Four Great Outboard-Powered Bowriders for 2017

If you’ve been paying attention to current trends in the U.S. boat market you’ve likely noticed that boat builders are putting outboards on just about every type of boat imaginable, from Downeast day boats to express cruisers. Even bowriders, which have historically been powered with inboards, are now commonly powered with today’s reliable, efficient outboards.

Playing a tune to that theme, we’ve curated a list of our four favorite outboard-powered bowriders for the 2017 boating season. These boats range in size from 22 to 43 feet.

Four Winns HD220 OB

Four Winns is now owned by French boatbuilder Groupe Beneteau, and that partnership is contributing to a revival at Four Winns. One model we’ve run recently that’s benefited from the purchase is the Four Winns HD220 OB. It’s a deckboat, but with a massive bow area that pushes it into bowrider territory. And of course it has outboard power and impressive performance.

the Four Winns HD220 OB
The Four Winns HD220 OB

We ran the Four Winns HD220 OB last year at a large media event in Sarasota, FL. Truth be told, you can get the HD220 with inboard or outboard power, but we decided to take the outboard version for a spin on Sarasota Bay. The 250-horsepower Mercury Verado outboard on our test boat was just one of the engines you can choose to bolt to the stern. Evinrude and Yamaha options are also available. We saw a top end near 50 mph in our testing and cruised comfortably in the low 30s. We did experience a bit of banging while running into the chop, but it wasn’t overly pronounced.

Inside the gunwales is an interesting and cozy layout that has three distinct social areas. The first is at the bow, which has ample seating and tons of stowage underneath. We liked that the seat bases flip up on gas-assist struts to reveal the stowage compartments. Farther aft is the main cockpit, which has two swiveling captain’s chairs behind the twin consoles and an L-shaped bench with port-side companion seating. Lastly, at the stern, we found a super relaxing transom bench that easily accommodates two people. Ample use of vinyl seagrass matting and Sea Dek foam padding on the decks makes walking around—even in the hot sun—easy on bare feet.

Comfortable and fast, the Four Winns HD220 OB offers bowrider buyers a variety of powerplant choices while providing great performance and excellent interior accommodations.

Regal 29 OBX

We tested the Regal 29 OBX at this year’s Miami International Boat Show and found lots of things to like about this capable and fun-to-run boat. Sporting a stepped hull, twin Yamaha outboard power, and a bevy of clever interior features, this boat’s great for everything from day cruising to watersports.

The Regal 29 OBX
The Regal 29 OBX

Most boats this size are designed with eight-foot, six-inch beams to keep them trailerable without a permit in most states. The Regal 29 OBX, on the other hand, sports nine full feet of beam. Translation: this is one roomy boat inside. And Regal has focused on convertibility with the 29 OBX, especially with the interior seating. The twin aft bench seats can not only be flipped to face forward or aft, they also sit on a platform that can be electrically moved to increase room on the expansive swim platform. The 29 OBX can be had with a Bimini arch that raises and lowers electrically, or with a hard top that has an opening sunroof in it.

There are twin benches in the cockpit and a comfy seat behind each console. A head is situated under the port console. Forward is the usual bow lounge setup, which can be arranged with two forward-facing chaise lounges or as a U-shaped social zone with an insert table in the middle for happy-hour cocktails or lunchtime snacks.

Our test craft was fitted with twin 200-horsepower Yamaha F200 outboards. A pair of Yamaha F250s are optional. Most folks will do just fine with the twin F200s, however, as we easily busted the 50-mph mark in our testing. The boat cruises nicely—and efficiently—in the low 30s. Though there was a bit of banging in the choppy waters of Biscayne Bay, overall the 29 OBX was a solid performer underway.

Angle your eyes toward the 29 OBX and you’ll see a roomy and comfortable bowrider that packs a powerful punch in the performance department.

Sea Ray 310 SLX OB

Sea Ray is one builder that is pushing the boundaries of what a bowrider actually is. There’s no better evidence of this than the company’s new 310 SLX OB, a bowrider with twin outboard power and interior accommodations that push it into day-boat territory. We climbed onboard this new model at the Miami International Boat Show.

The Sea Ray 310 SLX OB
The Sea Ray 310 SLX OB

The helm is a good place to start on this boat because it highlights the luxury qualities of the 310 SLX OB. The dash is surrounded in stitched “leather-look” vinyl, and engine and system gauges are consolidated into a glass-cockpit style touch-screen display. There’s also a four-inch color LCD SmartCraft display and a seven-inch Medallion display, both of which display critical information and allow easy control of the boat’s systems.

