Top 10 Researched Boats & Engines for 2009 - 12/29/2009
BoatTEST Newsletter December 29, 2009 If you cannot view the newsletter, click here. Tests You Can Trust
- Top 10 All Sizes & Types
- Top 10 Center Console Boats
- Top 10 Cruisers 20 - 30-ft
- Top 10 Freshwater Fishing
- Top 10 Express Cruisers 31' +
- Top 10 Pontoon Boats
- Top 10 Motoryachts 45' +
- Top 10 Express Fishboats 25' +
- Top 10 Wake & Ski Boats
- Top 10 PWCs
- Top 10 Bowriders
- Top 10 Sedans & Convertibles
- Top 10 Stern Drives
- Top 10 Diesels
- Top 10 Outboards
- Top 10 Videos
- Top 10 Text & Pictures
- Top 10 "Related" Videos
- Most Popular Ducky Photo

Top Researched Boats, Engines, Videos in 2009

Reading room of the New York Public Library was once the best place in the world to do research on any subject. With the Internet, everyone now has a resource much greater on their laptop.

We have discovered over the years that the most knowledgeable boat owners are the ones who also do the most research. They like to stay up on the latest developments, the newest products, the most useful innovations, and the latest news related to boats, engines and gear. Because they are the most knowledgeable boat owners on the dock, other boaters tend to gravitate to them and ask their advice. These savvy researchers are the opinion makers of the sport. was founded 10 years ago so powerboat owners and buyers could do meaningful research, share information, and learn what makes for a well-constructed, safe, and practical powerboat. With more independent 3rd party information than any other website – basic data on over 6,000 powerboat models, Captain’s Reports or Reviews on nearly 2,000 boats of all sizes ranging from 15’ to 120’, 4,000 marine videos, nearly 2,300 owners reports, over 130,000 used boat listings with prices from all over the planet, and much more – is a treasure trove of easily searchable information on all aspects of powerboats and power boating. It is where the "in-crowd" goes for information.

Obviously boats that have been fully tested and which have our captains’ videos will draw more “research sessions” than mere reviews or boats with only basic specs and pictures. So as you look over our Top 10 lists of boats by category keep that in mind. And because our audience is so large, make note that the models that have captured their interest are the ones to watch in the future. It is simply the way the world works.

Following are’s Top 10 Lists for 2009—

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Bayliner 175 Bowrider
#1 Bayliner 175 Bowrider
Bayliner 185 Bowrider
#2 Bayliner 185 Bowrider
Regal 44 Sport Coupe
#3 Regal 44 Sport Coupe

Top 10 Researched Boats

Not surprisingly the top two researched boats on are small runabouts with a very competitive price-point from a well-known brand. What is surprising to many people, however, are how many large boats also made the Top 10 list for all boats researched. The fact is that virtually everyone, no matter what size boat they are thinking about buying, uses the Internet to find expert 3rd party observations and objective data to guide their decision.

4. Bayliner 245 Cruiser
5. Azimut 85
6. Jeanneau Prestige 38 S
7. Meridian Yachts 580 Pilothouse
8. Regal 2300
9. Bayliner 265 Cruiser
10. Meridian Yachts 341 Sedan

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#1 Mako 264 CC
#2 Hydra-Sports 4100 Vector
Mako 1901 Inshore
#3 Mako 1901 Inshore

Top 10 Researched Boats
Center Console Boats – 
All Sizes 

The Mako 264 CC was the most researched CC and its picture (at right)  is our all-time CC favorite. (Never mind that the poor chap on the starboard side was slammed down to the deck when the 264 finally landed.) #2-researched Hydra-Sports 4100 Vector is the most awesome CC we have ever tested. Check out the video and you’ll see what we mean. #4 is an exciting new name in the CC ranks, and please forgive our editor for getting so excited about the new #6-searched boat.

