BoatTEST Newsletter - 04/08/2009
BoatTEST Newsletter April 8, 2009 If you cannot view the newsletter, click here. Tests You Can Trust
- How to Launch Right Every Time
- Boat Sales Pick Up
- Four Winns SL Series
- High Cost of Extra Horsepower
- Aluminum Chambered Boats
- Which Blade Is Better? 
- What Separates Yamaha?
- Glastron 259
- Smoker Craft 162 Pro Mag
- Larson Cabrio 274
- Bass Boat Performance
- New Hull Design From Yamaha
- Gelcoat Needs Semi-Annual
- Maxum 2200 SR3
- Bayliner 195 Bowrider
- Food for Thought
- Formula 270 Bowrider
- Safety at Sea
- Bass Boat Construction
Capt. Steve's Weekly Lesson
- Ducky Award Winner

How to Launch
Right Every Time

How to Launch Properly
Capt. Steve shows how to launch and retrieve
flawlessly, like a pro.

For many boaters the most stressful part of their day is launching and retrieving their boat -- and with a crowd of on-lookers waiting for the inevitable foul-ups, who can blame them? But in this video – which has been sponsored by the helpful folks at Allstate Insurance – Capt. Steve explains step-by-step how to avoid embarrassing mistakes and launch like a pro every time. The secret is to do what airline pilots do before every take-off – they walk around the plane making an inspection, and you should walk around your boat doing the same. Capt. Steve will tell you exactly what to do – and one important thing that you should always do twice! See it now --


Sponsored by


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Industry News

Boat Sales Pick Up
Across the Spectrum in U.S.

  Boat Sales 1 Boat Sales 2 Boat Sales 3
Boat dealers across the country report that the last two weeks of March sales spiked up.

From PWCs to large motoryachts dealers and brokers across the country have reported to that sales not only picked up in the second half of March, but a few dealers had what they characterized as “terrific” business. One dealer in Connecticut said he had the best March in years. Bayliner, Glastron, Four Winns, Formula and other builders all reported that sales had noticeably picked up in March from the winter doldrums. The lead article on the front page of yesterday’s New York Times said that New York Times/CBS News polls indicate that “Americans have grown more optimistic about the economy--” For more about the New York Times/CBS polls and what is happening in the boating industry --

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Four Winns News

Four Winns' SL Series
Is A Trend Setter

SL222 SL 242  SL 262
SL 222 SL 242 SL 262

Two years ago Four Winns introduced their first “split chine” bowrider in their new SL – for Sport Luxury – series and many people wondered if the “split chine” concept would be accepted. The verdict is in: these boats are Four Winns’ biggest sellers in class. Word on the dock from owners we have talked with is that they like the boats more now than the day they got them. When we asked our readers for comments on the SL series, high on the list of compliments was comfort, room, ride, handling and in the words of one reader, “I have the neatest boat on the lake.” Recently, Trailer Boats magazine gave the SL 222 its “Excellence in Design” Award. To get a good feel for these three boats we invite you read Capt. Ron Svoboda’s captain’s report on the SL 262 --


See BoatTEST video on the SL 262 -- Request Factory Quote
See Capt. Smith’s video of the SL 242 -- Request Factory Quote
See Capt. Smith’s video of the SL 222 -- Request Factory Quote


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Stern Drive Engines

The High Cost of “Extra” Horses

When selecting the engine for your new stern drive boat should you pick a 4.3L 225-hp weakling, or the 8.1L 375-hp muscle mill? And, how much do extra horses cost?
Once you have selected the brand and the model stern drive boat you want, which engine option should you select? In all likelihood the decision you make will greatly impact how well you enjoy your boat – and how much it costs both now and tomorrow. The days of “go-for-the-big-engine” are over. Now consumers want to get engine selection right without being wasteful. Now consumers expect both performance AND value for money. Recently looked at optional engine pricing for six popular boat brands and discovered that you can save a lot of money by selecting the right engine. Join us down the rabbit hole --

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Industry News

Aluminum Chambered Boats (ACB) 
Is Targeting U.S. Recreational Boaters

ACB 1 ACB 2  ACB 3
An ACB-built 21’ USCG patrol boat designed for high-speed inshore work. An ACB-built 26' Law Enforcement Vessel (LEV) Center Console model now seen all over the U.S. Above one of ACB's Sport Fish Series (26').

