When you think of this boat, you've got to think space. Sure, the deep-V hull with its reversed chines and lateral strakes is a great performer, but they've also packed a lot of living room into it, above decks and below. This is appropriate for the latest and largest of Rinker's line of six express cruisers ranging from 25 feet on up.
Start with the integral swim platform, a generous three feet wide, with a built-in folding boarding ladder and a built-in dingy davit system. You snap the dinghy onto the davits along one side. The davits act as a hinge. You use an extension wand to raise and lower the dinghy for easy launch and retrieval. Rinker offers a Mercury 270 RIB inflatable with a 3.3-hp Mercury outboard.
A 'garage door' lifts up from the transom with the aid of an electronically actu-ated hydraulic piston to reveal a spacious lazarette large enough to stow big fenders, shore power cables and lots of other gear. The guest battery switch panel lies just inside to starboard. There's a spot molded into the sole for securely stowing the dinghy's outboard, and room enough leftover to stow the gas grill.
The grill is mounted on a post that inserts securely into a socket inside the lazarette. When you want to use it, you stick the post into another socket on the corner of the swim platform. A second socket allows you to mount a prep table beside it. A handheld hot-and-cold shower waits neatly under a small hatch on the starboard side of the transom.
You get to the cockpit through a gated walkway through the port side of the transom.
Switches just inside the gate operate the transom hatch, cockpit washdown, lighting and even the light underneath the swim platform for night swimming. The cockpit and helm deck are protected by a broad Bimini. In the cockpit, a comfortable U-shaped lounge with stowage compartments underneath surrounds a stowable table. The swept-forward radar arch is hinged, which makes it convenient to tilt down for transporting the boat overland by truck.
The helm deck features an entertainment center along the port side with lots of nice touches, like a Corian countertop, a sink and a blender that flips up from a little hatch in the counter. There's a mini fridge and an icemaker under the counter, and just opposite, behind the helm seat, a trash compactor.
The steps down the companionway are a bit steep for this gimpy-kneed boater, but there is a remarkable seven feet, two inches of headroom in the main saloon. You'll find the enclosed head immediately and conveniently located just to port. This is a roomy space, with a separate shower stall, a small Corian counter, and an electric 'quiet flush' marine toilet. A locker in the aft bulkhead houses a Splendide 2000 washer/ dryerunit, situated so that it's handy to use.
The afterthoughts of a space where you feel like you're inserting yourself into a toaster; rather, there's a roomy double berth with plenty of sit-up headroom, another settee under the portlight that could serve as a toddler's berth, and a dressing area with stand-up headroom with a built-in hanging locker and a three-drawer bureau. This is cozy, not claustrophobic, and it's got its own 13-inch TV.
The main saloon features beautifully finished cherry paneling and cabinetry offset with an attractive vinyl wall covering and headliner and the fawn-toned faux leather upholstery on the comfy reclining chair and the couch. The couch opens up to form a double bed once you remove the dining table. The AC/DC distribution system is in the cabinet behind the sofa. The Corian-topped coffee table between the couch and the chair hides the built-in vacuum system. A 20-inch flat-screen TV with a surround-sound system is mounted in the cabinet above the fridge on the opposite bulkhead.
The entertainment system is routed so you can play a VHS in the aft cabin, a DVD in the main saloon, and cable TV in the forward cabin, or watch the game on satellite TV in the cockpit, or any combination of the above.
The galley to port features an eight-cubic-foot over/under refrigerator/freezer, a deep cylindrical stainless-steel sink set into a Corian countertop, a three-burner cook-top and a Princess oven. The stove's stainless steel cover has a cutting board mounted into it that makes a handy work surface when it's closed, and when you pop it up, it serves as a heat deflector. A coffeemaker is mounted under the cabinet. An Emerson microwave is mounted in the nicely finished cabinet above. There's plenty of storage in cabinets under the countertop. A cabinet under the sink has as a pull-out pantry for more storage.
The master stateroom forward has a large double island berth flanked by large hanging lockers. There's a deep storage bin for linens and other bulky items under the hinged innerspring mattress.
Bery Edmonston of Hartley Marine, the Rinker dealer based at the South River Marina in Edgewater near Annapolis, took me out for a run. We headed out of Turkey Point and out onto the South River, with about 10 knots of breeze wafting out of the south-southwest.
The water was fairly flat as we headed out by the Thomas Point Shoal Lighthouse onto the open Chesapeake Bay. The twin Mercury 8.1 L 420-hp gas engines with V-drives brought the hull swiftly up on plane. The hull is designed to stay remarkably level, so you don't lose sight of the horizon. At 3800 rpm, we were making 23.7 knots by my little Garmin handheld GPS. Wide open, at 4800 rpm, we got 30.5 knots. That was with half fuel, and about half water.
I'd describe the ride as surefooted. The reverse chines deflect spay, providing a dry ride, and while it was relatively flat out there, the few wakes we encountered indicated that the hull provides good stability. The controls were smooth and the tracking smack on. Visibility is good all around, both sitting and standing at the helm. The windshield is high enough to provide good protection and not block the view forward while seated at the wheel. The dash has an adjustable tilt wheel with hydraulic steering, which proved valuable as we maneuvered through the crab pot buoys mining the mouth of the river.
This kind of living space and this level of performance, with gas engines, is a unique combination.