Runabout Roundup: Three Top Picks for 2016

What the heck is a runabout, anyway? Well, according to Chapman Piloting and Seamanship (a must-have book if you’re new to boats) it’s any smaller-sized boat that’s suited for hauling folks around the water, primarily for day cruising.

So while that could mean anything from a center-console boat to a bowrider, for our purposes we chose three excellent boats under 25 feet that are primarily designed for day use, but also have modest facilities for the occasional Bohemian overnight. With that in mind, let’s see what notable runabouts we came up with for the 2016 boating season.

If you’re looking for an incredibly good blend of luxury, looks, and performance, the Chris-Craft Capri 25 is difficult to beat. Photo courtesy of Chris-Craft
If you’re looking for an incredibly good blend of luxury, looks, and performance, the Chris-Craft Capri 25 is difficult to beat. Photo courtesy of Chris-Craft.

 

Chris-Craft Capri 25

Chris-Craft virtually created the runabout market more than 100 years ago with its fast, relatively economical cockpit-oriented powerboats. Today the company builds everything from center-consoles to bowriders, but a model it introduced just under a year ago definitely ticks all the right boxes in the runabout category.

There was no doubt in our minds that this 25-footer has a luxury theme when we got our first look at it in Sarasota, FL, last year. Smothered in many board feet of beautiful teak and upholstered with yards of buttery, sumptuous vinyl, the Capri 25 definitely makes a statement. Her lines make her a looker, too, having a retro runabout motif featuring lots of tumblehome, a graceful reverse sheer, and a stunning bronze topside paint scheme that goes great with her off-white decks and teak trim.

Specifications:

  • Length: 26’7”
  • Beam: 8’6”
  • Draft (hull): 1’5”
  • Deadrise: 20 deg.
  • Displacement: 5,700 lbs.
  • Fuel capacity: 77 gal.

Hopping aboard we spotted a lot of cleverness in the cockpit. One place where runabouts tend to fall down is in their lack of entertainment space. More specifically, it’s difficult to serve beverages, snacks, or lunchtime sandwiches when there’s no place for your food and drink—other than in your lap. Chris-Craft solves this problem with two teak tables that flip up from under the gunwales into the cockpit. Two captain’s chairs in the forward end of the cockpit can then be swiveled around to create a cozy eating and drinking area for around four people. Deploy a foldaway bimini top to keep things cool as you eat and drink. Forward is a utilitarian cuddy cabin with a V-berth and a neatly concealed porta-potty.

Standard power in the Chris-Craft Capri 25 is a 300-horsepower Mercury 6.2-liter gasoline inboard with a Bravo III sterndrive, but optional engine choices are almost limitless. You can power up the Capri 25 with up to 430 horses from either Mercury or Volvo Penta, and with Bravo drives or DuoProps.

If luxury, performance, and comfort are at the top of your list of runabout requirements, then the Chris-Craft Capri 25 is definitely worth a sea trial.

The Bayliner 642 Cuddy packs a lot of value in a clever, good-looking package. Photo courtesy of Bayliner
The Bayliner 642 Cuddy packs a lot of value in a clever, good-looking package. Photo courtesy of Bayliner.

Bayliner 642 Cuddy

Say what you will about Bayliners, but if you haven’t been paying attention to the builder over the last 10 years then your impression may be skewed. Today the company is churning out some really clever and innovative boats, all with an eye toward economic accessibility. Starting out at only $38,199, the Bayliner 642 Cuddy is an excellent example of the company’s newfound and innovative budget-oriented DNA.

Though Bayliner lists this boat under its “Overnighters” category in the model lineup, we feel like the 642 Cuddy is more runabout than it is true overnighter. The cockpit speaks to that theme, with a large L-shaped lounge aft, a cushioned sunpad over the engine bay, and a swiveling captain’s chair aft of the helm. The port side companion bench seatback can be swiveled forward to create a chaise lounge, and a teak pedestal table slips easily into the cockpit for dining and entertaining. It’s a much nicer layout than you’d expect for the price. And this boat looks great, too. A wraparound windshield, forward stainless-steel bow railing, and a smart-looking standard paint scheme give this boat presence on the water.