Inside we found the usual luxury and comfort we’ve come to expect from Sea Ray’s premium SLX line. Aft is a huge swim platform with a wide transom walk-through leading to the cockpit. On the transom, a five-foot wide aft-facing lounger can be used as a two- or three-person chaise lounge, or as more conventional seats when flip-up backrests are deployed. The cockpit features a huge wraparound seating area with a day galley across from it. A swiveling seat sits behind the port console and a double-wide bench with individual flip-bolsters is behind the helm. As you’d expect, the bow features massive seating accommodations, usable as forward-facing loungers or as a group seating area.

A pair of 300-horespower Mercury Verado outboards are standard, but our test craft was fitted with twin 350-horsepower Verados. Merucry tells us the twin 350s can push the 310 SLX OB up to a top speed in the low 50s, with an efficient cruise in the low 30s. There’s a huge 130-gallon fuel tank aboard. Though we didn’t have a chance to run the 310 SLX OB, we’ve run some of its sister ships and expect a solid and dry ride with impressive cornering performance.

Folks looking for a boat with built with an eye toward day cruising in comfort and luxury will definitely want to take a Sea Ray 310 SLX OB for a sea trial.

Formula 430 SSC

Introduced at the Fort Lauderdale International Boat Show last year, The Formula 430 SSC was so popular that we had to wait in line to get a look at her. And why not? With quadruple outboards on the stern, a full cabin below, and a large bow seating area, this boat is very different than any boat Formula’s built before.

The Formula 430 SSC
The Formula 430 SSC

Despite the four outboards racked to the stern there’s plenty of room on the swim platform for folks to get in and out of the water, lounge around, or maybe even take a swing at a golf ball or two. Yep, it’s that big. A convertible sunpad/lounge at the transom is a great place for lying out and drying off after a swim. Farther inside is a well-outfitted cockpit with large dinette, companion seating, and a day galley. The hardtop overhead has an electric sunroof to let the sun shine in and enhance ventilation. The walk-through to the bow area is to port. Once you’ve arrived up forward you’ll notice a wraparound seating arrangement and a truly clever split table—its two parts can be lowered and raised independently, and stow in the cockpit floor when not in use.

Between the aft cockpit and the bow area is a raised cabin house that houses the belowdecks accommodations. There’s a V-shaped dinette area in the bow that can be converted for sleeping, a small galley, an enclosed head/shower, and a larger sleeping berth situated mid-cabin under the bridge deck. It’s not a cabin that’s big enough for extended cruising, but weekenders will surely be satisfied with spending a couple of nights below on the 430 SSC.

Back up on the bridge deck is the starboard side helm, which has a modern glass cockpit. Once you light off the four Mercury Verados, the 430 SSC will rocket up to a top end of around 64 mph and cruise at 47 to 50 mph.

The Formula 430 SSC may not be what everyone imagines when it comes to bowriders, but it’s a fast and capable boat that’s got plenty of comfort packed in for boaters who like to overnight and weekend their boats.


Four Winns HD220: Outboard or Stern Drive?

The Four Winns HD220 and HD220 OB offer you multiple power choices, plus smart design.

This article originally appeared on Republished by permission.

We ran the Four Winns HD220 (a stern drive model) and its sister-ship, the HD220 OB (with outboard power) in Sarasota, FL, as part of a larger Beneteau Power event this fall. In case you didn’t know it, Beneteau recently bought Four Winns’ parent group Recreational Boat Holdings, a buyout that also included the Wellcraft, Scarab, and Glastron brands. Beneteau seems committed to making the Four Winns brand thrive, so despite the blazing Florida sun, we were excited to hop on board, get out on the water, and see what the HD220 models could do.

 Our test craft was fitted with a single Mercury Verado 250 HP four-stroke outboard engine, the maximum rated outboard for this boat. Owners can also select from outboard offerings made by Evinrude and Yamaha. And, as if those power plant options weren’t enough, the stern drive HD220 is available in power ranging from 240 to 350 HP made by Volvo Penta or MerCruiser. The nice thing is that you get virtually the same great deck layout whether you choose outboard or stern drive power.

One of the best things about the Verado option is how quietly it purrs away at idle—we could barely hear the engine on our test craft over our conversational cockpit banter. But that silence was soon broken as we powered out into Sarasota Bay and poured on the juice to stretch the HD220 OB’s legs a bit. We accelerated up to 25 MPH in only eight seconds and kept going all the way up to a top speed of 51.4 MPH at 6,400 RPM. Fuel burn is predictably thirsty at the top end, where the big Verado chugs 26.9 GPH. That being said, the HD220 OB has an efficient cruise at around 30 MPH, where only 9.8 gallons per hour of fuel is burned to net 3.0 GPH. That gets you a very respectable theoretical cruising range of around 133 miles with the 44-gallon fuel tank.

