Century Cortez 270

Story by Andy Adams; photos by Peter Richardson.

Sleek and fast, this family cruiser has roots in narrow V hulls of ocean racers, but it handles better.

Cliff Cruickshank has been boating out of Dawson’s Marina in Keswick, Ontario, for most of his life. In ranging from a Greavette dispro (disappearing propeller) to  a 36 foot Pacemaker. Now he owns a 27 foot Century Cortez and he’s delighted.

Over the years boating has changed for the Cruickshank family, as it has for many others. Children grow up and begin lives of their own. No matter how much they like boating, they often prefer time on their own in the city to spending a weekend under the watchful eyes of parents at a marina.

When Cliff found himself in that position, he decided to try life without a boat. That was the winter of 1979. But one night, as the snow fell and his thoughts turned to the warmth of summer, boating withdrawal symptoms hit. Not surprisingly, Doug Dawson was able to alleviate the problem with a call to Bruce Brown of BMB Distributors, the Century distributor. Brown was able to promise a new Cortez 270 for Cruickshank to launch when the ice went out that spring.

Century Cortez 270 - CockpitThe Cortez was a compromise between what Cruickshank wanted and what was now realistic for his family. He needed a boat that he and his wife could dock in a storm when their crew was elsewhere, but also a boat big enough for family cruising when the urge struck. The Cortez has the kind of big boat comfort the Cruickshanks are used to and a turn of speed that gets them from the marina to Big Bay Point in less than an hour. 

One thing they hadn’t expected was fuel economy. During our test late last season, Cruickshank still hadn’t filled the tank often enough to have accurate figures, but he thinks he gets three miles per gallon cruising, possibly a little more. With 60 gallons of fuel and 13 of water , the boat weighs 5,400 lbs, a weight the Mercruiser will push very economically.

Like many of Century’s boats, the Cortez is a Jim Wynn – designed deep V hull on a trailerable eight-foot beam. It has a 27-foot centreline and is very deep, even in the aft cockpit. The hull-to-deck join is well down the hull side and the deck rises directly from the join without any walk around space. This is almost a necessity on an eight-foot beam, but dockside handling of a 27-footer requires easy access to the bow and the only safe bow access on the Cortez is inconveniently through a deck hatch.

Century Cortez 270 - Swim PlatformThere ‘s a minimum depth of two feet in the cockpit and you can’t step out except right aft by the transom. A lovely teak taffrail adds to the problem. But a teak swim platform with a stainless steel boarding ladder should make swimming from the Cortez easy.

The foredeck is large and grand for tanning as long as the boat ‘s moored. Climbing in and out of the two deck hatches is not easy for anyone but kids and the bow rail is not high enough to offer any real protection from a dunking unless you’re lying down. There’s an anchor locker with ample room for a length of rode and a big hook, but the boat isn’t equipped with a roller or bowsprit. With the low bow rail, it’ll be difficult to get the anchor in without swinging it against the hull side.

That would be a pity, because Century spends a lot of time setting out beautiful colour combinations to grace the sleek glass work on their boats. Cliff’s Cortez was a tan colour with a navy blue feature sheer stripe and deep red waterline accent stripe. Scratches will show up white against the coloured hull and they’re difficult to touch up. Another impediment to hauling in an anchor is the remote controlled spotlight mounted at the bow.

Century doesn’t have much choice about where to position the light. The windshield is so steeply raked and lies so far aft that positioning the spot anywhere else would likely blind the driver with reflection. It could go on the bow rail peak but there’s no room for the remote control unit and exposed wiring is prone to shorts. The answer is a rubber coated anchor – but does anyone make one?

Century Cortez 270 - ForedeckTwo tinted glass hatches by Taylor adorn the deck. They’re well made, seal nicely and allow plenty of light into the cabin. It might be a thought to have metal guards over them if you can ‘t find that rubber coated anchor.

The sharply raked windshield throws breezes up over the cockpit quite nicely at most speeds. The helm position gives a secure feeling and two adjustable bucket seats are comfortable. The cockpit has teak strip flooring and measures 76 inches wide by about eight feet six inches long. Century includes two brilliantly designed armchair seats for the aft corners (I’ll get to them later) and there’s still room for two people to stand comfortably.

The view forward over the very long foredeck gives the impression of a far larger boat. The ride and handling reinforce the feeling. The eight-foot beam and deep V bottom tame rough weather easily, and the cockpit is positioned low and far enough aft that uncomfortable ride motions and rolling are quite subdued. The Cortez is clearly styled after the ocean racers of Cigarette, Donzi and Magnum with refinements for more everyday use.