Specifications:

  • Length: 21’4”
  • Beam: 8’0”
  • Draft: 3’2”
  • Deadrise: 19 deg.
  • Displacement: 3,084 lbs.
  • Fuel capacity: 33 gal.

Below is a very basic V-berth setup, but it’s got some elements that lots of budget-minded boats wouldn’t include, such as opening ports in the hull sides, twin inset portlights above, and a neatly hidden porta-potty under the companionway step. It’s much more comfy and spacious down here than we expected, but keep in mind that we’re still in sleeping bags and camp pillow territory instead of custom sheets and comforters.

There’s a very robust powerplant under the engine hatch for the 642’s low starting price—a 135-horsepower MerCruiser 3.0-liter gasoline inboard that should push it up to around 30 mph. If you’re looking for more speed and performance, you can choose up to 220 ponies, which should produce top speeds around 40 mph. That’s a lot of performance for the buck.

Folks who are looking for a runabout with lots of features and fun at the right price will want to give the 642 Cuddy a closer look.

The Four Winns S215 can blast up into the 40-mph range with its standard powerplant, providing a lot of fun for the buck. Photo courtesy of Four Winns.
The Four Winns S215 can blast up into the 40-mph range with its standard powerplant, providing a lot of fun for the buck. Photo courtesy of Four Winns.

Four Winns Sundowner S215

Four Winns has a solid reputation when it comes to building quality runabouts, deck boats, and towing craft. And there’s a lot to like about the smallest member of its Sundowner series, the S215. Let’s have a look at what we found when we recently took one out for a spin.

The S215 has a lot of dock appeal. What makes Four Winns boats look great is the unique way that the company’s designers mix angular deck elements and graceful hull lines to create a look that is both modern and elegant. You’ll see lots of these cues on the S215, including a sinewy wraparound windshield, triangular in-deck portlights, and a trapezoidal sunpad over the engine bay. Add a striking two-tone paint scheme and you’ve got a truly good-looking runabout.

The cockpit is a little less spacious than other runabouts in this size class, but there’s still plenty of space for a family of four, or for two couples. There’s a three-person bench in the aft end of the cockpit and two swiveling captain’s chairs just aft of the wraparound windshield. Simply drop in an easily stowable pedestal table and you’ve got plenty of room to lay out a happy hour or dinner spread for four. Speaking of lying about, there’s an insanely expansive sunpad aft, for you sun worshippers.

Specifications:

  • Length: 21’7”
  • Beam: 8’5”
  • Draft (hull): 1’4”
  • Deadrise: 20 deg.
  • Displacement: 3,600 lbs.
  • Fuel capacity: 40 gal.

Access to the belowdecks V-berth space is through a really clever accordion-style aluminum slider that conveniently rolls up and out of the way under the foredeck. Below is the sort of space you’d expect on a boat this size, but Four Winns has added some extra cushions to create two upright seats at the aft bulkhead that look as if they’d be great place to curl up with a book. We’d even go so far to say it feels luxurious down there.

Standard power on the Four Winns S215 is a 4.3-liter 220-horsepower MerCruiser gasoline engine with Alpha outdrive that should propel this boat right up into the 40s. Volvo Penta power is also available, and the maximum fun factor you can strap into the S215 is 300 horsepower. The S215 rides on Four Winns’ Stable Vee hull, which provides a smooth ride and great tracking.

The S215 does a lot of things well. It’s good-looking, has comfy accommodations, and is fun to drive. Add in the quality and luxury Four Winns is known for and you’ve got a heck of a runabout. And you can have all this good stuff starting out at under 50 grand.

 

 

Used-Boat All-Star: Bayliner 2452

bayliner 2452
The Bayliner 2452 is a good multifunction boat, capable of providing comfort on the lakes or on short open-water passages.

“Price reduced! too good to miss! 24 ft 1993 Bayliner Classic 2452 cruiser is in GREAT SHAPE! NEW 5.0 liter mercury with Alpha outdrive professionally installed less than 50 hours ago–new thru-hull exhaust with mufflers, stainless prop, dive platform with ladder, compass…”

The ad on Boat Trader went on to list plenty of other features — Furuno GPS navigator, depthfinder, fresh water outside shower, VHF radio, sink, electric refrigerator, and, among other items, a 2002 aluminum dual-axle trailer with new tires.