We were very impressed with how well the HD220 handled a choppy Sarasota Bay and how nimble the boat was when we pressed it hard into turns. After all, with its wide, relatively square bow this boat could generally be described as a deck boat, and we know from experience how rough some low-deadrise deck boats boats can ride. But the HD220 surprised us, slicing through the waves and carving out figure-eight turns with ease. Four Winns tells us to thank its Stable-Vee hull design for that ride, which combines flatter forward sections with a transition to a deep, 20-degree transom deadrise.

Inside the HD220 is a clever deck plan filled with all sorts of high-end materials and lots of thoughtful touches. At the transom just ahead of the swim platform is an aft-facing lounge. To starboard of the lounge is a walk-through that provides access to the cockpit, only a small step up and then down—we’re not sure what that hump is about—from the swim platform. The cockpit is fairly typical of boats of this design, with an L-shaped lounge aft, a starboard bench, and twin swiveling captain’s chairs just behind the dual consoles. There’s stowage underneath the lounges and bench, which was easy to access thanks to gas-assist struts on the hatches—not something you commonly see on your average bowrider.

Whether you choose a stern drive or an outboard, the boat’s essential layout remains the same.
Whether you choose a stern drive or an outboard, the boat’s essential layout remains the same.

Under the port console is a relatively roomy, lighted compartment that houses a portable MSD. While it was easier to get in and out of than we expected on a boat this size, we’d like to see a hullside opening port or some sort of venting scheme here, to keep odors in check. The helm is situated to starboard and features rich leather trim, analog gauges (a digital touch screen LCD control/gauge panel is available) and a graceful wraparound windshield.

Walking forward to the bow we found a large centerline stowage locker that’s big enough for wakeboards, surfboards, skis, and other wet gear. We were thrilled to see the hatch for this locker was fitted with a beefy gas-assist strut; it makes stowing and removing gear much easier. The bow area has U-shaped seating that can be converted for snacks or dining with a drop-in table. Backrests forward of the dual consoles mean two sides of that “U” can be used as forward-facing chaise lounges. Under these lounges is more stowage and, like the rest of the boat, the seats that cover the stowage compartments lift up with gas-assist struts. Up on the bow is a neatly concealed, fold-away telescoping ladder to facilitate beach landings.

The midday Sarasota sun was melting holes into our brains by the time we started cruising back to the dock, and that made us wonder about arch and/or canvas options for the HD220. A wakeboard tower with color-matched Bimini top is available as an option, as is a conventional fold-down Bimini canvas top. You’ll definitely want one or the other if you live in an area that sees lots of summer heat and sun.

Whether you prefer a stern drive…
Whether you prefer a stern drive…
…or an outboard, the Four Winns HD220 will fit the bill.
…or an outboard, the Four Winns HD220 will fit the bill.

Other Choices: The Sea Ray 220 Sundeck (now tagged the SDX) is also available in both outboard and stern drive options, and will be a natural competitor to the HD220. A less expensive and slightly smaller option would be a boat like the Stingray 215LR.

For more information, visit Four Winns.


Six Great New Boats Under 25 Feet from the 2016 Fort Lauderdale International Boat Show

With literally thousands of boats on display in several locations both on land and in the water at the Fort Lauderdale International Boat Show, picking out just a handful of great new boats can be tough. Parse the requirement down to boats under about 25 feetboats that tend to be a good fit for Boat Trader visitorsand it gets even more challenging. Why? Because the Fort Lauderdale show is best known as a showcase for high-end yachts. But that means that the smaller boats represented tend to be of high quality, and they also tend to stand out from the Monaco crowd.

Here’s a half-dozen of those smaller boats, all new to the show this year, all under 25 feet in length, and all worth a close look if you’re in the market for a new ride on the water. These boats are already ramped up in production and available from dealers across the country.

Boston Whaler 230 Outrage

While Boston Whaler has always been a fishing boat brand, some anglers looking for smaller, offshore-ready center-console boats from the legendary builder have felt sort of left out over the past decade or so. While Boston Whaler has been introducing lots of new big-boy center-consoles to its lineup, the smaller boats in its stable have gone a bit stale, in our opinion.

Boston Whaler has done a good job of rounding out the smaller end of its offshore center-console lineup with the introduction of the 230 Outrage. Photo courtesy of Boston Whaler.
Boston Whaler has done a good job of rounding out the smaller end of its offshore center-console lineup with the introduction of the 230 Outrage. Photo courtesy of Boston Whaler.

