Carver 28 & 326 Aft CabinBy Jack Hornor
Revised by BoatUS editors in October 2012
Although I've never heard the term used to describe a powerboat, if there is such a thing as a "pocket cruiser" in the powerboat marketplace, this is it. At just a little over 28 feet in length on deck, this Carver model is one of the smallest double cabin cruisers ever built yet she has many of the cruising features and accommodations of a 40-footer. That said, packing all these features and accommodations into such a small package does not come without a few drawbacks such as limited storage and poor access to machinery.
The model was introduced in 1991 as the Caver 28 Aft Cabin and then, through a stroke of marketing genius, the name was changed to the 300 Aft Cabin in 1994. In 1996, an integral swim platform was added to the hull mold and the name was changed again to the 325 Aft Cabin. Not being able to leave well enough alone, the name was again changed to the 326 Aft Cabin in 1999. Despite the confusing name changes over the years, there were almost no changes in the boat's length on deck or general arrangement plan. In addition to the aforementioned integral swim platform, a hardtop over the aft deck and a radar arch were added in 1997 to enhance her larger-than-life look. While it did that, and some will like it, to my eye it caused the boat to have an ungainly, top-heavy appearance. The model was discontinued in 2001 when Carver updated their fleet with more "Euro-styled" designs. Although the growing model name suggests a larger boat, the overall length, with swim platform and bow pulpit, actually got smaller & from 32' 9" in 1991 to 32' 2" in 2001, but for the purpose of useable accommodations, this remained a 28-footer. Beam is a whopping 11' 11", but it is this feature that permits the rather extraordinary accommodations and provides stability for a rather top-heavy design.
The Carver 28 Aft Cabin is built using molded fiberglass components in accordance with good boat building practices of production builders. Hull bottoms are solid fiberglass laminate and a vinylester resin barrier coat is used below the waterline to help prevent osmotic blistering. Hull sides, decks and superstructure utilize a composite of fiberglass, polyester resin and various core materials depending on the application. Structural members are attached with multiple layers of fiberglass and Carver takes better care than most to ensure neat and secure attachments. One somewhat unusual feature is Carver&s use of a fabricated aluminum framework to support the cabin sole which permits the carpeted panels to be removed and installed with ease.
As might be expected, the deck arrangement is a miniaturized version of typical aft cabin motoryacht. There is a small flybridge over the main saloon that seats three adults comfortably. The aft deck, over the aft cabin, is surrounded by a stainless steel rail with weather panels and is large enough to accommodate two deck chairs and a small table but not much else. A port side ladder provides easy access to the swim platform. Side decks are narrow but handholds are provided along the flybridge for secure passage to the foredeck.
For a long time, Carver has enjoyed a reputation for offering roomy interiors - a reputation that was certainly not diminished by the 28 Aft Cabin. The nearly 12-foot beam and the aft cabin arrangement of this model allow for vary spacious accommodations. Perhaps most remarkable is that they have accomplished this without creating a cramped feel.
The main saloon, which is entered by a sliding door from the aft deck, is completely surrounded by windows and the sight line uninterrupted all the way forward to the anchor locker bulkhead. There is a settee/sleeper sofa below the cabin windows to port and an optional lower helm station to starboard.
Forward from the main saloon and down three steps is a well-equipped galley to port, a head and shower to starboard and further forward an elliptically-shaped dinette where a V-berth would be expected. The dinette converts to a double berth and a privacy curtain separates the area when needed. The aft cabin has a small double berth to port and single berth to starboard. The arrangement provides comfortable sleeping and seating accommodations but storage space is lacking.
Over the years, Carver offered both Mercury and Crusader gasoline engines ranging from 260 hp to 310 hp each. Comfortable cruising speeds are likely to be from 15 to 18 knots, depending on power and load with top speed in the range of 25 knots. Fuel capacity is only 162 gallons which limits the range to less than 100 nautical miles, allowing for a 10% fuel reserve.
The Carver 28 Aft Cabin offers sound construction, accommodations that may be unmatched by any boat of this size and despite its diminutive length and comparatively high price, she offers good value for two adults or a small family in the market for a comfortable, small boat with a big boat feel and look.
Naval architect Jack Hornor is the principal surveyor and designer for Marine Survey & Design, Co., based in Annapolis, MD. He is on the board of directors 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 sail their 42-foot Catalina, Legacy, based on Maryland's Eastern Shore.