Several years ago when Aluminum Chambered Boats landed first one, then another USCG contract, it changed the way the Coast Guard patrols the U.S. coastline. Gone were the rigid-hull inflatables made by Zodiac, and entered a boat that looked like a RIB, but was all aluminum. Later the U.S. Marine Corps placed a large order. Because the little Bellingham, WA boat builder was landing so much military business -- overseen by some of the toughest procuring agents on the planet -- recreational boaters across the country began asking about ACB. Now it is targeting the national recreational market and offering some intriguing alternatives to traditional fiberglass boats. To learn more --

Visit A.C.B. website

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Proper Props

Which is Better:
4 Blades or 3 Blades?

4-blade prop 3blade
The world’s new emphasis on economy and efficiency is causing everyone to take a second look at 4-bladed props. You should, too.

For many years now, boaters have debated the question of 4-blade propellers versus 3-blades. The traditional argument is that 4-blades are slow and 3-blades are fast, end of discussion. Today, new trends in the marine marketplace, higher fuel prices and challenging economic times are causing boaters to take a second look at this old debate. Speed is now a much smaller part of the boating equation, and now practical, real world performance is the name of the game for most people. Which props should you be using, 4-blade or 3? Join us to find the answer -- 

Learn more about PowerTech propellers.

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Yamaha News

What Separates Yamaha Jet Boats
From Their Competition?

Yamaha 1 Yamaha 2  Yamaha 3
Mark Speaks, President of Yamaha Watercraft Group,
tells all;
Well, almost.
Deck plan of the 23’ Yamaha which shows space utilization. Where's
the engine?
Yamaha was one
of the first
to build a
stern playground.

In 2008, the 23’ Yamaha out sold all other brands making 23’ boats -- not just in the jetboat category, but EVERY brand of runabout, whether it be a bowrider, cuddy or skiboat. Not only that, but twice as many Yamahas were sold than the #2 ranking boat in the 23’ runabout class! That is a resounding consumer endorsement the likes of which is rarely seen in any industry. This accomplishment is made all the more impressive because Yamaha is a relative newcomer to runabout boat building, being the second newest entry among the top ten best-selling brands. Not only is Yamaha a relative newcomer, it was also the only brand in the top ten that is a jetdrive. What did Yamaha do last year to garner such incredible sales success with its 23-footer? Was it customer service? Advertising? Low price? Free toasters? To find out we interviewed the president of the Yamaha Watercraft Group, Mark Speaks --

See tests of all Yamaha boats --

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Entry Level Cruisers

The Glastron GS 259:
A Cozy Pocket Cruiser

Glastron 259
The Glastron GS 259 is an ideal size to start cruising.
It is trailerable and very affordable.

We think the Glastron GS 259 is an ideal way for a young couple to start out the cruising life. It is big enough to spend long weekends on, yet small enough to easily trailer. It has a hot water heater, head, shower, stove top, microwave, refer and all of the other basic equipment you need for short cruises. We tested the boat with the standard 5.0 L engine and were pleased to find a WOT speed of 41.8 mph and a best cruise of 27.7 mph giving you 3 mpg and a range of 151 miles. So, you don’t have to get a bigger engine and the base price of about 55k MSRP will get the job done. The great thing about a pocket cruiser is that you can get within striking distance of the good cruising grounds with your tow vehicle, then launch, saving both time and fuel. See Capt. Rob Smith’s video test --

See tests of all Glastron Boats --

Second Look

Smoker Craft 162 For Economical Fishing

Smoker Craft 162 Pro Mag 
Capt. Rob Smith takes a close look at this aluminum
fishboat from Smoker Craft.

