Outboard Evolution - Soundings Online

If you take a look at the history of watercraft—be it tall ships, dugout canoes, rugged fishing dories or any other sort of boat—it’s easy to pick out certain moments in time when an innovation changed the way we work and play on the water. Whether it was the first time someone harnessed the wind to propel a boat through the water or used steam engines for propulsion, watercraft have greatly improved over time. Today, a different revolution in watercraft is underway—the liberal use of four-stroke outboard power in an array of boat designs—especially those near 30 feet in length.

Modern, four-stroke outboards are reliable, quiet, fuel-efficient, fast and reasonably easy to maintain. They also don’t require the vast mechanical systems most inboard engines require, and that provides boatbuilders with exciting opportunities when it comes to designing new models near 30 feet, where inboard power is not the most efficient way to get things done. Some builders are embracing this outboard revolution with gusto, designing everything from dual consoles to cruisers. Here’s a look at a few of the exciting new four-stroke-powered models on the water.

Dual Console: Cobia 330 DC

Based in Fort Pierce, Florida, Maverick Boat Group acquired Cobia from Yamaha Marine in the mid-2000s. The builder has been improving the brand ever since. One change is the gradual addition of dual console boats to the center-console dominated lineup.

Today, Cobia Boats has four dual console models in its stable, and it recently launched the flagship for that series, the 330 DC. The heart of this new model, according to Maverick Boat Group president and CEO Scott Deal, is a pair of 425-hp Yamaha 4-strokes.

“When we designed the 330 DC, we knew we wanted to use Yamaha’s XF425 outboards,” Deal says. “But it’s not as simple as just strapping whatever outboard you want to the transom. It took a lot of engineering work to beef up the stern so it could withstand the massive torque these engines produce.” The result, Deal adds, is a boat that drives and handles like a sports car. The numbers don’t lie. According to Cobia, when equipped with the optional XF425s, the 330 DC can vault up to a 52-knot top end and cruise efficiently in the 28-knot range, according to Cobia.

LOA: 33’6”, 
Beam: 10’9”
, Weight (w/power): 9,981 lbs., 
Fuel: 275 gals., 
Water: 30 gals.
, Power: (2) 300-hp Yamaha F300 4-strokes
, Base Price: $261,050

LOA: 33’6”, Beam: 10’9” , Weight (w/power): 9,981 lbs., Fuel: 275 gals., Water: 30 gals. , Power: (2) 300-hp Yamaha F300 4-strokes , Base Price: $261,050

With the 330 DC’s power plants situated aft (versus a pair of inboards that would eat up interior space), Deal says it gave his team the freedom to create a boat that’s great at both fishing and getting family and friends out on the water for an afternoon.

“If you look at the aft cockpit on the 330 DC, you can see what’s possible with the engines out of the boat,” Deal says. “We’ve got a dive door back there, a ton of convertible seating, insulated fish boxes and a mini-galley with grill, sink, pullout refrigerator and stowage drawers. It’s a great setup for a variety of activities.”

Farther forward, behind the wraparound windshield, is an L-shaped lounge with aft-facing chaise. It sits across from the helm, which has room for twin multifunction displays. There’s also a Llebroc swiveling captain’s chair and a stowage compartment. A U-shaped lounge in the bow adds another area for relaxing. It can be expanded with a drop-in cushion.

The 330 DC has plenty of fishing features, too. The cockpit features twin insulated fish lockers at 70 and 45 gallons, each with macerated pump-outs. A 28-gallon livewell is in the port side of the transom, flanked by flush-mount rod holders. Big fish will come aboard easily through the starboard cockpit dive door, or through the starboard transom walkthrough, which has swim platform access.

While Cobia could have built the 330 DC with a number of different outboards, Deal says the Yamaha XF425’s innovative features were a great match for this type of boat. The engines’ powerful alternators can run an air conditioning unit all day, and their first-of-their-kind direct injection systems provide thrilling performance. Put it all together and you’ve got a boat everyone in the family enjoys.

Fishboat: Bayliner Trophy T22CX

At one point in what is relatively recent boatbuilding history, Trophy was one of the most recognized names in fishing boats. Produced by Bayliner since the early ’90s, the brand was always about providing a quality boat at a reasonable price. Then, only a few years after the 2008 financial frisis, Bayliner pulled the plug on the brand.

