90 Top Production Powerboats
(Click on the icon to see a photograph.)
Sabre 36 Fast Trawler
1989-1998 Designed by Sabre Yachts
This wonderful little pocket cruiser was not without a few flaws when she was introduced in 1988. However the venerable sailboat builder’s first foray into the powerboat market basically gave us the term fast trawler and spawned one of the most successful lines of Down East motoryachts ever. A modified-V hull with a deadrise aft of 14 degrees provided a smooth transition from displacement to planing speeds. Thanks to the builder’s sailboat pedigree, the 36 was also a light boat for the era with Airex coring in the bottom and vinylester resin in her laminates. A trendsetter indeed.
San Juan 38
1999-2007 Designed by Greg Marshall
San Juan founder Don Campbell took a smart design brief to Greg Marshall for a Down East-style yacht that would be a product of its specific environment: in this case, the waters surrounding the Pacific Northwest archipelago where she is built, and for which the company is named. The result is a good-looking, speedy, efficient boat that can really cruise.
Sea Ray 400 Express Cruiser
1992-1999 Designed by Sea Ray Design Team
Reader Bob Karm writes: “The boat still looks beautiful and contemporary. Our boat has twin 3116 350-horsepower turbo CAT diesels. The boat has a 13-foot beam and deep-V hull, two traits that make for a great-riding boat and top end of 30 knots. Her innovative interior has two staterooms forward with full-size berth and twin cedar lockers. The guest stateroom to starboard with full bed and upper bunk can be opened to the saloon or closed for sleeping. She has a great saloon with a settee that can sleep two and full-size fridge (everybody gets hungry on a boat), and a head with stand-up shower stall. Boat holds 300 gallons of fuel and 100 gallons of water. The 400 EC is an all-around great boat for family boating and a good fishing platform as well.”
Sea Ray 310 Sundancer
1989-Present* Designed by Sea Ray Design Team
Not by any stretch the first of the Sundancer Express-type breed to hit the market, she was exceptionally popular, so popular that she’s still offered for sale by Sea Ray today, although in a somewhat altered state. Sea Ray began building boats in Michigan with an assist from Jerry Michalak, a designer in some respects driven by the automotive industry. The assembly-line approach to boat production that generated top-quality vessels like the 310 helped seriously democratize the sport of boating, not only in the United States, but all around the world. *Modifications have been made throughout the production cycle.
Sea Vee 390
2007-Present Designed by Robert Kaidy
This big center console packed in all the innovation that boaters came to expect from Sea Vee’s Ariel Pared and his group. The power choice for hull number one back in 2007? Four, that’s correct four, 300-horsepower Mercury Verados. The 390 wasn’t the first center console with quads. However the builder and designer fine-tuned the design so the hole shot was top-notch and the running angle maintained about 4 to 5 degrees. An IPS option was also introduced creating more buzz around the 390.
1996-2004 Designed by Don Shead
Why is the Sunseeker Superhawk 48 on our list of top yachts? Maybe it’s because Halle Berry captured our attention when she climbed onto one after she dove off a cliff in Die Another Day. Maybe it’s because one of our editors still remembers flying down the East River on a 48 past Manhattan traffic at more than 50 knots, feeling like the richest person in the world. Or maybe it’s just because the only real reason to have a 48-footer with a 10-foot, 8-inch beam and three 415-horsepower Mercruisers is to have fun. Isn’t that what this whole boating endeavor is all about? Sunseeker seems to think so.
Tiara 3100 Open
1979-2006 Designed by Leon Slikkers and Ed Wennersten
After her introduction in 1979, the Tiara 3100 Open sold like gangbusters (800 units in a decade) and, with some fairly significant design changes in 1992, continues to sell quite nicely to this very day. Why? The first Tiara ever was (as subsequent versions continue to be) a very high-end, handcrafted product, backed by a conservative design ethos that abjures the annual automotive-style design changeups so popular with some other brands. With that said, Tiara sells a 3100 Open today but it is considerably changed from the original. “You really can’t say it’s the same boat,” says designer and company founder Leon Slickers. Reader Bill Walker adds, “I have used [my 1997] regularly for offshore fishing, extended cruises with our yacht club (seven times to the Bahamas) and weekly boating activities. I repowered her four years ago with 370-horsepower Cummins, replacing the 330s. She does 38 mph at WOT. Super efficient, she burns 9 gph at 2000 rpm while running at 23 mph.”
Tiara Sovran 4300
2006-2010 Designed by Tiara Yachts Design Team
The Tiara 4300 is the boat that started it all, by which we mean the pod-propulsion craze that has changed boating forever. The first recreational watercraft to bring a Volvo Penta IPS pod-drive system to a major boat show, the 4300 was soon followed by numerous other models with either IPS or Cummins Zeus pods, from Tiara as well as numerous other builders. When joystick technology was finally added to the mélange, the pod revolution truly shifted into high gear.
