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Cruisers 4280

Cruisers 4280

Its not easy to think of a forty-two footer as being an entry-level boat, but there are such things. Our subject boat was a 1990 model with twin Detroit Diesel 6V53's rated at 400 hp each,  an Onan 8.0 Kw generator and air conditioning, but was otherwise rather devoid of optional equipment.

We get a lot of requests for reviews ons smaller Cruisers, Inc. boats. Its hard not to regard a boat with a name like "Villa Vee" as little more than the   "floating camper' category. Floating villas? So we've taken a pass on reviewing them since, if you can't identify them for what they are, nothing we can say is likely to help you. But anytime a builder aspires to a 42 footer, costing a lot of dollars, that gets our attention. Then again, we cautioned in our Introduction to Boat Reviews against painting all the boats of a particular builder with the same brush. Here you'll see why.

Actually, we approached the 4280 with a great deal of trepidation that turned out not to be wholely justified. Unquestionably a "price" boat, compare this one with some of the things we've written about SeaRay and you will find it compares favorably. Surprised? So were we. Our client was about as apprehensive as we were, giving us instructions to really "rip her apart." Well, we couldn't do that literally, but we did look extra close.

Cutting to the chase, this boat isn't falling apart. The hull is decently constructed of solid glass, no cores except the deck which is apparently balsa. Didn't find any hull problems, although she'd had some blister repairs and a few more were popping up. But no big deal.

Yes, there were quality issues that would drive a discerning buyer nuts. Like they decked over the bilge areas up forward for storage compartments with plywood situated only a few inches above the bilge.  Needless to say, it got wet and the decks in all three compartments was badly rotted. But we didn't find any problems with structural parts.

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The straight-line traffic pattern here makes moving around very easy. But the high bar counter at left is not very useful and the high stools don't make it any more so.

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Although a bit unusual, this bridge layout is quite convenient. Without the pipe frame top, trying to keep it covered wouldn't be much fun, and would go to rot and ruin in a big hurry.

Yes, it has cheap aluminum rub rails that were just battered all to hell and back. But at least there weren't a lot of stress cracks along the toe rails. The deck didn't fit the hull, leaving a large gap at the transom which was filled with putty that was now falling out, causing water to leak into the hull. The aluminum pipe frame arch was bolted onto raised side coamings which were too weak. The resultant water leaks got into the balsa cored deck on one side, causing a big soft spot, meaning that the core was probably rotted out. The bridge seating is again foam/vinyl/plywood which, even though the bridge has enclosures, was starting to rot. Left exposed, this stuff will rot very quickly.

The fuel tanks vents were installed wrong, so that they were channeling water into the fuel tanks. Our pointing this out to the owner ended a seven year battle with fuel problems. Then they put the plastic shore power receptacles low on the built in swim platform, so you can guess what happened to these. Sea water and 125 VAC don't mix too well. The large side windows are only inches from the guard rails. Can you guess what happens when the boat bumps against the dock? Surprisingly, this one wasn't leaking too badly. There were water stains on the headliner, but we couldn't locate the source of the leaks. Plus its got one of those wonderful plastic deck hatches that feels like you'll fall through when you step on it. Most of the other hardware was fairly decent.

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The engine spaces leave a lot to be desired. The generator, barely visible at top, is nearly impossible to reach.

The design of this boat is kinda weird, but once we got over the way it looked, we found that it was actually rather convenient. Getting around on her is real easy and there are no safety issues at all. A pretty good boat for people with small kids. The bridge with a center console style helm and an inside windshield attached is also kinda weird, but fairly practical as it keeps the salt spray off the electronics. The drawback is that there is no space to mount anything big. Although quite spacious, the first thing you notice is that the front seating faces aft. Problem is, no one wants to sit facing the rear.

The two stateroom interior layout is well done. With all that room from a 14-6 beam, there would be no excuse for it not to be. Its got a straight down the middle traffic pattern that makes moving around real easy. The galley is plenty large, although the transverse high bar type partition with tall stools is a bad idea that renders this counter space nearly useless as it is much too high. A large hi-lo coffee table does the same thing for the settee, forcing people to only want to sit at the ends. A guest stateroom with an upper/lower berth actually has some floor space in it! The interior is basic contemporary mobile home or  Holiday Inn room. But then you're not going to get any better with a boat priced like this. But at least it wasn't falling apart.

The appliances and systems are about what you'd expect. Basically cheap stuff that doesn't last long. Nothing does at prices like this. Originally supplied with el cheapo bilge pumps, the boat nearly sank once. The owner replaced them with four Rule pumps after this incident.

The engine compartment layout was poor. They stuffed the twin 200 gallon aluminum tanks back there along with the engines and generator. While three large hatches open things up the engines from the top, there's a lot of things stuffed in places you can't reach. The worst of which is the generator back  in the swim platform well, forcing you to crawl over the batteries to reach it, which is a very painful ordeal. And its got four car batteries instead of real ones. Once again, there is no decking between the engines, which are very close together, making service work that much more difficult.

We were really surprised by a pair of 6V53's, engines we hadn't seen in quite a while, and never rated at 400 hp. But on a lengthy sea trial they really purred and pushed this very light boat  (24,000 lbs) along at very respectable speeds. There were only 2' swells out on the Stream so we really didn't get to find out how she handles a sea. But she's big and beamy with a fairly full bow, so we wouldn't expect anything out of the ordinary. With all that weight back aft, we thought she'd be unbalanced, but she wasn't. Although the tanks weren't full, either. The vee drive seemed to be set up right and didn't see any problems with that. With seven years on them, these engines seemed to be holding up well, and there was no sign of major overhauls. That's usually the way it works out when a boat has more than adequate power/weight ratio.

Its easy to be critical about the overall quality of this boat, but the basic structure is fairly decent. Without the pipe frame top, we'd expect that the bridge area wouldn't hold up so well.  Too much stuff up there that won't hold up to the weather. But you could do worse with more expensive boats. Priced in the mid $100, its a lot of boat for little money.  For what it is, we give it:

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David Pascoe - Biography

David Pascoe is a second generation marine surveyor in his family who began his surveying career at age 16 as an apprentice in 1965 as the era of wooden boats was drawing to a close.

Certified by the National Association of Marine Surveyors in 1972, he has conducted over 5,000 pre purchase surveys in addition to having conducted hundreds of boating accident investigations, including fires, sinkings, hull failures and machinery failure analysis.

Over forty years of knowledge and experience are brought to bear in following books. David Pascoe is the author of:

In addition to readers in the United States, boaters and boat industry professionals worldwide from nearly 80 countries have purchased David Pascoe's books, since introduction of his first book in 2001.

In 2012, David Pascoe has retired from marine surveying business at age 65.

On November 23rd, 2018, David Pascoe has passed away at age 71.

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