4. MasterCraft CSX 265
5. Mako 234
6. Boston Whaler 370 Outrage
7. Wellcraft 210
8. Hydra-Sports 2200 Vector
9. Mako 284
10. Boston Whaler 280 Outrage

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Bayliner 245
#1 Bayliner 245
Bayliner 265
#2 Bayliner 265
Sea Ray 240 Sundancer
#3 Sea Ray 240 Sundancer

Top 10 Researched Boats
Cruisers – 20' to 30’

These small trailerable cruisers – we often call them “pocket cruisers” -- are a nice transition from sportboats into the cruising lifestyle. They all have heads, bunks and a galley of one sort or another. Owners can take them virtually anywhere in a short period of time. For example, we know mid-westerners who cruise Maine in their “pocket cruisers” each summer during their short two-week vacation – 1700 miles by SUV and boat trailer, and 350 miles by boat.

4. Bayliner 285
5. Sea Ray 300 Sundancer
6. Glastron GS 289
7. Formula 292 FasTech
8. Crownline 255 CCR
9. Four Winns V285
10. Cobalt 276

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Tracker Pro Team 170 TX
#1 Tracker Pro Team 170 TX
Stratos 285 XL
#2 Stratos 285 XL
Stratos 176 XT
#3 Stratos 176 XT

Top 10 Researched Boats
Freshwater Fishing

We haven’t tested several of these boats in a couple of years, but their builders still have them in production (although often with a different name or color scheme). Not surprisingly the world’s largest-selling boat brand – Tracker – was the most researched freshwater fishing boat as potential buyers search for objective speed and fuel consumption data and like to check out performance with different engine brands, hp and with varying amounts of weight aboard.

4. Tracker Pro Team 175
5. Stratos 294 XL
6. Stratos 201 XL
7. Tracker Tundra 18 SC
8. Smoker Craft 162 Pro Mag
9. Nitro 189 Sport
10. Ranger Z20

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Regal 44 Sport Coupe
#1 Regal 44 Sport Coupe 
Jeanneau Prestige 38 S
#2 Jeanneau Prestige 38 S
Four Winns V408
#3 Four Winns V408

Top 10 Researched Boats
Express Cruisers – 31' +

For years the Regal 44 has been the boat to beat in that size range and this year the company came out with a new, fresh version that kept the best from the past. It seems as if people check out our test of it before buying anything else in this class. The second most researched boat was the Jeanneau 38 S. This may be the brand to watch in the U.S. in 2010 as this strong, huge French company takes advantage of the ravages of the Great Recession on American builders.

4. Formula 400 Super Sport
5. Windy 44 Chinook
6. Bayliner 340
7. Cruisers Yachts 520 Sports Coupe
8. Four Winns V358
9. Sea Ray 340 Sundancer
10. Formula 45 Yacht

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Manitou 24 X-Plode Cruise
#1 Manitou 24 X-Plode Cruise SHP
Sun Tracker 25
#2 Sun Tracker Party Barge 25 Regency Edition
Sylvan 8522 Sport
#3 Sylvan 8522 Sport

Top 10 Researched Boats

The days of boaters looking down their nautical noses at pontoon boats ended long ago with the introduction of sophisticated toons with lots of amenities, creature comforts, advanced hull designs and 40 mph + performance. When 3-time Bermuda Race winner Carleton Mitchell and multi-megayacht owner Wayne Huizenga bought them for floating parties, the naysayers shriveled up and disappeared. The Top 10 toons are--

4. Sun Tracker Bass Buggy 18
5. Premier 310 Boundary Waters
6. Manitou 20 X-Plode Cruise SHP
7. Sylvan 8522 Mirage Signature
8. Premier 235 SunSation FS
9. Manitou 22 X-Plode Cruise SHP
10. Premier 210 SunSation

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Azimut 85
#1 Azimut 85
Meridian 580 Pilothouse
#2 Meridian 580 Pilothouse
Sunseeker Predator 64
#3 Sunseeker Predator 64

Top 10 Researched Boats
Motoryachts – 45' +

Azimut is the largest selling brand of large motoryacht in the world so it is little wonder that the Azimut 85 ranks #1 among the most searched motoryachts. Recently Meridian Yachts has exploded in popularity in its class in the U.S., effectively pushing some tired old brands aside. Five of the top 10 researched yachts are Hargraves, due largely to Hargrave’s “have-it-your-way” approach to custom building at production prices, and the video buying advice contained therein that applies to any brand.