Bayliner recently reintroduced the
Trophy line with six new outboard-powered center console models that are far more efficient than their older, two-stroke-powerd models of the past. Two of the hulls are based on Bayliner’s tried-and-true Element hull, while the builder’s T20CC and CX and T22CC and CX models run completely new hulls, from the keel up. They’re good-looking machines that are priced within reach of a sizable portion of the market.

“We saw a demand for a series of outboard-powered coastal center console fishing boats and decided we could enter that market with some new models under the Trophy brand,” says Mark Wyrick, brand manager for Bayliner Boats. “We crafted the new deeper-V models around all-day comfort and fishability, as well as for on-the-water fun with family and friends.”

LOA: 22’7”, 
Beam: 8’6”
, Fuel: 65 gals., 
Power: 150-hp Mercury Four Stroke outboard, 
Base Price: $42,714

LOA: 22’7”, Beam: 8’6” , Fuel: 65 gals., Power: 150-hp Mercury Four Stroke outboard, Base Price: $42,714

The largest and most well-equipped model in the new line is the T22CX, which, with a 150-hp Mercury FourStroke and a trailer, runs around $44,000. “Most folks will likely order this boat with the 200-hp-and-up engine options,” Wyrick says. “People can expect a top-end of around 35 to 38 knots with the 200-hp Mercury and a cruise in the low- to mid-20 knot range.”

The T22 CX rides on a deep-V hull with a moderate transom deadrise of 18 degrees. “The generous freeboard, broad bow, and deep entry provide a comfortable, dry ride,” Wyrick says.

The T22 CX has plenty of fishing features with a bit of comfort mixed in—especially with the tick of only a few reasonably priced options boxes. Standard is under-gunwale rod stowage, flush-mounted rod holders, forward and aft casting platforms and a leaning post with livewell. For a few thousand dollars more, buyers can opt for a T-top with rocket launchers and an aerated livewell.

There’s seating at the helm, in the aft cockpit and forward. A drop-in cushion can be added to form a sunpad in the bow, and there’s room for a porta-potty under the console. An optional water- sports pylon can be added for dragging the kids around on tubes. Pop a drop-in table in the bow and you’ve got a nice area for lunch or sundowner drinks.

Bayliner likely has another hit on its hands with the introduction of the Trophy brand. The T22 CX, with its reliable and efficient four-stroke outboards, deep-V hull and standard features is arguably one of the better values in the 30-foot-and-under center console market.

Sportboat: Chaparral 257 SSX OB

Most everyone is familiar with the saying, “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” Given Chaparral’s long-running success with its sterndrive-driven SSX lineup—especially its 257 SSX model—one might question why the Nashville, Georgia-based company decided to offer the popular model with outboard power.

“Our SSX bowrider lineup has traditionally been offered only with sterndrives, but we were looking for a model that works well with an outboard,” says Mike Fafard, Chaparral’s senior vice president of
engineering. “We thought about adding a boat to our Suncoast line, but when it came down to it, adding an outboard to our 257 SSX made the most sense. Fitting the boat with an outboard opened up some stowage options, and of course people like the reliability, quietness and performance the outboard delivers. Best of all, we were able to maintain the 257’s layout, which is popular with our buyers.”

Introduced in late 2019, the 257 SSX OB is the only outboard-powered model in Chaparral’s SSX bowrider range. It’s available with single 250- and 300-hp Yamaha F250 and F300 4-stroke outboards or Mercury Marine 250-, 300- and 350-hp 4-strokes. “The single Yamaha F300 gives us a top-end of 46 knots at 5900 rpm and a 25-knot cruise around 3500 rpm with a 9-gph fuel burn,” Fafard says.

LOA: 25’6”
, Beam: 8’6”, 
Weight (w/engines): 4,700 lbs.
, Fuel: 65 gals.
, Water: 10 gals.
, Power: 300-hp Yamaha F300 4-stroke, 
Base Price: $107,906

LOA: 25’6” , Beam: 8’6”, Weight (w/engines): 4,700 lbs. , Fuel: 65 gals. , Water: 10 gals. , Power: 300-hp Yamaha F300 4-stroke, Base Price: $107,906

When it comes to the features Chaparral designed inside the 257 SSX, it’s difficult to tell the inboard and outboard models apart. According to Fafard, the idea was to keep the two layouts the same, although Chaparral added six inches of length to the outboard model to keep the swim platform useful and roomy. “Our SSX customers spend a lot of time on those platforms,” he says.

