Although there can be only one Boat of the Year, there have been other boats over the past 12 months that have wowed us with features that were innovative, cool, or just plain smart. The kind of things that make you wonder, "Why doesn't everyone do this?" Here are a few from the boats we've tested that show some of that fresh thinking.
Stormproof Canvas: It was wet and windy this season, but we stayed dry in the Albemarle 268 XF, thanks to the way its canvas is attached. The top and side curtains slip onto tracks and are then sealed externally with a Velcro-secured flap and internally with a zippered flap.
Secure Locker Latches: We've never been impressed with the typical flimsy latches used to hold drawers and refrigerator doors closed in heavy seas. Apparently, Cabo felt the same way and built its own for the new 48. They're patterned after those found in galleys on commercial airliners.
Cabin Ventilation: You want to get air into the cabin, but most forward windows don't open, and if they do, you'd experience a hurricane while underway. The Carver 360 Sport Sedan has put adjustable vents under the flying bridge overhang that gathers air and gently directs it inside-without the salt spray.
Folding Motorwell Bulkhead: To have room for the outboard when it's tilted up, you can either have a permanent engine-well bulkhead, which is far forward and causes you to lose cockpit space, or an inconvenient lift-out panel. On the Grady-White Express 265 the bulkhead is far aft and gently folds forward on two sets of hinges to accommodate the engine.
Engine Access: Open wide and say, "Ahhhh." On any other boat you'd have to remove the engine hatch completely to get the access you'll find on Cobalt's 220. The hydraulic supports are attached to stainless-steel tubing under the hatch. This changes the pivot point so the hatch is almost vertical when open.
Aft Cockpit Comfort/Safety: Those scoops on the aft quarters of a Cruisers Yachts 455 suck in air and direct it back over the transom. This breaks up the low-pressure area aft that traps exhaust fumes to the stern. Less chance of CO poisoning, and it smells better, too.
Walkthrough Filler Cushion: The safest way to get to the swim platform is via a walkthrough rather than climbing over a sunpad or engine box. Normally, it means giving up a full-width sunpad. But the Regal 2200 Bowrider has a removable, adjustable filler that spans the opening to make a comfortable chaise lounge.
Multiple-use Seating: When builders try to make one feature do the job of many, it's usually a disaster. The exception is seating aboard the Ellis 36 Express, which converts from forward benches, to a dining table for eight, to a pair of berths. All of this is easy to do and sturdy in each configuration.