Recently, however, Boston Whaler has upped the ante in the 25-foot and under category. Earlier this year, Whaler introduced its 250 Outrage, while more recently it debuted its brand-new 230 Outrage, which we checked out at the Fort Lauderdale show. Looking a lot like its bigger brothers in person, the 230 Outrage has a lot of big-boat features baked into a smaller package. Among those are an offshore-ready hull with a 21-degree transom deadrise, a maximum power rating of 350 horsepower, hefty pipework supporting a robust hardtop with lots of rod stowage, a massive helm with tons of room for multifunction displays and fishfinding gizmos, and a capacious live well at the stern.

We were happy to find that Boston Whaler didn’t sacrifice fishability for comfort, however. There’s lots of seating, including a U-shaped lounge in the bow that can be converted to a dinette with a drop-in table, a two-person bench ahead of the console, comfy helm seats with flip-up bolsters and a bench seat just aft of them, and an additional flip-up bench at the transom. We even found an enclosed head tucked under the console with more room than you’d expect from a boat this size. All in all, the Boston Whaler Outrage 230 has an almost perfect blend of fishability and comfort features that we think will keep both anglers and their families happy.

Scarab 195 Open Fish

Boatbuilders can be very secretive when it comes to new boats. We actually ran the Scarab 195 Open Fish back in September in Sarasota, FL, but were asked not to write about it until the official launch. Well, the embargo is over, and we’re happy to tell you about this great jet-powered fish boat, which the builder officially debuted at in Fort Lauderdale.

The Scarab 195 Open Fish is not only set up for angling; it's rigged with a tow pylon and clever swim platform to provide easy access for skiers, boarders, and tube-riders. Photo courtesy of Scarab.
The Scarab 195 Open Fish is not only set up for angling; it’s rigged with a tow pylon and clever swim platform to provide easy access for skiers, boarders, and tube-riders. Photo courtesy of Scarab.

Though Yamaha introduced its own fishing-themed, jet-powered center-console boat a couple of years ago at the Miami Show, the Scarab 195 Open Fish has some features that make it unique. Notable among them is the drop-down tailgate at the transom, which creates an expansive platform that makes getting in and out of the water easy, especially for those who intend to use this boat not just for fishing, but also for watersports. There’s even a tow pylon built into the canvas-covered T-top for pulling folks across the water on tubes, boards, and skis.

We also liked the copious use of SeaDek foam panels on all the deck surfaces, which makes walking and kneeling a lot less painful. If you’ve ever dug your knee into traditional nonskid, you know what we’re getting at here. There’s also copious stowage, accessed by flip-up locker lids set into the forward and aft casting decks. Under the center console is an enclosed head. It’s a bit tight in there, but it’s large enough to get the job done.

Pushing the Scarab 195 Open Fish along is a 250-horsepower Rotax engine spinning a high-capacity jet capable of rocketing it up to a top speed in the low 40s, with efficient cruise speeds in the low 30s. And, like all jet boats, the 195 has amazing acceleration and responsive handling that make it a ton of fun to run. If you’re looking for a fishing boat with great performance in a small package, the 195 Open Fish is hard to beat.

Cutwater 242 Sport Coupe

Cutwater’s got a reputation for building innovative boats with a lot of clever features that make them not only comfortable and enjoyable, but also able to serve many different functions. We’ve seen this ingenuity first-hand on the builder’s 26-, 28- and 30-foot models, so we were excited when we saw the new Cutwater 242 Sport Coupe introduced at Fort Lauderdale. It’s got lots of Cutwater innovation, but in a sportier, performance-minded package.
One of the ingredients in that performance recipe is a double-stepped hull with a deep entry that transitions to a moderate keel pad for maximum efficiency. A Yamaha F300 outboard provides a top end near 40 mph, but most folks will cruise the 242 Sport Coupe in the high 20s to low 30s—perfect for making good progress toward weekend cruising destinations.

The Cutwater 242 Sport Coupe is an innovative and clever express cruiser with a lot of performance engineered in. Photo courtesy of Cutwater.
The Cutwater 242 Sport Coupe is an innovative and clever express cruiser with a lot of performance engineered in. Photo courtesy of Cutwater.

On board we found all sorts of cleverness, from the cockpit all the way up to the bow. There’s an electric grill built into the transom with an adjacent sink, but that’s only half the story. The grill’s not just fully removable, it conceals a fully rigged livewell underneath it. That’s an incredibly smart way to make use of one space for two purposes. Inside are more intelligent touches, including a port-side dinette than can be converted into both a berth or forward-facing companion seating across from the helm. An aft-facing seat provides additional cockpit seating or can be flipped down to provide a small food prep area.