The boat’s interior is designed for fun in the sun. Forward, diamond-stitched upholstery forms a U-shaped bow lounge with stowage underneath. Aft, behind a wraparound windshield and beneath a sport arch, are twin captain’s chairs, a port-side compartment with electric head and sink and a stowage locker beneath the helm.

More lounging space is in the cockpit, including an L-shaped lounge and an adjacent bench seat with cooler stowage under the cushion. A starboard walkthrough provides access to the swim platform and an aft-facing transom lounge. Despite having the outboard to contend with back here, there’s plenty of room for water play or simply soaking in your surroundings.

Flybridge Cruiser: Cutwater 32 OB

If there’s one place you generally don’t expect to find a pair of outboards, it’s on the back of a flybridge cruiser. But take a look at Cutwater’s C-32 Command Bridge OB and that’s precisely what you’ll find—two 300-hp Yamaha F300s. The key here? They made them an extension of the boat’s angular lines.

One way designers accomplished this was by embracing the idea of a large swim platform, which on the C-32 CB OB wraps around the twin outboards and extends the boat’s stern. The designers also drew the C-32 CB OB with a relatively flat sheer line and a low cabin top. The result is a smart-looking cruising boat with a top speed of 48 knots and an efficient cruise around 30 knots, according to Cutwater.

LOA: 37’8”
, Beam: 10’
, Weight: 12,000 lbs.
, Fuel: 300 gals.
, Water: 80 gals.
, Power: (2) 300-hp Yamaha F300 4-strokes, 
Base Price: $309,937

LOA: 37’8” , Beam: 10’ , Weight: 12,000 lbs. , Fuel: 300 gals. , Water: 80 gals. , Power: (2) 300-hp Yamaha F300 4-strokes, Base Price: $309,937

“Our semi-planing, inboard-powered Volvo Penta diesel C-30 S and C-30 CB have been incredibly popular models for years,” says Sam Bisset, marketing and communications director at Cutwater. “The primary concept behind building the new C-32 C and C-32 CB with outboards was to keep the cruising performance and comfort of the C-30 and add the versatility and speed provided by using outboard power.

Cutwaters are known for their utility and the way individual areas can be transformed and used in different ways. In the salon, for example, a berth is hidden beneath the four-person dinette, which also has a seatback that can flip forward to create an aft-facing cockpit seat. The other half of the dinette seating is hinged in a way that allows it to also serve as a helm bench seat. The port galley is hidden under a hinged, flip-up counter that also conceals a flip-up companion seat. If you see a hinge on a Cutwater, there’s likely something clever going on behind the scenes.

Below and in the bow is the master stateroom, which has an offset berth, an enclosed head/shower compartment, shelving and stowage areas and a flat-screen television. Light and air pour in through multiple opening ports both in the hull and cabin sides, as well as through an overhead opening hatch.

Cutwater knows that owners spend a significant amount of time above decks, so it paid a lot of attention to the flybridge and aft cockpit on the C-32 CB OB. Gunwale cutouts flip out to create seats that seemingly levitate over the water, and there’s a flip-down bench ahead of a mini galley with sink, freshwater and electric grill. Another refrigerator lies beneath stairs leading up to the flybridge, which Cutwater calls a Command Bridge.

The flybridge is a relatively modest space that provides an excellent view of the world around the boat.

A two-person bench faces the helm where engine controls are partially shielded by a wraparound windshield. Abaft the helm is a bench for guests, and an extended cockpit overhang provides enough space for a solar panel.

Anyone who’s spent time upside-down in the engine room can immediately recognize the advantages of using four-stroke outboards in a flybridge cruiser like this one. In addition to ease of maintenance, outboards create more room inside the boat, which allowed Cutwater to create an incredibly versatile boat with a lot of built-in utility.

This article originally appeared in the July 2020 issue.

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