In six years of writing about the powerboat world I've tackled some brutal assignments. I've cruised the canals of Brittany in France, logged time in a helicopter watching a race in Oslo, Norway, stayed awake for most (well, some) of the 24 Hours of Rouen on the river Seine outside of Paris, ridden personal watercraft with lifeguarding legend Brian Keaulana in Oahu, and rocketed across Lake Texoma, near Dallas, at 138 mph in a $600,000 catamaran.
But take my 6-year-old, Alex, on his first powerboat ride and — gulp — start teaching him to drive? Oh the humanity.
I'm kidding, of course. Still, I was nervous about taking Alex out for a few hours of boating in an XR1800. The 310-horsepower, jet-propelled performer is all of 17 feet 7 inches long and 7 feet 8 inches wide. It doesn't so much accelerate as it does explode out of the water on its way to a top speed of nearly 60 mph (59 mph on radar for the record) and it holds its line in the tightest corners like an amusement park thrill-ride.
Ten months ago, I took my wife out for an open-ocean ride off Oaxaca, Mexico, (yet another strenuous assignment) in a prototype XR1800. A few days ago, she started speaking to me again.
My confidence rose when Bob Gonsalves, whose company handles public relations for Yamaha Watercraft, agreed to come with me and bring Casey, his 7-year-old son. There were other reasons to feel reassured. Although it's as high-performance as a compact jet boat gets, the XR1800 has a fairly deep cockpit and a wrap-around rear bench. Gunwale-mounted grab handles are on each side of the bench, which was where the boys would sit until each took a turn at the helm, sitting on his father's lap.
The fact that the XR1800 is a closed-deck boat was another point of reassurance. There is nothing inherently dangerous about a bowrider, but young boys will be young boys and at least the temptation to scamper up there while the boat was underway wouldn't exist. Alex and Casey would be in arm's reach the whole time and, once we outfitted each of them in a PFD, they'd be even easier to grab.
We retrieved those vests from a stowage locker below the sun pad, which opened to a nearly vertical position on two shocks. The locker was deep enough to hold a wakeboard, as was the locker in the center of the boat's sole.
During our idle through the no-wake at Lake Castaic in northern Los Angeles County, I took a visual tour of the XR1800. Clearly, the boat had come a long way since the model I'd driven at Yamaha's 2000 model-year press roll-out in Mexico. That boat was the first one built and rough in fit-and-finish, most notably at the dash. The XR1800's dash is geometric, a series of diamond-shaped and triangular pieces that would be tough for a custom boat builder, much less a production manufacturer, to match up perfectly. Yamaha has (now) pulled it off. The once-flimsy wind farings, which flip forward on hinges to reveal stowage compartments, are now plenty solid.
Another improvement I noticed immediately was throttle synchronization. In the prototype jet boat, the throttles had been out of sync, which made it difficult to match the rpm for the boat's twin 155-horsepower, 1,176 cc motors.
The seats, however, had needed no improvement. The buckets for the driver and copilot felt stout and were amply padded, but the real stand-out was the rear bench. Passengers, especially those in the 6- and 7-year-old boy class, sat deep on the bench. Even adults felt wrapped in the bench, and its considerable padding absorbed most of the bumps in the ride.
That would be a big plus for two frightened little boys — had there been any of them on the boat. From the moment I hit throttle, Alex and Casey screamed for more speed. After the first series of S-turns, extended straight line running was out of the question. In the time it took to reach one side of the lake, two little boys had become forever hooked on powerboating.
At the far end of the lake, each boy took a turn behind the wheel. Alex sat on my lap and steered as I throttled. Then Casey got a chance to drive with his father, which led to two hours of "Come on, just one more turn." When we managed to pull into a cove and stop moving for a few minutes, both boys tossed themselves off the stern and into the water (with permission, of course). Thanks to a flip-down step, they found it easy to reboard the swim platform and leap off again and again. We had to beg — then tell— them to come back aboard when it was time to leave.
Boys will be boys, and dads will be dads, especially on the water in a fun machine like the Yamaha XR1800.
|Deadrise at transom:||18 degrees|
|Dry weight:||1,950 pounds|
|Number of engines:||2|
|Engine horsepower/displacement:||155 hp/1176cc|
|Impellers:||15.2" pitch three-blade stainless-steel|
|Total horsepower:||310 hp|
|Load capacity:||5 persons/1,100 pounds|
|Stowage capacity:||322 gallons|
|Fuel capacity:||41 gallons|
|Oil capacity:||3 gallons|
|Price (including trailer):||$19,499|
For more information contact:
Yamaha Motor Corp.
6555 Katella Avenue
Cypress, CA 90630-5101