You don’t have to be a millionaire to enjoy the pleasures of fishing in a new boat with the 162 Pro Mag by Smoker Craft. This lightweight aluminum boat has high windshields for protection, five lockable storage compartments, and bow and stern livewells among many other features usually only found on expensive fiberglass boats. She weighs just 960 lbs. which means she can be towed by almost anything except a Smart Car. We tested the boat with a 90 hp 4-stroke Honda and her 2.7 seconds time to plane is as good as any 2-stroke. If you are in the market for an aluminum fishboat and have not checked out the Smoker Crafts, then we think you’ll be pleasantly surprised by what you’ll find. We were. Watch Capt. Rob’s video test of the 162 --

See tests of all Smoker Craft boats --

 Second Look

Larson Cabrio 274:
Volvo 5.7L or 8.1L?

Larson Cabrio 274
So you think the big block burns more fuel at best cruise
AND goes faster?

The most popular cruiser in Larson’s trailerable line is the Cabrio 274. But when it comes time to pick your engine option, which way should you go? We have tested the 274 with 5.7L 320-hp and 8.1L 375-hp engines, both built by Volvo Penta. Most people would guess that the big block would go faster and burn more fuel, but when we compared the numbers we discovered a surprise. While the 8.1L did propel the 274 at 40.9 mph at best cruise vs. just 25.1 mph for the 5.7L engine, fuel consumption was actually a hair better with the big block – 2.20 mpg vs. 2.18 mpg with the 5.7L. So, with best cruise operating costs the same, the next question is how much do you want to pay for the extra speed provided by the big block? Is it worth an extra $4,000 to you? Check out our two tests and decide—

Test numbers with the Volvo Penta 8.1L DP--
Test numbers with the Volvo Penta 5.7L DP --


Larson 370 Cabrio


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Prop Info

Formula Escape

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boat history

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yamaha boats

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Bass Boats

 BoatTEST FRP Bass Boat
Performance Sweepstakes

Fastest Bass Boat
Skeeter FX 210
Skeeter FX 210
300-hp Yamaha
75.2 MPH
View Test --
Fastest 250-hp
Bass Boat
Stratos 201XL
Stratos 201XL
250-hp Evinrude
72.5 MPH
View Test --
Fastest 225-hp
Bass Boat
Skeeter ZX 225
Skeeter ZX 225
225-hp Yamaha
71.2 MPH
View Test --
Fastest 200-hp
Bass Boat
Stratos 294XL
Stratos 294 XL
200-hp Yamaha
71.6 MPH
View Test --
Best MPG
at WOT

Stratos 294XL
Stratos 294 XL
200-hp Yamaha
3.76 MPG
View Test --
“Best Cruise”

Ranger 185 VS
Ranger 185 VS
150-hp Mercury
47.7 MPH
View Test -- 
Best MPG at
“Best Cruise”

Nitro Z-9
Nitro Z-9 CDC
250-hp Mercury
5.30 MPG
View Test --
to Plane

Skeeter TZX200
Skeeter TZX 200
200-hp Yamaha
2.0 Seconds
View Test --
0 to 30

Stratos 294XL
Stratos 294 XL
200-hp Yamaha
4.6 Seconds
View Test --

Over the last several years has tested nearly 50 bass boats from 13 major manufacturers – most of whom are the major builders. This week we thought it would be fun to see how the FRP (fiberglass reinforced plastic) boats stacked up, one against another, in terms of major performance metrics. A couple of these boats are no longer in production under the designation that we tested them several years ago, but we assure you that they live on with a new name in a slightly altered form. If there are better boats out there, we haven’t tested them. Our general experience is that some boat companies (and most engine makers) simply don’t want an independent 3rd party testing their boats (or engines) because it pins them down to performance numbers that can be compared to competitors. So if we haven’t tested your favorite brand that is probably the reason. Of course performance isn’t the only criteria you should use when buying a new boat – warranty, features, construction, durability, re-sale value and customer service are probably all important reasons. To find out the specific engine models involved, click on the tests.  In two weeks we’ll take a look at the aluminum bass boats we have tested and see how they rank. To see all our bass boat tests --

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PWC News

New Hull Design Gives Yamaha FZ Tight Turning at High Speed

Yamaha Hull
This deep-V hull with new geometry allows sharp turning.

