, were padded bolsters along the cockpit sides. The topsides of both models are well finished with recessed grab bars and stern cleats so they won't snag fishing lines.
Any choice between the Explorer 575 and its award winning sister the Outsider 575 isn't going to be an easy, or a simple one for most people in a position of having to make it. The best thing about having to make this decision though, is that with a choice between excellent and excellent, you can't go wrong either way.
So how much is it going to cost to park a new Explorer on your front lawn' The Cruise Craft Explorer 575 as tested retails around $49,520, which represents good value for money.
With a 130hp Saltwater Series V4 Yamaha on its transom, the Explorer 575 proved itself a well-balanced package. With two people and a stack of fishing gear aboard, we recorded a top speed of 37 knots at 5700rpm. So an Explorer running the maximum of 150hp would really fly and would probably be a bit of overkill.
One of the things the team likes most about these latest generation Cruise Crafts is the way they handle at low speeds. With a standard Yamaha 17' pitch prop, the 575 was trying to plane at 9 knots and well and truly 'up' at 10 knots. In the mid range, at cruising revs of 3500rpm, we recorded 18.5 knots; at 4000rpm, 23.0; and at 4500rpm, 27.6 knots.
Story & Photos by Warren Steptoe
Tags: Cruise Craft