What we liked most about the Cutwater 242 Sport Coupe, however, was the way its designers engineered full opening panels into the cabin house. It’s one of the lightest, airiest cabins we’ve ever seen in a small express-type cruiser, but it can be buttoned up in a hurry when the weather goes south. Cruising couples—the main target market for the 242—will enjoy a spacious V-berth master stateroom, enclosed head, and adjacent wash-up sink.

Jeanneau Leader 7.5

Jeanneau makes powerboats? Yup, they sure do, and plenty of good ones at that, evidenced by the rows of great models we saw at the Fort Lauderdale show. Marketed as the Cap Camarat in Europe, the Jeanneau Leader 7.5 is an interesting walk-around/cuddy cabin boat blends a lot of features from both of those design types. No doubt about it, the Leader 7.5 has a unique look about it, with a centralized console unit that gives it the appearance of being a dual-console boat, an expansive sunpad area on the foredeck that provides an express-boat feel, and a teak-decked aft cockpit that has the ambience of a Mediterranean flybridge yacht. All in all, though, the Leader 7.5 is graceful and sleek with a hull that promises to provide capable handling in a variety of conditions.

Express boat? Cuddy cabin? Bow rider? Yes, the Jeanneau Leader 7.5 has attributes from all those designs. Photo courtesy of Jeanneau.
Express boat? Cuddy cabin? Bow rider? Yes, the Jeanneau Leader 7.5 has attributes from all those designs. Photo courtesy of Jeanneau.

Below it all is a unique cuddy cabin that looks as if it belongs on an expensive motoryacht, not a 24-footer. The V-berth can be expanded with a drop-in cushion and is flanked by two massive pieces of inset hullside glass to make it feel open and airy. An enclosed head is situated to starboard, while a washbasin and dressing area is to port. It’s all plenty comfortable for a weekending couple, and can be made more comfortable by tying off at marinas with showering facilities.
There’s a 300-horspeower Yamaha F300 four-stroke outboard strapped on the stern, which has the beans to propel the Leader 7.5 into the mid 40s and cruise in the low 30s. You can also choose a pair of Yamaha F200s, which provide a top-end around 50 mph. Whether you’ve got day cruising, creek-hopping or weekending on the mind, you’ll want to have a closer look at the Leader 7.5; it’s got a lot going for it.

Scout 215 XSF

We’ve run quite a few Scout boats in the past, and one of the first things that struck us about their new 21-footer was its price. A nicely equipped model will run you under $50,000, and just over if you trick it out with some fishfinding electronics. If you know Scout Boats, you’ll see that this isn’t any bargain-basement model that’s slapped together quickly and cheaply. We found its fit and finish to be extraordinary for a boat this price.

Yes, you can have Scout’s legendary build quality, ride, and innovation for under $50,000. The Scout 215 XFS is the proof in the pudding. Photo courtesy of Scout.
Yes, you can have Scout’s legendary build quality, ride, and innovation for under $50,000. The Scout 215 XFS is the proof in the pudding. Photo courtesy of Scout.

A Yamaha F150 150-horsepower four-stroke outboard is standard on the 215 XSF, though you can option it out up to 250 horsepower. Performance is plenty spirited with the base engine, however, good for a 45 mph at the top end and about a 28-mph cruise. We expect the same quality ride and performance out of the 215 XSF as Scout’s other models, which is to say it should be exemplary. Scout builds a tough hull, using modern composite boatbuilding techniques and a running surface designed to deal with the rough stuff out there.

Scouts are also known for being comfortable, and the 215 XSF also doesn’t skimp in that category. The bow features a U-shaped lounge with padded backrests and stowage lockers underneath, and there’s a two-person lounge set just ahead of the console with room for outstretched legs. Flip-up backrests in the forward lounge create two forward-facing chaise lounges. At the stern is a flip-up bench . Two chairs with flip-up bolsters sit behind the helm. As usual, Scout has used the best materials for the upholstery.

Fishing features weren’t forgotten, thankfully—the Scout 215 XSF is loaded with them. The expansive dash has room for dual multifunction displays—one for your plotter and radar and one for your fishfinder, if you so choose. Rod stowage abounds, with rod holders behind the helm chairs, on the T-top frame, in the gunwales, and under them as well. And there’s plenty of room for stowing your catch beneath the lounge ahead of the console—it’s a huge fish locker. Run for your lives, fish!

