"Mid Size Power Boats" - Buyers' Guide by David Pascoe

Thompson Santa Cruz 2700


Thompson Santa Cruz 2700 1996

I'm afraid I don't have an answer to the question that I am most often asked. "Who makes a good boat?" At least in this class. Then, too, there are a lot of differing opinions on the definition of "good."  Heck, nowadays we're not even sure what "is" is. Or "alone." Or the definition of good oral hygene. But I should not get started on that tangent.

This one's nice and fancy and stylish with lots of psuedo plush, the kind of boat that jams the roadside dealerships, competing with the auto dealers across the land. It looks nice, very nice, but lets look beneath the skin and see what we've really got.

As I've said before, and I don't much like to say it again, the market gives you what you want. Or at least what you think you want. Or maybe just the price you want. What's sandwiched in between what you pay and what you get . . . .  here's an example of arithmetic that doesn't add up to expectations.

Of the e-mail we get, we hear some very sad stories. One recent letter told of a 7 month old boat with a list of problems that filled three pages of small print. The poor fellow couldn't go into specifics, he said, because his lawyer said not to.  No leaks from this independent council. Our little beauty here is only two years old, but we can leak all we want to:  the list of things we found wrong with it are enough to choke a horse. Our list only got to 1-1/2 pages of abbreviated notes because the client terminated the survey at that point. Popping out of the mold at a dealership near you with a retail around $58k, I'll leave it to  you to decide whether its "good" or not.

Some people write to ask, "Why do you only talk about the bad things? Why not tell what's right with the boat?" The answer is that what is "right" can be subject to debate, but what is wrong with it is not. We're not talking politics here. Besides, you've got all those other reviewers out there who cover that side very well and I'm not going to devote the rest of my life  all that stuff.

We'll start with the hull. A couple of bulkheads broken loose due to failed secondary bonding. The entire left side of the engine compartment bulkhead was cracked loose. Then there longitudinal stress cracks between the stringers, showing on the inside of the hull bottom, under the engines. Severe cracks showing around the built in swim platform, on the inside and outside, and more up in the bow area at the intersection between bottom stringers and bulkhead. Virtually no part of the middle section of the hull was accessible so it couldn't be determined what was going on within more than half of the hull.

But we can guess. The screws that hold the flange plate for the refrigerator were all backing out and the face plate of the reefer was bent. Portions of the dinette (plywood whacked together with staples) were loose because all the fasteners also came loose. These conditions usually indicate that   the hull framing system is weak and flexing excessively. Bearing in mind that everything inside the boat rests on the hull stringers, when the bottom flexes, everything inside the hull starts moving around.

Thompson27-1.JPG (24496 bytes)

Engine compartment bulkhead broken completely loose. Nice wires and hoses hanging out in space, too. Why expect anything to go wrong in a bouncing boat?

Thompson27-4.JPG (27060 bytes)

More structural crack, this at hull bulkhead to hull up forward.

The plywood used for the bulkhead and partitions is loaded with knots and other defects. Much of the interior of the hull is framed out with plywood in the form of box beams, with a heavy coating of gelcoat. Gelcoat is brittle, and when the wood absorbs water and swells, well, you can guess what happens. There was exposed plywood in the engine mounting system (it too, is on a plywood box beam), and it can be anticipated that a few years down the road rot in the structurals is going to be a big problem.

Within the cabin area, the bottom is decked over with carpeted plywood, very low to the bottom of the hull, with no hatches and not one bilge pump forward of the engine compartment. Apparently the presumption is that this part of the hull will never get water in it. But we know better, don't we? Else how to explain why the cabin sole and carpet were all wet?

There are no hull side frames, and the only bulkhead is the one aft in the engine compartment. The deck is attached to the hull with screws every 12" or so. The hull sides are fairly thick, almost 1/4". Unfortunately, the deck shell to which it is attached is not. All around the perimeter of the hull above the rub rail, the deck is riddled with stress cracks. This is what happens when you attach a weak part to a stronger part. Like attaching a weak beam to a strong beam, the weak beam will break. Oops.

Take a gander at the top photo again. Notice that the port holes are one inch from the guard rail. Now what do you suppose is going to happen when the boat bumps against a piling? Might as well just put a window on your bumper.

