by Shane Mensforth

I’ve been fishing from Caribbean flybridge cruisers for many years, and have always considered them to be right up there with the best blue water sportfishers in the country. It’s true, however, that Caribbean designers have begun to feel the heat as their direct opposition has upped the ante and gradually improved their market share. Consequently, things have started to change at Caribbean, and the new crop of cruisers is once again creating considerable excitement.
The new 420 Express is a perfect example. It’s the result of designers listening carefully to consumer feedback, as well as considerable input from some of Caribbean’s more progressive distributors. This is a totally new model, and one that offers across-the-board appeal.
Although the lack of flybridge may preclude interest from some die-hard blue water fisho’s, there’s no doubt the Express configuration provides plenty of versatility and a more family-friendly layout. The cockpit is still plenty big enough for serious fishing, accommodation is comfortable and stylish, and the boat is far more economical to run than most of its predecessors in the same size class.
Caribbean 420 Express 2
Caribbean 420 Express 11WHAT YOU GET
As soon as you climb aboard the 420 Express, you’ll notice how stylish and how well it is finished. Interior joinery work is first class and it’s quite obvious that plenty of thought has gone into the layout. This is the first boat in what Caribbean calls its SUV range, and I guess the ‘Sports Utility’ tag sums things up nicely.
Immediately noticeable at the stern is an over-sized swim platform/marlin board, which is great for families who enjoy swimming, snorkeling or diving, but maybe not so well suited to serious game fishing. I’m not sure if you can order this model with a less obtrusive aft platform, but I’d be looking into it to facilitate fishing over the back.
As mentioned earlier, the 420’s cockpit is enormous. It offers 10.3 square metres of work/fishing space, which compares favourably with several of its direct competitors. The cockpit floor is high quality teak, and there’s a factory-fitted base located strategically to accommodate a game chair.
The cockpit bulkhead features a sliding glass door and a sizable hopper-style window on the port side. With these open on a nice day, the saloon remains bright and airy. Also included in the cockpit is a large fridge/freezer, sink and storage console to port and a half-size settee immediately outside the sliding door on the starboard side. A high capacity, recirculating live bait tank is incorporated in the transom and there are plenty of flush-mounted rod holders around the cockpit perimeter.
Caribbean 420 Express 8
Caribbean 420 Express 4The saloon layout is neat, functional and uncluttered. There’s a comfortable and stylish U-shaped dinette on the port side and a long convertible lounge directly aft of the helm station. The galley is quite compact, but easy enough to work in. It features a four-burner cook top, under-bench microwave oven, Eutectic fridge (160 litres), separate Eutectic freezer (72 litres) and enough bench space to prepare meals in comfort. A 30-litre, 240 volt pressurised hot water service is plumbed to the galley, head and cockpit.
The helm station follows the trend of economical space usage. It’s all high quality teak, with an elevated top tier for large screen displays and a second tier beneath to accommodate smaller controls such as bow thruster, trim tabs, binnacle and winch activator. Vision all round from the helm is excellent for an Express-style cruiser, and I doubt I’ve sat in a more comfortable skipper’s chair than the Navigator Deluxe, designed exclusively for Caribbean.
It’s three steps down from the saloon into the forward accommodation, which consists of a spacious master stateroom, guest cabin and two-way head. The master suite is fitted with a walk-around, queen-size bed and there are twin single berths in the other cabin. The 420 is designed to sleep two up front in the double, two more in the singles and another out in the saloon when the settee is converted.
The head is set conveniently on the starboard side and comes nicely fitted out. There’s a separate shower stall, Vacuflush toilet, vanity unit with reconstituted stone bench top and raised hand basin. Tap ware is all high-end, and you’ll find plenty of room in this area to move in and out of the shower – something that, despite their size, some larger offshore cruisers don’t always offer. Standard fresh water capacity of 650 litres is quite generous, and with a Blue Water Express desalinator fitted, extended long range cruising is a breeze. This unit converts 95 litres of water per hour.
Caribbean 420 Express 13
Caribbean 420 Express 5Caribbean’s standard equipment inventory for the 420 is quite comprehensive. A 9.5KVA Onan diesel generator is fitted, along with 12 volt LED lighting throughout, ample 240 volt power outlets, stereo system, high volume deck wash and transom-mounted shower.
The electronics package fitted to the test boat was indeed impressive. It consisted of a 48 nautical mile radar with dome scanner, P70R auto pilot and Raymarine sonar and GPS units.

