Most boaters with teen-agers can remember the first time they handed over the keys to the family boat. For parents it can be a mixture of terror and excitement as their child learns to drive.
Parents who own the Chaparral 236 SSi will have no fears of letting junior drive. The runabout is a good handling boat that can perform with the best in its class. The only problem might be getting mom and dad to give up their time behind the wheel.
New for 2005, Chaparral introduced the 236 SSi in response to consumer demand for larger bow riders. The boat was based on the company's extended V-plane hull, which was basically a semi-V with a radiused keel and four strakes.
The bottom has been a proven winner in other models and it resulted in the same crisp handling in the 24-footer we tested. Chaparral equipped it with a 300-horsepower MerCruiser 350 Mag MPI fitted with a Bravo Three drive turning a 24-inch propeller set.
That allowed the boat to get on plane in 4.4 seconds on its way to a top speed of 51.5 mph on Florida's Sarasota Bay. Top-end speed is low on the list for most runabout owners but acceleration is important, especially when it comes to water sports. And we know the boat will see a lot of skiers and boarders behind it at the local lake.
The 236 SSi reached 26 mph in five seconds and in 15 seconds was doing 48 mph. In a midrange acceleration test, it took the runabout 5.9 seconds to go from 20 to 40 mph. Throttle response was average for a 24-foot boat, but it was more a reflection of the mild engine choice. We always like to have more power but the 350 Mag MPI worked just fine.
A nice bonus will come at the end of the day when the boat's 54-gallon tank is still close to full. The hull and engine package yielded better than 3 miles per gallon except at the top-end where fuel economy "dropped" to 2.3 mpg.
During our handling tests, the boat earned the highest mark in slalom turns at 20, 30 and 40 mph. Turns at cruise and full-speed were superior for the runabout breed and something we expected from the simple hull design.
When you build as many boats as Chaparral does in a year you might expect the company to overlook a few details. That certainly was not the case with the 236 SSi, which came with a yellow paint job and graphics done in vinyl.
Practice can make perfect, and the hullsides and mold work were very good on the 24-footer. To prevent scratches while at the dock, Chaparral included a rubrail with a stainless-steel molding set into a plastic extrusion. Our testers noticed some gaps between the rail and boat but nothing out of the ordinary for production work.
According to the manufacturer, the boat was built with a quad-radial lamination process. Chaparral uses an NPG polyester gelcoat and adds alternating layers of woven roving and fiberglass mat.
Then an acrylic epoxy resin is sprayed in the hull skin coat to prevent bottom blistering. The company says it finishes with syntactic foam in the sidewalls to prevent print-through. Chaparral says the results are a lightweight but stronger hull. Our test model weighed in at a little more than 3,600 pounds.
Under the hatch, the 350 Mag MPI was lag-bolted to the stringer blocks in typical production fashion. The bilge was finished in a white gelcoat with the trim pumps screwed down to the floor.
One of the first things we noticed when approaching the 236 SSi at the docks was the large swim platform done in nonskid. With the integrated swim platform, the boat looked larger than its 24-foot length.
The builder included a boarding ladder on the starboard side that folds away and stores in a compartment on the swim platform. On the opposite side, Chaparral included a small draining cooler.
Access to the cockpit was easy thanks to the center walk-through from the swim platform. When not in use, filler cushions tuck in to create added space on the U-shape rear bench. Under a cushion on the port side, Chaparral included an insulated ice chest.
Unlike many runabouts, the builder incorporated lots of padding on the gunwales around the bench, driver's and observer's seats.
Chaparral included snap-in carpet—a $420 up-charge—but well worth the price. A large stowage locker was situated in the middle of the sole, providing plenty of room for wakeboards or to stow additional fenders.
At the driver's seat to starboard, the Mercury throttle and shifter was mounted on the gunwale. The gauges from Faria were set in wood-grain panels. Rocker switches were off to the right and included a Faria depthfinder. Up high on top of the dash was a Ritchie compass.
Typical for a runabout, the driver and co-pilot's seats were mounted on a pedestal. Not typical was the flip-up bottom cushion for those two wanting to get a little better view.
The three-piece windshield from Taylor Made did a good job shielding the wind from the driver. It also didn't rattle while going over some sizable chop on Sarasota Bay. The center section opened toward the co-pilot's side, providing easy access to the open bow.
Space was abundant in the open bow, which included angled backrests that allowed passengers to recline slightly and watch the scenery while the boat was moving. Stainless-steel rails were provided on both sides of the bow.
Also atypical on a runabout was a boarding ladder incorporated in the bow. The three-step stainless ladder folded and a hinged lid held it in place.
Whether it's the father, mother, son or daughter driving the Chaparral 236 SSi, the runabout is truly a boat for all ages.
Hull Information and Propulsion Information
|Deadrise at transom||20 degrees|
|Hull weight||3,650 pounds|
|Engine||MerCruiser 350 Mag MPI|
|Lower-unit gear ratio||2.2:1|
|Propellers||Mercury Bravo Three 15 1/2" x 24"; 14 1/4" x 24"|
|Price as tested||$54,437|
Options on Test Boat
Corsa Quick and Quiet through-hull exhaust ($1,794), convenience package ($599), canvas ($590), cockpit and bow covers ($590), premium package ($583), wide band gel ($536), cockpit carpet ($420), fire extinguishing system ($251), dual battery crossover switch ($187), wide band sport graphic ($183) and bow rider filler cushion ($177).
|3 seconds||18 mph|
|5 seconds||26 mph|
|10 seconds||41 mph|
|15 seconds||48 mph|
|Time to plane||4.4 seconds|
|Minimum planing speed||19 mph|
|20-40 mph||5.9 seconds|
|30-50 mph||9.5 seconds|
Rpm vs. Mph
|Radar||51.5 mph at 5100 rpm|
|GPS||50.8 mph at 5100 rpm|
|At 25 mph||3.5 mpg|
|At 35 mph||3.2 mpg|
|At 45 mph||2.9 mpg|
|At WOT||2.3 mpg|
|Fuel capacity||54 gallons|
|Sea conditions||1' to 2' chop|
For More Information
P.O. Drawer 928
300 Industrial Park Blvd
Nashville, GA 31639, 229-686-7481