4. Hargrave 84
5. Hargrave 76
6. Sea Spirit Passagemaker 60
7. Hargrave 120
8. Hargrave 114
9. Azimut 53
10. Hargrave 82

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Mako 264 Express
#1 Mako 264 Express
Bertram 360 Open
#2 Bertram 360 Open
Mako 284
#3 Mako 284 Express

Top 10 Researched Boats
Express Fishboats – 25' +

Express fishboats have been gaining in popularity the last several years for several reasons, including downsizing, the trend away from the classic walk around design, the natural upward mobility of boat buying and the fact that many builders are now marketing them for family use. It is interesting to see that the #1 and #2 researched fishboats come from opposite ends of both the size and price-point scale. Note the Rampage 41 is the largest boat to make the list.

4. World Cat 290 EC
5. Rampage 34 Express
6. Wellcraft 340 Coastal
7. Grady-White 305 Express
8. Grady-White 330 Express
9. Rampage 41 Express
10. Albemarle 280 Express

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Tigé RZ4
#1 Tigé RZ4
MasterCraft X-35
#2 MasterCraft X-35
Malibu Wakesetter 23 LSV
#3 Malibu Wakesetter 23 LSV

Top 10 Researched Boats
Wake & Ski

Inboard-powered wake and ski boats are a category all of their own. Historically, competition skiers and wakeboard enthusiasts appreciate and want purpose-built boats. Tigé, the youngest builder in class at 20 years old, was our most researched ski/wake boat. Tigé designers march to a different drummer and the brand has developed what is almost a cult-like status. Tigé split most-researched honors with category sales leader MasterCraft, 5 to 4; Malibu 1.

4. Tigé 20V
5. Tigé Z1
6. MasterCraft ProStar 214V
7. MasterCraft X-30
8. MasterCraft X-45
9. Tigé 22i
10. Tigé 22 Vé

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Yamaha FZS
#1 Yamaha FZS
Sea-Doo GTX Limited S
#2 Sea-Doo GTX Limited iS
Sea-Doo Wake Edition
#3 Sea-Doo Wake Edition

Top 10 Researched Boats

Because they are the lowest priced motorboats afloat it is little wonder that PWCs are also the largest selling category of all boats built. The last several years PWC builders have developed better hull shapes, more amenities, higher horsepower engines and new safety devices, developing improvements as fast or faster than big boat builders. While there are four major brands of PWC, only two – Yamaha and Sea-Doo -- hit the top 10 on our “Richter Scale” of research.

4. Sea-Doo RXT-X
5. Yamaha FX Cruiser SHO
6. Yamaha Super Jet
7. Yamaha FX Cruiser HO
8. Yamaha FZR
9. Sea-Doo GTI SE
10. Yamaha FX SHO

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Bayliner 175
#1 Bayliner 175
Bayliner 185
#2 Bayliner 185
Regal 2300
#3 Regal 2300

Top 10 Researched Boats
Bowriders – All Sizes

Bayliner has dominated the small runabout category for years, with Glastron a step or two behind, and judging by our research sessions, that hasn’t changed much. The size range that does seem to be in play is the robust 20’ to 23’ range which has the Regal 2300, the Yamaha 23, and the Four Winns SL222 all researched more than the Bayliner 205, a smaller boat. And note the once-dominant brand names that don’t appear at all. Is there a sea change afoot?

