McLay 735S Cruiser

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McLay 735S

Text  by Barry Thompson

When Mercury Marine wanted a boat to promote its Cummins MerCruiser diesel packages it didn’t have to look far. McLay Boats was already building diesel stern drives into its larger Cruiser range, so the fit for the new Cummins MerCruiser QSD 2.8 was an easy choice.

While initial discussions were for a McLay 680 Cruiser, the end result is the McLay 735S. The 735S has been specifically designed as a stern drive boat (S for stern drive) suitable for either petrol or diesel packages.

There is a lot of debate regarding the benefits of diesel sterndrives when it comes to running costs, but often they are outweighed by the initial purchase price when compared to a petrol engine stern drive package. There is also the issue of weight and performance. Well, you might be pleasantly surprised with what I found out when I spend a few hours cruising around Waiheke Island in Auckland’s Hauraki Gulf.

While I was only able to experience the McLay 735S in the calm winter conditions, McLay dealer and CEO of Fish City, Ross Christenson, had only days before done some serious offshore boating off Raglan.

“I had a potential customer keen on looking at a diesel option in the boat and he was amazed at how the boat handled, the acceleration and top end speed, especially over the Raglan Bar. It’s a boat that likes the tabs and you can really balance it nicely. I noticed that when I was coming out through the Raglan Bar I was throttling the engine on about a second earlier than I would with the petrol engine as I punched over the waves, to allow for a slightly slower throttle reaction time as compared to the petrol. Mind you, it was still bloody good”, said Ross.
When Mercury Marine wanted a boat to promote its Cummins MerCruiser diesel packages it didn’t have to look far. McLay Boats was already building diesel stern drives into its larger Cruiser range, so the fit for the new Cummins MerCruiser QSD 2.8 was an easy choice.

While initial discussions were for a McLay 680 Cruiser, the end result is the McLay 735S. The 735S has been specifically designed as a stern drive boat (S for stern drive) suitable for either petrol or diesel packages.

There is a lot of debate regarding the benefits of diesel sterndrives when it comes to running costs, but often they are outweighed by the initial purchase price when compared to a petrol engine stern drive package. There is also the issue of weight and performance. Well, you might be pleasantly surprised with what I found out when I spend a few hours cruising around Waiheke Island in Auckland’s Hauraki Gulf.

While I was only able to experience the McLay 735S in the calm winter conditions, McLay dealer and CEO of Fish City, Ross Christenson, had only days before done some serious offshore boating off Raglan.

“I had a potential customer keen on looking at a diesel option in the boat and he was amazed at how the boat handled, the acceleration and top end speed, especially over the Raglan Bar. It’s a boat that likes the tabs and you can really balance it nicely. I noticed that when I was coming out through the Raglan Bar I was throttling the engine on about a second earlier than I would with the petrol engine as I punched over the waves, to allow for a slightly slower throttle reaction time as compared to the petrol. Mind you, it was still bloody good”, said Ross.

When we left Half Moon Bay I had Dean Harris, manager of Mercury Marine in New Zealand, the owner of the boat, zero-set all the necessary buttons in the SmartCraft gauges. The plan was to see exactly how much fuel we used for a given distance and for me to get a better idea of the performance and handling of the diesel sterndrive package. Well, right off I have to admit I was surprised and the test has changed my thinking somewhat about small diesel engines in trailer boats. The QSD2.8 really delivers where it matters in performance throughout the range and most importantly in fuel economy.

In absolutely calm seas (apart from a short, rough patch around Pakatoa Island) we covered 42NM for the round trip from Half Moon Bay, around Waiheke Island and back to Half Moon Bay. For most of the trip we had the throttle set around 2800rpm, which gave a very comfortable cruising speed of close to 24 knots and according to our fuel gauge we were using around 21.5L/h – that’s 1.1L/NM. At maximum 3800rpm the McLay 735S runs around 36 knots (41mph). When we turned off the engine back at the ramp we had used 42.6 litres for our 3 hours on the water. Fairly cheap running I would have thought. It also means that based on the 225 litre fuel tank you can extend your range dramatically with the diesel option, something that serious sportfishing enthusiasts would appreciate.

By comparison, a petrol engine of similar performance would probably use at least 30% more fuel and of course then you have to take in the difference in the price at the pumps compared with diesel.

Punch & Go

While older diesel engines often suffered from a lack of low down grunt when you punched the throttle and you sort of hung around waiting for some reaction, not so the new breed of common rail engines. The in-line 4-cylinder, 4-stroke QSD2.8 uses the Bosch high pressure common rail system, with a full-authority electronic engine control and the acceleration is almost immediate. No lag. No waiting. It’s punch and go! The QSD2.8 has plenty of torque, producing a maximum of 485Nm @ 2600 rpm. Its torque curve after 2600 rpm is fairly flat and doesn’t drop away much as the rpm increases. You get to maximum rpm and speed very quickly, with precise throttle response. I found the engine to be quiet (88dB at the helm with the wheelhouse door closed, and 92dB with it open) and smooth at virtually any rpm setting.

The compact QSD2.8 provides exceptional load carrying capabilities and the speed hardly varies with the addition of more weight. Great for four or five divers with all their gear and then a bag or two of bugs added for the trip home!

The compact size of the diesel engine means it doesn’t really take up much more room than a 5.7 litre V8 petrol engine. It is actually 107mm shorter in length and only 21mm wider, so you gain a little extra cockpit workspace. When coupled to the Bravo 3 sterndrive the whole package weight is almost the same and differs by a mere 4kg (460kg vs 464kg) in favour of the petrol combination. Both engines can be matched to Bravo One, Two or Three legs and both have the option of DTS (Digital Throttle & Shift) and SmartCraft.

