With literally thousands of boats on display in several locations both on land and in the water at the Fort Lauderdale International Boat Show, picking out just a handful of great new boats can be tough. Parse the requirement down to boats under about 25 feet—boats that tend to be a good fit for Boat Trader visitors—and it gets even more challenging. Why? Because the Fort Lauderdale show is best known as a showcase for high-end yachts. But that means that the smaller boats represented tend to be of high quality, and they also tend to stand out from the Monaco crowd.
Here’s a half-dozen of those smaller boats, all new to the show this year, all under 25 feet in length, and all worth a close look if you’re in the market for a new ride on the water. These boats are already ramped up in production and available from dealers across the country.
Boston Whaler 230 Outrage
While Boston Whaler has always been a fishing boat brand, some anglers looking for smaller, offshore-ready center-console boats from the legendary builder have felt sort of left out over the past decade or so. While Boston Whaler has been introducing lots of new big-boy center-consoles to its lineup, the smaller boats in its stable have gone a bit stale, in our opinion.
Recently, however, Boston Whaler has upped the ante in the 25-foot and under category. Earlier this year, Whaler introduced its 250 Outrage, while more recently it debuted its brand-new 230 Outrage, which we checked out at the Fort Lauderdale show. Looking a lot like its bigger brothers in person, the 230 Outrage has a lot of big-boat features baked into a smaller package. Among those are an offshore-ready hull with a 21-degree transom deadrise, a maximum power rating of 350 horsepower, hefty pipework supporting a robust hardtop with lots of rod stowage, a massive helm with tons of room for multifunction displays and fishfinding gizmos, and a capacious live well at the stern.
We were happy to find that Boston Whaler didn’t sacrifice fishability for comfort, however. There’s lots of seating, including a U-shaped lounge in the bow that can be converted to a dinette with a drop-in table, a two-person bench ahead of the console, comfy helm seats with flip-up bolsters and a bench seat just aft of them, and an additional flip-up bench at the transom. We even found an enclosed head tucked under the console with more room than you’d expect from a boat this size. All in all, the Boston Whaler Outrage 230 has an almost perfect blend of fishability and comfort features that we think will keep both anglers and their families happy.
Scarab 195 Open Fish
Boatbuilders can be very secretive when it comes to new boats. We actually ran the Scarab 195 Open Fish back in September in Sarasota, FL, but were asked not to write about it until the official launch. Well, the embargo is over, and we’re happy to tell you about this great jet-powered fish boat, which the builder officially debuted at in Fort Lauderdale.
Though Yamaha introduced its own fishing-themed, jet-powered center-console boat a couple of years ago at the Miami Show, the Scarab 195 Open Fish has some features that make it unique. Notable among them is the drop-down tailgate at the transom, which creates an expansive platform that makes getting in and out of the water easy, especially for those who intend to use this boat not just for fishing, but also for watersports. There’s even a tow pylon built into the canvas-covered T-top for pulling folks across the water on tubes, boards, and skis.
We also liked the copious use of SeaDek foam panels on all the deck surfaces, which makes walking and kneeling a lot less painful. If you’ve ever dug your knee into traditional nonskid, you know what we’re getting at here. There’s also copious stowage, accessed by flip-up locker lids set into the forward and aft casting decks. Under the center console is an enclosed head. It’s a bit tight in there, but it’s large enough to get the job done.
Pushing the Scarab 195 Open Fish along is a 250-horsepower Rotax engine spinning a high-capacity jet capable of rocketing it up to a top speed in the low 40s, with efficient cruise speeds in the low 30s. And, like all jet boats, the 195 has amazing acceleration and responsive handling that make it a ton of fun to run. If you’re looking for a fishing boat with great performance in a small package, the 195 Open Fish is hard to beat.
Cutwater 242 Sport Coupe
Cutwater’s got a reputation for building innovative boats with a lot of clever features that make them not only comfortable and enjoyable, but also able to serve many different functions. We’ve seen this ingenuity first-hand on the builder’s 26-, 28- and 30-foot models, so we were excited when we saw the new Cutwater 242 Sport Coupe introduced at Fort Lauderdale. It’s got lots of Cutwater innovation, but in a sportier, performance-minded package.
One of the ingredients in that performance recipe is a double-stepped hull with a deep entry that transitions to a moderate keel pad for maximum efficiency. A Yamaha F300 outboard provides a top end near 40 mph, but most folks will cruise the 242 Sport Coupe in the high 20s to low 30s—perfect for making good progress toward weekend cruising destinations.
On board we found all sorts of cleverness, from the cockpit all the way up to the bow. There’s an electric grill built into the transom with an adjacent sink, but that’s only half the story. The grill’s not just fully removable, it conceals a fully rigged livewell underneath it. That’s an incredibly smart way to make use of one space for two purposes. Inside are more intelligent touches, including a port-side dinette than can be converted into both a berth or forward-facing companion seating across from the helm. An aft-facing seat provides additional cockpit seating or can be flipped down to provide a small food prep area.
What we liked most about the Cutwater 242 Sport Coupe, however, was the way its designers engineered full opening panels into the cabin house. It’s one of the lightest, airiest cabins we’ve ever seen in a small express-type cruiser, but it can be buttoned up in a hurry when the weather goes south. Cruising couples—the main target market for the 242—will enjoy a spacious V-berth master stateroom, enclosed head, and adjacent wash-up sink.
