Cruise Craft Explorer 685: Exploration Unlimited
As one of the most popular trailer-boat brands in the country, Cruise Craft barely needs an introduction. Out of their extensive range of trailer boats, the Explorer 685 is perhaps the most talked about among current owners, prospective buyers, and those who dream to own one. This mono-hull has proven itself over the years, won numerous awards and evolved into one Australia’s top offshore fishing/family cruiser crossovers to date.
Through the years, Cruise Craft have finely tweaked the Explorer 685 to better suit serious anglers and families alike. A few of the significant changes include; adding a hard-top (one of the best additions in my opinion), changing the dash layout to suit the modern electronics, creating more internal space and simplifying ergonomics, laying the decks up with SeaDek for added comfort, as well as adding numerous other optional upgrades to really gear them up. This time I got to test Garmin’s new demo boat and if there’s ever been a tricked out Cruisy, this is most certainly it.
So, what gives the Explorer 685 such a legendary status and why are they so popular? Well, the Explorer 685 hard-top is the biggest in the range and is dedicated to handle those long offshore days slaying the fish - they are also a great family boat, boast a genuine local Aussie build and warranty, are meticulously finished throughout, are designed to have no towing restrictions and are pleasing to the eye - even more so when wrapped like the Garmin boat.
The Explorer 685 is all about space, catering for seven on board, while still maintaining comfort, whether it be fishing or general family boating. A closer look at the layout will reveal the spacious cockpit and stern set up catering for big fishing days on the water, the gunwales are high with large side pockets for storage, there’s a live-well, bait-board, bolstered coamings, plenty rod-holders, transom walk-through access, deck-wash, recessed grab-rails, dual sizeable flush-mount kill-tanks, and a pull-out rear seat recessed into the false transom – just to mention a few of the many features.
At the helm the adjustable captain and passenger seating is set at a good height. The under-seat dual eskys also serve as extra rear-facing seating – there’s definitely no shortage of space for extra ice, drinks, food or fish on this boat. One of the better mods to the 685 helm is the dash layout; they have created a larger flush-mount area to suit serious electronic set ups like the Garmin gear on this boat, which we will take a look at in finer detail a bit further on. They have also changed the angle of the dash which creates less reflection off the screens and makes it clearly viewable from the stern.
The hard-top configurations are not new, but worthy of a mention. Two variants are available, with full glass screen or standard screen with clears infill for the hotter climates – I don’t mind either. The insulated tops keep the helm cooler and most certainly add better protection from the elements, as well as the optional sliding extension adding extra protection if need be. Light and airflow is good, and I particularly like the internal front and side moulding design to accommodate stereo, speakers, radios and lighting. The cabin on the 685 is another well thought out area as it's spacious, comfortably lined and ventilated to suit the odd over-nighter.
Another nice option is the SeaDek flooring. The non-skid SeaDek is customised and fitted by Cruise Craft, and aside from the aesthetic attraction, it also makes one hell of a difference to the under-feet comfort aboard. You might wonder about the longevity and maintenance. There are a number of similar retro-fit products out there that are cheap and don’t stand up to the Aussie sun, however, SeaDek is tried and tested, durable, does not stain easily, and is easy to clean with a simple soap and rinse. Available in a plethora of colours, it’s definitely a worthy option or addition to any boat.
Over the years we have tested the 685 with a number of motor combinations and they have always been set up to maximise performance and efficiency. This time around, the Garmin team opted for the max rating of 300 horsepower, and that being the latest powerhouse Yamaha V6 4.2L four-stroke, which will cover in bit more detail further on.
On-water performance is as consistent as it comes. Cruise Craft pride themselves in producing safe and easy to handle hulls on the water, rather than high speed weapons. Like all of their models, the 685’s best performance is found in the mid-range, around the 18-25 knot mark depending on conditions - producing a comfortable, economical and dry ride. At full pelt, this baby cranks up healthy 44.7 knots on flat water.
Overall, these hulls track well in all conditions, don't bank hard in turns, are smooth and simple to control and are super stable in lumpy conditions. The optional Lenco trim-tabs fitted are an item that I find valuable on any mono-hull, regardless of manufacturers saying their boats don’t need trim-tabs. Fine tweaks on trim-tabs enable you to perfect the ride even further to suit on-board weight distribution and the conditions on the day.
The Garmin team opted to fit the latest Yamaha F300XCA to their Explorer 685 HT. Personally, I'm all for a higher horsepower on any boat. Surprisingly, the higher horsepower motors generally produce better fuel efficiency throughout the rev ranges.
Yamaha’s six-cylinder (V6) 4.2L four-stroke is a proven performer and as reliable as you will get in an outboard. A few years back I saw a commercial pair in Vanuatu with 5,000 hours on them, and the only issues they ever had was on the gearboxes from stray braid lines wearing out the seals.
The 685 HT paired with a Yamaha F300XCA is ferocious on the water – in a good way. The F300 produces a punchy hole-shot onto the plane, then settles down quietly into the mid-range, then hops to a top end of around 44 knots and pretty quick at that. At wide open you know there’s a V6 on the back, however, the noise factor is still a third of the old two-bangers from yesteryear. Sporting the new digital control systems (fly-by-wire), the F300 is smooth at all revs and a pleasure to control on the water.