Then there is the question of the initial purchase cost and yes, the QSD2.8 is more expensive than the MerCruiser 350MPI, but in the overall price of the boat it’s not huge. The petrol/Bravo 3 combination retails for $44,400 and the diesel/Bravo 3 at $55,800. Both include the SeaCore, DTS and SmartCraft options. The difference is $11,400, which is an increase of only 6.8% on the purchase price of the whole rig.

Compared with the diesel engines of old, the new breed of common rail engines are so much more efficient, so much quieter with a less obtrusive noise, and they’re compact. Direct comparison tests between diesel and petrol sterndrives in large trailerable powerboats have shown that the diesels pay for themselves in short order, provided that they get fairly well used.

Overnight Layout

The McLay 735S is certainly a boat with fishermen and divers in mind, but with plenty of overnight and weekending options it also makes a great little cruiser. Being aluminium it is easy for the manufacturer to move bulkheads around to suit, so you can have the cockpit and wheelhouse lengths altered to suit your own requirements. You can even have the wheelhouse sole lowered if you are especially tall.

Our test boat was very much the standard package inside, with a basic cabin featuring twin berths in a V formation with a central infill. A fully plumbed electric head is mounted between and a curtain provides adequate privacy. One option that has proven popular is overhead pipe berths, which gives you comfortable accommodation for four, although the upper berths are more suitable for children.

Storage is provided under the berths and in wide side trays. If you get a bind-up in the anchor tackle there is a forward bulkhead hatch for access and overhead an extra large deck hatch gives you access to the foredeck should you need it. With the fully automatic Maxwell Freedom winch there is really no need to go on deck, unless you want to use the very South Island bow ladder.

Although it was a beautiful day it was nice to be inside the comfort of the wheelhouse, out of the cold wind and conversely in the summer out of the harsh UV rays. Ventilation is provided with sliding side windows as well as drop-down rear bulkhead windows and the optional double bi-fold glass door. An alloy lockable door is standard.

On the port side you have the option of a half bulkhead with twin gloveboxes or you can leave the entire space open. Opposite, the helm has been fashioned to accommodate up to 12″ screens, something that fishos will find favour with. There is plenty of space all around for instruments and switches plus any additions such as the trim tab, winch and windscreen wiper controls. The windscreen has been brought forward 100mm to give you more overhead space in the cabin, where it’s handy to fit the VHF, autopilot and stereo head.

Seating is provided with a bin seat either side with deep storage under the helm and beneath the port side bin a 12V Isotherm fridge. You can install a small cooker under one of the seats or in the case of our boat we had a cockpit rod holder mounted BBQ to look after all the cooking.

A really cool addition is the drop-in cushions that transform the two bin seats into a full width bench seat, providing seating for four adults. It also doubles as yet another berth. All handrails in the cabin are sheathed in fabric so you don’t have to grab hold of cold alloy in the winter. I particularly liked the ones in the cabin top that are great when you’re motoring through rough water.

Fishing Cockpit

With the prime purpose of the McLay 735S being for fishing and diving, it’s obvious that the emphasis on the layout is going to suit the purpose. If you are into diving then a good option is to go for wider cockpit side shelves so you can stow four dive bottles off the cockpit sole. Double side shelves either side are standard. Unfortunately, there is no underfloor storage as the 225-litre fuel tank takes up the central cockpit space and a 100 litre water tank the area under the wheelhouse sole.

Forward, there are twin box seats or fish bins, overhead LED floodlights and cockpit speakers for the Fusion system. There’s also a freshwater hand-held shower on the starboard side, with the saltwater deck wash-down aft. You can upgrade to the deluxe seating option that includes a cooker.

Fishermen are well catered for with twenty rod holders scattered throughout the cockpit and overhead. A soft canvas canopy extension provides extra shade and shelter and can be folded up out of the way if necessary.

Central to the cockpit is the alloy engine box which doubles as another seat with a soft cushion option or in the case of our boat, a huge removable fish bin. Access to the engine is by way of the hatch hinging forward, with the batteries also found under here.

Again catering for the fishermen, there is a live bait tank aft under a rear transom step. The double walk-through transom leads onto the full-width boarding platform complete with cage and twin drop down ladders. For divers, there’s nothing better.

Impressive Package

McLay Boats has a reputation for building serious high quality boats and the McLay 735S is no exception. The fact that it is combined with the Cummins MerCruiser QSC2.8 diesel makes it even better. It is quite frankly a perfect combination and one that I am sure will find favour with intelligent boat owners who can appreciate the attributes of these new common rail diesels.

But don’t just take my word for it. That fact that it was named Boat of the Show at the recent Hutchwilco New Zealand Boat Show, means others are certainly just as impressed. It’s a fishing boat which can also be a family cruiser and the fact that McLay will customise the balance between cockpit and cabin means you can have it just the way you like it. Impressed? You bet!

SPECIFICATIONS

  • Model: 735S Cruiser
  • Designer: Steve McLay
  • Price As Tested: $ 168,000
  • Material: Aluminium 5mm/4mm
  • Type: Hardtop
  • LOA: 7.35m
  • Beam: 2.38m
  • Deadrise: 18 degrees
  •  Trailerable Weight:   2500kg (full fuel/water)
  • Height on Trailer: 3.1m
  • Power Range: 170-270hp diesel
  • / 220-370hp petrol
  • Power Options: Diesel or petrol sterndrive
  • Fuel Capacity: 225 litres

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