I bought my current boat eight years ago. At the time, I felt like the really good choices were few. Today's buyer, however, has a number of excellent candidates to choose from. One of my recent favorites comes from Chaparral, the 224 Sunesta Wide Tech.
I mentioned the Wide Tech line in one of my very first columns, as an example of the "picklefork" style done well. That feature alone makes the 224 stand out, opening up the bow considerably with almost deckboat-like room, while keeping the benefits of a typical V where the hull meets the water. Beyond that stylish design change, though, are the items that truly set the 224 apart from the standard fare.
Just consider the big-ticket items. This is a 22' 4" bowrider with an enclosed fiberglass head compartment, perfect for when the little ones — or those with just kiddie-sized bladders — feel nature's call. True, the actual porta potti is an option, but that's a minor upgrade. Having the space to tuck it away is the key.
This is also a 22-footer with a cockpit wetbar, plenty of stowage space, and a realistic ski/board locker. There's room for wakeboard and it's hightop bindings, as well as a rubber mat to keep everything from getting dinged up. And then there's the bow anchor locker. It drains overboard, has notches in the lid for the rode, and doubles as a hideaway for a forward, four-step telescoping boarding ladder. That way you and your crew can get off on that beach you've pulled up to, and not have to hurdle yourselves back aboard once it's time to push off.
Chaparral, however, has also gotten the little things right. Take drainage. My current ride always has water trapped under the bow cushions after I hose it down at the end of the day. Chaparral's Cockpit Drainage System features molded channels under the cushions to route that water away, avoiding all those nasty things like mold and mildew that inevitably come with standing water. Stowage compartments are also designed to route those little puddles away. Coolers are all insulated (you'd be surprised how many aren't), cleats are oversized pop-ups, even the cupholders are both insulated and plumbed — yes, actually plumbed — to route condensation or spills overboard or to the bilge.
And then there's the head console door. On far too many, it bangs into the starboard console when fully opened and mars the gelcoat, a fact many big-name builders address with a cheap stick-on bumper that's gone by the second season. Chaparral, on the other hand, actually uses a hinge with a built-in stop that halts the door just short of contact. That's a feature designed by a boater, not some outside design firm.
There's a lot more obviously. Unfortunately I just got back from a day on my current boat, and need to wrestle my wakeboard from the ski locker, sop up all that water below the bow cushions, and yes, dream of what could have been"¦