John page williams
The following review was written by John Page Williams, Editor-at-large, Chesapeake Bay Magazine. John, senior naturalist for the Chesapeake Bay Foundation, has been a regular contributor to Chesapeake Bay Magazine for 30 years, specializing in environmental issues, nature, wildlife, fishing and boats. He has been testing new and used boats for the magazine's Time-Tested and New Boat News departments since 1998.

MAY 2013
 
   
LOA  19' 7"
Beam  8' 4"
Draft 2' 4" (engine down)
Weight 2,800 lb
Fuel 36 gal
Max. Power 150 hp

For years, 18- to 20-foot runabouts have invariably been driven by inboard-outboards. Now, however, four-stroke outboards are changing that trend, running quietly and efficiently while offering less weight, easier maintenance, and plenty of power for tow sports. Monterey's new 197FS is a good example. It comes with four strong engine options, Mercury’s 115 and 150 and Yamaha's 115 and 150. The 115s should be fine for light-load boat rides, but the two 150s are better choices for towing, offering a wide range of planing speeds from the mid-teens to the mid-40s, all while sipping fuel.

The 197FS is laid out nicely with a pair of bow lounges, swiveling bucket seats for the skipper and a companion who can turn to observe a skier or wakeboarder, and a stern seat for two with cooler beneath. A large storage compartment for skis, boards and vests lies beneath the center of the cockpit sole. The list of standard equipment is impressive, including not only entertainment features like a Fusion stereo with iPod dock but functional items like a battery switch and tray, double-clamped fuel lines, a gas shock on the cockpit storage hatch, and hydraulic steering.

Useful options include a sturdy but removable ski-tow pylon ($542); a package with stainless-steel hand rails, grab handles, pull-up cleats and docking lights ($917); a wakeboard tower with integral Bimini top ($3,333); wakeboard tower racks ($1,500); and, remarkably, a fishing package with a Minn Kota electric motor, swivel fishing seats bow and stern, a Garmin 441 GPS/fishfinder, a livewell, and stainless rod racks ($3,242). Base price for this versatile fish-and-ski boat with a Mercury 150 Four-Stroke is $44,702. Monterey Boats, Williston, Fla. 352-528-2628; www.montereyboats.com.