Is bigger always better? For years, a neighbor and I have argued this point as it applies to boats. He
owns a 38-foot cruiser, which he keeps at a marina on the coast. I have a center-console that lives on a
trailer in the yard.
I like to remind him that I can take my boat to waterways across the country at a steady 60 mph. I don't
pay marina charges, and I spend far less on fuel and maintenance than an in-water boater.
Sure, he agrees, but his boat can sleep five.
OK, he's got a point. The thing that separates the boats from the yachts is cabin space — room to
duck inside when the weather turns nasty, facilities to whip up dinner and space to stretch out for the
But these days creature comforts afloat don't have to cost a fortune — or come in an oversized
package. There are a number of boats on the market that pack a reasonable amount of living quarters into a
portable package. To demonstrate the advantages of a mid-size, trailerable weekender — and to slip in
a mini family vacation — I made plans to borrow a 24-foot Stingray mid-cabin for an overnight trip to
Charleston, South Carolina.
Good to Go
One of the major advantages of a 23- to 27-foot cuddy or cruiser is mobility. Example: Our family, on very
short notice, decided to spend a long weekend boating in another state. For my neighbor to move his in-water
cruiser from Florida to South Carolina would have required days to weeks of travel time and thousands of
It's also easier to provision and clean your floating home when it can be put on wheels and delivered to
your driveway. Instead of driving groceries and personal gear to the coast, then lugging everything down the
dock, we were able to pass it directly from garage to transom. The night before our departure, we stocked
the cupboards, made the beds and stowed and secured all those little items that can eat up hours of boating
time when left to the last minute --- or done at the dock.
Service and preventive maintenance are also easier to perform when the boat is kept at home. An engine
tune-up required just a short drive to our local MerCruiser dealer, while a fresh coat of wax was applied
on a Wednesday evening after dinner.
And, because a "trailer sailor's" cruising grounds lie anywhere the road leads, it's easy to change plans
when the weather takes a turn for the worse. A last-minute check of The Weather Channel assured me that the
South Carolina coast was expecting a balmy weekend. Had a storm loomed on the horizon, we easily could have
changed our plans and headed for Florida's west coast or any one of a dozen large lakes in Georgia or South
A Friday morning departure, with generous stops for lunch, snacks and an afternoon stretch, brought us
into Charleston just after sunset. Thanks to the many guides, maps and on-line resources available to the
modern boater, we were able to plan our entire itinerary in advance --- including routes, refueling stops,
and marina and hotel reservations.
Rather than launching in the dark, we checked into a hotel conveniently located adjacent to the marina
and boat ramp that would serve as the starting point for our cruise.
The next morning I woke early, launched the boat, secured my truck and trailer, and left the Stingray
tied at the marina's transient dock. By the time I returned to the room my wife Jeanette had packed up and
prepped our 2-year-old son Nash for a day afloat.
It was dead low tide when we cast off and followed a large sport-fishing yacht down the channel to the
Ashley River. Just before we reached the deep water of the river channel, the big twin diesel yacht came
to a chattering halt and kicked up a cloud of mud and oysters as it revved into reverse.
Sorry he hit the sandbar, but glad he warned me of its hidden menace. I trimmed up my stern drive to
reduce my draft, then inched into deeper water.
Score one more for the little boat.
Once in the channel, I opened the throttle and let the 240CS climb to planing speed. Although this boat
is available with a 315-power plant, it delivered surprisingly good performance with a 240-hp, 5-liter
MerCruiser. Much of this credit goes to Stingray's Z-plane hull design, which provides additional
low-speed lift that allows the boat to climb onto plane faster, and holds it there at slower cruising
Cruising at a comfortable and economical 25 mph, we set out to explore the waterfront. The city of
Charleston is a boater's town. It sits at the intersection of the Ashley and Cooper rivers, within sight
of the Atlantic Ocean. On its way from Florida to Maine, the Intracoastal Waterway passes the town's
historic waterfront, and in spring and fall, nearby marinas and coves are filled with itinerant
Our morning cruise took us past the 300-year-old homes of the Battery, then out to Fort Sumter, where
shots fired by Confederate soldiers signaled the beginning of the Civil War. After taking in a bit of
history, we turned north into the Intracoastal before stopping for lunch at the Island of Palms. A
half-hour later, we were out of the suburbs and into the wild marshes that locals call the Low Country.
With a cautious eye on the depth finder, we took advantage of the afternoon high tide to sneak into a
tidal creek where herons waded in search of crabs and minnows.
In for the Night
Falling afternoon temperatures and the threat of rain motivated me to add the boat's full complement of
side and rear curtains, turning the entire cockpit into a weatherproof cabin. Based on past experience,
I knew this so-called camper package would make an overnight aboard much more comfortable. In moderate
weather, you could use the cockpit lounge seats to extend the boat's sleeping capacity to six.
But in my opinion, the real value of a covered cockpit is extra elbow room. Stingray did an excellent
job of building the comforts of home into a 24-foot boat, but it always helps if the crew can move topside
to give the cook a bit more breathing room.
While no 24-foot boat can truthfully boast a voluminous interior, Stingray's 240CS met all of my criteria
for a comfortable, realistic overnighter: The bathroom was sized for grown-ups, the galley had everything
needed to make real meals including enough room for Jeanette to stand and move without ducking, the dinette
could accommodate a family of four, and the center-cabin bunk could handle two adults.
Because the boat was both plumbed and wired to operate on either shore power or batteries, we had the
option of spending the night at anchor. But with a 2-year old aboard, we thought it better to tie up for
the night at a nearby marina.
The center berth provided elbow and leg room not only for Mom and 6-foot-2 Dad, but also for the little
guy. Older children would take readily to the forward V-berth, which could accommodate three snuggling
rug-rats or a pair of older kids. All told, it was a cozy but very comfortable way to spend a night afloat.
Adding It Up
Sunday afternoon found us back at the ramp, ready to batten the hatches and head for home. Had this been a
true vacation instead of a busman's holiday, we probably would have stayed for a couple more days. But even
with the long drive and relatively short time afloat, we felt as if we'd embarked on a true adventure.
Figuring up the total cost of the trip, including boat and tow-vehicle fuel, meals and a night in a hotel,
we spent less for an entire weekend than my neighbor would have shelled out just to fill the tanks on his big
cruiser. At around $45,000, the 240CS represents a fairly substantial investment for the average boater. But
when you calculate the unmatched combination of range and versatility it deliveries, add in the economy of
single-engine operation, the simplicity of dryland maintenance and the value of family time together —
then divide by the many years of boating pleasure you can look forward to — it all adds up to one of
the best values on the water.
Boating Life Magazine
Feature photos by Bill Doster