"Mid Size Power Boats": A Guide for Discreminating Buyers - by David Pascoe

Tiara 3600 Open

Tiara 3600 Open

LOA 36' 8" Weight 16,000 lbs
Beam 13' 9" Fuel Cap 396 gals.
Draft 2'11' Power Cat 3208, 425HP
Year '88 & '92   Crusader 350
    Speeds Up to 28 kn.

One of the more interesting features of the Tiara Open series is that the builder has attempted to create a dual purpose boat -- a quasi sport fisherman/express. It's the kind of boat that  is in wide demand, but which the industry has done a poor job of meeting that demand.

How well the 3600 design succeeds probably depends on how seriously you take your fishing. Bearing in mind that it's hard to have your cake and eat it, too, I think this one succeeds a lot better than most. As our feature photo above shows, some Tiara owners take it pretty seriously, that one being fully tricked out with a marlin tower that fits the lines of the boat very nicely.

We hear the lament over and over again. Mom wants a floating condo, Dad wants an all-out fishing machine. Mom wants an interior like something out of Architectural Digest, Dad is quite content with an Igloo cooler to sit on as long as the cockpit is big enough to play half-court basketball, and is adorned by whiz-bangers like rocket launchers, triple diamond outriggers and tackle centers larger than a full-blown galley. As usual, Mr. & Mrs. have conflicting interests.

The Tiara 3600 is one of the more successful at bringing those interests together. That's not just my opinion, but that of many of the people who've owned these boats.

This model was produced from 1987 to 1996 with few major changes, so it was obviously a very successful boat, and there are a lot of them out there.

Obviously, the 3600 is unlikely to appeal to the fishinfanatics, the guys willing to plunk down a couple grand to enter the high-roller tournaments. While these boats lack some of the more dedicated sport fishing appointments, like a real bait and tackle center, it's in the area of offshore, rough water performance where the 3600 just doesn't cut it as an all out fishing machine. More on that in a moment.

Yet, as one who has spent quite a bit of time in the 3600 Opens, my personal view is that they are fine for the casual fisherman (which appears to be what they were intended for), make darn good cruising boats, too. Shown above is a later model 3600 that has the large L-shaped seating module not found in earlier models which typically have only the forward facing seat modules.

For this review, we draw on two recent surveys of the 3600, a gas powered 1988 model and a diesel 1992 boat.  The better than average construction quality is just what you'd expect from Tiara and with one at 12 years old, we get an excellent view of just how well quality translates to good resale values and a long life span. Both these boats were in fine condition, looked only about half their age, and had a long service life ahead of them. These old gals actually still had some shine to the gel coat.

The hulls, as far as we could determine, are solid glass, on sides and bottom. The decks are balsa cored. The hull is adequately bulkheaded with no tendency toward tortional hull twisting. Neither of the boats had any damage at the deck join,  or serious leaking into the interior. Stringers are beefy enough that there is no bottom flexing or engine movement.

Hardware wise, the aluminum windshields have held up fairly well, though on the 12 year old boat, the paint was pretty well gone, though there was not a lot of corrosion, and was restorable. Rub rails are the solid, hard plastic type that amazingly had no damage on either boat. That is largely attributable to good design.

Unlike the smaller models, the 3600 is not prone to fuel tank corrosion problems but, as on many of the Tiara Open series, engine room access is pretty awful. The two  large hatches cover the entire engine room area and has the two large, heavy seating modules bolted to them . Able to be opened only by electrically driven worn screw openers, one of these had failed, causing long delays in getting the survey accomplished. It had to be disconnected and forcibly opened by a couple of gorillas, and then we had to cut a few timbers to size to prop it open to prevent all 400 lbs of it from decapitating someone.

If you had an engine problem at sea, and couldn't get the hatch open, you'd have a real problem on your hands. These hatches are too heavy for the lifting mechanisms, which need to be replaced with a full hydraulic system, at no small cost.  But there are a few other problems as well.

Such as the air conditioning ducts are not insulated, so that condensation runs out over the cabin sole. Left uncorrected, this is eventually going to cause some serious water damage. Access for servicing the units is enough to make any serviceman see red. Meaning it's darn tough.

On the earlier models, they used a steel channel for the rudder benches. Need I tell you what's wrong with that? Ask a Bertram owner. On later models, you'll find this replaced with a fiberglass or aluminum channel.

Another buggaboo is that there is no gutter on the rope locker hatch. This allows salt water to drip on top of the anchor windlass motor with predictable results.

The generator is set between the engines toward the aft end of the engine space. General servicing is anything but easy.

But that's about it as far as the design faux pas.

The aft cockpit has the usual removable wells that can be rigged up however you see fit -- bait well, fish box or just storage. And the design of these things and the weight has bee sufficiently reduced that I could remove them easily by myself. And once you get them out, there is loads of space down below to service all the things that occasionally need to be attended to.

Layouts come in Plan A or B. Plan A is the usual express layout with a small dinette to port and convertible lounge opposite that is rather oddly designed as L-shaped upper and lower berths-- the short leg of the "L" apparently intended for midgets or newer members of the family, it's probably not as dumb as it looks if you're into cramming kids aboard.

