Carver 28' Mariner & Voyager
By Jack Hornor
Revised by BoatUS editors in October 2012
Among the most popular models Carver has produced in its nearly 50-year history, are two 28-foot models of the 1980s - the Mariner and Voyager. They remain popular today because they are ideally suited to the boater who is looking to buy their first cruiser without breaking the bank.
Designed by Carver's in-house design team led by Bob MacNeill, the 28-foot Mariner and Voyager models were introduced in 1983 and remained in production through the 1990 model year. They are what's commonly referred to as Flybridge Sedan cruisers which have no abrupt changes in the sheer line, the trunk cabin is a single level and there is a flybridge with steering and seating atop the trunk cabin. The exterior appearance of these two models are nearly identical - they're handsome boats with no styling features that would date them.
The hull, decks and superstructure of these models are constructed of fiberglass composites using chopped strand and woven fiberglass fabrics. Balsa and plywood cores are used to strengthen and stiffen laminates. The structure is further strengthened with fiberglass liners as well as plywood stringers and frames encapsulated in fiberglass. The deck is fit over the hull in a shoebox fashion and secured with stainless steel screws and fiberglass tabbing.
The method and quality of construction is consistent with moderately priced production boats in this size range and I know of no common failures that affect the general population of these models. As with any mass-produced boat, the 28 Mariner and Voyager models will not stand up well to abuse and punishment. Installation of joiner work and fiberglass liners limits the ability to inspect many areas of these boats, however potential and present problems often leave some external signs that warrant further inspection.
When it comes to making the most use of available space, the deck layout of the 28 Mariner and Voyager is tough to beat. It offers something to please just about any boater, and this is no mean feat to accomplish with only 28 feet.
The cockpit is about 45 square feet and has enough room for a couple of deck chairs or for several people to fish without getting in the way. There are large hatches in the cockpit deck for engine access and a door in the transom for convenient access to the swim platform. The side decks are less than a foot wide but are well protected by a stainless steel rail that is full height nearly to the cockpit. Many builders have rails that are too low as they slope to the deck at the aft end which renders them useless where they are needed most. There are also stainless steel grab rails along the entire side and on top of the flybridge. Few boats offer passengers and crew greater security while traversing from the cockpit to the foredeck.
The one feature of the 28-foot Mariner and Voyager that nearly every owner and prospective purchaser finds appealing is its huge flybridge with multiple configurations for seating and lounging. Normally configured, there are two forward-facing bench seats that will seat six people. While dockside or at anchor, the back of the helm seat may be flipped forward to make a U-shaped settee for entertaining.
The main saloon of the 28 Mariner or Voyager is 11 feet long, 8 feet wide and offers as much living space as many 30-footers. The cabin of both models is entered through a sliding door offset slightly to the starboard side of the cockpit. The main saloon of the Mariner has a settee to starboard just inside the companionway and a convertible dinette to port. Forward, the galley is to starboard and head and shower to port. The Voyager model switches the fore and aft position of these components. The forward owner&s cabin is identical on both models and has an angled, 52-inch-wide double berth, two hanging lockers and a wash basin. Carver's literature boasts that both models sleep six, although for adults this may be a bit of a stretch.
Carver offered twin diesel, twin gas and single gas engine options, however, the majority of 28-foot Mariner and Voyager models were sold with the standard twin 220-hp gasoline engines installed with V-drives below the cockpit deck. This installation has several advantages in that it places the weight of the engines in the preferred location, the cabin space is quieter when the engines are running. The major disadvantage is that the packing gland is beneath the engine and transmission, making service and alignment more difficult.
With the standard engine installation and a normal load, the cruising speed is about 20 mph and top speed about 30 mph. Fuel consumption is about 23 gallons per-hour at cruising speed; fuel capacity is 150 gallons which, allowing for a 10% reserve, limits the cruising range to about 120 miles.
One word of caution: while underway, loading the flybridge to its maximum capacity with adults will result in a tendency of the boat to roll out or away from the direction in which it is being turned. This can be disconcerting to an inexperienced operator and could be dangerous if the right conditions of load, wind and waves exist. It is best to keep weight on the flybridge to less than 600 pounds while underway.
Carver has successfully combined reasonable quality and price to provide a solid value which is why the 28-foot Mariner and Voyager owners I have known are loyal to their boats and often look to move up to another Carver model.
Naval architect Jack Hornor was the principal surveyor and designer for Marine Survey & Design, Co., based in Annapolis, MD. He was on the boards of the American Boat and Yacht Council, the National Association of Marine Surveyors, and the Society of Boat and Yacht Designers. He and his wife sailed their Catalina 42, Legacy, based on Maryland's Eastern Shore.