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BOATS

BOAT TESTS

Rinker Fiesta Vee 360

There was virtually no wind on test day, so rather than make the trip out to the open Atlantic to wring out our Rinker Fiesta Vee 360, I went with a stretch of the Intracoastal Waterway not far from Davey Marine Center, Rinker's dealership in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. Why waste fuel goin' offshore when conditions right next door are virtually the same?

All went well at first. The part of the test where we use a laptop computer cable-linked to a Stalker radar gun to generate an acceleration curve was going swimmingly. I stood with one hand on the 360's windshield receiver for support and carefully aimed the gun ahead with the other. The 360 was accelerating smoothly to a wide-open-throttle speed of 47.1 mph.

Then it happened—a crash so thunderous and explosive I instantly concluded we'd either nailed an uncharted boulder or sustained a direct artillery hit from behind.

Our driver snatched the throttles back with a vengeance, and mayhem momentarily ensued, followed first by the slow comprehension of what had occurred and then by a collective sigh of relief. Under the bumptious influence of a wake pulled by a passing vessel, the 360's hinged aluminum radar arch—designed to fold down primarily to accommodate highway bridges while being trucked to dealerships from Rinker—had quite abruptly decided to fold down with sledgehammer force. The dealership had forgotten to install the bolts that lock the arch in place.

Returning the arch to an upright position and securing it was a three-man job—the thing was heavy. Fortunately, the rest of our sea trial went smoothly. But our brush with disaster had been so close that a warning seems warranted here. The radar arch on the 360 easily weighs a couple of hundred pounds. Anyone who buys and/or operates the boat, or any boat with a radar arch that folds down for that matter—and there are quite a few of them—should make sure the arch is properly secured before heading out. The price of failing to do so could be steep.

Once the arch was secured, I drove our 360 and had a grand old time doing so. I found the sightlines while sitting on the pop-up bolster at the helm were excellent, the power-steering system had a crisp, automotive feel, and all of the dashboard instrumentation and switches were conveniently arranged. Additionally, the Lenco electric trim-tab switches just above the Mercury single-lever engine controls held particular appeal. The red indicator lights were easy to see at a glance, and the electrically actuated tabs themselves were fast-acting and effected a quick response.

Performance was rousing. Thanks to a set of double-prop Bravo Three drives and a finely balanced hull form, the 360 accelerated both rapidly and uniformly—no stalls or other hiccups. Turning was tight, with little engine lug-down. Top speed was excellent. And once we'd concluded our sea trial on the ICW, squeezing our 360 back into her berth, between two other cruisers, one fore and the other aft, was a piece of cake, despite the fact that our Mercury single-lever engine controls were stiff and needed detent adjustment. Rinker offers an optional bow thruster for the 360, but it hardly seems necessary, especially with Bravo Threes. They boost dockside maneuverability big-time.

I was just as impressed by our test boat's interior, especially her size. One undeniable virtue of up-against-the-transom, stern-drive powerplants is the extra interior space they typically add. The 360's layout is conventional, meaning there's a midcabin, master stateroom forward, and galley/saloon/head area in between, all with Formica paneling on cabinets and bulkheads that blends splendidly with the solid-cherry trim. The stern-drive configuration stretches this standardized arrangement in all sorts of ways.

The midcabin's immense. Not only does it offer a giant U-shape lounge that easily converts to a double berth via a hi-lo table, it boasts headroom of approximately five feet and close proximity to the large, separate, shower stall-equipped head. Moreover, there's a hanging locker on the port side, unrestricted access to the rest of the boat for a bright, open ambiance, and a changing area forward that a 5'11" guy like me can actually stand in.

The bulkheaded master is also immense. It has a stand-up changing area, a voluminous hanging locker on the port side, a couple of opening ports, and a small hatch forward, just over the head of the offset double berth, for access to the chain/rode locker. Toss in a screened, opening hatch overhead, a matched set of reading lights, and a pair of coaxial stereo speakers, and we're talking an eminently comfortable nighttime or naptime sanctuary.

But here's the kicker. The saloon/galley's big enough and sophisticated enough to offer entertainment options that go wa-a-a-a-y-y-y-y-y-y beyond the ordinary. For starters, there's the 15-inch Sharp flat-panel TV with DVD hookup—a little small perhaps, but still viewable from everywhere that's comfortable. Then there's the stereo system. The 360's got a deluxe AM/FM stereo/CD whopper from Sony with a six-CD changer, a hulking 920-watt amplifier, six big coaxial speakers strategically located both below decks and above an exceptionally woofy subwoofer, and a couple of RM-XM10 remotes to keep tabs on the tunes no matter where you are. We cranked the system up briefly dockside to see what it'd do, and I swear, you could hear "Stars Fell on Alabama" all the way to Birmingham.

I finished up the test with a tour of the 360's machinery spaces, which reside beneath a cockpit hatch that raises on electric actuators. Features I liked were the well-ordered layout of the place, the easy access to the soundboxed Kohler genset on the port side, and from what I could see of the hull-to-deck joint at the transom, oodles of 3M 5200 showing above the joint evidenced a thorough, solid job. A feature I didn't like was battery access impeded by wire runs on the starboard side, just abaft the six-gallon Atwood waterheater.

My overall opinion of the boat? Rinker's Fiesta Vee 360 is a sleek, stylish, goin' machine, with lots of kickback room onboard and a list of entertainment standards that goes well beyond the ordinary.

Sound like fun? You betcha—just remember to button down that radar arch.

Rinker Boats
(574) 457-5731

This article originally appeared in the May 2005 issue of Power & Motoryacht magazine.

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