Wellcraft 355 400By Andy Adams

Wellcraft launched a legacy of offshore boats from Sarasota, Florida more than 60 years ago and since then, high-performance deep vee designs have been their constant. Styles and purposes evolved over time with saltwater fishing as a major theme, but offshore ocean racing was what many came to associate with the Wellcraft brand, especially after the high-profile TV series Miami Vice featured Don Johnson driving a Wellcraft to outrun the bad guys, (wearing raw silk jackets and designer t-shirts while he did it).

Action is the design theme and this shot of the new Wellcraft 355 shows the aggressive bow and cabin styling that also provides versatile accommodations.

Fashions change and the new Wellcraft 355 dramatically breaks new ground while still building on the offshore performance reputation.  Don Johnson’s Miami Vice boat needed a couple of big-block V8s to catch the bad guys, but the new Wellcraft 355 has a better way to deliver the speed – triple 350 horsepower Mercury Verado outboards.

cabin roof with rack 400The 355 is remarkably fast but it offers more than just speed. Today, performance demands the ability to test the limits in challenging weather, wherever an owner wants to go on their adventures. The Wellcraft 355 is stylish and has a great aggressive look, but it has the functionality and character to handle many different tasks.

The cabin roof has racking to carry SUPs, kayaks and other things plus, it mounts the radar and communications systems as high as possible for best communications and navigation.

Design trends

Boat design trends recently have been away from cabin boats to what we call day boats; boats that emphasize above-deck amenities for a group of friends or family. The idea is to go from the dock to the adventure and back in a day. These boats often have minimal overnight accommodation. The emphasis is on a day outdoors. The Wellcraft 355 delivers that brilliantly and much more.

We are calling it a commuter. Commuter yachts first appeared during the 1920s. Executives and captains of industry in places like New York and along the eastern seaboard, would leave their waterfront mansions and travel in the exclusive speed and comfort of their commuter yachts, to their offices in downtown Manhattan.

inside the cabin 400The Wellcraft 355 could fill that role today, and at far higher speeds! Our test boat topped out at 51 knots. That’s 59.7 mph! A more useful measure is the effortless and economical cruising speed at 3,500 to 4,000 rpm travelling between 24 and 30 knots. Range at that speed is over 180 miles with a 20% reserve.

Bringing the outdoors in is easy with the aft cabin bulkhead glass door sections both open, three sunroof sections and the big starboard side sliding door. Notice the forward-facing seats in the cabin at the helm and companion positions and the dinette as well. The galley is to port with sink, stove, refrigerator and storage under the counter.

The 355s rugged good looks are from Pawel Denert and Camillo Garonni while the seaworthiness and handling are the work of Michael Peters Yacht Design. I spoke at length with Chris Critchett, the naval architect leading the development of the 355s hull and running surface at Michael Peters’. It’s impressive how much development went into refining a shape that can deliver high speeds while riding comfortably, even in conditions like we had for the review. Rolling ocean swells were overlaid with a sharp two-and-a-half-foot ocean chop on test day. By the way, at moderate planning speeds, we could crank the wheel hard over and found the 355 hung on without cavitation to carve a crazy tight turn. You might even drive it like that if you were pulling tubes or wakeboarders.

test boat with verado engines 400Exterior features

Starting at the stern, our Wellcraft 355 test boat had a stainless-steel cockpit arch for towed sports or providing an emergency tow. This includes a rack for six fenders, transom safety gates, and separate swim platforms flanking the triple engines with a boarding ladder on the port side. Big stainless-steel pull-up cleats are well-located and keep the decks clear when not in use. We thought all the hardware was oversized and solid.

This was the test boat featuring triple 350 horsepower Verado engines with joystick piloting and all the options. This special introduction boat had a full graphic wrap that was very cool! Notice the hull-side door, open transom and big, high side deck on starboard, leading to the bow seating.

Under the cockpit floor is storage space for bulky items like scuba gear, ropes and boards. There are also big port and starboard drained live-wells on the sides of the cockpit. An impressive standard feature on the 355 are port and starboard hull-side doors making boarding from the dock easier. Plus, brackets built into the thresholds accommodate hanging a dive ladder on either side, so you can swim and board well away from the engines. The cockpit sole is easily large enough for serious fishing and there is an optional fishing accessory package available.

sliding cabin side door 400Our test boat was fitted out more as the adventure and entertaining version with a stunning audio system putting sub-woofers and speakers seemingly everywhere. For added convenience when entertaining, the test boat had RGB Underwater lighting, overhead cockpit lighting and a roof-mounted LED headlight.

