Ask someone about their boat and questions like “how fast does it go?” or “how does it handle?” are almost a given. That’s to be expected. Part of the appeal of owning a boat is getting out on the water, feeling the wind in your hair, and cranking the wheel into a turn. More and more, however, those questions should also include “how fun is it to anchor out on?” or maybe “how well is it set up for coving?” Because according to the market data, that’s how a lot of us are using our boats. Yes, we’re still punching that throttle and skimming across the waves, but we’re also anchoring in a quiet little cove, nosing into a beach and letting the kids go for a swim, or maybe joining the party crew on the local sandbar. In short, we’re spending almost equal time aboard with the engine off. And as a result, boats have begun to change to reflect our tastes. Harris FloteBote’s Solstice 240 is a prime example.
Destination: Your Boat
When I first spotted the Solstice at the dock, my eye was immediately drawn to the large, rear-facing lounge overlooking the swim platform. It’s a single, sunpad-sized bench, large enough for someone to curl up on and catch some rays when not underway, or for a group of three to sit back and watch the kids swim and play. Should you care to join them, there’s easy access off the platform via the five-step boarding ladder to starboard. That’s a full step —or even two — deeper than the norm, making it far easier to climb aboard. To avoid soggy carpet, Harris chooses a textured vinyl to cover the entire area. If you’re using that spot to gear up for watersports you’ll appreciate the cavernous stowage found beneath the seat’s bottom cushion. It’s large enough to stow skis and boards, and the lid stays conveniently raised when open.
Step within the confines of the main seating area and you’ll note that aft bench’s backrest pivots to complete the traditional L-shaped lounge within the perimeter confines. That lounge culminates in an aft-facing backrest, just behind the portside gate. More seating is found forward. Twin parallel lounges fit snugly against the port and starboard fencing. Like the aft seats, they’re richly upholstered in three-tone vinyl, and feature rotomolded seat bases below. The latter creates plenty of additional stowage space. Gutters and drains around the rim channel water away to keep the interior contents as dry as possible.
Each lounge features a forward-facing backrest (complete with fold-down arm rest and cupholder), meaning a couple of the crew can stretch out, or as many as eight can gather around the removable pedestal table and devour the hors d’oeuvres. A curved corner cushion forward also provides some back support, should the forward-most passenger wish to pivot 90 degrees and converse with their seat mate. A pop-up changing room is hidden below the port lounge. Open a door and it swings out into the available space adjacent to the side gate.
That leaves one more seat in this house, the helm, which features an attractive mix of faux-wood dash panels, a contrasting vinyl eyebrow, and a three-spoke tilt wheel. Switches are arrayed in horizontal panels flanking the wheel, and each toggle features a LED light on the tip to denote when it’s on. The dash-mounted stereo and 12V accessory plug are within easy reach. The space within is dedicated to stowage, and makes a good spot to slide in a removable cooler.
When the boat was pulled at the end of our test, we found the attention to detail above also reflected below. Each pontoon is anchored to the crossmembers by a continuous, one-piece riser bracket — rather than the usual segmented sections — for added rigidity and strength. Crossmembers are also spaced on 16” centers, closer than the more commonly seen 24”. That tighter spacing reduces some of the torque and twisting that would normally occur. A rub rail with vinyl insert encompasses the perimeter for protection.
Less obvious features topside continue to show the Solstice’s attention to detail. Open a gate and you'll note it swings on a full-length hinge, and features an equally full-length aluminum stop. Closed, it can withstand 500 pounds of force. I also give high praise to something as simple as the hinges that the seats swing open on. They’re two-parters, allowing the cushion to open up, but then pivot down nearly flat against the base, to allow easy access to the contents within.
Our test boat was outfitted with the optional P3 Performance Package. It pairs the two 25” outer pontoons with a center 25” pontoon that is dropped lower by one inch, to give the boat a slight V-hull effect. Lifting strakes are added to both sides of the center pontoon, and to the inside of each outer pontoon. A full aluminum underskin is also added to cover the crossmembers and reduce friction. The result is increased performance and more aggressive handling than you’d find with the conventional two-tube setup. Crank the wheel and the boat displays a small amount of inside lean as it hooks through a turn. The additional tube also gives the boat more buoyancy.
The combination proved a good match with our test boat’s optional Mercury 250 Verado outboard. That engine pushed the boat quickly onto plane, en route to a top speed of 45.7 mph. The Verado’s supercharger was particularly notable in the midrange, where it responded to the throttle with a snap. We found the most economical cruising speed to be at 3000 rpm, where the engine pushed the boat to 20.3 mph while consuming 6.2 gallons per hour. Just be cautious should you decide to hook a hard-over turn at full throttle. Extremely aggressive maneuvering can sometimes result in the boat producing an unexpected outside heel midway through the turn. Of course, most owners would never push the boat to its limits like an overzealous boat reviewer. I’d add that cute colon/parenthesis smiley face here, but I don’t do emoticons.
That power proved more than enough to tow skiers, wakeboarders, and the seemingly ever-present tubers, adding to the boat’s versatility. In that vein a good option to choose is the stainless-steel ski tow arch. It lifts a towrope above the engine, providing a better, more consistent pull than you’ll find with a cable bridle.
|Fuel capacity||50 gal.|
With our test boat’s layout it excels at coving. And beaching. And sandbar-ing...whatever you want to call those moments when the motor’s off and you’re enjoying the boat like your own private oasis. With the rest of the boat’s seating it also makes for a great traditional party barge, ready to take that sunset cocktail cruise with friends. And with its abundant power, it’s capable of plenty of thrills, whether they’re the ones you produce yourself at the wheel or the ones someone else produces at the end of the towrope.
|Test conditions: calm seas, winds 5 knots, 2 POB|
|Power||Single 250-hp Mercury Verado outboard, swinging a 15' x 15" three-blade stainless-steel Enertia prop.|
And below it all is the construction and reputation of Harris FloteBote, long one of the industry’s leading manufacturers. That makes for a pretty impressive package, whether you’re the type who likes to power through the waves, or just sit back and look at them.
Other Choices: Another model you won’t want to step off of at the end of the day is the Cypress Cay Cayman LE 250. The Lowe Platinum 25 RFL is also outrageously comfy, and is another triple-pontoon contender that runs in the mid 40’s with Verado power.
View some Harris Flotebote Solstice boats for sale.
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