4. Bayliner 195
5. Glastron GT 185
6. Glastron MX 175
7. Yamaha 232 Limited S
8. Bayliner 205
9. Four Winns SL 222
10. Sea-Doo 180 Challenger SE

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Meridian 341 Sedan
#1 Meridian 341 Sedan
Bertram 540 c
#2 Bertram 540 Convertible
Viking 76
#3 Viking 76 Convertible

Top 10 Researched Boats
Sedans & Convertibles –
30' +

Sedans and convertibles are similar in concept, but quite different in execution, function and price-point. So what does this list mean? The first thing that it indicates to us is that Meridian has elbowed several other brands out of top share-of-mind and it is now seriously challenging Sea Ray. Second, the two top convertibles searched were also the two new boats introduced this year by their respective builders, and so convertible aficionados checked them out.

4. Meridian 391 Sedan
5. Bertram 700 Convertible
6. Sea Ray 44 Sedan
7. Sea Ray 58 Sedan
8. Cabo 52 Convertible
9. Hatteras 60 Convertible
10. Meridian 459 Sedan

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MerCruiser 135
#1 MerCruiser 3.0L 135-hp
MerCruiser 5.0L 260-hp
#2 MerCruiser 5.0L 260-hp
MerCruiser 350 Mag 300-hp
#3 MerCruiser 350 Mag 300-hp

Top 10 Researched Engines
Stern Drives

Many years ago partnered with MerCruiser to produce a series of videos to help consumers decide which engine would be best for their application. MerCruiser and made these videos available on their respective websites, but a couple of years ago Mercury dropped them. However, they are still available on and as you can see they are highly researched -- and many years they have been our most watched videos of all!

4. MerCruiser 4.3L 220-hp
5. Volvo Penta 4.3L GL 190-hp
6. Volvo Penta 5.0L GXi 270-hp
7. MerCruiser 6.2L 320-hp
8. MerCruiser 496 MAG 375-hp
9. MerCruiser 496 MAG HO 425-hp
10. MerCruiser Bravo III Drive

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Yanmar Zeus Pod Drive System
#1 Yanmar Zeus Pod Drive System
Yanmar ZT350 Stern Drive Lower Unit
#2 Yanmar ZT350 Stern Drive Lower Unit
MTU Series 60
#3 MTU Series 60

Top 10 Researched Engines

In 2009 there were a number of important product introductions that pointed to new directions in future boating evolution. The most researched product in the diesel engine category was Yanmar’s new Zeus pod drive with joystick, which will now compete with IPS and CMD’s Zeus system. Second most researched diesel story was Yanmar’s introduction of its own stern drive lower unit specifically-designed to handle both diesel and high-hp gas engines.

4. Volvo Penta D6-435 435-hp
5. Yanmar 6LPA-STP2 315-hp
6. Yanmar 6LY3-ETP 480-hp
7. Caterpillar C-9 575-hp
8. Yanmar 6BY-260 260-hp
9. CMD Zeus 3500
10. Yanmar 4BY-180 180-hp

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Evinrude 225-hp
#1 Evinrude 225-hp
Yamaha 250-hp
#2 Yamaha 250-hp
# 3 Honda 225-hp

Top 10 Reseached Engines

Consumers are hungry for independent 3rd-party information about the performance and capabilities of outboard engines. And, no wonder! These engines have become expensive and competing claims by the major brands often create more heat than light. Some of the marketing attempts have been so desperate as to actually obscure good features and performance. Yet the engineers at all of the OB companies are working hard to create good product.

4. Honda 150-hp
5. Mercury Racing 350-hp
6. Honda 90-hp
7. Suzuki 140-hp
8. Suzuki 115-hp
9. Honda 20-hp
10. Yamaha 40-hp

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#1 70-MPH Bass Boat Ejects Driver
#2 10 Awesome Crashes at Sea
#3 23 Awesome Race Boat Crashes

Top 10 Reseached Stories
Videos Only

YouTube has made thousands of boating videos available to the world. Most videos appear on YouTube and we bring to our subscribers other YouTube videos that we think are particularly instructional, safety-oriented, or entertaining. We were happy to see that the #1 researched video in this category bested the #2 video by twice! This independently-made video is the most instructive we have ever seen on the danger of high-speed in small, freshwater fishing boats. Watch!

