Practical, Versatile. Covering All The Bases
First, we need to put this in perspective. A little bit about the guy writing this.
I’m beginning to show my age. I grew up in much simpler times. As a child of the fifties, one of my favorite things to do was wakeboarding (Yeah, we did it way back then, too.) on the lake where my family had a summer home.
But it was different back then. All we needed for wakeboarding – or skiing for that matter – was a pretty good boat with a big-ass motor to make it go fast. And when we weren’t using the boat for water sports, we used it for on-board picnics and shore dinners, fishing, or just cruising the lake for no particular reason other than to see how much gas we could burn. Gas was cheap then, and it was a very versatile boat.
But, in the words of Bob Dylan, “The Times They Are A-Changin’.”
Nowadays, sporting activities require special gear. You can’t go to the gym without $150 worth of designer Spandex, or jog without spiffy running shoes, which apparently are not made for walking. And water sports are no exception.
This isn’t bad; it’s good. Modern technology has given us boats that can do things undreamed of just a decade or two ago. And now we have boats specifically engineered for water sports such as wakeboarding and wake-surfing.
Boats designed for this purpose differ from other boats, primarily in one way. Generally speaking, making a lot of wake on the lake is considered not very polite. Just speak with the sailor your just passed, or the folks who live on those otherwise quiet coves. But with these boats, making waves is the objective, with the stern low in the water to add to the effect. These boats are designed to raise an aquatic cloud of dust. You have to create a wave to ride one.
When asked to write this article, I did some research on a few of the better boats for water sports. I took a look at boats by MasterCraft, Malibu, Centurian and Nautique, each one of them fabulous boats loaded with gee-wiz technology. While these boats are very similar because of their shared purpose, there were some things unique to each.
I live on Lake Norman, surrounded by a blue-zillion dollars worth of fabulous boats. There are boats of all shapes and sizes, designed for a multitude of purposes, many of them very specific. There are fishing boats made for standing up with a rod in your hand, but not much else. There are sailboats, which are a great only on windy days. There are jet skis for when you want to … well, ride a jet ski, and pontoon boats, which are great for partying and cruising and, really, a more relaxed lifestyle. And, of course, the boats designed for high-speed water sports, but not much else.
What I’ve noticed is how much of the time these boats spend in a boat slip, rather than on the water. If the boat is designed to do one thing well, and you don’t feel like doing that today, the boat sits idle.
The way I figure it is that any boat is a major purchase, and as such, should be useful, versatile, and enjoyable … often.
So I started looking at boats that were (a) more affordable, and (b) more versatile. Among these were boats by Chaparral, Sea Ray, Cobalt and Regal. All very fine boats. These are boats that can go fast enough to take your breath away, but also have some versatility.
So I decided to find someone who owned one of these more affordable and versatile boats. And find someone, I did. He was gracious enough to share a fair amount of time discussing his boat with me. And he gave me permission to use his name: Nathan Roberts. (Hey, Nathan, you’re now famous for fifteen minutes!) One year ago, Nathan and his wife, Tara, decided to buy their first boat. And they were incredibly good and thorough shoppers. They looked at the Chaparral, the Cobalt, the Sea Ray, Regal and others. They “test drove” them and really did their homework.
These boats are fast, some of them with more horsepower than a typical tractor-trailer. That’s a lot of muscle. With that much power and plenty of ballast, these boats can conjure up some wicked wake to thrill or challenge a wakeboarder or surfer.
But it’s more than just big wake. It’s also custom wake. Sophisticated onboard computers let you get creative with your wake. Like it this way, push this button; like it that way, push that button. The technology is nothing short of amazing. As is the level of luxury, including elegant seating and stereos powerful enough for “The Temptations’ Greatest Hits” to drown out the sound of the wake and motor. A day on one of these boats can be a high-decibel experience.
And they’re expensive. Depending on features and options, the prices range from just under $100,000 to upwards of $200,000. Which of these boats is the best? The truth is that they’re all great, and like a Mercedes-Benz, Audi or Lexus, you’d be happy with any one of them.
To me, spending this kind of money on what amounts to a single-purpose boat, makes sense if you’re serious about wanting to become a world champion wake-surfer and live for the sport, or if you’re wealthy enough to afford more than one boat. But, if you want to do more than go really, really fast, and raise a ruckus on the water, there are some other options. And maybe more sensible ones.
While these aren’t specifically designed for water sports, they do a great job for anyone just wanting an afternoon thrill on the lake. They go fast and can generate some pretty impressive waves. They’re more maneuverable than the single-purpose boats and cost a lot less. By cost a lot less, I mean half the price of the super-duper, bat-out-of-Hell boats.
They chose the Regal 23 RX for pretty much the same reasons I suggested earlier. It wasn’t a single-use boat, and it did a lot of things well. For these reasons, they’re getting many hours of enjoyment from it, logging 110 hours on the lake last summer. They have two kids who like doing fun things behind the boat, and for this purpose, the Regal more than fills the bill. When not going fast and making wake, they enjoy entertaining friends and neighbors on their boat, picnics on the lake, sunbathing, or just a day of cruising.
Nathan also says the Regal rides more smoothly and maneuvers better than the other boats he tested, which makes just cruising on the lake easier and more comfortable.
I asked him if there was anything he thought I should have asked him, but didn’t. He said part of his decision to buy the Regal was the dealership, itself. He bought the boat from Talley’s Pier 77 Marine in Cornelius, and said they did an excellent job of finding the right boat for his family, walked him through the purchase with minimal pain, and have provided excellent and very personal service since. “If I ever decide to buy another boat, Talley’s is where I’ll
(Note: This writer has no relationship, whatsoever, with Talley’s. These were the words of the customer.)
Nathan also told me he’s very happy with the innovative, practical seating for up to a dozen people. So he can take the wife and kids, the next door neighbors and the family dog without feeling cramped. The Regal features what it calls “Arena Seating” which enables a lucky passenger to sit up higher and get a better view. And under the seat is plenty of storage space. He also likes the Regal’s “Comfort Curve” which turns wasted space in the corners into a comfortable place to sit. And it has an automatic bilge pump that goes into action before he even knows he needs it.
So what Nathan got is a boat almost as good at water sports as the six-figure, high-speed lux cruisers, but more versatile. For half the money.
However, you won’t see me on any of those boats. After a jet ski accident that resulted in lost teeth and broken ribs, I’ve decided I was put on earth to ride on pontoon boats. If you see me on the lake, wave. I’ll be the one in the slow lane.