5 Good Low-Priced Boats // Cobalt 323 Test // Prop Check - 03/09/2011
BoatTEST Newsletter March 9, 2011 If you cannot view the newsletter, click here.
Boattest.com: Tests You Can Trust
- Cobalt 323
- Glastron 180 BR
- Targa 44
- Evinrude ICON
- FinCraft 19 CC
- Bayliner 285 Sunbridge
- Cabo 36 Express
- Larson's VEC Technology
- Tahoe Q8 SSi
- Formula Factory Tour
- Rinker 216 Captiva
- Pursuit DC265
- Sea-Doo RXT-X  aS 260
- Services from Sea Tow
- Shurhold Products
- Ordering a New Prop
- Boating Course Now On DVD
- Picture of the Week
- Capt. Steve's Weekly Lesson
- Ducky Award Winner

We Test the Cobalt 323:
A Cruiser with Class

Cobalt 323
We tested the Cobalt 323 with a pair of 375-hp Volvo Penta 8.1Gi’s with DuoProp drives and Volvo Penta’s sterndrive joystick. The combination was as fast as it was easy to maneuver at the dock.

Cobalt has a long and rich history of creating premium boats and they’ve done it again with the 323. It’s a very classy day boat with room for overnighting. With a base price of $247,000, and when fully equipped considerably more, this is a boat that not only says you’ve arrived, but you’re doing it very well. Our full test video on the Cobalt 323 is currently in post production, but our full report has all the details.

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Features Video

Glastron GT 180 Outboard:
Entry Level Bowrider with Appeal

Glastron GT 180
When we tested the Glastron GT 180 we found her to have a top-end speed of 42.2 mph while burning 11.7 gph with a 115-hp outboard. For the story on the details and layout, just watch the video.

Our test of the outboard-powered GT 180 shows that this the Glastron GT 180 starter package is not only a docile handling boat, but a respectable performer as well. But looking at the video will not help you determine if the boat is comfortable, or if she will fit your needs. For that you have to get onboard and look at the details and some of the more pertinent options. So today, we take a closer look at the Glastron GT 180 with an eye towards usability and functionality, and we’ll see if she feels as good as she handles. More...

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Targa 44 From Finland:
When the Going Gets Rough...

Targa 44
...the tough get going. Built in Finland by Botnia Marin Oy Ab, the Targa 44, that is IPS600-capable, is an extension of the Targa 42 seen here.

Some of the best boats in the world, both power and sail, are built in Scandinavia. And by "best" we mean strong, well-built and able to handle nearly any condition Mother Nature can dish out in the northern latitudes. The Targa 42, which was first introduced in 2005 at the Stockholm boat show and promptly won the Motorboat of The Year at the show, is an example of such boat building.  More recently the 42 was lengthened to become the Targa 44 so that it could handle twin Volvo Penta IPS600s.  Let's find out what makes this boat so tough...

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New Video

Evinrude ICON:
Digital Controllability in an Outboard World

Evinrude ICON
Once the control cables were severed and replaced with wires, it opened up a whole new level of how we control our boats.

We love the digital possibilities that have opened up the way we operate our boats. Evinrude has created its own version called ICON, with the “I” standing for intelligent. Smart controllers now allow us to experience push-button controllability on the company’s E-TEC line of outboards. As we will soon see this is, as they say, the tip of the iceberg. Let’s step to the helm and see how Evinrude does digital controls.

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Test Video

FinCraft 19 CC:
A Center Console at a Killer Price

FinCraft 19 CC
If you judge a boat by its price, you may have to realign your thinking when you step aboard the 19 CC by FinCraft...which has big boat -- and normally high-priced -- features.

Let's cut to the chase: Yes, a brand's reputation, features and fishy stuff are important, but the real thing that drives center console sales seems to be price for a lot of buyers. Not surprisingly, with one exception (Boston Whaler), four out of five of the largest-selling center consoles are low price-point brands. Now there is a fifth low price-point brand entering the center console market -- it is the FinCraft 19 CC. The MSRP on this boat is $26,381 with a 115-hp Mercury Optimax on its transom.  We test the FinCraft 19 CC and stand her up to scrutiny -- something that most price-point builders avoid...

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Test Video

Bayliner 285 Sunbridge:
28’ with a Single Engine?

Bayliner 285
Bayliner decided to make a single engine cruiser that targeted the customer who didn’t want the expense or complication of twins, but how much does performance suffer?

Times are tough and we all want to save a buck where we can. So at times like this, the idea of a single engine cruiser is a very attractive one. But there’s a limit to what a single engine can do. So when we saw the Bayliner 285 Sunbridge being billed as a single engine, we sent Capt. Steve to give it a full test. See the video for yourself and read his full report...

