If you took a sporty runabout and sent it off to a gym to pump iron, then you'd probably end up with something like Crownline's 266 CCR. It looks and performs like a runabout on steroids, but it has the amenities a family needs for a weekend afloat. From the long foredeck to the spacious cockpit, it's big enough to handle open-water runs on big lakes, yet it's still has the nimbleness of a smaller boat for waterskiing or wakeboarding on the natural slalom courses of small rivers.
The perfectly upholstered seating wraps from a full-width bench seat at the stern to the starboard side and then curves back behind the double-wide helm seat, creating an unusual "J" arrangement. The result of this big seagoing sofa is to leave much of the 8-foot-6-inch-wide cockpit open, both for moving around and so that no one has to play the usual game of footsie when seated. An optional removable table fits into a socket in mid-cockpit, providing space for alfresco family dining or casual entertaining with a group of friends. Parents will like this cockpit, too, because it's deep enough to provide security with children aboard. So that everything you might need is readily available, there's an insulated bin (with a drain so it can be used as a cooler) underneath one segment of the settee, and also a slide-out 48-quart Igloo ice chest under another section. Fully carpeted stowage bins fill the remaining areas under the lounge seating. Opposite the settee is a cockpit serving center/wet bar with sink, more carpeted storage underneath, and plenty of room for an optional ice maker or stove. Stowage is thoughtfully placed throughout the 266 CCR, with bins in the cockpit sides and a truly huge carpeted underfloor stowage compartment that can easily handle skis or other water toys. The helm has an overwide seat and our test boat had the optional woodgrain package with a burled dashboard, wood-rimmed Momo tilt wheel, and Volvo single lever throttle/shift lever. The gauges are all by Faria, with black faces and white numerals for easy scanning, and the contoured dash unit shields the gauges from direct sunlight. Unlike many builders that skimp on gauges, the 266 CCR has the usual speedo and tach, plus fuel level, voltmeter, oil pressure, water temperature and even a trim gauge. An LED engine hourmeter is standard, and our test boat had both the optional Humminbird depth sounder and a compass. Settle in behind the Momo wheel, and you'll find that there's a properly placed foot brace, the shift lever is convenient for both sitting and standing, and you're well protected behind the curved and tinted safety glass windshield. A pair of molded fiberglass steps lead to the walk-through panel in the windshield, giving safe and secure access to the bow for anchoring or docking. On the opposite side is a comfortable companion seat, with a big side bin for stowage and a glove box for small items. Crownline gets high marks from me for making sure that the foredeck has a non-slip surface anywhere you might step, which is often overlooked in favor of glossy surfaces that can turn into skating rinks with just a hint of spray. There's an oversized bow anchor locker, stainless steel pop-up cleats, and twin stainless-steel rails on each side of the foredeck. All the way aft, you'll find a molded integral swim platform with a powder-coated three-step swim ladder hidden under a flush hatch. Our test boat had the Volvo Penta 7.4 GL linked to a Duoprop drive, and the installation was tidy. The aft seat hinges upwards easily on gas lifts to reveal the engine compartment, and you'll find it well-finished with a smooth fiberglass underside to the engine hatch and a gray painted bilge. Access to all sides of the engine is excellent, and a pair of batteries were securely bolted down to port. The engine compartment also has the 20-gallon aluminum water tank for the sink. All of the wiring and plumbing, including that behind the instrument panel, was neatly loomed, color-coded, and secured properly. Construction is one of the reasons that Crownline has grown so quickly, and each boat features a transferable five-year structural warranty. The hull and deck laminates start with premium Armorcote gel coat, followed by hand-laid layers of fiber and woven roving from PPG. All cavities in the hull are filled with a closed cell urethane to meet Coast Guard flotation standards as well as provide sound deadening qualities. Stringers are seven-ply Douglas fir marine plywood, encapsulated in fiberglass and then sprayed with fuel resistant lacquer to make them moisture resistant. At the hull-to-deck joint, Crownline laps the two molded sections on the inside with 1-by-2-inch spruce and then uses stainless-steel screws to mechanically join the sections every 3 inches as well as sealing the seam with urethane adhesive. Crownline also gets big points in my book for using a roto-molded synthetic fuel tank so you'll never have to worry about corrosion problems. Even though the tank is polyurethane, the 266 CCR has a removable panel in the cockpit floor for access and inspection, another thoughtful touch. Speaking of that area, the entire cockpit is a one-piece molded section so it won't leak, and the oversized drains are screened to protect against debris. Underway, the 266 CCR was predictable and soft-riding. The 22-degree transom deadrise puts her in the deep-V category just a couple of degrees shy of most offshore racers, so you won't have to worry about cutting through the afternoon wind chop or even the seas left over from a breezy afternoon. Two full-length strakes help give the hull lift to plane quickly, and the wide flat section under each chine adds stability at low speeds. It's appropriate that the hull has such seaworthy qualities, because the 266 CCR is no slouch, particularly with this engine option. The Volvo Penta 7.4 GL is based on the GM 454-cubic-inch V-8, and puts out a hearty 300 horsepower at the prop. The result is that when you push the loud lever forward, things happen quickly. First of all, the 266 CCR climbs quickly onto a plane (in just 2.9 seconds, by the way) and then you watch the tach and the speedo needles race each other across the dials until one reaches 4600 rpm and the other hovers a little over 48 mph. Considering that this is a two-and-a-half ton package (5,365 pounds during the testing with fuel and warm bodies aboard), that's more than enough power to test the shoulder-sockets of single skiers on deep water starts. Even better, however, is that the 266 CCR loafs along at an engine-saving (and fuel miserly) 3,000 rpm and is still going 32 mph. At that speed, you can get where you're going at a rapid rate, yet not have to worry that your engine is being stressed to the max. Running the 226 CCR out of Miami's Government Cut and into the slop of the Gulf Stream proved that this is a solid and seaworthy cruiser. Even going airborne off swells at 40 mph didn't make the hull creak or groan, and the boat was surprisingly dry, too. See Crownline 266 listings.
|Weight as tested||5365 lb.|
|Fuel Capacity||85 gal.|
|Water Capacity||20 gal.|
Performance (Volvo Penta 7.4 GL DP-S)
Editor's note: This article was updated in August of 2017.