Jeanneau Leader 7.5
Jeanneau makes powerboats? Yup, they sure do, and plenty of good ones at that, evidenced by the rows of great models we saw at the Fort Lauderdale show. Marketed as the Cap Camarat in Europe, the Jeanneau Leader 7.5 is an interesting walk-around/cuddy cabin boat blends a lot of features from both of those design types. No doubt about it, the Leader 7.5 has a unique look about it, with a centralized console unit that gives it the appearance of being a dual-console boat, an expansive sunpad area on the foredeck that provides an express-boat feel, and a teak-decked aft cockpit that has the ambience of a Mediterranean flybridge yacht. All in all, though, the Leader 7.5 is graceful and sleek with a hull that promises to provide capable handling in a variety of conditions.
Below it all is a unique cuddy cabin that looks as if it belongs on an expensive motoryacht, not a 24-footer. The V-berth can be expanded with a drop-in cushion and is flanked by two massive pieces of inset hullside glass to make it feel open and airy. An enclosed head is situated to starboard, while a washbasin and dressing area is to port. It’s all plenty comfortable for a weekending couple, and can be made more comfortable by tying off at marinas with showering facilities.
There’s a 300-horspeower Yamaha F300 four-stroke outboard strapped on the stern, which has the beans to propel the Leader 7.5 into the mid 40s and cruise in the low 30s. You can also choose a pair of Yamaha F200s, which provide a top-end around 50 mph. Whether you’ve got day cruising, creek-hopping or weekending on the mind, you’ll want to have a closer look at the Leader 7.5; it’s got a lot going for it.
Scout 215 XSF
We’ve run quite a few Scout boats in the past, and one of the first things that struck us about their new 21-footer was its price. A nicely equipped model will run you under $50,000, and just over if you trick it out with some fishfinding electronics. If you know Scout Boats, you’ll see that this isn’t any bargain-basement model that’s slapped together quickly and cheaply. We found its fit and finish to be extraordinary for a boat this price.
A Yamaha F150 150-horsepower four-stroke outboard is standard on the 215 XSF, though you can option it out up to 250 horsepower. Performance is plenty spirited with the base engine, however, good for a 45 mph at the top end and about a 28-mph cruise. We expect the same quality ride and performance out of the 215 XSF as Scout’s other models, which is to say it should be exemplary. Scout builds a tough hull, using modern composite boatbuilding techniques and a running surface designed to deal with the rough stuff out there.
Scouts are also known for being comfortable, and the 215 XSF also doesn’t skimp in that category. The bow features a U-shaped lounge with padded backrests and stowage lockers underneath, and there’s a two-person lounge set just ahead of the console with room for outstretched legs. Flip-up backrests in the forward lounge create two forward-facing chaise lounges. At the stern is a flip-up bench . Two chairs with flip-up bolsters sit behind the helm. As usual, Scout has used the best materials for the upholstery.
Fishing features weren’t forgotten, thankfully—the Scout 215 XSF is loaded with them. The expansive dash has room for dual multifunction displays—one for your plotter and radar and one for your fishfinder, if you so choose. Rod stowage abounds, with rod holders behind the helm chairs, on the T-top frame, in the gunwales, and under them as well. And there’s plenty of room for stowing your catch beneath the lounge ahead of the console—it’s a huge fish locker. Run for your lives, fish!
Four Winns HD220
Though the Four Winns HD220 was introduced a little earlier this year, 2016 was this new model’s first time at the Fort Lauderdale International Boat Show. One of the best parts about this capable new member of the Four Winns family is that it can be had with either inboard or outboard power. Either way, the boat we climbed on at Fort Lauderdale had a lot to like about it.
Kitted out with a 250-horsepower, four-stroke Mercury Verado outboard, the Four Winns HD220 will easily blast up to near 50 mph at top end and cruise around 30 mph. You can expect similar performance from the HD220 inboard model when fitted with at least a 300-horsepower Volvo Penta or MerCruiser gas engine. Feel the need for speed? Choose a 350-horsepower inboard and jet into the low 50s, at top end.
The HD220 is essentially a deck boat, but it’s very different in many ways from most of the deck boats we’ve run. First of all, it doesn’t look like one. Second, the HD220’s Stable-Vee hull doesn’t ride like a lot of deck boats do. The design is more reminiscent of a bowrider, with a graceful reverse sheer and waterline that’s carried far enough forward to create a ton of deck boat-like space, but without the flat, unappealing bow deck boats can sometimes have. Performance-wise, the HD220 doesn’t bang and rattle like many deck boats can. We enjoyed a smooth, capable ride when we took one for a spin back in September.
Stepping aboard we found a roomy layout designed to provide lots of space for folks to hang out and relax. The main cockpit features an L-shaped lounge aft, twin swiveling captain’s chairs behind the consoles, and a one-person bench behind the helm chair. Forward is a U-shaped lounge that can also be used with two forward-facing chaise lounges. We really liked how the entire area—even its sides—was upholstered with buttery, cushy vinyl. Very comfortable indeed. All of this makes the HD220 very unlike any deck boat we’ve encountered.