The test boat was powered by dual 500hp QSC Cummins diesels, which seemed to be close to ideal. The boat weighs 11,200kg dry, so it needs plenty of ‘grunt’ to get it up and mobile quickly. Fuel capacity is around 2000 litres, which isn’t enormous, but considering the exceptional economy of the Cummins engines, would provide a reasonable cruising range.

Andrew Craddock, principal of Marina Boat Sales in Port Adelaide, expertly guided the Caribbean out of its pen on a delightful early summer morning. Despite a relatively tight exit and turning basin, Andrew used a combination of counter prop rotation and bow thrust to maneuver the big boat, and soon we were out on the Port River bound for St Vincent’s Gulf.
Caribbean 420 Express 12
Caribbean 420 Express 9It was one of those warm, still mornings that tempt you away from the office and beckon you toward the horizon.
Once we had cleared the River’s restricted speed zones, Andrew opened up the Cummins diesels and we climbed instantly onto the plane. The transition from displacement to planing was about as crisp as it gets, setting the scene for a truly exhilarating test run. This is indeed a quick boat and, according to the on-board fuel management system, a very economical one if driven thoughtfully.
In a straight line we maxed out at around 32 knots (60km/h), which is plenty in a rig of this size. There was absolutely no hint of vibration at full revs, and I can vouch for the fact that engine soundproofing is exceptionally good. Even out in the cockpit, standing directly above the engines, you could carry on a conversation without having to raise your voice much above normal levels.
The big Caribbean settles nicely into a cruise speed of 24 knots (45km/h) at around 2000rpm, which is precisely where you’d want to be traveling to achieve optimum fuel economy. I realised that the boat was lightly laden, but was still pleasantly surprised to observe a combined fuel burn figure of 102 litres per hour at cruise – economical big boat operation in anyone’s terms.
The hull turns quite predictably at speed, enabling us to pull a complete 180 at 24 knots within the confines of the Port River shipping channel. It’s reassuringly easy to drive, responding nicely to tab adjustment in a straight line and losing precious little forward momentum when cornering.
The 420 Express is some 600kg lighter than the flybridge version and, without all that weight upstairs, is noticeably more stable at rest. There’s no doubt it would make a great fishing platform, particularly while drifting for reef species. Throw on a pair of outriggers, however, and you’ll also have a very efficient blue water game fishing rig.
Caribbean 420 Express 14
Caribbean’s new 420 Express lives up to its ‘SUV’ designation admirably. Designing and building an efficient all-rounder is rarely an easy task, but those at Caribbean have done the job well. Configuration, fit-out and general finish are light years ahead of the older Caribbean models, and the company now seems to have chosen the right direction to move ahead in today’s demanding marketplace.
Even as a hard-core fisho, I would be more than happy to own this boat, as it offers plenty of room, exceptional stability and a power system that provides both speed and economy.
Caribbean is almost certainly on a winner with the 420 Express.

The test boat was provided by Marina Boat Sales SA.

Caribbean 420 Express 3POSITIVES
Great stability
Efficient use of available space
Large cockpit for fishing

Marlin board too broad for fishing

Price (from) $687,000, (as tested) $831,000.
Construction: GRP
Length Overall: 13.1m
Beam: 4.30m
Dry weight: 11,200kg
Fuel capacity: 2000 litres
Fresh water capacity: 650 litres
Height above waterline: 2.65m (plus electronics)
Cockpit area: 10.30 sqm.