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Captain's Report

New Cabo 36 Express Fishboat:
Made for the Weekend Warrior

Cabo 36 Express
The all-new Cabo 36 replaces the old Cabo 35 and there are five major differences in the two models. Find out what they are.

There are a dozen or so builders that make express fishboats in the mid-30-foot range, so making a decision as to which one to buy is not an easy one. Some of these express fish boats are built by large companies, some by small yards, some of the builders specialize in large convertibles and others specialize in small WA's or center consoles. But in its 20 years of existence Cabo has always targeted the offshore fishing market in the 30' to 50' range as its main enterprise and focus. Let's take a look and see how the new Cabo 36 compares to the competition and how she is different from the old Cabo 35...

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Larson Uses VEC Technology
To Increase Precision Building

Larson VEC Technology
Here you can see one of the VEC cells ready to close and start the injection process. High pressure, heat and precision made steel molds produce incredibly strong fiberglass hulls.

Larson Boats uses the most state-of-the-art hull manufacturing process on the planet.  It is called VEC, and it goes way beyond the vacuum resin-infusion process used by many builders of large boats.  We visited the Larson factory, where the company has built over 85,000 boats using VEC Technology, to see the process in action. One of the first things we learned was that this process is continually evolving, which is having a positive impact on the boaters who are buying them. More...

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Captain's Report

Tahoe Q8 SSi:
Power Up Without Breaking the Bank

Tahoe Q8 SSi
Tahoe says "comfortable seating for up to 10 people," but we think 6 or 7 will be more comfortable. Driver and co-pilot sit in adjustable buckets, and there's a sunpad aft and a well-padded forward cockpit. A wakeboard tower is optional, with racks if you like.

At the top of the Tahoe line of runabouts is the new for 2011 Q8 SSi, a slick 21'8" (6.6 m) bowrider that comes with a long list of standard equipment, including a trailer. Standard power is a 220-hp MerCruiser 4.3 MPI ECT, with optional engines up to 320-hp max available. Lots of dealers worldwide and no-haggle pricing make buying a Tahoe stress-free, too. More...

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Tour the Factory

Formula Factory Tour:
Engine Compartments

Formula Factory Tour
We’ve been touting the fit and finish of the “Formula Difference” for years. But now we take a look straight at the source, the Formula factory.

As we continue with our tour of the Formula Boats factory, we take an inside look at how Formula fits out its the engine compartments. A lot of very important work goes into this small space. Quality materials and expert installation are the keys to a satisfying boating experience. See how Formula does it...

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First Look

New Rinker 216 Captiva Bowrider:
A New Look for Rinker

Rinker 216 Captiva
Rinker says the new 216 Captiva Bowrider will reach nearly 50 mph (80.5 kph) with standard power, a 220-hp MerCruiser 4.3 MPI ECT Alpha. Base price is $39,236.

Rinker introduced a new bowrider at the Miami Boat Show last month: The 21'0" (6.4 m) LOA Captiva 216 impressed us with her sinuous sheerline and classy styling. She represents the "new face" of Rinker, the company says, and will be followed by other models with similar good looks. Here's more...

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Captain's Report

New Pursuit DC 265:
Bowrider For Work or Play

Pursuit DC265
The Pursuit DC 265 can go toe-to-toe with the fishiest boats in class or take the family cruising in style – take your pick or choose both. Or, make her into a good all-around "utility" boat.

The Pursuit DC 265 is one of the newest boats in the builder’s line and it is the only dual console the company builds. Boaters who are familiar with Pursuit know what to expect, but let us tell new-comers: expect fit-n-finish and quality of workmanship second to none in class. This could be just the right bowrider for people who are not fishaholics but want a salty-looking vessel. Let’s look at the details and the performance of this refined new lady...

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Sea-Doo RXT-X aS 260:
The Latest Entry at the Top End

Sea-Doo RXT-X As 260
With a dry weight of 960 lb (436 kg) the RXT-X aS 260 is heavy enough to power through chop, but light enough to accelerate fast.

Sea-Doo has upped the ante in the high stakes game of performance personal watercraft. This time they’ve taken their popular, feature-loaded pocket rocket and added an adjustable suspension system to the mix. Now, you not only get thrilling performance, but you can dial in the feel that you and your passenger are looking for, based on how hard or soft you ride. Let’s take a look at what else you get...

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What Makes A
Sea Tow Captain?

Sea Tow
So you think you’ve got what it takes to tow boats for a living? Don’t be so sure.

