Smoker Craft 172 // Malibu 20 // Riviera 50 // 15 Reviews - 02/12/2014
BoatTEST Newsletter February 12, 2014 Click here if you cannot view the newsletter. Tests You Can Trust
- Beneteau Woodworking
- Formula 270 Bowrider
- Cobia 256CC
- Riviera 50 Enclosed FB
- Sea Ray 300 Sundeck
- Mako 234 CC
- Chaparral 307 SSX
- Mercury 250 OptiMax Pro XS
- Carver C34
- Sun Tracker PB 22 XP3
- Smoker Craft Ultima 172
- Malibu Wakesetter 20 MXZ
- Boston Whaler 345 Conquest
- Bayliner 215 DB
- Beneteau Gran Turismo 49
- Picture of the Week
- Boating Course On DVD
- Capt. Steve's Weekly Lesson

Beneteau's Wood Shop:
The Secret Sauce Revealed

Beneteau Factory Wood Shop
A varnished Alpi wood panel is seen here rolling through the first of three UV coating machines that will stabilize the gloss, color and durability of the finish for years to come. It is an unusual and expensive process for the marine industry, but one that Beneteau feels pays off in the challenging marine environment.

Traditionally, the most expensive and time-consuming aspect of building any large boat has been constructing the interior wood structures, cabinets, bulkheads and all of the other joiner work involved in a boat. One of the big secrets to Beneteau's success and an important reason why it is able to sell both power and sailboats for significantly less than most other builders is because of its system of building yacht interiors. By special invitation we were recently allowed to film the most important ingredient of the company's secret sauce. See it now...

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New Captain's Report

Formula 270 Bowrider:
Redesigned For Greater Utility

Formula 270 Bowrider
We tested this big bowrider with a MerCruiser 430-hp 8.2 MAG
and reached a top speed of 53.3 mph.

The big news with the latest version of the Formula 270 Bowrider is the reconfiguration of the boat’s interior. This improvement which required new tooling was a direct result of customer feedback. The layout is now more functional, and more aesthetically pleasing. As a result the 270 Bowrider’s utility has been significantly enhanced creating a huge entertaining platform that moves the party from the dock to the water. New hull graphics, optional hull colors, and new styling details all work to make the new 270 Bowrider look as fast as she is. More...

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New Snapshot Review

Cobia 256CC:
Value-Oriented and Competitive

Meridian 541
The Cobia 256CC has a LOA of 25’6” (7.77 m), a beam of 8’10” (2.69 m)
and a hull draft of 17” (43 cm).

The Cobia 256CC equipped with a F250 UCA Yamaha outboard has a MSRP of $75,853, plus freight and dealer prep. For that price she has the basics -- livewell, insulated fishboxes, rod holders and leaning post -- but the builder has left many items of equipment on the options list so buyers can specify only equipment wanted. The Cobia 256 has a newly designed warped deep-V hull which makes her competitive with other boats in the general size range. Surprisingly, this is one of the few 25' (7.62 m) CCs on the market these days, as other players have vacated this size to move up. More...

Request brochure

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New Snapshot Review

Riviera 50 Enclosed Flybridge:
Designed by Customer Feedback

Riviera 50 Enclosed FB
The new Riviera 50 Enclosed Flybridge has a LOA of 56’8” (17.3 m) and a beam of 16’5” (5.0 m).

We have long been impressed by boat builders who recognize that they don't know it all. Granted, this is a rare circumstance, but one that has been acknowledged by the folks at Riviera, Australia's largest boat builder. The fact of life is that most yacht designers and boat builders have to work for a living, therefore don't have as much time to experience their own products as many of their customers. The design of Riviera's new 50 Enclosed Flybridge (first introduced in August, 2013) was based on boat owner input, gleaned and distilled over two years at owner forums, specifically set up to find out what actual boat owners wanted in a 50-something yacht. More...

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New Captain's Report

Sea Ray 300 Sundeck:
Big Parties and Big Water

Sea Ray 300 Sundeck
The Sea Ray 300 Sundeck has a LOA of 29’6” (8.99 m), a beam of 9’1” (2.76 m) and a draft of 23” (58 cm). She has three important missions, one including over-nighting for the captain.

