Ex­treme lux­ury in a solidly built big-water bowrider brings com­fort, con­ve­nience and fun in day cruises.

Boating - - FRONT PAGE - —Randy Vance

Cha­parral’s new big bowrider en­ters a cat­e­gory flush with com­pe­ti­tion in size and power, but few com­peti­tors de­liver the 287 SSX’s panache. The Ge­or­gia boat­builder con­tin­u­ally brings home cus­tomer-sat­is­fac­tion awards for its boats and the cus­tomer ser­vice that sup­ports them.

How did mega run­abouts be­come the rage? They are ideal for week­end en­ter­tain­ing at the lake cot­tage or condo and han­dle big crowds with com­fort.

Fore­most, the 287 SSX’s ride is ex­em­plary, mak­ing it ideal on the largest bays like the Ch­e­sa­peake and sprawl­ing im­pound­ments like North Carolina’s Lake Nor­man. At 29 feet long with a 9-foot beam, it’s not an eas­ily trail­er­a­ble boat, but that’s no mat­ter to the week­enders who want it. What

they like, and what we no­ticed the sec­ond we dou­bled back over our ploughed-up wakes, is how the 22-de­gree dead­rise creased those moun­tains and barely rip­pled our soft drink in the cup holder. You need that kind of wave-break­ing power to com­fort­ably cruise these big wa­ters at an en­joy­able breeze-stir­ring pace that keeps pas­sen­gers cool and en­thused. The 287 may be a brute in size and in power with our test engine, a Merc 8.2-liter block with a Bravo Three du­al­prop drive, but it’s as nim­ble as a dancer in a “Mis­souri Waltz” com­pe­ti­tion — which brings up another place this Cha­parral will rock the waves: Lake of the Ozarks.

We liked the smooth feel of it in turns; with nearly full speed, we could fling it into skirt-flaring turns, but with bal­ance so well­cen­tered, your crew will squeal with plea­sure, not fear.

And while we put the 287 through these wake-crush­ing ma­neu­vers, we kept an ear tuned to the hatches, latches and other po­ten­tial rat­tlers on board. There were none. Even the wake­board

Its 9-foot beam gives an ex­cit­ing, open­deck plan that keeps big crews com­fort­able. Con­ve­niences in­clude an elec­tri­cally low­ered radar arch with Bi­mini and con­vert­ible pad.

arch and built-in Bi­mini stood firm, lack­ing most of the beam-to-beam flex­ing you’d ex­pe­ri­ence on lesser tow­ers. And this one main­tained its firm po­si­tion even though it is hinged and elec­tri­cally pow­ered to go up and down to in­crease bridge clear­ance, open more doors to more wa­ters, and ease dry stor­age dur­ing win­ter months.

I pitied po­ten­tial 287 own­ers who strug­gle with modesty. Bring­ing this ves­sel to lo­cal dock-and-dine venues will turn heads and fight to puff your chest. We pic­ture smiles that broaden as crew in evening wear glide to the dock via the tran­som walk­way and easy steps ashore.

Oth­ers might ques­tion why you’d leave the boat. We did when we took stock of the wrap­around seat­ing in the cock­pit. It be­gins just be­hind the pas­sen­ger bucket seat and makes the right-an­gle turn at the tran­som, spread­ing com­fort to the tran­som walk­way. At first, we won­dered why there wasn’t a filler cush­ion to cover the walk­way, then we re­al­ized that with­out it seat­ing was gen­er­ous, not just suf­fi­cient. Even the helm and pas­sen­ger bucket seats are gen­er­ously wide, per­haps mak­ing room for a com­pan­ion to share. Cha­parral’s hard­ware is al­ways ex­em­plary, and the swivel and slide con­trols of these seats are real stand­outs. You can reach the chrome levers at each hip and pull them to re­lease the mech­a­nisms to swivel or ad­just legroom. No­body in a boat this lux­u­ri­ous should have to crawl un­der the seat to do that — as is the case with the seats in nearly all the com­pe­ti­tion.

And just who is the com­pe­ti­tion for the 287 SSX? I sug­gest you look at Mon­terey’s 298 SS to find a com­pa­ra­bly stylish 29-footer. But you’ll find some dif­fer­ences. Like the treat­ment of the helm deck. Both the pas­sen­ger and helm seats are ad­justable benches with flip-down arm­rests. They don’t swivel but are fully wide enough for two cozy adults. Wrap­around cock­pit seat­ing is com­pa­ra­ble, but Mon­terey’s tran­som seat­ing sits far­ther for­ward, of­fer­ing a wider, deeper sun pad be­tween the aft seats and tran­som plat­form.

The glass helm on our Cha­parral was op­tional, but we’d be hard-pressed to go the dis­tance on this op­u­lent boat and try to save a few bucks here. Mon­terey of­fers fac­tory-in­stalled GPS dis­plays as well, and to­day most are ca­pa­ble of dis­play­ing all engine func­tions nor­mally re­served for cir­cu­lar ana­log gauges. That’s all wrapped in a cus­tom dash with dou­ble-stitched vinyl.

It’s easy to get caught up in the lux­ury of this day cruiser, but what makes it a bar­gain at its lux­ury price is the sleek but durable hard­ware, the proven all-fiber­glass con­struc­tion, plus a war­ranty and ser­vice net­work of which few boat­builders can boast.

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