4. Yacht Falls from Sling
5. Tanker Plows Into Dock
6. Killer Bees Attack Stupid Boaters
7. Bay Boat Goes TA in 12’ Seas
8. Brits Blow Up Pirate Ship
9. Boat Burns at Mooring
10. Boat Catches Babes Not Lobsters

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#1 Viking 60 Attack by Whale
Killed While Tubing
#2 Teen Killed While Tubing
Shark Attack Beaches
#3 Top 10 Shark Attack Beaches

Top 10 Researched Stories
Text & Pictures Only

One unique aspect of the weekly Offshore Motoryacht/ newsletters is its coverage of important news that can impact our member’s enjoyment of the sport. These news stories run the gamut from “Gee Whiz” to downright tragic. But all of them are instructional and informative, and properly applied add to the body of boating knowledge for our readers. Found here is the list of the Top 10 stories our readers found most worthy of their attention in 2009.

4. Ethanol Causes OB Repairs
5. New Yamaha Engines Game Changers
6. Pirate Catcher Costs $709 Million
7. Volvo Plans Hydrogen Generators
8. Carp Attack Great Lakes
9. Lady & Boat Jump Trees
10. Midnight Killer Strikes Again

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Sea Ray
#1 Spy Video of New Sea Ray Model
Irwin Jacobs
#2 Irwin Jacobs on the Genmar Bankruptcy
#3 How Ranger Boats Are Built

Top 10 Researched News Videos
"Related" Videos

Each full boat test has a “tab” that features what we call “Related Videos.” These videos are on a variety of subjects germane for people doing research on a specific boat model or brand. Because we have so many Sea Ray and Genmar boat tests it is not surprising that our “sneak peek” at a new Sea Ray prototype at Merritt Island and our interview with Irwin Jacobs a few weeks after Genmar filed for Chapter 11 protection, both virtually tied as most-watched “related videos.”

4. MerCruiser Engines’ Cooling System
5. Meridian Yachts’ Docking on Command
6. Cobalt Offers Both Volvo and Merc Joysticks
7. Jacobs Tells Why Prices Rising Faster than CPI
8. Jacobs Says VC Firms Don’t Understand Industry
9. 8.1L Cooling System Maintenance
10. Jacobs Talks About One-Brand Dealers

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Ducky Award Winner

Ducky Winner

First Place

"I think we can make it do an Eskimo roll and get rid of those pesky Greenpeace-ers... then bring in this humpback for processing." - B. Jo  

Second Place

"The angle of this deck has great water run off." - F. Baker

Member Services

Member ServicesWe know how daunting it can be to find exactly the right boat for one’s specific application because so many boats look like they fill the bill. If you are in the market for a NEW boat 18’ or larger, our veteran staff will be glad to help you, one-on-one, by email or phone. It is part of our “Member Services” program and it is free to you. We receive no fee from builders or dealers – so we can be objective, and we can leverage our contacts in the industry to help you get what you want. To use this service you must be in the market to buy NEW within the next 6 months. Sign in here --

What's Going
On Here? Most Popular Picture 2009

WIGOH 12-29
More readers submitted captions for this picture than any other in 2009.

DuckyEach week our panel of judges selects a winning caption for the coveted Ducky Award. (And each week we send out the prized rubber ducky along with a certificate of authenticity.) Our venerable judges do not pretend to understand the Gestalt of our “What’s Happening Here?” caption submissions. Clearly our pictures project ambiguous perceptual experiences upon the beholders who have alternative interpretations. We glory in the diversity of perception and evidently our readers do, too, as this is consistently one of the most popular features in each newsletter.

The Necker Cube and Rubin vase are classic examples of alternative perceptions., LLC
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