The Sea Ray 300 Sundeck is not only the builder's largest deckboat, she is also one of the largest deckboats with a sleeping berth on the market. But her main occupation will be hosting a large party in two on-board venues complete with dinettes with tables, a large wet bar and a private head compartment. Her swim platform is made to order for watersports, and she has the storage for wakeboards, skis and other water toys. She has a high freeboard, a 21-degree deadrise at the transom and is designed for big water. More...

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Test Video

Mako 234 CC:
Tested with 2x Mercury 4-Stroke 150s

Mako 234 CC
We tested the Mako 234 CC powered by twin 150-hp Mercury 4-stroke outboards turning 17" pitch ss props. Note that her range at best cruise is 374 statute miles. The hardtop is optional and note that some thought was given to forward visibility.

Our test captain reports that the Mako 234 CC has a bow rise of 18-degrees when going from 0 to planing speeds, which will only block the view forward for 3 seconds as she gets on plane quickly. He also says that the boat is one of the most responsive he has ever driven in class. Equipped with the tested engines she has an MSRP of $69,090, plus the usual add-ons. More...

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Test Video

Chaparral 307 SSX:
Good Handling Sets the Tone

Chaparral 307 SSX
Captain Steve leaves the dock sideways about as fast as we have ever seen -- just check out the video and see! He could pull this off thanks to the Volvo Penta Sterndrive Joystick controlling the twin 300-hp V8 sterndrives.

From the "Handling" section of our Captain's Report -- "…the ride to [the testing] location was a choppy one... She presented a surprisingly dry ride regardless of the angle the waves were coming from…whether we ran her through a beam sea, following or even quartering sea…she tracks surprisingly straight and true as hands were removed from the steering wheel." More...

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Test Video

Mercury 250 OptiMax Pro XS:
High Torque for Low-Flying Bass Boats

Mercury 250 Optimax Pro XS
Mercury's Torque Master lower unit is designed for high-torque, high-speed (up to 85 mph) applications. At left note how the skeg is flared to the right side to counter torque. To the right is pictured Mercury's patented Performance Vent System (PVS) on the prop that allows owners to fine-tune their outboard for different applications.

By utilizing modern technology Mercury has created a 250-hp 2-stroke engine that now has the fuel-efficiency to go toe-to-toe with 4-stroke engines. That wasn't an easy task, but one that has been accomplished by means of many small improvements in Mercury's 250 OptiMax 2-stroke outboard architecture. Combine that with the beefy Torque Master lower unit and PVS prop and we have a rig purpose-built for low-flying bass boats. See how it was done...

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Design & Review Video

Carver C34:
New Horizons from a Veteran Builder

Carver C34
During our interior inspection of the new Carver C34 we discovered that the builder is using dark African wenge wood, which is sometimes referred to as African Rosewood or Faux Ebony. In any case, it is exotic and much prized aboard upscale yachts these days.

The all-new Carver C34 was the first new boat of a planned 8-boat series ranging to 54' (16.45 m). The new C40 and C37 have been introduced more recently. The C34 has two staterooms below, both accessed through privacy doors. This week, we take a look at the layout, woods and fabrics that are employed in the C34's interior. More...

Carver C34 Thumb Full specifications PDF.
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Test Video

Sun Tracker Party Barge 22 XP3:
We Trim Her for Max Speed and Comfort

Sun Tracker Party Barge 22 XP3
The Sun Tracker Party Barge 22 XP3 likes to be trimmed with the bow high to put her into her optimum, most fuel-efficient cruising attitude. Note the full-length lifting strakes down the outside side of the port tube.

Our Captain's Report in the "Handling" section, said: "Like most pontoon boats she seems to accelerate from a level attitude, and then there is no need to be shy about adding trim. Getting the bow up relatively high puts her into an optimal attitude for best economy. A side effect of having the bow up so high is that she handles waves better by creating a surprisingly dry ride." More...

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New Snapshot Review

Smoker Craft Ultima 172:
2 Basic Functions in 1 Boat

Smoker Craft Ultima 172
The Smoker Craft Ultima 172 has a LOA of 17’3” (5.26 m), a beam of 96” (2.44 m) and she weighs in at 1,350 lbs. (612 kg), dry, without the engine.