The deck screws are 3" long and sticking out everywhere except in the rope locker where someone had the foresight to realize that these long, sharp screws will do bad things to anchor rodes. So they cut them off. They didn't have the foresight to realize that this would cause all the screws - what was left of them anyway - to pull loose. The bow pulpit, which is part of the deck, is flopping around like a duck-billed platypus.

The large foredeck area, which covers about half the length of the hull, has virtually no support from beneath whatever. Jump on it and the whole deck flutters. Needless to say, the hatch located in the center of the deck is leaking badly and much of the cabin interior is wet. Never mind that the el cheapo hatch has both retainers broken off.

Stress cracks were everywhere on the decks and superstructure area. There were very large cracks around the cabin door. This is easy enough to understand since there is so little support for these structures. The whole deck shell will flutter and shudder when bouncing along the waves. 

Speaking of decks, I really liked the fact that the side decks have 3" between the railing stanchions and house side, so that getting up to the bow was like walking a tightrope studded with obstacles. My size 9 shoe did not fit in the space allotted. Nice to fall overboard with your legs still wedged in the railings. Quick, call that lawyer that advertises on TV! You know, the one who says you may be entitled to a lot of money.

Thompson27-3.JPG (41856 bytes)

Here's a good reason not to use butt connectors on 125 VAC wiring. This one is shorting out because it was laying on wet carpet. Note the nice screw sticking out at upper left.

Thompson27-5.JPG (31897 bytes)

In addition to a nice, neat tangle of wires and hoses, we have another nice crack at the point where a stringer joins the transom. We have a lot more photos of hull cracks, but this should be enough to get the point across.

Under the vee berth forward, there are deep pockets in the hull that collect water and don't drain. They were full of fetid water and causing a nice green/black slime to grow over the area. The cucarachas liked it too; their own private swimming pools. Some of cheap plywood cabinet drawer boxes in this area were starting to rot. How's that? Because underway, those pockets of water don't stay put but splash around.

The Engines  A pair of Volvo 4.3 liter, V-6 GM blocks with Volvo drives. This boat had been dry stored so the drives were in good shape. Wish I could say the same for the engines. Both had new carburetors and it was readily apparent that all of the exhaust risers had been off and  reinstalled on both engines. Whether or not they were replacements, I couldn't tell. Why? Whatever the reason, this is not a good sign for two year old engines.

There had been a problem with mounting and aligning the port engine: They had to chisel a recess into the center box beam to which the mounts were attached for the port engine onlly, which was 1/2" lower than the starboard. Water was collecting in the chiseled out area and the wood starting to rot around the mount. Then the pulley for the water pump was touching the outboard stringer so that one could not change belts without removing the pump. The pumps on both engines were leaking.

Thompson27-2.JPG (45105 bytes)

Engine Wrecker. At upper left is the 1/2" drain hole for the hatch gutter. As you can see, one leaf has plugged it up. Water overflows the shallow gutter and right onto the distributor and other electrical apparatus, steering and other good stuff that shouldn't get wet.

There are no shut off valves on the fuel system. The engines utilize automotive cooling hoses; they were brittle and sounded crunchy when compressed. Worst of all, the gutter around the hatch opening is very shallow and has 1/2" drains that were completely plugged up with debris. Needless to say, the gutters were overflowing onto the engines, specifically onto the ignition system. Perhaps this is what did in the carburetors as well. Then we have a steel water heater screwed down to a flat plywood deck, upon which all that water is running. Nice rusty mess here.

The paneling and cabinets were all torn out around the two aluminum fuel tanks, which are high up on the sides in the "aft cabin." That's because the deck fuel fill caps were leaking water into the tanks. These had been replaced with Perko plastic hinged caps of a sort that look like they will crush when you step on them. I could hardly believe my eyes when I saw these little beauties. Go cheap on the fuel system and you deserve the results. Never mind that one of the fuel filler hoses was crimped nearly in half. It was also nice the way all the electrical system wires were draped all over the fuel tanks.

We didn't do a sea trial because the client terminated the survey before we got that far. This first time buyer had seen enough.

