few months or so we check through a couple of dozen sportboat websites to see their
latest iterations. At the same time we pick a boat size and type – this time, a
21’ bowrider with a 5.0L sterndrive engine – and compare 20 important attributes
and features on about 20 models from as many different brands. To do it right takes
about a day. The reason it takes so long is that everyone presents the material
differently and sometimes answers to basic questions are difficult to find. We have
tested about half of the models available in this size and type, so on the other
half of the boats we can only wonder how they perform. We continue to be amazed
(and so do our readers judging from the mail we get) that boat builders try to sell
$40 to $50k boats without feeling the necessity to provide performance information
from a reliable third party. Nevertheless, this week’s comparison was an eye-opener.
The interesting thing about 21’ bowriders is that when you see them at a boat show they all look pretty much the same. And, indeed, some dealers and even builders consider them as little more than a “commodity.” But when one drills down into the details, an incredible range of differences is discovered. These important features can spell the difference between you loving your boat, or growing to hate it. We’re here to help find the right match for you before you get hitched. If you make a mistake, a divorce will be costly.
When we look at most boats for comparison purposes, we do it in two stages. Stage I consists of 20 basic criteria. That process permits us to distill down to a “short list” of 3 to 5 boats, which is a manageable number to compare. It is the easiest and best method we know of to bore in on the right boat for a given application and owner.
They’re Not Even Close
In our survey of 20 builders we were surprised about a couple of things: 1) Displacement of these boats is not even remotely the same. The heaviest 21’ bowrider was 39% heavier than the lightest. That’s a big difference. 2) The rated maximum load capacity also varies greatly from boat to boat, ranging from 1200-lbs. for one popular brand to a maximum of 1800-lbs. for a number of brands, a 50% difference.
The number of people allowed aboard “shall not exceed the number of designated occupant positions,” according to ABYC rules. So that is why on the manufacturer's plate by the helm one might find a different number of occupants permitted for boats that have the same weight carrying capacity. One bowrider we looked at had an 8-person capacity, while a second had a 12 person capacity. That’s a big difference, but how many people do you plan to have out on your boat at any one time?
Proper propeller geometry is also critical to maximizing fuel efficiency. Typically, propellers are a critical item of equipment that some builders and dealers historically have not focused on as much as they should. However, $4 fuel is getting their attention.
Larson appears to have the best warranty, covering the boat’s engine and all components for 5 years, in addition to a lifetime warranty for the hull. A couple of other companies also have five year warranties on many components, so read the fine print. Most sportboat builders still have 1 year or 2 year warranties over “everything else.” That’s a 100% difference so it pays to dig into this subject.
Glastron GT 225
Now, on to the boat that caught our eye as we scanned our grid of 20 important factors on a 21’ bowrider.
At 3,000-lbs. the Glastron GT 225 was the second lightest, just 50-lbs. more than the lightest boat in this category. Lightweight equates to a boat that takes less power to push through the water, all other things being equal. But sometimes being the lightest is not a good thing. It can mean that the builder has taken hundreds of pounds of material out of the boat that may need to be there for strength and rigidity. It can also mean that the boat will not ride as well because it simply does not have the weight to run through little waves with authority.
Weight and Hull Shape
In the case of the Glastron GT 225 the boat is light because it is manufactured with the VEC system which was pioneered by Genmar a decade ago and which uses huge steel dies in which the glass and resin are infused and cured to exacting tolerances by computer. Lightweight hulls can also be built with conventional methods, and indeed, a couple of companies are using Kevlar in their hulls. Because the VEC system molds the stringer grid into the hull in one process the Glastron hull is probably as rigid and strong as they come.
The GT 225 has a deadrise of 21-degrees at the transom which is the deepest we found in this category and was matched by only two other boats. We like the deeper deadrise, particularly on this light boat because it will tend to soften the ride. Most of the other hulls were not much different, and have 19 and 20-degree deadrise at the transom.
Almost the Same