Where the ocean racers fall down is in handling. Their narrow beam and great dead-rise make wide turns the rule; these boats heel right over for even a gentle helm correction. The Cortez only heels over to modest angles and will carve a high speed turn as well as any 27-footer I’ve been in. There’s some cavitation but it’s not excessive; you can expect more with twin engines.

Century Cortez 270 - armchairsCruickshank’s Cortez has a single Mercruiser 260 stern drive and it’s well suited to his uses. The engine is smooth and winds out to a quiet 4,500 rpm for atop speed of 36 mph at a running angle of 0 degrees. A cruising speed of 3,000 rpm works out to a brisk 24 mph for fuel economy, but the boat’s running angle of four degrees at this speed needs a bit of tab to get the bow down.

The trim tabs fitted to this Cortez have a joy stick control instead of separate buttons. I find them awkward and far more confusing to use than buttons, but Cruickshank swears by them and it’s his boat. The gauges – trim, volts, fuel, temp, oil, tach and speed – are under a dark plexiglass weather guard cover. All switches are clearly marked and ganged with their respective fuses. The helm position is quite comfortable and the swivel seats adjust for reach and height. Opening side vents on the skiff windshield are a desirable feature.

With no hardtop or cabin to hide in, the Century is really a fair weather boat. The convertible top is very handsome and includes good quality zippers and fittings, but it’s necessarily a low one and there ‘s no standing room under it by the helm. The camper-type back allows the aft cockpit to be used for sleeping in mild weather.

The cabin is about what you’d expect in a boat that’s as sleek and low as the Cortez. Maximum headroom is six feet and much of the cabin has less. The minimum height measured was just SS inches; the head has a sitting height only of 66 inches. Amenities are present, though – a Potpourri 707 toilet, sink, hand-held shower, mirror and vanity with hanging space under. Unfortunately, the head has no window.

Century Cortez 270 - seating areaThe dinette has two facing settees. The bow V berth measures six feet two inches maximum length by 60 inches wide. But it’s not claustrophobic , thanks to the two deck hatches and fair headroom. There’s also ample side storage and storage under.

The galley lies near the cockpit bulkhead on the port side. It has six-foot headroom and an opening panel in the bulkhead provides lots of light and ventilation. Galley equipment includes a two-burner Kenyon alcohol stove, 12/ 120 volt Amfridge, single stainless steel sink, sliding cupboards and teak sea rails to keep dinner off the cockpit sole.

The Cruickshanks rarely spend the night aboard so accommodations are almost superfluous. But for owners who want to do some distance cruising, the accommodations are comfortable for two people. Adding guests is not difficult because of the clever armchair idea mentioned earlier. Each chair is a single seat made up of wraparound backrest and three-section seat cushion held by belts. By unclipping the belts , the three sections pull out to be comfortable single berths that can be positioned anywhere you wish.

Century Cortez 270 - Refreshments areaThoughtful features abound on the Cortez. Teak sea rails on the dash top hold drinks, charts or gear, and the whole area is finished in non-reflective black to minimize glare inside the windshield at night. Switches ganged with fuses, opening windshield vents for defogging, and cleverly placed teak handholds are all marks of a well designed and carefully built boat. For the kind of boating Cliff Cruickshank and his family now does, the Century Cortez makes a lot of sense.

Originally published in Canadian Yachting’s March 1981 issue.


Length – 27 ft

Weight – 5,400 labs

Century Cortez 270 - CabinWater Capacity – 13 gal

Fuel Capacity – 60 gal

Photo Captions:

Photo 1 – Running

Photo 2 –  Comfortable seats and a well-laid out, fully instrumented dish (with trim controls and gauge) are part of the thoughtfully designed cockpit.

Photo 3 – The small ladder attached to the swim platform makes boarding safe and easy.

Photo 4 – Twin hatches provide cabin ventilation and the only access to the foredeck.

Photo 5 & 6 – Ingenious armchairs unbuckle to become movable beds. allowing two to sleep on deck in comfort during a summer cruise.

Century Cortex 270 - BerthPhoto 7 – Refreshments area

Photo 8 – Maximum headroom is six feet; much of the cabin is lower.

Photo 9 – Standard V berth in bow and facing settees in dinette complete the accommodations.

Photo 10 – Below decks, head, sink. hand shower and vanity with hanging storage are situated underneath the helm position.

Century Cortez 270 - Head

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