Today's small powerboats deliver big fun and versatility. Jump aboard and see what's new.
Whether you feel the need for waterborne speed, the kids want to go wave-hopping on tow-toys, or a fast cruise to the waterfront restaurant is in your plans, a sportboat may be just the kind of ride you're looking for. There are a number of new trends and designs that make this genre of boats more fun than ever. As you check out the latest and greatest grin-generating speed machines, be on the lookout for these interesting traits.
Many of the newest sportboats enhance your boating possibilities by incorporating accommodations that are sufficient for overnighting or even weekending aboard. But these cabins aren't the enclosed bow cuddies we saw in years past — and thank goodness for that. Enclosing the bow to provide a head and a V-berth comes at the cost of losing a bow cockpit with forward seating, which happens to be a hot-spot for fun. Instead, many of the latest sportsters have enlarged side consoles. This allows the builder to equip a boat with berths and a head, while still leaving the bow open and ready for everything from spray-filled laughs to sunbathing.
Take the Formula 330 Crossover Bowrider, for example. This model has seating in the bow that converts into a sun pad, an aft cockpit with convertible seating, a lounge, and a walk-through to an oversized swim platform — exactly what you'd hope for in a sportboat. But a door in the slightly enlarged helm console swings open to expose a cabin with a V-berth and fully enclosed stand-up head.
Boston Whaler's 350 Realm, one of a new line from this builder — which used to be focused solely on fishing boats — also packs a cabin into the starboard-side helm console. It houses a U-shaped settee that converts into a berth, plus a dedicated head compartment. Even smaller sportboats, like the Chaparral 246 SSI, at the very least incorporate a head compartment into a console to enhance your boating abilities.
Wait a sec. Are these really sportboats, as opposed to cruisers? You bet! Every model we've mentioned here features top speeds in excess of 50 mph, athletic handling, and the ability to pull a variety of tow toys.
Join The Jet Set
If pulling major Gs in hairpin turns, sending a wall of spray flying through the air, and pulling the kids on tow-toys without worrying about spinning propellers sounds like fun to you, you'll be happy to hear that there are also plenty of new sportboats propelled by jet power.
The latest news from Yamaha is the development of what it calls SurfPointe technology, found in the 2018 212X and 242X models. Essentially this is a redesigned jet nozzle position that creates a clean wake for wakesurfing, combined with Yamaha's articulating keel (enhancing handling and control) and Thrust Directional Enhancer (which boosts responsiveness at slower speeds). Yamaha has even taken a stab at combining sportboat with fishing boat, introducing the FSH Sport models (available in 19- and 21-foot versions) with a center console and basic fishing accessories included.
Scarab, the other major jet boatbuilder, has taken a similar tack. Its 195 Open and 255 Open are sportboats from the waterline down, but above decks, you'll discover a center-console layout. Added bonus: Scarab Open models have a slick fold-down transom that essentially turns the stern into a giant swim platform and makes accessing the water a breeze.
Innies Or Outies?
Historically sportboats have been powered with sterndrives, but modern four-stroke outboards have evolved to become so reliable, quiet, and efficient that they now rival sterndrives when it comes to power in this class. In fact, many new models are being introduced in mirrorlike versions, one with a sterndrive and the other in an outboard iteration.
The Sea Ray SDX 250 is a perfect example. Introduced this spring, the model came out in two flavors: the SDX 250 and the SDX 250 OB. From the aft cockpit seat forward, the boats are identical. In the sterndrive version, the large aft seat incorporates a motor box and a flip-back backrest that can turn the stern into a large aft-facing lounger. Behind that, there's a large swim platform. But on the outboard version, the seating unit is a bit more compact, slides aft so you still have an aft lounger when you want one, and is capped off with a swim platform incorporating an outboard engine motor mount. So you can choose whichever power system you prefer, innie or outie, without making any sacrifices.
'Toon In For Fun
Can a pontoon boat really be considered a sportboat? In this day and age, you'd better believe it. Triple-pontoon hulls and designs incorporating performance-enhancing tweaks like lifting strakes, under-deck skins, and foils — on a platform that's thrust forward by hundreds of horsepower — give modern 'toons rather shocking performance.
Consider the Manitou Legacy LT SHP, which has a fiberglass deck and furniture modules affixed to a triple-toon hull that can handle twin 300-hp outboards on the transom and tops the 61-mph mark. Another stellar pontoon performer is the Premier Dodici, an extremely large 33-foot, 5-inch tri-toon with an 11-foot, 10-inch beam that carries three — yes, three — 300-hp outboards and reaches the 59 mph mark. A ride on pontoon boats like these will quickly convince any sportboat aficionado that today's pontoon boats are a far cry from the party barges of yesteryear.
Which of these new types of sportboats fits your fancy? That's a question only you and your family can answer. But we know one thing for sure: As you check out the latest and the greatest in aquatic speedsters, these days new designs and new technology will give you more choices than ever before.