Little Falls is a charming river town in Minnesota where folks are straightforward and in tune to life on the water. It's a place where you can feel the energy of a summer day. In the heart of town you'll find Crestliner, where craftsmen build pontoons with the same genuine character that for decades made the upper Midwest the regional pontoon capital.
That said, pontoons have changed dramatically in the past five years, with the momentum peaking for the 2009 model year. The Grand Cayman 2685 RFL with stern-drive power is one of the poster boats for this change because it comes with honest-to-goodness intentions for real boaters, and not just a knee-jerk reaction to a trend.
We know where the attention will go, just as it did during our test: to the rear-facing stern lounge. Crestliner's version is a little different from the handful of others we've seen in that the lounge is pushed farther into the cockpit, making the lounge longer. You could get four kids hanging out up here when the boat's at anchor, or two adults lounging with plenty of space — and extra-high backrests too.
As radical as this Grand Cayman model appears, we found some of Crestliner's foundational DNA at its heart. Here are a few notes we jotted down during our test: Storage everywhere you could put it; 11 drink holders on board — important; handy side cargo netting on all gates, great place to put the fenders; custom-painted tubes match side panels adding style.
Let's expand on these comments. Crestliner understands that pontooners load up on stuff. So they build places for all that gear. The storage in this model's center tube is gargantuan (some others we've seen are shallow by comparison), with a big floor hatch for easy access. Every stitch of furniture has dry-storage space inside.
The fit and finish is testament to Minnesotans who are proud of their work. This is especially evident in the Grand Cayman's paint, where Crestliner bakes it onto the tubes and fencing at 400 degrees under strict timing guidelines to make it durable and to make sure the whole scheme blends together.
Driving the Grand Cayman RFL was pleasant, particularly because our test model was outfitted with optional power steering. It's a pleasure to turn the wheel of such a large watercraft with one finger. Speed, handling and agility are typical of other pontoons in its class. Yet, on that late-summer day on sparkling water at 3 miles per hour and 56 decibels on the sound meter was our favorite pace of all.
Key Note: This latest Grand Cayman model has one of the roomier transom lounges we've seen — a more practical alternative to traditional sun pads.
• Integrated swim platform is an extension of the deck versus a bolt-on addition. This improves the strength and adds style.
• Rear lounge will be the most popular place at rest because of its size, safety rails and its own stereo controls.
• Camelback seats on the forward couches accentuate a flowing line and also give a little more neck support when desired.
• More storage in more places — there's even a place to stash the table when you want more deck space.
• Driver's console has been designed to hold electronics and flat-mounted rocker switches in a seamless fashion.
* Length Overall: 25'6"
* Beam: 8'6"
* Dry Weight (with 5.0L engine): 3,719 lb.
* Seating/Weight Capacity: 14/2,000 lb.
* Fuel Capacity: 56 gal.
* Maximum HP: 300
* MSRP (as tested): $54,296
* NMMA Certified: Yes
* Test Engine: MerCruiser 5.0 MPI (with catalytic converters)
* Test Prop: 22.5", Bravo 3
* Test Load: People (630 lb.); Fuel (30 gal.)
* Top Speed: 42.6 mph @ 4,750 rpm
* Time to 30 MPH: 13.4 sec.