One of the things that makes PWCs so exciting is the ability to carve a turn like a slalom skier. Knowing that, and knowing how competitive PWC owners are with their friends, Yamaha’s designers created a completely new hull to turn tighter and faster than the competition. And, according to our test captain the new FZ Series’ angled outside chine allows him to lean into a turn like a motocross racer. Capt. John has made a video about this innovative new Yamaha PWC hull and explains why it works so well. Then he took the new FZ PWC out on the water with our cameraman. Why not be the first on your block to turn high-speed circles inside your friends with their antiquated PWCs? See Capt. John carve up the competition --

See tests of all Yamaha PWCs --

Maintenance Tip

Gelcoat Needs Semi-Annual Waxing

Bayliner 195
If you want to keep your boat’s glossy finish you will need to wax it 2 to 3 times a year.

We bet you thought the great thing about fiberglass boats is that they don’t need any maintenance -- right? We are sorry to be the bearers of bad news but while the fiberglass doesn’t need much maintenance, the gelcoat on top of it does. Believe us when we say we have tried as hard as you to avoid coming to this conclusion, but if you want to keep your new boat looking new you must wax it from two to three times a year. There are several reasons, among them dirt and soot which will get into the porous gelcoat, oxidation which will make it chalky, and ultraviolet rays with will fade the pigment in it. Now, for the good news --

Maxum 2200 SR3

Can A 22' Maxum Cut the Mustard?

maxum 2200 SR3
Capt. Vince has a 500 ton license but he’s right at home on a 22’ Maxum.

One never knows what a captain used to megayachts is going to say when he gets on a 22’ boat, and Capt. Vince Daniello has an eye for detail and leaves no aspect of the Maxum unexamined. He tested it with the standard 220-hp 5.0L Alpha I package and she had more than enough speed to our way of thinking. Best cruise was a respectable 28.9 mph, getting 3.55 mpg. The boat now has a larger engine option: a 300-hp engine for an extra $3843. Time to plane was 3.8 seconds with the 220-hp engine. If you want faster hole shot, we’d try a four-blade prop before going to a larger engine. Take a look at Capt. Vince’s test to get a better idea of the boat’s capabilities --
See all tests of Maxum boats --

Request Test Drive

Bayliner News

Bayliner 195 BR: Is the 5.0L Worth +$1.6K?

Bayliner 195
Capt. Rob Smith takes a good look at the Bayliner 195 and likes what he sees. But do you really need the extra ponies?

We remember the days when Bayliners at the low end of the line came standard with hardly enough power to get on plane with two people in the boat. Well, those days are over. Standard power now on the 195 BR is the 190-hp 4.3L MerCruiser with Alpha I drive ($23,986 MSRP).  For $1600 more, you can get the boat with the 220-hp 5.0L engine ($25,586 MSRP). With that engine we recorded a WOT of 52.8 mph and her best cruise is 35 mph, getting 4.14 mpg. Since operating costs are about the same with either engine at best cruise, what you are really getting for your extra $1600 is 10 mph more at "best cruise,:higher top-end, and a faster hole shot. Take a look at Capt. Rob’s video and decide --

See all of our tests of Bayliner boats --

Ranger News

Bass Boat Construction Done Right

Ranger Construction
From stem to stern Ranger does everything not only right but as well or better than any bass boat builder we have visited.

Over the years BoatTEST’s captains and staff have gotten around to most major boat builders in the U.S. and many around the world. They know good construction practices when they see them. While all builders are proud of their construction and building procedures, the fact is that a few builders stand above the rest as doing an outstanding job of boat building. One of them is Ranger in Flippin, Arkansas, a town of about 6,000 people. Ranger is the largest employer in Flippin, and its employees take what they do seriously. But even more important, Ranger top management has implemented SOTA boat building techniques from start to finish and tenaciously holds the bean counters at bay with a bark that few people want to test. Join us as Capt. Rob Smith takes an in-depth video look at small boat construction as good as we’ve seen it --

See tests of Ranger boats --

Formula News

Formula 270 Bowrider
Goes to Bahamas
for Lunch

Formula 270 BR
Just 56 miles from Miami, the Bahamas make an exciting destination for this 270 Formula.