You may recognize those oval port holes as those same awful leakers from the Trojan International series. You'll find that on later models, the leaking problem has been corrected. The boat depicted is the 1988 model and  has the leaky ones.

While not nearly as spacious as the comparable Sea Ray layouts, Plan A is decidedly comfortable. though the galley is not nearly as nifty as what you get in Plan B. This layout is much more cramped, but for a couple who want a REAL galley, this one is nirvana. U-shaped, it loads of counter and cabinet space, and for people like me who have a stomach where his heart should be, it doesn't get any better than this in this size boat.

Opposite it the stretched "U" lounge/settee with removable table. Not exactly ideal for socializing, it is fine for the cruising couple. Much of your main cabin space is lost to a very generously sized head, created from a full 'glass liner that will leave you with no sense of being on a camping trip. The full sized shower stall has a seat, which I don't have at home, and a curved plexiglas door that prevents the sense of being locked in a phone booth. The "throne" is a Vacuflush. The water pressure pump is one of my unfavorite Shur-flo jobs, that I've dubbed "Slo-floes." Just not up to the task at hand.

Unlike most forward double berth staterooms, you don't have to crawl into bed head first on hands and knees, something that I detest. Here, there are small isles on each side of the berth large enough to actually lay down normally -- like with a drink in your hand. Cool.

Unlike entry-level boats, the head liner is vinyl covered panels attached with velcro, not cheap carpet glued on with contact cement that is going to bleed through and cause ugly, irremovable glue stains. This is great because if you damage the headliner, you only have to replace the one panel instead of the whole thing. Plus, you can easily yank it down if you need to access or add deck hardware. This is one of the more important differences over "price" boats.

Another is the usually great Tiara electric panel that is conveniently set at eye level on the aft bulkhead. You don't have to get down on hands and knees. While it's not fully mulitiplex, meaning that all power sources are interchangeable, it is fully metered, well laid out and easy to use.

Last but certainly not least, are those wonderful Tiara helm panels, probably the best designed helm stations in the industry. As usual, I love the 20" vertical destroyer wheel, engine control placement. Yep, I still prefer separate controls over single lever controls. It's just too easy to make mistakes with the excessively smooth operating controls like Microcommander and others. These have proven to be difficult to operate safely in rough water with the boat bouncing around. You don't have that problem with controls that are stiffer.

But take a gander at how many flush mount gizmos are installed on that panel. I count EIGHT. Have you ever see any boat that allows that many, or to allow them to be so well placed? I haven't.

The very high windshield is another great feature that does a good job of keeping the spray off you and the instrument panel. There is the usual channel around the inside so that leaks don't go streaming all over the deck. An electrically opened small windshield center section is worth it's weight in gold for the great stream of cooling air it provides.

The arch is very well designed and placed so that the installation of soft tops form up very nicely without conflicting with the lines of the boat. The one boat had an aft sunshade extension that blended with the lines of the soft top so perfectly that I had to look twice to see that it wasn't part of a molded hardtop.  A bar module is optional, and comes with an icemaker that is handy to have but is not well insulated enough to prevent ice from turning into one, great frozen, half-melted lump when exposed to direct sun.

Performance Even with gas power, speeds are nothing to complain about. We didn't get the opportunity to clock the speed of the gas boat, but estimate it was around 26 kn at 4000 RPM. For our 425 hp Cat powered boat, we got 28.2 knots (radar gun) in rough water. Figure a little better in calm water. Our sea trial was made with two foot, highly confused swells. The ride was nothing to rave about, as the bottoms of these boats are just too flat for my liking. But, she's fast and efficient for those better days. Ah, well, it's hard to get everything in one package.

She has propeller pockets, but the engines are spaced widely so there's little loss of low speed control penalty, and well enough balanced that trim tabs are not needed, although useful for fine tuning.

These boats represent some excellent value on the used boat market, offering those who can't afford a new one a chance to step up into the quality boat market with an older boat that won't bury them in an avalanche of costly and never ending repairs. The boat is not too heavy for gas power, though of course gas engines will wear more rapidly when pushing heavier loads. On the other hand, the Cat 425's haven't done a heck of a lot better. My preference would  the 375's for longevity.


Posted July 18, 2000
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David Pascoe - Biography

David Pascoe is a second generation marine surveyor in his family who began his surveying career at age 16 as an apprentice in 1965 as the era of wooden boats was drawing to a close.

Certified by the National Association of Marine Surveyors in 1972, he has conducted over 5,000 pre purchase surveys in addition to having conducted hundreds of boating accident investigations, including fires, sinkings, hull failures and machinery failure analysis.

Over forty years of knowledge and experience are brought to bear in following books. David Pascoe is the author of:

In addition to readers in the United States, boaters and boat industry professionals worldwide from over 70 countries have purchased David Pascoe's books, since introduction of his first book in 2001.

In 2012, David Pascoe has retired from marine surveying business at age 65.

Biography - Long version







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