Chaparral H20 18 Sport

The H2O 18 Sport is full of top-line features at the right price.

Chaparral’s H20 18 Sport is offered for a nationally advertised price, nicely equipped, including the trailer. Most boats of this ilk seem designed to catch your attention by virtue of their low cost. In short, the builder is usually trying to sell you a price, not a boat. I could see at a glance that the H20 18 offered more than that.

You can’t help but notice top-line features like the fiberglass-lined cockpit with its modular helm and built-in footrests forward and stowage accessed under hinged cushions aft. I find these traits more appealing than those of boats aboard which captains must stick their legs under the helm into the nether regions of an unfinished inner hull surface, while duffels and other gear are simply shoved under a seat. The swim ladder resides under a hatch and, so concealed, makes the full width of the platform available for bathers while getting rid of a toe-stubbing hazard in the process. Additionally, the ski locker hatch in the sole is fiberglass, not polyethylene. This looks sharp and, unlike hatches made from cutting-board material, will stay looking sharp, rather than turning dull after a few seasons’ use. The windshield is full-size, a feature many first-time buyers overlook at the boat show but one with a value that becomes apparent during the first choppy day on the water.

Upon closer inspection, I discovered that Chaparral secures the battery in a sturdy bracket, rather than using a flimsy strap. Bus bars are used for electrical grounds, making service and accessory additions easier. Circuit breakers provide overcurrent protection, and electrical connections are triple O-ring sealed. Electrical problems are the most common boating malady, and too many entry-level boats fail to meet the standards I discovered while assessing the H20 18.

Running, the boat planed smartly with a 135 hp MerCruiser under the hatch, hitting 39 mph at wide-open throttle. Chaparral incorporated the extended V-plane hull of its SSi runabouts into the H20 18. This factors huge in its performance despite frugal power. Want more ponies? A 220 hp MerCruiser is available for an additional $3,652.

**Comparable model: Tahoe Q4i