I’ve always liked the Bayliner 2452 because of how many things it can do well. It’s no wonder Bayliner still builds something like it in the 266 Discovery.

At 24 feet in length, the 2452 is big enough to use for ocean excursions. I don’t know that I’d take it from Jupiter, Fla., to Walker’s Cay, Bahamas, but it’s long enough to be comfortable on the ocean. Despite its length, it’s not too big to trailer, either, and this one was offered with a good trailer 10 years newer than the boat itself.

The 2452 works for overnighting. You won’t bask in luxury, but it can take you from Long Beach to Avalon Harbor, where you could spend the night aboard, as long as you didn’t need a place to shower.

The 2452 also can be fitted out for fishing and is still nimble enough to pull the kids on a tube. The cabin and cockpit design is closed enough to be useful on the cold Pacific Ocean, yet open enough to use on lakes and rivers during Florida’s sweltering summers.

In this particular case, the owner was asking $10,800 for the boat. I’d call that that a great price for a great package. Obviously, you would need to go look at it and give it a sea trial, but this used model has a lot going for it.

Spotting deals like this is part of the fun of poring over listings, always on the lookout for the next boat. (And by the way, as this blog goes live, the boat in question is still listed on Boat Trader. Scan the Bayliner 2452 listings page to see if it’s still there.)

Video: Bayliner 285 Cruiser Boat Review

Lenny Rudow from the Boats.com Review team checked out this single-engine 28 footer that has sleeping quarters for six passengers.

Read Lenny’s Bayliner 285 Boat Test Notes

VIDEO BOAT REVIEW TRANSCRIPT

Is there such a thing as a single-engine cruiser that can accommodate half a dozen people for a weekend? That gets decent performance, and that costs less than $100,000?

Bayliner says their 285 fits the bill. To find out if we agree, we spent a few days on this one, on the Tennessee River.

Since cabin accommodations are really make or break on a cruising boat like this, let’s start down here first. Right over here we have a dinette that folds down into a berth for two. Stowage underneath. Up here there’s a nice size berth with a privacy curtain that can be pulled across. And over here there’s a full galley. Sink, microwave, one burner stove, a refrigerator, and there’s also a nice stowage area under here with a couple drawers.

To help us understand the concept behind the 285, we have Pat Blake here from Bayliner with us today.Pat, tell me, what’s the most important thing about this cabin?

Interview with Pat Blake, Bayliner Boats

Pat: Well Bayliner’s all about natural lighting. So many boats you get inside and you feel like you’re inside a cave. We have two big windows on the side, we have two big hatches up top, we have another large hatch up here behind us, a couple hull windows, and all that natural lighting comes in it creates just a tremendous feel of space.

Read the full transcript of the Bayliner 285 Cruiser: Video Boat Review

Video: Bayliner 235 BR Boat Review

The Boats.com review team checked out Bayliner’s flagship runabout and found a family-friendly boat with good performance and features. Let us know what you think by posting a comment below.

Read Lenny’s Bayliner 235 BR Boat Test Notes

If you have kids, you have a reason to go swimming, wakeboarding, and waterskiing. Try to find a kid that doesn’t like that stuff—they don’t exist. Now one boat you’re probably going to run across when you’re shopping is the 235 BR from Bayliner, so we gave it a thorough review to find out if it’s the right boat for you.

Performance
Now with the 5 liter Merc, this boat rocks. We cruised at around 45 mph and check this out—top end, 54.5 mph. Yet throughout the powerband, we saw really good efficiencies. And even at top end we were getting about 3 mpg. But when you’re really ready to have fun, put a skier or a wakeboarder back there, and check out the hole shot.

Features and Construction
A boat like this, the main entertainment center is back here. Check this out. You’ve got a huge swim platform area, with a stereo remote right back here, waterproof, so you don’t even have to come all the way out of the water to change the stereo. You have two speakers back here, and on top of that, there’s even a cooler right inside the swim platform.

There’s a ton of comfy seating back here, and there’s storage underneath. Plus there’s a large stowage box right in the deck. Now it’s unlinered, that means you get some extra space, has a gas assist strut on the hatch, and beefy hinges.

Now you may think this door right here and this windshield close up for weather protection. What I’m saying is, put the kids up there, shut this down, now it’s time to party!