1983-1993 Designed by Ed Monk Jr.
We miss Tollycraft. These conservative and well-built boats still have a loyal following in the Pacific Northwest even though the company officially closed down in 1997. The 61’s low profile and full-beam master stateroom influenced other raised-pilothouse designs that followed. The Ed Monk Jr.-designed hull, featuring fine foresections combined with flat aft sections, and slightly round bilges, is easily powered and capable of planing speeds. The boat had a variety of engine options throughout the production run, although the Detroit Diesel 8V-92s were a tough package to beat. The 65 that followed in 1993 addressed feedback about the smallish cockpit.
1983-1989 Designed by Viking
“I remember stepping onboard a 1986 41-foot Viking and firing up her twin Detroit 6-71 Diesels. It was drop-dead love! I was buying that boat no matter what the surveyor may have found. The icing on the cake was the dual trumpet air horn. Oh, how we miss that boat. She was good to us for many years and many, many memorable trips. Thankfully, we have our logbooks, which my wife kept for all of our travels.” — Reader Ray Mazzone
Viking 66 Convertible
2011-Present Designed by Bruce and David Wilson
In recent years Viking has gained undeniable leverage in the semi-production sportfish market, thanks in no small part to the high quality of its builds like the early 55 mentioned above. And the 66 is perhaps the best of the bunch. She was the first fully infused Viking, and had an entirely new hull—one that reflected Viking’s desire to reduce deadrise aft to increase lift, efficiency, and speed. It worked. The 66 does 42 knots all out with twin 2,000-horsepower MTU 16V2000 M91s. That kind of speed, coupled with an aggressively raked forefoot and deckhouse, make this the kind of boat you can’t help but remember.
2002 Designed by Intermarine SpA/Wally Yachts/Lazzarini Pickering
From the styling standpoint, still very influential these days. In fact, you see its influence even in present-day commercial vessels.
Wellcraft Scarab 22
1994-1998 Designed by Larry Smith
Okay. So you are most likely not going to believe this. But one of our editors, many years ago, had the pure unadulterated adrenaline-rushy pleasure of operating a Wellcraft 22 Scarab at well over 70 mph in 6- to 8-foot seas on Sarasota Bay. Most Scarab models had reputations for being speedy at that time, but the 22 was, in this particular editor’s mind, the mind-blowingest performance boat he’d ever run, bar none. And he was basing that conclusion on previous driving experiences in Fountains, Skaters, Formulas, Cigarettes, Apaches, Donzis, Super Hawaii’s, Hallets, Hustlers, Sonics, and any number of other performance boats he’d had the opportunity to sea trial.
1996-Present Designed by Jack W. Sarin/Greg Marshall/Taylor Olson
With fewer than 5,000 recreational yachts larger than 100 feet in the world, you know that the Westport 112 does something very right with 53 hulls in the series. Westport launched the first example of the design in 1996 and stuck to it, creating value in the construction process. The company deviated in 2010 with the introduction of an optional layout featuring a main-deck master (three boats were built that way so far). The company has always tried to minimize changes by delivering boats that are fully equipped as standard boats. “We developed our product to the point where the customers don’t need to change that much,” says Taylor Olson, director of engineering for Westport Yachts. Once upon a time, prospective 112 owners could decorate any way they liked, so long as bulkheads and stairwells were not be moved. But now, Olson says, Westport meets the needs of the customer without changing the fundamental structure of the boat.
2011-Present Designed by Tilli Antonelli and Fulvio De Simoni
innovation is what drives the boating market. Designers are always looking for the Next Big Thing. Wider understands that—obviously. It’s not an exaggeration to say its 42 is like nothing else the boating world has ever seen. First off, she’s got so much carbon fiber onboard that even the toilet is made of the stuff. (Really think about that for a second.) The correspondingly feathery displacement combines with burly 480-horsepower Cummins QSB 5.9s matched to Arneson surface drives to let this boat roar across the ocean at 48 knots. Oh, and maybe you’ve noticed that her freaking sides pop out? Because they do. And that single groundbreaking design choice turns what would otherwise be another flashy speedboat into something that’s truly one of a kind.
1997–2002 Designed by Bruce Wilson and Pat Healey
When the Viking 55 Convertible splashed in 1997, she made a statement that a production sportfish builder could also build breathtakingly beautiful machines wrapped in superior engineering. Highlights included frameless windows, a helm pod with single-lever controls, softer corners, and plenty of flare. In the five years that the 55 was in production, 153 hulls rolled out of the Viking factory—more boats than any other sportfishing builder in her size range at the time. A new 55 Convertible was introduced in 2012.