The economy may have trimmed their ranks, but attractive, well-mannered bowriders remain plentiful. To establish some sort of hierarchy, I like to keep a scorecard of the little things a builder does to stand apart from the pack. Chaparral’s 246 SSi filled a page. From extra-long three-foot grab rails paralleling the bow cockpit, to passenger seats that pivot on two-part hinges to provide full access to the stowage below, to finishing every compartment so well I couldn’t find a single compartment with a sharp fiberglass edge, Chaparral clearly sweats the details — both big and small.
The 246 is the latest model to utilize Chaparral’s Wide Tech design, a concept that increases interior space by squaring up the bow in what many observers mistakenly refer to as a pickle fork. In reality, Chaparral’s minimal forks are simply convex sponsons, integrated into the deck to broaden a bowrider’s traditionally slender bow. Below the bond line, the hull ultimately swallows up those protruding “tines” and blends them into a classic deep-v. as design goes, it’s dramatic, and yet surprisingly subtle, with Chaparral doing an excellent job carrying the look throughout the boat. The windshield, sun pad, even the integrated swim platform incorporate similar faceted styling that make this look work from bow to stern.
Increased seating space is the company’s stated goal. Bow cockpit width tapers from a broad 5 feet 6 inches to a still-generous 3 feet forward, allowing adults to fully enjoy what is often a kids-only domain. Sloping seat backs allow for comfortable stretching, or pop in the cockpit table and up to four occupants can enjoy a meal or drinks on the hook without resulting in a tangle of topsiders. That broad bow, fully covered in nonskid surface, increases boarding options, as does a four-step stainless-steel ladder below the anchor locker hatch. Details? The locker’s lid pivots on two sturdy hinges and rises on a pneumatic strut. No worries about banged knuckles here. Upgrade to the Premium Package ($568) and you’ll get pull-up cleats to guarantee nothing protrudes to stub a toe or snag the rode, as well as docking lights and a bow scuff plate.
The main cockpit is clearly built with socializing in mind. A pair of captain’s chairs both feature flip-up bolsters, and they pivot to join with the generous U-shaped bench that lines the perimeter. The starboard aft corner cushion is removable for boarding, and more of that Chaparral attention to detail can be found in the port console compartment door. It features a magnetic latch for secure closing, and its hinges have built-in stops to prevent the door from dinging the helm console opposite. A lot of builders forgo that simple addition, or rely on stick-on bumpers that don’t last. Inside the console there’s 3 feet 10 inches of headroom, plenty for using the optional porta-potty ($360 with opening portlight) or changing in a pinch. A removable hanging rod is a good place for wet life jackets or dry clothes.
A spacious three-part sun pad is at the ready for those who wish to catch rays. Raise up either side to provide a sloping backrest, or tilt it in to keep boarding passengers from sullying the vinyl. Regal’s similarly sized 2300 ($62,610 powered the same as my test boat) also puts a twist on the standard sun pad. Its center cushions are removable for boarding, but the pad itself is lower than the norm, allowing the cockpit bench backrests to do double-duty for those who want to lounge facing aft when not under way.
Creature comforts are nothing without equal on-the-water performance. I punched the throttle and my test boat’s MerCruiser 350 magnum pushed the boat onto plane in well under four seconds, reached 30 mph in four more clicks, and topped out just shy of 49 mph. Chaparral’s 21-degree-deadrise hull made short work of my choppy test-day conditions, and the hull banked sweetly in and out of turns with an aggressive feel that belied this big bowrider’s size. At the helm, a matte black eyebrow prevents instrumentation from reflecting off the windshield. There’s a clear view of the primary gauges, but the wheel does partially obstruct the optional chart plotter.
While the 246 may be a fun ride to put through its paces, its primary use will likely be family fun time. Skiers and boarders will appreciate the deep ski locker. It’s supported by a pneumatic strut for one-handed access and features both a bottom mat and rubber-lined hatch underside to protect the toys. There’s also ample space below the starboard side of the sun pad and adjoining lounge to swallow a wakeboard. The swim platform is a monstrous 6 feet 8 inches by 2 feet to provide plenty of room for gearing up, and a three-step boarding ladder is concealed below a rattle-free hatch.
The wakes? I found them hospitable at slalom skiing speeds, and with a nice beefy lip for wakeboarding in the low 20s. It was no surprise. The 246 seems to do a little of everything, and do it well.
Comparable model: Regal 2300