Four Winns HD220

Though the Four Winns HD220 was introduced a little earlier this year, 2016 was this new model’s first time at the Fort Lauderdale International Boat Show. One of the best parts about this capable new member of the Four Winns family is that it can be had with either inboard or outboard power. Either way, the boat we climbed on at Fort Lauderdale had a lot to like about it.

The Four Winns HD220 is a deck boat unlike many other deck boats. And you can get it in inboard or outboard-powered flavors. Photo courtesy of Four Winns.
The Four Winns HD220 is a deck boat unlike many other deck boats. And you can get it in inboard or outboard-powered flavors. Photo courtesy of Four Winns.

Kitted out with a 250-horsepower, four-stroke Mercury Verado outboard, the Four Winns HD220 will easily blast up to near 50 mph at top end and cruise around 30 mph. You can expect similar performance from the HD220 inboard model when fitted with at least a 300-horsepower Volvo Penta or MerCruiser gas engine. Feel the need for speed? Choose a 350-horsepower inboard and jet into the low 50s, at top end.

The HD220 is essentially a deck boat, but it’s very different in many ways from most of the deck boats we’ve run. First of all, it doesn’t look like one. Second, the HD220’s Stable-Vee hull doesn’t ride like a lot of deck boats do. The design is more reminiscent of a bowrider, with a graceful reverse sheer and waterline that’s carried far enough forward to create a ton of deck boat-like space, but without the flat, unappealing bow deck boats can sometimes have. Performance-wise, the HD220 doesn’t bang and rattle like many deck boats can. We enjoyed a smooth, capable ride when we took one for a spin back in September.

Stepping aboard we found a roomy layout designed to provide lots of space for folks to hang out and relax. The main cockpit features an L-shaped lounge aft, twin swiveling captain’s chairs behind the consoles, and a one-person bench behind the helm chair. Forward is a U-shaped lounge that can also be used with two forward-facing chaise lounges. We really liked how the entire area—even its sides—was upholstered with buttery, cushy vinyl. Very comfortable indeed. All of this makes the HD220 very unlike any deck boat we’ve encountered.


Big Bowrider Roundup: Three Great Models for 2016

Ten years ago most any bowrider over about 25 to 27 feet in length would have been considered truly huge by most standards. Today, however, these boats make up the middle of what is an ever-expanding range of bowriders on the market—some pushing well into the 40-foot plus range. In fact, these super-size-me bowriders challenge most folks’ conceptions of what a bowrider really is. With that in mind we’ve selected a couple of larger bowriders that caught our eye recently, as well as one truly huge example measuring 44 feet in length. Let’s cast off the lines and see what these big-boy bowriders are all about.


Crownline 270 SS

If you know anything about Crownline Boats, you know they’re graceful, elegant, and chock-full of rich trim and comfy, buttery upholstery components. That’s probably why the builder’s 270 SS bowrider model caught our eye at this year’s Miami International Boat Show.

Crownline 270 SS
Crownline 270 SS

At first glance the Crownline 270 SS’s lines have the qualities not just of a bowrider, but also of a watersports boat, an express cruiser, and a runabout. And while that might sound like an awkward juxtaposition, the 270 SS carries all of these design elements with a lot of style. A two-tone paint scheme, swooping Bimini arch, and flowing sheer line help anchor the 270 SS’s smart looks.

Onboard at the stern you’ll find an expansive integrated swim platform with no-slip decking. It’s equipped with a drop-down swim ladder that should make getting in and out of the water a cinch. Just ahead of it at the transom is a convertible lounge that can do double duty as a forward- or aft-facing chaise longue. Simply moving its swinging seatback changes its orientation.

Farther forward, the cockpit features twin swiveling captain’s chairs behind a wraparound windshield and split console. An enclosed head sits inside the port console while the helm is situated to starboard. The aforementioned convertible chaise longue forms an L-shaped lounge in the cockpit with the seatback flipped aft. There’s a companion bench just opposite it, and all cockpit seating has tons of stowage cleverly hidden beneath it.


  • Length: 27’3”
  • Beam: 8’6”
  • Draft: 3’3”
  • Deadrise: 19 deg.
  • Displacement: 5,200 lbs.
  • Fuel Capacity: 55 gal.
  • Water Capacity: 15 gal.

The comfy bow seating area is U-shaped, with the bottom of the “U” facing forward. The area can be used either as a group seating area or more intimately by two folks relaxing in the pair of forward-facing lounges. The whole setup is very roomy and comfy. There’s also lots of easily accessible stowage beneath the seat bottoms, which are fitted with gas-assist struts. A pedestal table can be fitted to enhance the bow area’s entertaining capabilities.