Since Smoker Craft was founded in 1961 the company has flourished on the philosophy that family boating and fishing are synonomous. Having a boat that combines some of the attributes of a family bowrider with a multi-species fishing boat makes a combination that gives the Ultima 172 added utility. More...

Request a brochure.

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New Snapshot Review

Malibu Wakesetter 20 MXZ:
The "Little Giant" Makes Waves

Malibu Wakesetter 20 MXZ
The Malibu Wakesetter 20 MXZ has a LOA of 20’ (6.01 m), a beam of 100” (254 cm)
and a draft of 27” (69 cm).

After making waves, literally, with the Wakesetter 22 and 24 MXZ, Malibu has stepped up and downsized to create the new Wakesetter 20 MXZ. Malibu refers to her as its “Little Giant” because even though relatively small in size, she is big on features. With its cockpit space and patented Surf-Gate system, it’s a full-featured premium wakeboat designed and built to satisfy demanding customers. More...

Request factory pricing.

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Captain's Report

Boston Whaler 345 Conquest:
A Pocket Battlewagon for Offshore

Boston Whaler 345 Conquest
The Boston Whaler 345 Conquest's forward dinette has a table that retracts forming the platform for a single queen bed, or separated as two singles! How's that for utility?

The trend to downsizing from costly multi-million dollar sportsfishing convertibles to far less expensive express cruisers has been firmly underway for the last seven years or so, Boston Whaler Conquest 345and it makes sense. The Boston Whaler 345 Conquest was designed specifically to take advantage of this trend and to provide a boat with the comfort owners of larger convertibles are used to (within reason), but at the same time provide a platform second to none in terms of fishability. That's why we call the 345 Conquest a "Pocket Battlewagon." More...

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Test Video

Bayliner 215 DB:
A Scaled-Up Deckboat Takes Off

Bayliner 215 DB
The Bayliner 215 DB (for Deck Boat) has a relatively high freeboard, a deep forefoot and a 20-degree deadrise at the transom for more comfort in sloppy conditions. Our test boat was powered by a 220-hp 4.3L sterndrive.

Bayliner wasn't the first company to build deckboats, but it certainly has been giving the brand that did a run for its money by significantly improving the breed. The original deckboats were low, wet, hard-riding, Spartan and cheap. Bayliner has made its 215 DB higher, dryer, comfortable in a chop and…well, relatively inexpensive. The last trick has been managed by economies of production scale, the elimination of needless eyewash, and some remarkable simplicity. The boat has a number of clever ideas that add to utility and save money. Find out about them...

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Design & Style Review

Beneteau Gran Turismo 49:
Galley Down for More Room Above

Beneteau Gran Turismo 49
Our inspection of the Beneteau Gran Turismo 49 interior starts in the galley which is below but is nevertheless bathed in light from topside.

By having the galley down the Gran Turismo 49 has maximum entertaining space on deck. But what does that do to the accommodations plan? This week we take a look at the below-deck layout, the wood and materials that make her special. More...

Beneteau Gran Turismo 49 Thumb Request a digital brochure.
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Where in the World?

Picture of the Week

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 when, where and what boat you were on.

Expert Boating’s
4-DVD Boating Course

Smart Boating
Sometimes it's not what you know, but what you've forgotten. We have the perfect solution for you.

Based on the feedback we’ve been getting about's Video 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. It's the most complete boating course available… period. Order your 4-disc box set...

Watch the trailer...
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Lesson of the Week

How to Correctly Tie Your Boat to a Dock

Captain Steve Smart Boating Cover
With current on your bow, first attach the bow line, as it will prevent the boat from drifting backwards, and it will also keep the boat from being pulled away from the dock. Once dockside, tie the bow line first, then the stern line.

This week Captain Steve goes over eight lessons and guidelines on tying up to a dock and how to correctly use lines in order to secure your boat. Capt. Steve will explain what spring lines and breast lines are used for and how to use them to your advantage when leaving the dock. These are basic rules which all recreational boaters should be aware of. The videos presented this week are part of’s Boating Course which is USCG-approved. Watch these video boating lessons every week on

To view this week’s lessons --

Order all lessons on DVD--, LLC
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Stamford, CT 06901

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