If you have ever wondered where Formula takes the photography for their boats, it is in the Bahamas, and the boats makes it across the Gulf Stream and back each year on their own bottoms. They’ve been doing it for two decades and being able to make the trip and back on a tank of fuel is one of the company’s design criteria for every boat they build. The 270 pictured here is an ideal boat to take to Bimini, Gun Cay or Cat Cay for a day of snorkeling, swimming, scuba and sunning in the gin clear waters of the Bahamas Banks. On a flat day, the 270 can make it there in just over an hour, and have plenty of fuel for a day of excitement and make it back to Miami in time for cocktails.  You might not take your Formula to the Bahamas, but it's nice to know that you could.   To find out more about the Formula 270 Bowrider --

See tests of all Formula boats --

Safety at Sea

Arch on Lifeboats Prevents Capsize

life raft
This 19’ life raft has a huge radar arch filled with foam designed to keep the boat
from capsizing.

Ever since the sinking of the Titanic, international maritime authorities have been working to increase the number and quality of lifeboats on ocean going vessels. As time has gone on organizations such as Safety of Life at Sea (SOLAS) and the IMO (International Maritime Organization) have promulgated rules and regulations involved with all aspects of launching life rafts, construction and their capabilities. While visiting the Cheoy Lee shipyard in Doumen, China last week we noticed this lifeboat going on a 200’ oil platform anchor tending vessel in its final stage of construction at the yard. Given the capsize of a small boat in Clearwater, Florida in February it occurred to us that this design is food for thought. To find out more about this boat --

Food for Thought

You Can Put Lipstick On a Pig, But It's--

No matter how hard some people try to camouflage email spam,
its flavor comes through. does not spam. We don’t like getting it and we don’t send it. If you ever receive boating-related spam, please rest assured that it didn’t originate from us. We do not give, sell, loan or otherwise transfer your email address and other information to anyone without your permission. (Sadly, many companies in the boating business have not yet learned that spam is not positive marketing, but rather simply annoying.)’s mission is to provide you 3rd party tests and information when YOU want it. This is a Spam-Free Zone.

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Capt. Steve's Lesson #31

How to Plot a Course Using Basic Tools

How to Plot a Course Using Basic Tools 

The three basic tools you need to plot your course on a chart include parallel rulers, dividers, and a pencil.

This week Capt. Steve goes over eleven new lessons and guidelines on how to use the basic tools of the trade to plot your course on a chart. You’ll learn how to correctly use parallel rulers and dividers, and how to calculate the amount of time your trip will take using a circular slide tool. Capt Steve will also go over how to calculate time between buoys and explains why knowing your estimate time of arrival or ETA is important. These are basic rules which all recreational boaters should be aware of. The videos presented this week are part of Capt. Steve’s USCG-approved boating course called “Smart Boating.” Watch Capt. Steve's video boating lessons every week on

View this week’s lessons --

View past lessons --

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Ducky Award Winner

whats going on here?

First Place

 "Scientists discover that Florida is actually hell, and it has begun to freeze over."
- B. Hatcher

Second Place

"I hate it when they pour laundry soap in the Everglades!" - M. Rickey

Honorable (Almost) Mention
"No Mary -- the season is NOT over!"
- N. Finestone

"I'm so glad we opted for the bimini top ."
-  S. Hedman

What's Going on Here?


You write the caption! Will you win the coveted "Ducky Award" for best caption?

Simply fill in your caption and you may get lucky -- quack here.

Please send all submissions by 4/12/09.

We Need Reader HELP! 

If you have a picture that you feel needs some explanation by our witty and clever readers, please send it to:

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