Standard power in the 270 SS is a 300-horsepower MerCruiser 350 MAG/Bravo 3 powertrain, which is capable of propelling it up to a top speed of around 45 mph. Best cruise is around 29 to 31 mph, where the MerCruiser will sip about 10 gallons of fuel per hour. A 430-horsepower MerCruiser is an option for those with a need for speed. You know, like 50-plus mph worth of speed. That’s nothing to shake a stick at, performance-wise, especially for a bow rider.

So, what sort of folks will want to consider the 270 SS as a candidate for their boat-buying dollars? We figure anyone with a mess of family and friends to entertain will want to check out this well-appointed bowrider that has a touch of speed and performance baked in.


Sea Ray 280 SLX

Brand new this year, having been introduced at the Miami International Boat Show, the Sea Ray 280 SLX is a bowrider that crosses into day boat territory with its expansive cockpit and luxurious and comfortable seating accommodations. As with any boat from an experienced builder like Sea Ray, we were expecting big things from this boat. And Sea Ray didn’t disappoint.

Sea Ray 280 SLX
Sea Ray 280 SLX

Shuffled onboard as part of a media event, almost a dozen marine journalists and their gear were swallowed up in the 280 SLX’s interior. It’s logical that the boat should seem a little bit roomier than other bowriders its size because it carries a nine-foot beam. And yes, that means you’ll need a permit to trailer it in most states. Still, the compromise seems worth it. Our group easily spread out in the 280 SLX’s three distinct social zones, which includes the spacious bow area, a large cockpit seating scheme, and an expansive swim platform with adjacent transom seating. Transformer-like seating that’s richly upholstered and convertible enhances relaxation, but also adds utility with lots of easily accessed and generous stowage underneath. We also liked that each person was never out of reach of his or her own cup holder or personal stowage cubby.


  • Length: 28’6”
  • Beam: 9’0”
  • Draft: 3’8”
  • Deadrise: 21 deg.
  • Displacement: 7,018 lbs.
  • Fuel Capacity: 90 gal.

Gizmos and gadgets can either make a boat infinitely better or painfully annoying. So, when we saw Sea Ray’s new Dynamic Display touch-screen interface sandwiched into the 280 SLX’s dash, we were skeptical. But to our surprise the touch screen display made operating the 280 SLX’s systems much easier than a conventional array of control switches and dials. You can even electrically actuate the clever hinged Bimini tower with the touch screen display. It’s hinged in such a way that it stows flat across the cockpit, doing double-duty as a boat cover. Super cool, once you’ve seen it in person.

Under the engine hatch you’ll find a 350-horsepower MerCruiser® 6.2L MPI ECT Bravo III w/ DTS Sterndrive as standard, though you can up the horsepower ante with as many as 430 ponies, courtesy an 8.2-liter MerCruiser gasoline inboard. With those options you’ll likely never want for performance.

You’re not likely to run out of room for comfortably entertaining your friends and family on the 280 SLX. If we were in the market for a bowrider, this one would be near the top of our list.


Four Winns Horizon H440

Before you say it, we know what you’re thinking: Why in the heck would anyone want a 44-foot bowrider. Luckily we have a lot of good answers to that question, thanks to the new H440 model from Four Winns. Introduced at the 2014 Fort Lauderdale International Boat Show, the Horizon H440 takes what’s usually a lot of wasted foredeck space on a typical express cruiser and turns it into an incredibly useful relaxation zone.

Four Winns Horizon H440
Four Winns Horizon H440

Accessed via a set of steps that lead up through the windshield and then down into the foredeck from the cockpit, the entertaining area in the bow is really well done and incredibly roomy. Occupants can lie back and take in the view facing forward in a couple of chaise longues or tuck in around a beautiful center-mounted teak table that sits inside the overall C-shaped seating scheme. A piece of custom canvas can be fitted overhead, adding to the overall comfort factor.

Back in the cockpit is even more entertaining space,  centered around a large wraparound L-shaped lounge with teak table. A wet bar is close at hand, while the helm and its companion seating are situated just forward . There’s tons of additional outdoor fun space as well, with a huge upholstered transom bench and a massive hydraulic swim platform that can be raised and lowered to facilitate getting people or toys into and out of the water.

Standard power on the H440 is a pair of Volvo Penta 370-horsepower turbo diesels mated to IPS 500 pods. A pair of 435-horsepower Volvo Penta turbo diesels with IPS 600 pods is an option. And yes, the IPS system nets you the bliss of joystick steering and control, which is awfully handy come docking time. Expect top speeds in the mid 30-mph range, with a nice cruise in the mid 20s.


