Leisurely days on the water have geared up a notch with an American thriller, writes David Lockwood.
Summer on the water. Top down, wind in your hair, eyes streaming. Crossing boat wakes with the kids shrieking in the bow. Then a beach somewhere. Hours of watersports ensue. You break for lunch, then eventually succumb to a well-earned few moments to relax. Finally, you weigh anchor and hightail it home before the Sunday crowds.
This is the accepted pleasure principle for day boaters, but American boat builder Chaparral is breaking the mould with its bigger-is-better Chaparral 327 SSX.
Claiming the title of biggest production bow rider in the world, the 327 SSX is your day-boating equivalent of a burger with the works. You even get a full-beam cabin in case you need to stay over.
Fittingly, our drive occurred on a dazzling blue-sky day on the Gold Coast, where this boat was pitched as the perfect summer conveyance. Its twin 380-horsepower MerCruiser 8.2-litre MAGs petrol V8 engines give a thrilling and snappy ride, while the sterndrive legs can be tilted up to reduce draught while you nose into a beach. But it's the quality that sets this maxi bow rider apart. Sturdy fittings - decent cleats through-bolted to backing plates, around which you can secure a thick mooring rope, for example - and big-boat engineering are under the floor.
In the finish department, Chaparral raises the bar and builds a saltwater boat that won't look ratty a few years down the track. Yet the price is really quite keen. As tested, the 327 SSX offered a boatload of pleasure boating for $255,000 with the engine upgrade, optional Clarion Wetsound stereo with subwoofer powered by twin amps and eight speakers, optional hot water via a heat exchanger, and many other options.
Our boat had a cockpit wet bar in lieu of starboard seating. The module had a solid surface counter top, sink, pull-out sprayer, rubbish receptacle, stainless-steel handrail and 12-volt power plug, plus a hand-held fire extinguisher and an optional stainless-steel 12/240V fridge. With 13 drink holders on deck, you're not going to be caught short aboard the 327 SSX.
Below decks, the light timber finish looks chic. The galley has a fibreglass counter top, microwave, garbage storage and TV option. We would add an inverter to run the microwave when away from shore power. Direct and indirect lighting plus high headroom add to the sense of space, while the L- shaped lounge in the full-beam cabin pulls out to create a full-size double bed.
Meanwhile, the bathroom has an upmarket Vacuflush head and hand-held shower linked to the boat's 95-litre pressure water system. With a dozen friends and a designated driver, the boat ranks as a great restaurant runner. Should you head out as a couple and overindulge at, say, Darling Harbour, just bunk down until morning.
Extensive seating includes the main L-shaped lounge, which is big enough for half a dozen around a moulded table.
An electric Powerslide converts the aft lounge at the transom into one big double sun pad. The local importer offers an Aussie Fishing Pack with a stainless transom rail, rod holders and drop in cutting board. The rail also works as the barbie-mounting spot.
Under way, the composite Kevlar-reinforced hull, which has a lifetime limited warranty, feels stiff and super-smooth. The 22 degrees of deadrise cleaves the waves and we didn't once feel a shudder or thump. We blasted across the Broadwater, the abundant boat wake and wind waves on a blustery day.
I noted a top speed of 48.8 knots, where others have hit 50 knots, before pulling on the reins and settling into a comfortable 35-40 knot cruise. This is really moving and brings destinations such as Palm Beach into the realms of the harbour day tripper.
However, the performance comes at a price, namely 124-175 litres an hour at cruise speeds. Still, the distance covered is great and the driving pleasure and social seating make this the consummate summer party boat.
A dealer guide and details at chaparralboats.com.