Luhrs Tournament 350
by David Pascoe
|Year||1990-91||Fuel Cap.||400 gallons|
|LOA||35' 5"||Power||Crusader 502|
|Beam||12' 10"||Options||Cat 300, & 8.2L GM, Yan 300|
|Draft||2' 9"||Prop size||19x20x3cup|
|Weight||19,000 lbs||Top Speed||28 mph|
It's always a pleasure starting out a review on a boat that is expected to turn out well. Having known that the Luhrs Corporation did a major turnaround in product quality sometime around 1990, we had high hopes for this boat, and we were not to be disappointed.
One of the things that impressed us was the overall product philosophy. Despite her good looks, she is not a high end boat. Price-wise, she came in nearly half that, $145,280 in 1990, of a comparable Bertram 37 ($269,750). What you get for your money is a good, solid structure with less in the way of frills, gadgets and widgets. A price leader in its category, they wisely found ways to cut costs in the places where it will hurt you least in the long run. As in not skinnying out the hull or superstructure laminates. This is not a putty boat.
Back in 1992 a friend purchased one new. That was our first look at this boat. In any case, our subject is not that boat but a now 10 year old boat, so it was interesting to see how it stands the test of time. After all, all boats look great on the showroom floor. It's what happens to them a few years later that is of interest to all of us.
The first thing that caught my eye was the massive stringer system and a hull that is well bulkheaded. You won't have to worry about tortional hull twisting on this one. Nor are there problems with loosening hull/deck joints as this has an unusual horizontal lap joint -- most being vertical laps, which are less strong.
The hull is balsa cored to the water line and the sides do not pant of flutter. The cockpit deck is cored with 6" squares of plywood, making it exceptionally rigid. Because of this, one must never make the mistake of drilling holes in the deck and installing fasteners, or it's bye-bye core. Any attachments to be made to these decks must first entail removing a section of the core from the under side first.
You'll appreciate that the aluminum fuel tank is installed properly, sitting on top of the stringers with no danger of crevice corrosion eating holes in the tank bottom at the resting points.
And then it has those great heavy hard vinyl rub rail with stainless molding that is not prone to denting or breaking up. None of that aluminum or rubbery junk that can turn an otherwise nice boat ugly looking in no time. You can lay against piling without fear of causing damage. Yes, Luhrs managed to use a lot of right stuff in the right places. But in return for getting the right stuff, you're going to find some things lacking. Things that are not really big problems, but that you can upgrade yourself as time and dollars permit. Such as a good battery charger. It comes with a puny 10 amp job. And the batteries are a pair of basically car batteries, not installed in boxes. These need to be upgraded as well, and installed in covered boxes since the hatch above is prone to leakage. Wet battery tops result in stray current and power drain.
While salon is hardly large, it feels spacier than it is thanks to no galley divider.
The entire boat is cooled with a single, off-brand name A/C unit that does not do the job of cooling the boat in Florida. And there are other things that have been short-changed, such as the bottom of the line electric head unit, a galley sink faucet that dumps water on the counter top rather than in the sink because the fixture is too small, plus an off-brand reefer.
Yet you do get a decent electric panel with dual 30 amp shorelines, but not multiplex switching.
In my view, these are all things you can live with for basically getting coming away with a good solid structure fitted with decent, but minimal hardware. Some exception are the plastic through hull fittings and Marilon sea cocks. Plus, there are no internal sea strainers; the engines have to rely on an external screen installed over the intake, of the sort that plugs up rapidly and is prone to falling off, as they were on this boat.
Yes, there are a lot of small things one can quibble about, but I'm mainly going to refrain from doing that because, if there is any way to put out a decent quality boat at lower cost, this is the right way to do that. Another example is that there are no aluminum window frames and no opening windows. In one respect, that's a blessing because there are no corrosion problems to deal with. On the other hand, if the AC craps out, it gets mighty hot inside. Try 120 degrees in Florida in June. This one was 95 degrees with the AC running!!! Therefore, you'd probably better plan to do something about that to make this boat livable.
One of the major problems here are the front windows, which are on a rather shallow slope, and provide free solar heating that can't be turned off. Adding black mesh sun screens are not likely to help much, nor would full covers. The amount of radiation hitting those windows is simply too much. One can easily fit a self contained unit under the salon settee at reasonable cost
Lots of space in the engine compartment Makes for easy servicing, plus plenty of space for additions or storage.
Fortunately, the engine room has lots of extra space. It's not cramped at all, even with an Onan 6500 Ensign generator installed.