  • Length: 43’6”
  • Beam: 13’4”
  • Draft: 3’8”
  • Deadrise: 19 deg.
  • Displacement: 26,000 lbs.
  • Fuel Capacity: 300 gal.
  • Water Capacity: 85 gal.

Because of the walk-through that leads up from the cockpit to the forward bow lounge, access to the belowdecks spaces is offset to port. Three steps down from the companionway land you in the main cabin. To port is a bench dinette with twin teak pedestal tables. Opposite to starboard is the galley, which has a refrigerator, microwave, sink, and a surprising amount of stowage space.

Just aft of the galley in the midcabin area is the master stateroom, which has a queen-size berth and is open to the main cabin. A VIP/guest stateroom is situated in the bow and a single—and very roomy—enclosed head and shower is shared by all. Lots of natural light percolates below to all areas thanks to a plethora of opening hatches and hullside portlights. Cherry woodwork and cream-colored upholstery add richness to the feel below and there’s way more space down here than you’d expect.

Four Winns has done a spectacular job of combining the DNA of two great boat designs—a bowrider and an express cruiser—to create a capable cruising boat with an emphasis on relaxation and fun in the sun. The biggest take-away is that they’ve managed to do all that without compromising comfort or roominess below.


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.


  • 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.


  • 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.


  • 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.



Four Winns TS222: Safer Stern-Drive for Watersports

Not long ago Brett Becker alerted Boat Trader readers to the new Volvo-Penta Forward Drive system, calling it  game-changer for water-sports runabouts. With a forward-facing, counter-rotating DuoProp set-up derived from Volvo’s IPS pod drive systems, Forward Drive moves the danger of spinning screws well away from people in the water behind the transom.

The new Four Winns TS222 carries Volvo-Penta's Forward Drive System.
The new Four Winns TS222 carries Volvo-Penta’s Forward Drive System.

The Forward Drive can be mated with standard stern-drive engines, which means the system is tailor-made for the big and growing wakesurfing and wakeboarding market. Boatbuilding leaders in that world like Four Winns, Cobalt, and Bryant are already starting to use the drive on some of their offerings.

One example is the new TS222 from Four Winns. At 22’7″ in length, with an 8’6″ beam and 2’9″ draft, the boat weighs in at 4,470 lbs. The hull is based on the Four Winns ‘Stable Vee’ form and has a transom deadrise of 20 degrees — good for straight-line tracking and quick maneuverability in recovering downed surfers and wakeboarders. The 1,300-pound water ballast system is quick-filling and the weight can be shifted from side to side with the touch of buttons. The deep hull shape and water ballast, combined with adjustments from (optional) trim/surf tabs, produce big wakes for surfing or jumping, while the Forward Drive keeps its props out of the way and sends underwater exhaust out well aft so that riders aren’t exposed to carbon monoxide fumes. Other watersport-centric features are a beefy wakeboard tower and extra-large swim platform for boarding and gearing up.

Water ballast and trim tab controls create great wakes, and the Forward Drive minimizes prop threat to riders.
Water ballast and trim tab controls create great wakes, and the Forward Drive minimizes prop threat to riders

For the helmsman the TS222 offers a nicely trimmed wheel and dash, with engine controls and gauges laid out efficiently. The helm station features Enovation Controls’ Zero Off system, which links GPS satellite tracking to the throttle so that the helmsman can dial in a specific speed and have it maintained automatically. For competition wakeboarding and waterskiing the system eliminates a lot of variables, and has been adopted by many pro watersports organizations.

Although the TS222 is a dedicated towing and wakesurfing boat, it doesn’t lack for creature comforts, especially for a 22-footer — and here again it’s helped by the fact that it is essentially a sterndrive and not a mid-engine tow-boat. The cockpit is uncluttered, with a big walk-through to the swim platform alongside a forward-facing lounge seat. The backrests on both the helm and copilot seats can be switched forward and aft so that attention can be focused on driving, watching the wake, or cockpit gatherings. There’s also a windscreen walk-through to a forward sundeck area with lounge seating.

For the watersports gang the TS222 represents a welcome evolutionary advance, combining a proven hull form with drive innovation that enhances safety, performance, and fuel economy. Volvo engine options include a range of power ratings from 300 to 430 horsepower, all small-block V8s.

For more information, read Brett Becker’s Four Wins TS222: Stern-Drive Wake Surfing on, and visit Four Winns.

Volvo-Penta's Forward Drive system, with counter-rotating DuoProps to do the pulling, can be mated with stern-drive boat designs.
Volvo-Penta’s Forward Drive system, with counter-rotating DuoProps to do the pulling well under the boat, can be mated with stern-drive boat designs.