Other Stuff   There is an air conditioner mounted under the rear dinette seat. As with most other boats of this type, most of the interior of the hull is covered with carpet over plywood. Of course they mounted the air conditioner on top of the carpet, and of course there is no drip pan under it. But never mind, the unit is not even screwed down, but sitting there bouncing around.

The carpet headliner throughout is lumpy, water stained and wet. And its always a good idea to put white carpeting in a boat. It looks so nice after two years. Sort of like a mechanic's rag.

The engine controls are so stiff that when I tried to operate them, it looked like the entire helm panel was going to come loose. The helm panel is so thin  and flimsy that the whole panel rocks with the throttles and shifters.

So is the aluminum windshield. Push on the top end and it moves 2-3".

And all that nice cockpit upholstery. Oh, it gets so tiresome writing this stuff up that I have reduced it to a standard paragraph for my reports. One description fits all: watersoaked and rotting. The rear cockpit seat had simply fallen apart.

The bow railings are almost okay, except when I went up to the bow pulpit and rested my butt on the railing, it bent. Not quite enough support. Apparently I misbehaved: one must be very careful with railings and not sit on them. Or perhaps even touch them. For decoration only.

The main 12 VDC switches and circuit breakers are located in the aft cockpit, with a nice, flimsy little plastic cover over it that does not keep the water out. What a great place to put an electric panel, in the open cockpit, down at deck level. Of course when you wash the deck with a hose, it won't get wet. Nor when the salt spray comes crashing over.  No sir, not at all. You are not supposed to get your boat wet. Such abuses are not covered by the warranty.

The boat came with a convertible top and all the covers. The stitching holding it all together is about what you'd expect to find on your shirt. It may last another year, no more.

In the cabin, the cabinetry is mica over plywood, with lots of mica coming loose. Steel hinges on all the cabinet doors were a nice touch, too. So was the plastic sink drain fitting in the head which was fractured.  The interior upholstery is mainly thin fabric over foam rubber, the cushions already becoming misshapen, looking like stuff from the discount furniture store.

What we have here is another "affordable" boat. The purchase price is affordable, but what comes next is not. But in looking this one over, its not hard to understand why it is the way it is. With an estimated new retail price of around $58,000,   profit margins for the builder must be incredibly thin. The only way to make money on such a boat would be to crank them out like a cookie cutter in large numbers, cutting the costs of materials and labor absolutely to the bone. Even to the point that fifty-cent hinges on cabinet doors become important. It just isn't possible to turn out a reasonable quality boat this size for that price.

Of course it is engineered so that on the show room floor, long before it is ever exposed to wind, sun, rain and salt water, it is going to look really fine. Yet after only two years, this is what you are left with. Worth barely half of the original price.

This boat makes SeaRay look like a custom built Merritt in comparison.

People are generally dismayed when I say take a look at the Tiara 2700. Same size, different kind of boat. Not fancy enough. Not a floating camper. Not a floating, upholstered lounge. Built for toughness, not luxury. Problem is, there are no inbetweens. Just none at all.

Posted September 30, 1998

David Pascoe Power Boat Books

Buyers' Guide to Outboard Boats Surveying Fiberglass Power Boats (2E)

David Pascoe Power Boat Books Visit for his power boat books

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.

Biography - Long version

Articles at


David Pascoe's
Power Boat Books

Mid Size Power Boats Mid Size Power Boats
A Guide for Discriminating Buyers
Focuses exclusively cruiser class generally 30-55 feet
With discussions on the pros and cons of each type: Expresses, trawlers, motor yachts, multi purpose types, sportfishermen and sedan cruisers.
Buyers' Guide to Outboard Boats
Selecting and Evaluating New and Used Boats
Dedicated for offshore outboard boats
A hard and realistic look at the marine market place and delves into issues of boat quality and durability that most other marine writers are unwilling to touch.
Surveying Fiberglass Powewr Boats
Surveying Fiberglass Power Boats
2nd Edition
The Art of Pre-Purchase Survey The very first of its kind, this book provides the essentials that every novice needs to know, as well as a wealth of esoteric details.
Marine Investigations
Pleasure crafts investigations to court testimony The first and only book of its kind on the subject of investigating pleasure craft casualties and other issues.
Nearly 80 countries
Countries List
Browse Chapters with Excerpt at