Economy is another impressive feature on these motors – considering the size and weight of the 685. The 685 HT sips 32.25 litres per hour or 1.47 kilometres per litre at 3500rpm / 25.5 knots and when dropping down to 3000rpm, you get 20 knots speed with a slightly better economy of 24.6 litres per hour or 1.52 kilometres per litre. When you wring its neck and drive like you’ve just stolen it, the F300 tucks into the fuel reserves at 99.4 litres per hour, just like any outboard brand will do when you drive like a water hoon.
On the technical side, the Yamaha V6 F300’s relative low weight to its 4.2-litre capacity has been achieved in part by the use of thermally-applied plasma fusion lining on the cylinder walls – a feature commonly found on high performance sports cars and now some of the big Yammies competitors. The plasma lining negates the need for conventional steel cylinders, yet the walls are 60 per cent harder, resulting in more reliable power and torque, better cooling properties, and significantly reducing the overall weight of the motor. Variable camshaft timing increases throttle response by allowing more air into, and more exhaust out of, the engine at lower rpm – delivering exceptional power throughout the rev ranges.
The V6 300hp is also compatible with the new Yamaha electronic rigging system and as tested the 685 HT had the new Command Link Plus – CL7 premium touch screen installed. These are nice gauges and completely eliminate the need to share integrated GPS/sonar screens to view engine data.
Marine electronics are changing as fast as iPhones – no sooner do you get the latest and greatest than the next model renders it obsolete. Garmin have made huge headway with their navigation and sonar in the last few years and won’t be slackening off either, consistently reinventing their technology to take navigating and sonar to another level.
So, what would you expect on their demo Cruise Craft 685 HT? Nothing but top of the range gear of course. Size and functionality means everything nowadays and the better your electronics, the better chance you will have at getting onto the fish, considering we have to look further afield due to fishing pressure. Onboard the 685 these guys have spared no expense when it comes to a trailer-boat electronics fit-out.
Three head units comprising of a GPSMAP 8422 MFD, that’s the oversized flush-mounted unit in the dash. Split the screens four ways on this unit and its like having four separate seven-inch sounders. There’s an additional GPSMap 7412xsv on the top of the dash that can be used solely for sonar or navigation, as well as GPSMap 952xs - Blue Chart g2 HD fitted below the bait-board, and this is great idea as it eliminates having to keep checking the sonar on the main dash while fishing off the stern.
The mapping includes Garmin’s East Coast Australia Map Card G2 Vision HD. The fast processors on the units enable quick movement of screens, accurate and precise navigation, as well as the maps being sharp and nicely detailed.
As standard, the new sonar systems come out with decent transducers, however, if you frequent offshore depths it’s not a bad idea to upgrade. The 685 was fitted with a GSD 26 CHIRP Professional Sonar Module, an Airmar PM275LHW,12-pin -CHIRP -Pocket Mount (1kW), and Garmin GT51M-TM which includes traditional sonar, mid-CHIRP, down-view and side-view sonar. This transducer was mounted on the keel, being the ideal spot for side-view sonar transducers – rather than extending off a transom. The Panoptix PS30 was also fitted and these most certainly take sonar to the next level. With the Panoptix Down transducer you can see fish and bait swimming around under your boat in real time and even while stationary. There are three views including; LiveVü Down, RealVü 3-D Down, and RealVü 3-D Historical.
Garmin’s 685 was also fitted with Reactor 40 Hydraulic Autopilot system with SmartPump (With GHC 20), a GMR 1224 x HD 12kw radar with four-foot antenna, AIS 800 Blackbox Transceiver, VHF210i AIS, VHF315i, GHS 11i wired VHF handset and dual Pacific 2.4-metre Longreach Pro antennae.
The new Fusion sound system pumps loud and crystal-clear sounds and can be also be operated from the sonar head units or your phone for ease of use. True Marine Loudspeakers were also fitted, as well as a set of Lumishore transom lights (interfaced through the GPSMap 8422).
Now, this colossal electronics package as it stands will set you back $53,416 – and that excludes installation! Might seem excessive, however, you might be surprised that there are numerous trailerboat and big boat owners spending this kind of money on their electronics and more. Why not, if you have the coin available and you are dedicated to spending loads time on the water then go wild.
Garmin have numerous size and models available with GPS and very good sonar capabilities at affordable prices.
It's clear that Garmin wanted the best of the best, and this Cruise Craft Explorer 685 HT is nothing short of being the finest in the country. You can get into a Cruise Craft Explorer 685 Hard-Top for around $143,784 and that includes boat, motor, trailer, rego and numerous standard features to get you on the water having fun.
Quality, safety, refined finishes throughout, and a locally manufactured boat from a reputable company that’s suited to both offshore angling and family boating alike is what you will find in the Cruise Craft 685 Hard-Top.
Facts and Figures
Cruise Craft Explorer 685 HT
$53,400 Garmin electronics package, upgraded EasyTow custom allow trailer, upgraded LED lighting, Reelax outriggers and tubes, SeaDek 2-tone flooring, StressFree drum winch kit, dual eskys with cushions, plus much more.
Price as tested
Type Offshore fishing/family boating
Length (overall) 7.2m
Rec HP 250hp
Max HP 300hp
Fresh water 50L
Make/model Yamaha F300XCA
Type 24-Valve DOHC, 4.2L V6
Weight dry 259kg
Gear ratio 1.75:
Propeller Saltwater II w/SDS -
15¼ x 18
Cruise Craft Boats
31 Fox Street
Wynnum, QLD, 4178
P (07) 3396 9777