Read the full transcript of the Bayliner 235 BR Video Boat Review on Boats.com

Video: Bayliner 217 SD Deck Boat Boat Review

According to the Boats.com review team, this zippy deck boat offers many different ways to have fun on the water.

Read Lenny’s Bayliner 217 SD Boat Test Notes

Video Boat Review Transcript

You know what’s great about deck boats? They create space. Unlike other boats that lose space. Like this tremendous bow platform. Look, there’s room up here for three bathing beauties like myself to stretch out. You know what else is cool about deck boats? Get rid of these cushions and you have a tremendous bow casting platform for fishing. Or add a wakeboard tower or tow package and you have a great watersports boat. You want to talk about highly adaptable? This is it.

One of the first things we’re gonna do to explore just how versatile the 217 SD is, is change the whole bow configuration.

So why doesn’t everyone use the bow deck design? Well, it looks a little unusual. But check out what it gives you. Look at all this space up front. And it turns the bow into another swim platform.

Two must haves: cold drinks, and cut limes. That’s why you got a cooler right here, and a cutting board right here. With this area that drains at the bottom. And a trash can, right here.

Another must have, right here: we all know what that is.

Wakeboarders will be happy to see this tower option. But is it sturdy? Yeah, I’d say so.

This turns into a lounger. And you have engine access right here. Plus, storage compartments on either side.

Design and Construction

Now Matt, I like this transom, but one thing confuses me. This hatch opens this way, and the other goes the other way. What’s going on?

Matt Guilford, Bayliner Boats: You know, that’s a great observation. We designed the transom area so you had storage no matter where you are in the boat. Folks in the interior can easily access that one, and this one is for people already on the swim step. It’s a great place to put wet wakeboards, wet waterskis, and it keeps them out of the interior of the boat.

Compared to other Bayliners, this is an unusual boat. Tell me, how does it fit into your lineup?

Read the entire transcript: Bayliner 217 SD: Video Boat Review

Video: Bayliner Discovery 195 Bowrider Boat Review

Lenny Rudow reviewed this bowrider from Bayliner and “discovered” a simple, easy to maintain boat designed to be used for a range of on the water activities.

Read Lenny’s Bayliner Discovery 195 Boat Test Notes

Video Boat Review Transcript

Guess what I just discovered? Bayliner’s 195 Discovery. Now this is a very simple straightforward bowrider. It has a single stern drive, and it’s outfitted so that you can use it for just about any kind of water play you like. Fishing, waterskiing, whatever. I tested it to find out if it was the right boat for you.

Design and Construction

We have Matt Guilford here from Bayliner Boats to help us understand what this boat’s all about. How you doing, Matt?

Matt: Good! Good to see you Lenny.

So tell me, this is the 195 Discovery. What makes it a Discovery and what’s the Discovery series all about?

Matt: Bayliner’s Discovery series is made up of easy to maintain, functional boats that give customers the opportunity to get out there and explore.

Now one of the things that really jumped out at me about this boat is the nonskid. It’s textured, it’s grippy, it’s rubbery.

Matt: It’s perfect for the Discovery. With the wide open floor plan you can bring scuba gear, camping gear, the dog. You can just hose it down when you’re done.

Read the entire transcript of the Bayliner Discovery 195: Video Boat Review

Video: Bayliner 175 BR Boat Review

The Boats.com review team got a chance to review this Bayliner, which they found to be a small, inexpensive, but competent bowrider. Let us know what you think by commenting below, or reach us on Facebook.

Read Lenny’s Bayliner 175 Boat Test Notes

VIDEO BOAT REVIEW TRANSCRIPT

So Pat, if there’s anything Bayliner’s well-known for, it’s building this 17-18 foot class bowrider and doing it very inexpensively. Can you tell me how do you guys do it?

Interview with Pat Blake, Bayliner Boats
Pat: Manufacturing efficiency. When you build it one way, over and over, you keep the costs down.

Now even though you’re building a boat for less expense, that doesn’t mean you have to use cheap parts and pieces, right?

Pat: Absolutely.

One of the things I noticed about the boat is the canvas system that comes with it. Can you tell me a little about it?

Pat: We use Sunbrella canvas which is the best materials on the marketplace; it’s well known, everyone understands the quality of it. Because we keep things simple we always put high quality components inside the boat.

