The Back Story
The company that became Four Winns started life in 1962 as the Saf-T-Mate Boat Company of Cadillac, MI. Fiberglass was still relatively new back then, but Saf-T-Mate saw the writing on the wooden wall and started building in fiberglass from the beginning. In 1975 the Winn family, a dad and three sons (yep, there really were four Winns) bought the company, and for a year kept building Saf-T-Mate boats. You can still find a few for sale on the internet, so apparently the newfangled fiberglass worked out O.K. In ’76 the Winns family changed the company name to Four Winns. Two years later the old plant burned down, they built a new one and prospered. By the early ‘80s they had introduced a bunch of new boats – tri-hulls, cuddy cabins, deck boats, cruiser – signed an international dealer and were well on the way to becoming one of America’s finest boat builders. OMC bought the company in 1986. Since then it’s been sold several times and is now owned by Platinum Equity, a company that apparently specializes in buying other companies. Now under the Platinum Equity umbrella, along with Glastron and Wellcraft, Four Winns is won of the best-funded boat companies in America.
Despite changes in ownership, Four Winns has continued to evolve over the years and has been lucky enough to have been graced with good management through it all, something that is unusual in the boat business. Because of its solid, boat-savvy management, the company has built up a line of strong models, some of which are leaders in their class.
Origin of the V265 Hull Design
In 1993 the company introduced the Stable-Vee hull, a design they still use today – the V265 rides on a Stable-Vee. According to Four Winns, this hull uses a stepped running surface to reduce drag, “uniquely shaped” chines to add stability and after pods for faster planing. The V265 is one of the few Four Winns models we have not tested, so we don’t know if the Stable-Vee works like they say it does, or not. When it was introduced years ago it won an award from Popular Mechanics magazine, so obviously they liked it.
$100K Pocket Cruiser
Today Four Winns builds a raft of boats of all kind, including the V Series Sport Cruisers. The V265 is the smallest in the line, which reaches all the way to the 50’ V475. But small doesn’t mean they left much out: The V265 is built to the same standards as larger Four Winns, and comes with a long list of standard equipment. We priced our hypothetical boat on the company’s website (www.fourwinns.com), adding a stainless arch ($4453); fire-extinguishing system ($692); windlass with anchor and rode ($2,060); Mediterranean SunSport seating, which converts the opposing bench seats into a sun deck ($412); a nav package, including Garmin 521 GPS/plotter and Raymarine VHF ($1,692); air conditioning ($2,856); VacuFlush head ($1,719); tank-level indicators for potable water and waste ($634) and a cockpit cover ($578). The total, including shipping, came to $109,354, list. That is an MSRP price. If you don’t have a trade in, we bet you can do better. And, if you don’t need a SS arch and a couple of other things on our list, the MSRP can be under $100k. That’s not bad for a boat in the class of a Four Winns, in our opinion.A genset would have added almost $10,000, and there are several MerCruiser and Volvo Penta options more expensive, but not much more powerful, than the standard engine. We think standard power is fine.
Heart of Vinyl
The heart of any express cruiser is its cockpit, and that’s where we’d spend most of our time aboard the V265. There’s lots of luxurious seating, all of it upholstered in top-quality vinyl. The helm seat is wide enough for two adults of normal dimensions, not skinny boat-photo model types. We’d like to see a fold-down armrest to provide a little extra security for the co-pilot, though; some folks get nervous at the thought of sliding off the seat in hard turns.Back-to-back against the helm seat is a pair of facing benches that at first reminded us of seats on an Amtrack train. But these have more tricks: Four Winns includes an oval table that mounts between the benches for al fresco dining, or, optionally, a fold-out setup that creates a sun deck here with a reclining seat back; that’s the SunSport option we included above. Or you can get a simple filler cushion instead. Either way provides sun tanning opportunities even when the boat’s underway when it’s not smart to use the sunpad on the foredeck.
Let Me Out of This Cockpit!
When the anchor’s down, somebody always wants to go forward and sunbathe. Four Winns provides a set of molded steps that make it easier to scramble over the helm and through the opening windshield; the option is to creep around on the side decks, which on a boat this size demands the sure-footing of a mountain goat. No, the windshield is the preferred route, even though we predict some bumped heads when the Bimini is rigged. But it’s soft and yielding, we hope. Once on deck, there’s a comfortable sunpad, easy to remove when the sun goes down. Only thing is, it blocks the translucent hatch that lets light into the cabin – but during sunning hours, most folks will be on deck, anyway.
One option that is well worth it is an anchor windlass with controls on the foredeck. For some reason Four Winns doesn’t include an anchor as standard equipment – even if you don’t want the windlass, you have to add anchor and rode as an option, or buy one at the local West Marine. But old folks – and this is a good boat for older folks who don’t want to mortgage their Social Security years to own a boat, and are still young enough not to want to dawdle around aboard a trawler – old folks will want a windlass. Hauling the anchor by hand is for kids.
Let’s Go Below
There are no surprises lurking on the other side of the cabin door, at least not as far as the layout is concerned. How many ways can you arrange a galley, head, dinette and mid-cabin on a boat this size? But what is surprising is how nicely Four Winns has styled this small space. The joinery is beautiful, with just enough of it to give a “boaty” feeling without being overwhelming, or making you feel like you’re responsible for deforestation. There are three color schemes; the one we like is Sea & Sand, a light-colored package reminiscent of, well, sea and sand. Other decors rely on dark blues and blacks, not the colors you want in the necessarily small cabin of a 26-foot boat.We like the storage shelves that have been designed in port and starboard over the portlights in the bow flair. We also like the round forward hatch, but make sure Poppa can get through it.
As aboard all boats this size, the dinette converts to a double berth. From the drawings it looks more suitable for kids or small adults, so we suggest the grown-ups live in the mid-cabin. The berth is a lot bigger and more comfortable, even if it’s a crawl-in space. Yes, the person who goes in first has to climb over his/her partner if he/she wants to get out first, but that’s a small price for sleeping comfort. And unrigging the dinette every night while cruising is a pain.
Both the galley and head are well done, nicely decorated and equipped with the necessities. Folks planning on spending nights at anchor will want to change out the standard single-burner electric stove for the optional alcohol/electric model, not that alcohol is the most convenient fuel. The other choice is to add the genset, which will also power the microwave oven and air conditioning, if it’s installed. On the other hand, if your idea of cruising is jumping from marina to marina, go with the standard galley and just plug in. It’s simpler and less costly.
All in all, the Four Winns V265 is an excellent example of a small express cruiser, one we would be happy to own – even if it means forgoing the Porsche for a couple of years. If you’re in the market for a pocket cruiser, do yourself a favor and check out this boat. It might be just the thing for curing your midlife crisis.
Standard and Optional Features
|Outlet: 12-Volt Acc||Standard|
Boats More Than 30 Feet
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