The sliding cabin side door was probably 4-feet long, could lock in many positions and opened up so wide that you could enter or exit behind the helm seat!

All the 355s are designed with asymmetrical deck layouts. You get an impressive starboard side walkway, with lots of freeboard and large diameter rails for easy movement including going forward to the bow lounge area. A remarkable feature is the very large sliding cabin side door on starboard. This latches in different positions for communications and ventilation plus, it opens so wide that you can easily walk in behind the helm seat. The port side still has rails but no walkway – the cabin gets that space.

The bow is a great outdoor living space with three large lounge seats plus a bench in the bow that has a large storage space under the cushion. There is a removable dining table for this area and an optional sunshade too.

A great helm

The salty and aggressive design of the inverted windshield serves many purposes; it shades the helm and dashboard area for better vision, and does not seem to collect much spray, yet it makes the cabin seem more spacious inside and at the same time, gives more roof area for racks to carry accessories like kayaks or paddle boards.

Three automotive-styled bucket seats with flip-up bolsters and footrests give everyone a great view forward. The driver enjoys a leather-covered wheel, the excellent Mercury control box and joystick controls and the test boat had twin 16-inch Garmin GPS Map screens. Every control is easily reached and the boat will be comfortable for long trips.  Incidentally, the boat is also available with Yamaha power and controls.

cabin dinette 400Cabin features

Cabin space is another great strength. While the emphasis is on the adrenaline performance and outdoor adventure aspects, the cabin is well-designed, spacious and can be secured to run through foul weather or opened up for sunny days. Three glass roof sections, two of which are electric sunroofs over the helm and companion seats (with shades and bug screens) bring the good weather in. The whole aft bulkhead opens with a glass door to port and a second glass bulkhead section that swings up, really bringing the sea breezes right through the cabin.

The cabin dinette seating and galley counter on the port side. Love all the glass and the attention to details like the big stainless steel grab rail above the galley window.

A sliding hatch leads to the private forward cabin and it’s surprisingly spacious. Great lighting makes this memorably elegant at night but there are several overhead and side windows for daytime. Featuring a shaped queen berth, good storage space, a port side seat and more, this will be a comfortable cabin for real cruising and the convertible dinette in the salon converts to another double so two couples can weekend in comfort.

Everyone will appreciate the spacious head with it’s separate shower. These are elegant and livable spaces!

sun lounges seats 400Overall, the cabin layout supports fast travel with the helm seat and two companion seats giving guests the best view forward. Wellcraft wisely located a second forward-facing bench seat against the aft bulkhead and the test boat had two movable hassock seats that can make an L-shape so almost everyone can sit facing forward.

Lots to note here on the bow: the three sun lounge seats are spacious and comfortable, the centre sections flips up for the cabin escape hatch and that section becomes an armrest with drink holders. There is more seating in the bow facing aft to make this a great conversation area. Notice the cabin windows in the forward side, portholes on the sides and another window at the base of the windshield.

Incidentally, there are a wide range of options including a generator, air conditioning and even a SeeKeeper gyro stabilizer system to keep everyone comfortable.

Galley

On the port side of the cabin is the galley with a refrigerator, storage, a Force 10 cooktop, sink and trash locker. Snap-out carpet is a luxurious touch. The test boat had storage in the aft bulkhead but that area can have an optional outside galley.

Overall

Wellcraft’s new 355 can easily explore our Pacific North West, the far reaches of Georgian Bay or you could blast across from Miami to Bimini. This boat was built for adventure and it’s equipped to own the offshore! Where do you want to explore?

Specifications

Engines: Triple Mercury 350 Verado engines, 2.6 L / 158.5 CID, supercharged inline 6 cylinder with dual overhead cams and four valves per cylinder. SmartCraft Digital Throttle and Shift, Joystick Piloting. Stainless-steel props.

Performance

RPM  MPH

1,000 5.8

1,500 8.4

2,000 9.9

2,500 11.5

3,000 18.2

3,500 27.7

4,000 35.0

4,500 41.3

5,000 46.6

5,500 52.0

6000 55.7

MAX 59.7

Dimensions

Length OA: 35’11” / 10.9 m

Beam: 10’9” / 3.3 m

Weight: 11,636 lbs / 5,278 kg

Fuel Capacity: 264 gal / 999 L

Water Capacity: 42 gal / 159 L

Base Price: $559,000 USD

Boat, price and performance data supplied by Wellcraft. www.Wellcraft.com 

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