Construction
The 175 is put together with some pretty basic traditional construction techniques: nothing fancy, nothing expensive. The hull is hand laid glass, the deck is gel-coated marine ply, and the fittings are stainless-steel. And looking into this compartment we can learn a lot about how the boat is built. When we take the hatch off the first thing we notice is, it’s not hinged. Now that saves on cost, but it makes it a little bit of a hassle to deal with that hatch. Once you get inside the first thing you’re going to notice is that the compartment is not lined. Now it might not look as nice, but on the upside you gain about 2 inches of depth in this compartment by not lining it.

By making these gunnels so narrow, Bayliner did gain a lot of space in the boat, but you lose the ability to put stowage compartments in there. Now, they made up for it by putting these nifty nets in there, so you still have plenty of space to stow all your goodies.

Read the entire transcript of the Bayliner 175 BR: Video Boat Review

Bayliner 192 Discovery: Video Boat Review

Our sister site Boats.com has been busy filming boat reviews. Here’s their take on the Bayliner 192, a pocket cabin cruiser. Enjoy!

Video Boat Review Transcript
For many families, a cabin is an absolute necessity on a boat. But cabins usually come on large more expensive boats. How do you find an inexpensive cabin boat? Well we tested one, the Discovery 192 by Bayliner. And we’re gonna tell you what we think of this little cabin boat.

Design and Features
All you’re giving up to get that cabin is the bow cockpit. Otherwise this boat is ready for all kinds of fun. Look: you have fishboxes in the deck. They’re linered. And the hatches are on these gas assist struts. That’s really very nice, something you expect from a more expensive boat.

There’s also a reclining seat right here. And let’s say you’re ready to go fishing. You walk back to these aft seats, you can just pull them out and get all the way back here. So you can cast, you can troll, whatever you want to do. On top of that, there’s a nice big swim platform right here with a ski tow eye so you can pull waterskiers, wakeboarders, all kinds of fun.

Interview with Matt Guilford, Bayliner Boats
Now as part of the Discovery series, the 192 is made to go new places, check out new waters. And one of the things I noticed about it was these real tall gunnels.

Matt: Yeah, it’s definitely designed to be a coastal cruiser, or for big lakes.

That gives you a nice safe feel, and you know what else? I really like the self-bailing cockpit.

Matt: We’ve got the fiberglass liner, the self-bailing cockpit, and grabrails for all the seats.

Now like others in the Discovery series, this boat is not loaded with a bunch of poufy extras that drive the price up. Yet I notice you include a stereo.

Matt: All the Discoveries feature simple, functional solutions, and the radio’s a great example. That radio is 800 times less likely to fail than the CD players you find on most boats. It’s custom designed to work with an MP3 player, and you can hose it down—it’s completely waterproof.

The cabin has plenty of room to stretch out, and of course that ever important head.

Now here’s something I really like. Bayliner gave you access to the back of the dash here, so you can work on all your wiring, install electronics. Real nice and easy to get to.

On many small cuddy cabin boats, bow access can be problematic. But it’s easy here, you’ve got a swing-open windshield, a set of stairs going up to the bow, and you won’t slip on your way cause there’s good molded-in nonskid. And when you get up here you’ve got an anchor locker that has a little rack for a Danforth and a tie off—thank you Bayliner, cause no one wants to lose the end of their anchor line like the SS Minnow. Although if this were my boat I’d have a strap or strut here to support this hatch, so if anybody leans on it, it doesn’t break the hinges.

While you’re up here, also take notice of the sturdy bow rail with three screws on the bottom of each stanchion. That’s good, that gives it lots of support.

Performance
If you’re interested in a cabin boat, chances are you want to go new places, explore new scenery. Well you need long legs to be able to do that. And with 22 gallons of fuel, this Discovery does give you that ability. Even when you run the boat hard, it gets about 5 mpg, so you have over 100 miles of range. Top end is 37.6 mph. And since time to plane is only 4 seconds, you’ll have no problem pulling a skier or a wakeboarder up out of the hole.

Wrap Up
Clearly the 192 Discovery meets the requirements for boaters who need a cabin. But what about limiting expense? Well shop it around and you’ll discover this boat costs about as much as an average new car. You might find it interesting.

—Lenny Rudow