Best Boating Innovations of 2003

Here are a few innovations from the boats we've tested that show fresh thinking.

Best Boating Innovations of 2003

Best Bets 2003

Best Boating Innovations of 2003Boating Magazine

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.

Automatic Water Fill: If you're hooked up to city water while at the docks, a bypass in the Formula 47's plumbing lets you fill up the water tank. When it's topped off, an automatic shutoff closes the valve to return the system to normal city-water operation.

Hideaway Anchor Roller: You want to have an anchor roller on the bow to keep the hook from hitting the topsides. Too bad it sticks out like a stainless-steel ram. Leave it to Hinckley to solve this aesthetic problem on its Talaria 29. Open the anchor locker hatch, press a button, and the anchor and roller rise out of their hideaway.

Console Compartment Entry: The better way to access a compartment within a center console is from the front. You can step in like a human rather than diving in head-first from a side opening like a dog going through a pet door. But most front console doors lift up so they block the helmsman's view and are unstable when open. The Intrepid 366 offers an electrically powered door that slides to port. It's robust and provides great access.

Best Boating Innovations of 2003

Best Bets 2003

Best Boating Innovations of 2003Boating Magazine

Fishing Rod Wash and Dry: Usually, you have to wash your rods on the dock, wait for them to dry, then stow them onboard. But the Bertram 670 has a vented, upright-stowage locker with a built-in fresh water wash. Put 'em in, rinse 'em off, and forget about 'em.

Galley Stowage: Many motoryachts have an in-sole stowage locker in the galley. The Meridian 408 made it better by having two drawers that slide out from under the sides of the opening. This way you can make better use of the space that is too far under the sole to reach.

A Place for Garbage: You finished a can of soda, now where do you chuck it? On most runabouts all you can do is jam it in an inwale pouch or locker, and hope the remaining sticky liquid stays inside. Why doesn't someone put a trash bin in small boats? Rinker has-it's by the walkthrough on the 212 Captiva BR.

Cockpit Drains: All drains on the Robalo 265 are integral, laid up with the rest of the deck while it's in the mold. Compared to a threaded-in fitting, this gives a stronger nipple for the hose to connect to, eliminates the need for sealants to make it water tight, and drains every last drop of water from the deck.

Slide-out Batteries: Batteries should be checked regularly, but most spots that are easily accessible are better used for stowage purposes. On the Pursuit 3070 the batteries are hidden in an aft locker. When you want to look at them, they slide out on a rollered tray.