Windsor Craft 240
JUNE 2004
 
   
Length overall  24'
Beam  8'6"
Draft  12"
Displacement 4,900 lb
Standard power  Standard 115-hp two-stroke outboard
Base Price  $34,995


Michael Foxwell of Holly Acres Marine (above) takes the helm of the Windsor Craft. (below) The cabana pops up from under a sun lounge at the stern to provide and enclosed head and changing room.



The Windsor Craft provides all the features you'd expect from a pontoon boat, loads of lounge seating, a wet bar with drawer storage, everything you need for entertaining family and friends on a pleasant picnic cruise; but then there are some unexpected features, like the pop-up cabana in the back.

And the performance isn't at all what you'd expect from a pontoon boat. The mental image of a typical pontoon boat is a deck resting on two aluminum tubes. The Windsor Craft is built by Triumph Boats with Triumph's patented Roplene technology.

Roplene construction is a patented dual-wall system made by roto-molding marine-grade polyethylene. They pour the polyethylene compound powder into an aluminum mold, mount it inside a computer-controlled convection oven, and rock and rotate it as the powder melts to cast the hull in a single, seamless piece. This process slashes waste and emissions, and cuts production time to a few hours. The finished product has five times the impact resistance of fiberglass,you can whack at it with a baseball bat without leaving a dent or even a scratch,and it's naturally buoyant so it won't sink.

The Windsor Craft's tri-hull pontoons are actually planing hulls with bows designed to cut through the water efficiently and eliminate spray. Designed by world-renowned
designers Morreli & Melvin, who also designed America's Cup champion Stars & Stripes, the hull is protected by a lifetime limited warranty against saltwater corrosion, which is why they're justified in calling it the world's only 'saltwater pontoon.'

I had a chance to drive one on the Potomac River thanks to Michael Foxwell of the Northern Virginia dealership, Holly Acres Boat & Marine Center, based in Woodbridge. The breeze was blowing mildly up the Potomac as we came out under the railroad bridge spanning the mouth of Neabsco Creek. Once in the open water, I found the boat surprisingly responsive. Powered by a 150-hp Mercury Saltwater two-stroke, the hull was quick to plane. The Roplene hulls provide a soft, dry and quiet ride and good stability broadside to wakes. You can make tight turns with little banking, and the hull banks into the turn, not away from it, as with some pontoons or catamarans.

As can happen with any busy dealership early in the season, especially one that's kind enough to make a boat available to a reviewer with little notice, the outboard was only providing 4700 rpm wide open, while you should expect 5300-rpm to 5600-rpm from this engine. It was probably something easily correctable with a different propeller. In any case, while we did a top speed in the upper 20-mph range, Foxwell assured me that, with the engine properly propped, you should expect top-end performance of about 32 mph.

Even so, this was performance you shouldn't expect from a pontoon boat.

The bow deck has a low rail and an anchor locker with freshwater and saltwater washdowns. A gate with exceptionally sturdy hinges allows entry onto the forward lounge area. The sides are the polyethylene material supported by a sturdy aluminum frame powder-coated for protection from the elements.

There are luxurious lounge seats port and starboard with dense foam cushions and high backs and loads of storage underneath. The hatch in the center of the sole opens to reveal a storage locker in the center pontoon that's nearly eight feet long. A wet bar with pressurized water has three drawers underneath designed for secure storage for glasses, dishes and flatware.

Back in the cockpit area, the helm pod on the starboard side features a faux burl wood inlay and an array of classically designed chrome-rimmed gauges. Like the rest of the seating, the captain's chair is supportive and comfortable. The adjustable wheel has a steering knob. An L-shaped lounge wraps around a removable dining table. The 240 comes with a great sound system featuring SIRIUS satellite radio service and strategically positioned speakers. This area is protected by a Bimini, though other shelter options are available.

The cabana really is ingenious, popping up from a raised sundeck configuration with the flick of a button. Electronic pistons raise the unit upright, then you manually pull to expand it, creating an enclosed area that measures 4 feet by 2-1/2 feet with a full 6 feet 2 inches of headroom. A portable toilet pushes out of the way so this space can be used as a changing room. It's also equipped with a light and a forced-air ventilation system.

A gate aft leads to the steps and the fold-down boarding ladder. There's another deep storage locker under the sole, inside the starboard pontoon.

It's no wonder the Windsor Craft was one of five new products recognized with Innovation Awards by the NMMA at the Miami International Boat Show. The Innovation Award is the recreational boating industry's highest honor for product excellence.