You can complain about there not being any decking in the engine room. Note in photo at right we laid a deck hatch over the stringers just so we didn't have to stand in bilge water. Obviously, this is one of the areas where the corners were clipped.
Getting adequate space on a fly bridge of a 35 foot boat is always a problem. Here the space problem is partially solved by a rather unique free-standing console helm. Like a center console boat, you can walk around it. This poses the obvious question of where do you mount your gizmos? That issue is solved in part by a pop-up module ahead of the helm as shown in the nearby photo. You'll have to be choosey about what you want because this unit will only hold two flush mount items of moderate size. The near-horizontal Rybovich style aluminum wheel is one concession to fanciness that's rather nice, though you may well grumble about the positioning of the engine controls which are on the vertical face of the console. Not good at all because you have to lift up and push down. Definitely awkward.
This unusual helm design works well except for the engine controls that are poorly placed.
This one is fitted with a pipe frame top that clashes with the lines of the boat, making it look top heavy, which it very well may be. I comment on this a bit further on. But it closes up with soft enclosures fairly well, a not insignificant point.
Interior fit and finish is sort of ho-hum. Here you'll find a few carry-overs from the bad old days. Like a mica laminated cabin bulkhead with a big ugly seam right down the middle. And fabric covered trim pieces to cover up the lack of good parts fitting. And fabric glued on the hull sides in the forward cabin that is now falling off, leaving quite a mess. It's closer to early motor home than Architectural Digest. But that's what you're not paying for in trade for the much lower price. A $5,000 remodeling job could do wonders here. As you can see from the photo below, the use of teak as trim is not well thought out, design wise. It accents too many angles, making the interior look cluttered.
Oh, here's a minor but really nice point. This has the easiest sliding salon door I've ever seen. It's got a huge teak grab rail on the inside, the same as Hatteras used to use. Plus, it slides so easy that you have to either lock it open or keep it closed as the door will slide with the motion of the boat. I guess that's only a small thing unless you've ever had a boat with a door so stiff that a woman couldn't open it without help from a defensive lineman.
You may also find the interior salon fiberglass liner a little odd (see photo at top), as indeed, it is unusual. But it does provide a solid foundation for the bridge deck which is not held up with window frames, so there are no window leaks. A common fault often found in much higher price boats. Broken window glass is often caused by the windows holding the bridge deck up. Talk about dumb design!!! And Hatteras has been one of the worst offenders.
Performance -- powered with Crusader 502 gas, she pulls a top speed of 28 mph upwind, but found that there was a big gap in the cruise speed range where the engines were not struggling to keep her up on step. At 3000 RPM she seems to be doing a hard 20 mph. She needs to go to 3400 until you get the sense that she's moving efficiently, at which point fuel economy is not. Efficient, that is.
With the radiation from the window above, working in the galley is a heated affair. Storage space is limited.
We also got the distinct impression that this boat was designed for diesel power as she is notably tender with gas engines, though we've found only a rare few with 3116's or Yanmars, the later of which is mostly aluminum and therefore would do little in the way of adding ballast. And at 300 hp, that kind of power won't give you the speeds most would like, despite the higher torque. A little bit of trim tab input throws her wildly over to one side, making her hard to control. We immediately noticed that the hull floats very high in the water with the chines nearly exposed. These points give us the idea that this boat probably performs a lot better with higher torque diesels, except that no larger diesels such as the 3208 will fit. The best you will find are the troublesome 3116's, but these just don't turn out enough horses. We'd like to see at least 375 Hp diesels in her. At 19,000 lbs. she's pushing the envelope for gas power. Our boat had only 377 hours on the meters and we did not know the engine history. They may have been rebuilt once.
Our sea trial was in honest 2-1/2 foot Gulfstream waves out of the southeast that were well-distanced. Head-on into the waves produced an admirable ride on a bottom that is only a moderate vee. Here is where the heavier weight really makes a difference. This was no bucking bronco. I didn't have to hold on for dear life to stand up on the bridge, as I so often have to do on lighter boats. Heading out through the tide rip at Port Everglades, the bow knocked down the spray pretty good and none reached the bridge.
So there you have it. A quite well-constructed boat at a reasonable price that after ten years has held up very well and attracts a lot of attention on the resale market by her affordability. In exchange for the low price, there is a general lack of refinement in the lesser important areas, but the budget minded are not likely to be put off. The biggest buggaboo will be keeping the low cost gas engines going as you can expect them to have a fairly short life span. Fuel economy is out the window, so get your buddies to chip in for gas.
Originally posted June 14, 2000 at www.docksidereports.com