- Very roomy interior
- Versatile deck layout
- Great vision from the helm
- Full height enclosed head with fixed head shower
- Soft riding with plenty of power
- Tall but not ungainly
- Well specified
Taupo couple James and Shelly Thomson wanted a boat that would allow them to enjoy Lake Taupo throughout the year, suitable for a range on water activities. It had to work as a day boat, but also as a weekend retreat as they like to overnight.
Named Fat Freddy – not a woman’s name, says Shelly with feeling – she is a Regal 28 Express supplied by New Zealand agent Tony McCombe from Integrity Marine in Nelson. She’s the culmination of a thorough search, during which the Thomsons considered several other US-made models, including boats from Four Winns, Bayliner and Sea Ray.
“Our last boat was a Four Winns and we liked it a lot, but we were after something bigger, and of the boat’s we looked at, the Regal offered the best mix of size, features and price.
“We’re stoked with it,” says James.
Fat Freddy lives in Kinloch’s pretty and sheltered marina close to Lake Taupo’s Western Bays, renowned for great trout fishing and spectacular scenery. The Regal 28 Express is legally trailerable on American roads, and in New Zealand too with the right vehicle, trailer and equipment. But this boat will live out its life in Lake Taupo, at least for as long as it’s in the Thomsons’ care, so there is no road trailer.
Compact Express Cruisers like the Regal 28 Express are popular in the USA and other markets, too, but still somewhat rare in New Zealand. They tend to be tall vessels, to maximise space below decks, which in some cases results in rather chunky styling.
The Regal 28 Express, while tall, has escaped this fate, managing to look sporty, stylish and modern, but still offers an amazing amount of desirable space below decks. There is a lot of boat crammed into the Regal’s 28-foot (8.79m) length. The beam is just under 2.6m.
One of the other attractions for the Thomsons was the Regal’s single engine, a 6.2-litre Mercruiser 300hp V8 petrol with Bravo 3 stern leg. Bigger boats, including some of the other options they looked at, are supplied with twin engines and as far as James is concerned, two engines add complexity, impact on the boat’s purchase price and make servicing more expensive. The Regal has a bowthruster, so berthing is “a breeze” he says.
One of the by-products of the Express Cruiser design is a helm position high above the water. That means great all-round vision when underway, but I’d imagine it also moves around a bit when the boat lies beam-on in choppy seas – we didn’t have any chop to contend with on the lake.
The high bridge also means it’s a fair way down to the swim platform and the water, but that has advantages too: shore power and water connections are nicely positioned outside the boat and the deep transom provides a useful locker under the sun pad big enough for the fenders and other gear, plus another storage compartment behind the engine for spare oil and suchlike.
The swim platform at water level is wide enough to fish from when it’s calm and there’s a retractable boarding ladder on the starboard side. I was impressed, also, by the number and quality of the vessel’s stainless-steel fittings: there are three cleats per side, the rear ones on heavy-duty stainless-steel reinforcing plates.
The engine compartment also opens from the back, making it easier to work on the mechanicals at the dock and keeping oily mess and dirty tools out of the cockpit. The compartment hatch is electric with manual over-ride in case of electrical failure, a fire control system is standard, and the Thomsons have opted for a 3.5kW genset and an inverter.
A bench seat aft has a backrest which can be fixed in several positions, allowing its occupants to lounge facing inboard or outboard while remaining safely inside the cockpit. Regal calls the boat’s cockpit – more a bridge, really – the ‘ultra lounge’ and it can be configured in several different ways.
It’s a pretty comfortable place to spend time, with an icebox, plus a cockpit refrigerator, wet bar, removable teak cockpit table, lots of seating and lounging options and attractive sun and water-resistant fabric upholstery. The electrically operated ‘Power Tower,’ is a styling feature as much as anything else, but also supports the optional camper cover, bimini or full canvas-and-clears enclosure. The tower is sturdy enough to tow from and raises and lowers to reduce air draught at the touch of a switch.
As well as the camper cover, the Thomsons opted for a cockpit cover to protect the boat in the marina.
The comfort theme continues below decks, where the owners have opted for air-conditioning and heating for all-seasons boating. A lockable sliding GRP door has moulded steps for easy access through the opening centre section of the windscreen to the foredeck. The windlass and spotlight on the bow are controlled remotely from the helm and the ground tackle is pretty decent for an imported boat.
A stainless-steel ladder with wooden treads leads down into the cabin, which is spacious and nicely-appointed. Seated around the saloon table, the cabin feels larger than it is with plenty of seated headroom and side windows (with curtains) providing views and light.
There is a small but functional electric galley with Corian counter tops, a refrigerator, single hob, microwave oven/grill and storage for crockery and utensils. Next to the galley, the bulkhead has space for a flat-screen TV and there’s a large mirror on the forward bulkhead.
The dinette table is removable, converting the seating into a double berth, but the real surprise is the size of the aft berth. Set athwartships, it’s a super-queen bed, and while it extends under the cockpit sole, there’s decent headroom and plenty of storage options. A curtain provides privacy.
The head, with shower, is likewise surprisingly roomy for a boat of this size – a six-footer can stand inside the head, which features stainless steel fittings and a fixed shower head. An optional grey water holding tank is also fitted.
Although the boat’s tall stance takes a little getting used to, it handles very nicely, accelerating briskly and changing direction without drama. With its 18o deadrise at the transom there’s a bit of roll, and also some sliding, when turning sharply, but overall the boat feels very comfortable and composed.
There’s plenty of power and the hull rides softly, lifting the bows only a little to get up onto the plane and then adopting a nicely level attitude. Trim tabs are standard and appreciated on a tall boat like this.
While overall fuel consumption is not something the Thomsons are too concerned about with their style of boating, they reckon the Regal is reasonably frugal, especially at cruising speed. The Regal 28 Express cruises nicely between 26 and 30 knots (approx. 53lph at 26 knots) at 21 knots it’s burning approximately 44lph, according to Regal’s own figures. Flat out, Fat Freddy does close to 40 knots.
I like the helm station, including the brushed aluminium and polished wood wheel and well laid out dashboard and console. The wheel is adjustable for rake, large toggle switches and other controls are easy to reach, and the helm seat has enough adjustment to suit any driver. The natural driving position with this boat is sitting down, but a folding bolster supplies thigh support and foot room if you need to stand up to drive.
The Regal 28 Express looks and feels quite at home on Lake Taupo. Fat Freddy’s owners are looking forward to exploring New Zealand’s largest lake on holidays and weekends in comfort and style aboard their new home away from home.