Monterey 385SE

Getting from point A to B has never been easier. Or more exciting.

by Ken Kreisler
Would you like to take the wheel?” asks Chris Murray, test engineer for Monterey Boats, as we leave the no-wake zone along the Intracoastal Waterway outside of the Marina One facility in Deerfield Beach, Florida.


  • LOA: 37’ w/swim platform
  • Beam: 11’
  • Draft: 26”
  • Weight: 16,000 lbs.
  • Fuel Capacity: 250 gals.
  • Water Capacity: 49 gals.
  • Power: 3/300-hp Mercury Verado Outboards
  • Price: Contact dealer

“You bet,” I say. I effortlessly slide the Mercury-equipped controls forward and our Monterey 385 Super Express (385SE) test boat is up on plane, humming along at about 52 mph. I remembered to turn my favorite cap around, bill backward, so as not to lose it. The frayed edges and sun-faded color had seen me through way too many memories, and I was taking proper precautions in keeping it from flying off my head.

I quickly checked the symmetrical wake left by the triple Mercury Verado 300s and then scanned the helm instruments before settling in — one hand on the wheel, the other holding onto the black anodized window frame to starboard — for a very exhilarating ride.

Getting around

Being aboard the 385SE is comfortable, whether you’re out for a family day trip, a quick overnight visit, a stop at that special gunkhole, or even living aboard (with its convenient accommodation spaces) for an extended time. To enhance your time aboard, there’s an optional 6.5kW Westerbeke generator and a 16,000 BTU air conditioning/reverse heat system.

The 385SE is an easy boat to traverse. Given her walkthrough design from bow to stern, I found it quite comfortable and safe to get back and forth while Murray was at the wheel. With that in mind, I am a firm believer that should my hand reach for a hold, there should be a grab right there, and Monterey had a sturdy and robust one waiting. 

I found a proper anchor locker, both in size and function, up in the bow, which also contains a washdown, the windlass and its controls (which are conveniently repeated at the helm). Access to equipment is easy if any servicing is needed. A large cooler neatly fits and is tucked away in the top of the bow vee. A filler cushion easily slides in on top of the cooler, creating one large lounge space. I found ample storage underneath both port and starboard side seats, as well as in the sole.

 “Given the deep, well-like design, this is a great spot for the kids to be safe,” Murray says. “We also offer — for those wanting to stay out of the sun — a bow shade, including a pair of fiberglass poles that easily slides into side sockets to support a canvas that goes all the way back into the hardtop.” 

Deploy a portable table here and the area becomes a dining space. If you are looking for cup holders, the forward, helm area and aft sections are loaded with them.  

Just past the vee, on the forward port side, is the stand-up head compartment complete with a sink and a pull-out shower. 

“We make the most use of every space aboard, especially [in the head] and opposite in the private berth/lounge,” Murray says. The berth/lounge features a queen aft sleeper; sofa seating that also pulls out for sleeping; a bulkhead-mounted, 40-inch flat-screen television; a microwave; and a stereo unit with Blue-ray player and soundbar.

Hullside windows and pull-down shades make this space feel airy and open. The electronic panel is located here, and I found several convenient storage spaces, as well. The tasteful, modern décor boasts vibrant colors, as well as upgraded hardware and fittings.

The transom/cockpit aft section is quite comfortable, and the spacious seating easily converts into a large lounge. A big boom stereo system complete with a subwoofer and a 32-inch LED television is available for this area. As I found everywhere aboard, there is ample storage space here for dock lines, as well as the dockside television and electrical hook up. An optional electric cockpit grill and standard table are among other notable features. 

“In addition, there is a camper top that encloses the aft section of the boat,” Murray says. “We offer an electrically operated SureShade option here as well.” 

With the outboard configuration, the former engine room space usually occupied by inboards is now a spacious area housing additional storage, the aforementioned Westerbeke generator and access to the batteries. The hatch is electrically operated, and I found ample room in which to do servicing or to check vital oil and coolant levels.

At the helm

The starboard helm features a stylish design with leather trim and flush-mounted electronics, including a Raymarine chartplotter with a handy remote control. As I discovered during my time at the wheel, all switches and controls were within easy reach, whether I was seated or standing. The electrically operated captain’s seat offers fold-down bolsters. A co-pilot’s seat is to port with a wetbar, sink, wine rack, and refrigerator console just forward. 

Just how did we ever exist at the wheel of an outboard-powered boat without the excellent Mercury Active Trim System; the flawless joystick control; the amazing Skyhook GPS digital anchoring; the informative and intuitive VesselView displays covering all engine parameters; or the SmartCraft DTS and its ability to provide exact handling and control? When equipped on the Monterey 385SE, this outstanding technology allows even the most novice boaters — with proper instruction and wheel time — to get comfortable very quickly, even with the triple 300-hp outboard configuration.  

“The prospective owner who’s looking to get into a boat of this size is no longer afraid to do so,” Murray says.

One of the really nice things about Mercury power is how quiet the engines are. Murray and I could easily converse, even at WOT and flirting with 6,400 rpm (with 200 gallons of fuel and 49 gallons of water), as well as when I brought the engines down to 4,500 rpm with a respectable 36 mph turn of speed (noting a 45 gph total for the triple Mercs). Other outstanding performance observations continued during my time at the wheel; while knocking 500 rpm off of that run, I was able to maintain an average of 30 mph with a 36 gph burn, as well as a leisurely 13 mph relaxed and laid back run at 3,000 rpm. 

Thanks to Monterey’s superior, well-balanced hull design and Mercury’s joystick, my turns, straight and true tracking runs, and docking maneuvers were spot-on and immediate. Due to her solid fiberglass construction built to the company’s exacting standards, you can feel the solidness of this boat under your command. There is absolutely no flexing in the sole. No matter where you look, you’ll notice the care that went into her build, including the smooth finish on the underside of the hatches.

“We offer this particular boat in an inboard model as well — the 378SE with either 380- or 430-hp Volvo or Mercury engines — for those who still want the size and floorplan but with the more traditional power,” Murray says. 

Wrapping things up

The 385SE is the current flagship of the eight other sistership models in the Super Sports lineup from this notable builder. With 30-plus years of boat design and construction under its belt, Monterey, located in Williston, Florida, operates a pair of state-of-the-art facilities with one dedicated to its sport boats while the other houses the sport yachts and cruiser lines. 

This comfortable, family-oriented boat has striking good looks and a definite performance edge that’s sure to please both those wishing to move into something a bit larger or boaters who are in the market for downsizing. Should a boat like this be up on your radar, you owe it to yourself to set-up a sea trial. You won’t be disappointed. Just make sure you hold on to your favorite cap when you hit those throttles.  


Grand Pointe Marina


Great Lakes Yachts Sales


Pier 53 Marine 


South Shore JUN17