A fleet of dapper day boats is set turn heads in Sydney, writes David Lockwood.
Savvy boat builders have turned back the clock and reinvented the timeless, just-add-water runabout. The latest renditions of the day boat team turn-key convenience with great seating, the thrills of a wind-in-your-hair V8 drive and new levels of nautical style.
Boutique Sydney boat dealer Premier Marine sniffed the change in the way we use our boats some years ago. Having scoured the world's big boat shows, the Rose Bay business now offers a selection of cool day boats that offer an on-water experience akin to that of driving a prestige car.
"We feel people want to be out for a good time and not necessarily a long time," Premier Marine's brand manager Lee Poulson says.
"Today's busy boaters want to keep their recreational time simple and, more importantly, full of fun and adrenalin."
To this end, the best day boats are powered by V8 petrol engines, boast a thumping great sound system and often have a water-sports bent. You can even get an optional air compressor to inflate the tubes.
But while the origin of the runabout lies on the road, with two-seater cars like the Oldsmobile, and the boating equivalent is defined as a small motorboat that seats four to eight people, today's day boats are taking things to a new level.
Premier's biggest day boat, the Chris-Craft's Launch 32, is rated to carry up to 16 guests on what amounts to a giant floating stage. The Corsair variant adds a cabin to sleep a couple after that indulgent dinner at Darling Harbour. A shower and toilet are also included.
Big or small, the defining features of the new breed of day boats are plush deck seating, concealed cabriolet-type bimini tops that offer shade but pack flush for a clean line on the run back home, and plenty of storage, including a fridge and/or icebox.
Good day boats feature a deep-vee hull for a smooth ride on busy waterways, spray rails to keep people dry and sporty performance for a fast getaway on Sunday morning.
Indeed, driving pleasure is a key part of the equation, which requires a commanding helm station headed by a sportscar-inspired dash, a cool sports wheel without too many turns lock-to-lock and a supportive bucket seat for driving all day.
Fast forward to next week's Sydney International Boat Show, where there are several new day boats making their debut. Those from the big American stables in bow-rider guise cater for the water-sports hounds, with coloured hulls, cool graphics and wake-making devices to meet the young day-boater market.
Standouts include the MasterCraft X46, which has the ability to fine tune the wake for the latest wake-surfing craze; the Italian-inspired Regal 27 Fasdeck, a with retractable Power Tower, Arena Seating and an adjustable UltraLounge; the Regal 3200 Bowrider with dual adjustable cockpit lounges and refreshment centre; and the ultra-cool Chris-Crafts, which team technology with timeless runabout style.
The 717 GT and 1017 GT Frauschers, from Austria - the latter making a splash for the first time at the Sydney boat show - take day boating to a new level. The luxury lifestyle magazine Robb Report anointed the 1017 GT the Best of the Best 2012, and "the pinnacle of performance and design." Add a perfect summer's day on Sydney Harbour and the endorphins will be pumping.
Premier Marine's Poulson says none of this is lost on the who's who of boating. Hugh Jackman, Firass Dirani, Russell Crowe, Jennifer Hawkins and Channing Tatum are among the celebs seen cruising Sydney Harbour in her day boats.
There are many more businessmen, property owners, racing car drivers and others who cruise the harbour and surrounding waterways incognito. The Premier fleet is also coveted for photo shoots in a collection of fashion magazines, New York Fashion Week, swimwear promos and, we're told, something special at the Sydney boat show.