Ever wonder if you’ve got the “right stuff” to make it as a tow boat captain? We’ve got captains on our staff that have wide ranging and diverse backgrounds, and they all agreed -- this takes a special sort of a captain, not only for the skill set, but for the pronounced lack of freedom such a job entails. Heck, these guys get calls 24/7. Is it any wonder most aren’t married? Today, we look at what sort of person becomes a Sea Tow captain, and what his/her life is really like. More...

Brought to you by Sea Tow.


Shurhold Products
Serious Marine Cleaner 

Shurhold Fuel Filter
BoatTEST.com put "Serious Marine Cleaner" to the test on every boating surface we could find: plastic, vinyl, rubber, metal, glass, and fiberglass.

If you have ever tried a regular house cleaner on your boat, then you have probably learned quickly how stubborn saltwater spray and grime can be. We used Shurhold "Serious Marine Cleaner" on glass, plastic, vinyl, fiberglass, rubber and metal. We can report back that we were able to clean all the surfaces with very little effort. On plastics and rubber we liked how fast it cleaned up, but more importantly to us, it did not discolor the surfaces. What we found when cleaning glass was that the "Serious Marine Cleaner" rapidly dissolved the baked-on salt spray and grime, and did not leave a film or streaks. On metal it easily removed the grime as well as the rust stains that were around some screws. On the vinyl and other surfaces it was equally as effective. We even went a little nuts and cleaned out the engine compartment and found it great for grease and oil.  Serious Marine Cleaner link...

Propeller Report

Spring Prop Check:
Are You Propped Right?

Even if your propeller looks OK you might be surprised how much a new one will improve your boat's performance.

In spring, a young man's fancy turns to thoughts of ... propellers? With apologies to Tennyson, more of BoatTEST.com's readers think of their propellers than they do of love – at least, we think so. And what better time to order a new prop, or at least confirm that your present one is just right, than now when your boat's out of the water and you can get to her running gear without holding your breath? Find out more...

Submit a propeller worksheet here...

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Smart Boating

DVD Boating Course

Smart Boating
When we transferred our popular CD boating course over to DVD, we had no idea it would sell so well ...or in so many places.

Based on the feedback we’ve been getting about BoatTEST.com's Smart Boating Course, it’s clearly not only for beginners, but also for veteran boaters as well.  Perhaps that is why the NMMA started promoting the course after just one look.  Order your copy here...

Watch the trailer...

Where in the World?

Picture of the Week

Find out where this picture was taken and when...

See the larger picture, when and who took it -- and where!

Send us your favorite boating images.

When sending a photo, let us know what boat you were on, where and when the photo was taken.

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Lesson of the Week

Fog Signals and Overview
On Navigation Lights

Capt. SteveSmart Boating Cover

Only official lights such as these are allowed to be on at night underway.

This week Capt. Steve goes over sixteen new lessons and guidelines on fog signals and navigation lights. It’s important to know what to do when fog suddenly comes rolling in and you’re cruising along in pea soup or simply a restricted visibility scenario. Capt. Steve also goes over the basics on navigation lights, what they mean, and what’s required when running at night, and at anchor. You’ll learn about requirements for boats over 12 meters, or 39 ½ feet, and what’s required for boats less than 7 meters, or 23 feet. These are basic rules which all recreational boaters should be aware of. The videos presented this week are part of BoatTEST.com’s Boating Course which is USCG-approved. Watch these video boating lessons every week on BoatTEST.com.

To view this week’s lessons --

Order all lessons on DVD--

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Ducky Award Winner

Ducky Winner

First Place

“You're right, it is deeper than it looks!” 
- J. Vetter

Second Place

“Chevy Trucks...They'll sink every time.”
- M. Burton

Honorable (almost) Mentions

“How to properly launch your truck using your boat. Remember safety first.” 
-  D. Everett

"Of course the ramp only goes down when it's save to drive off! It's an OSHA rule."
- G. Eaton

What's Going
On Here?

WIGOH 3/9/11

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.

We need reader help!

If you have a picture that you think needs some explanation, send it to: lis@boattest.com.

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Stamford, CT 06901

All articles, Captain's Reports, video content or other material which appear on BoatTEST.com and in its newsletters are accurate and factual to the best knowledge of BoatTEST.com and its staff. All findings, beliefs, experiences, or endorsements presented are the honest opinions of BoatTEST.com or its contributors. In compliance with FTC 16 CFR Part 255 BoatTEST.com advises its readers that content that appears in its newsletter or on its website may have been produced for compensation or the prospect of future compensation. BoatTEST.com makes no claims for the veracity or motivation of reader comments, Owners’ Reports, and other contributions which are all clearly labeled as such.