Century 3000By Andy Adams

Sporty and well equipped

The 1978 Century 3000 is roughly comparable with the Sea Ray. Both boats share the same market.

The Century and Sea Ray are both aimed squarely at the upper end of the prestige, mass-production market and are widely distributed lines. They cover about the same size range, too. Sea Rays start at 18 ft and go up to 36 ft; the Century line starts at 18 ft and goes to 27 ft, with some very fancy mid-range models which Sea Ray doesn't compete against.

In its background, however, Century is quite different. Century built mahogany-planked, high-quality runabouts for many years with some of the fanciest trim on the market. Their wooden boats were among the best and most widely accepted of the mass-produced wooden boats down through the Fifties and early Sixties, when the company began to build in fibreglass.

It almost seemed that Century was fading out with the last of the wooden boats, and for a few years Century’s were no longer prominent on the water, or in the market. But time has changed Century’s design philosophies and marketing strategies and the company is emerging as one of the most progressive and market-oriented boat companies.

The old wooden Century’s had an easily identifiable style that was much admired. Its new FRP boats have not had the unity in style, but again time is changing that.

Century 3000 - Helm SeatThis years’ Century 3000 is a boat that can hold up its head in any company. One of the most interesting things about Century’s efforts toward design and colours. It seems there are few ways to endow a fibreglass boat with distinctive lines and Sea Ray has become more or less a leader here. Century needs a style to get recognition, and it looks like the company has reached back to an old strong-suit to find it. Interiors have always been attractive, and closely patterned after the auto industry.

Century now has a General Motors design staff working on colours and upholstery for its boats. The fashion industry is observed as well for its colours and contrasting designs. The Century 3000 has one of the cleanest and most comfortable boat interiors I’ve seen yet. It's no Greavette but it's gone way beyond most other boats. The test boat was a deep beige with rust-brown upholstery that really looked rich. Where the Sea Ray has many deep folds and lots of plush looking buttons, the Century has cleanly shaped seat panels and wide side-bolsters that look clean, not busy. The whole effect is much more harmonious.

This is not meant to criticize the Sea Ray, but the Century is outstanding. Slowly, the design work and research that has been done is paying off. The new Century line is showing signs of being a style unto itself, one that people will identify with. Good fortune seems assured if the 3000 is indicative of things to come.

The boat itself is an 18-ft-11-in. deep-V hull with an 8-ft beam and fairly narrow gunwales for a wide interior. There isn't the freeboard in the Century that there is in the Sea Ray, but the boats are of differing character. The Century is a sportier type, not to say a sport boat but with a fairly low-set interior, lower seats, and a more rakish feel. The dash has an instrument pod containing all the gauges, and the rest is sloped away from the interior with heavily upholstered bolsters. It gives a luxurious and spacious look.

Century 3000 - wide interiorI have never been in a boating accident (touch wood), but if I ever am I want the safety equipment right there and handy. When an emergency arises, it does no good to have fire extinguishers and such neatly stored andlocked away. Especially in boats like the Century and Sea Ray where everything is carefully thought out and well designed, it seems to me that a better storage arrangement for important equipment should be devised.

For driver comfort the Century is hard to beat. All controls are easily accessible and the instrument display is never obscured by the wheel or glare. The low driving stance is confidence-inspiring and the way it all works is very satisfying. This boat can be flung about in a carefree way with no bad results.

I criticized the Mercruiser 898 in the Sea Ray for being noisy, rough running, and difficult to handle. The Century 3000 was equipped with the same power plant and suffered far less.

Noise is difficult to predict when designing a boat out of a material that conducts sound and vibration (and fibreglass is good for that). Sea Ray has taken every precaution to keep noise and vibration to a minimum, but still the 898 was quite unpleasant. The Century does not purr like a kitten but is considerably quieter. Windshield shape, insulation, carpet, floor construction, and dozens of other factors could make a difference. Echoes and reflections might account for the higher noise level in the Sea Ray, but whatever it was, the Century was a quieter boat by 3dB at 3,000 rpm (cruising).

Throttle travel is much more linear too, with the power being easily controlled. Although the Sea Ray handles very well, the extremely buoyant, high ride of the well-developed V leads to cavitation under certain circumstances. The Century rides with more hull in the water. Thus it is less subject to cavitation.

Even using brute power during a tight, low-speed turn with the stern well down in the water didn't cause cavitation. The boat would just climb back onto the plane without complaint. All handling maneuvers were done with equal aplomb, and this boat turned out to be one of the best handlers I've driven.

Performance shaped up this way: The boat cruised at 27 mph at 3,000 rpm and worked its way up to a top speed of 43 mph at 4,500 rpm. This was faster at maximum than the Sea Ray, which is 8 in. longer and 300 lbs heavier.

The Century had an out-of-whack speedo that showed 47 mph for an actual 43. Also, the Century wandered at idle (in gear) and was not easy to handle around docks. The fact that the 898 doesn't idle well was no help.

Where the Sea Ray accelerated almost too quickly and experienced some cavitation, the same 898 in the Century was a bit sluggish and left a rather big wake. Part of the reason for lack of acceleration could have been the prop, a cupped, aluminum three-blade stock item that was 151/2 by 19 to the Sea Ray's 17-incher.

The Century was well equipped for a standard package, and equally well finished, with a price some $1,200 less than the bigger Sea Ray. I'd call the two boats about equal, with the Century a bit sportier and the Sea Ray more of a family boat.

Originally published in Canadian Yachting’s January 1979 issue.

Specifications:
Engine: Mercruiser 898. 189 horse power.
Propeller: 151/2 x 19 in.
Length: 18 ft 11 in
Beam: 8 ft
Weight: 2800 lbs

Photo Captions:
Photo 1 - Long known for quality wooden runabouts, Century has introduced tis fibreglass model with distinctive interior styling.
Photo 2 - Helm seat, instruments and padded dash are luxury appointments.
Photo 3 - Narrow gunwales give a wide interior.

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