Rinker 26: Nice Tri | Boating Magazine

Rinker 26: Nice Tri

The Rinker 26 Flotilla is a spacious deckboat that offers a smooth ride.

See it tied to the dock and you may think to yourself, So what? It's just another deckboat. But then you might notice how much more room there seems to be in the bow cockpit. Hmmm. Get underway, and you'll think, Hey, deckboats aren't supposed to handle chop this well. What's going on here? Lean over the bow swim platform, look down, and everything makes sense. The Rinker 26 Flotilla is a trimaran, which makes it different from most other deckboats on the market, yet at the same time as true to the deck philosophy as it could possibly be.

Companies that build deckboats have been making them sportier than the floating cattle-pen designs of the past, and justifiably so. But it's impossible to have it all, and in the name of style, some builders have stripped away one of the key features that makes a deckboat a deckboat: space. Rinker, with the 26 Flotilla, hasn't forgotten that the deck is the ultimate family boat. The trimaran design gives it the stability and spaciousness that other decks just can't match.

THREE-TO-ONE ODDS. A trimaran is similar to a catamaran, except that it has a third hull running down the center. Like a cat, the trimaran design gives the 26 Flotilla great stability and the predictability of multiple keels underway. Why add the extra hull? One reason: load-carrying capacity. The third hull adds extra buoyancy, helping a trimaran handle larger loads without sinking as deeply in the water as a catamaran.

Trimarans can also jump on plane quickly - the 26 Flotilla did in 3.2 seconds - with moderate bowrise. The 26 Flotilla also stayed on plane at very low rpm and speed (2400 rpm and 16 mph) - another planingcat-like characteristic. As with cats, trimarans have a rough-water advantage over conventional V-hulls - particularly ones with a moderate 16 to 18 degrees of deadrise, typically found on most deckboats. The Four Winns 254 Funship ($49,071 with a 315-hp 5.7L Volvo Penta), for example, has a V-hull with 17 degrees of transom deadrise. I ran the 254 Funship through offshore swells and it performed well, but the 26 Flotilla felt smoother. Harris-Kayot's Legend 240 ($41,900 with a 220-hp 5.0L MerCruiser) is a catamaran deckboat that performs nearly as well as the 26 Flotilla, but it gives up more than 2' in LOA and doesn't have nearly as much stowage capacity.

On the water, the 26 Flotilla tracked exceptionally straight and was predictable at the helm. The new 320-hp 6.2L MerCruiser stern drive gave it enough get-up-and-go to top out at 46.7 mph and cruise nicely at just under 30 mph. Just don't expect to make any sharp, banking turns as you would on the 254 Funship; the 26 Flotilla turns flat in corners, just like any multihull. Close, tight turns can be executed, but it takes time to get used to the sensation. Another multihull trait is that in, a chop, spray from the tunnels gets thrown back over the bow and onto the passengers. The 26 Flotilla has a nice "sneeze" guard molded under the bow platform to help keep the spray down.

SPACE IS THE PLACE. About that deck space: The 26 Flotilla has lots of it - and creative ways to use it, too. The trimaran naturally lends itself to more deck space because the hulls go straight forward, so the beam is carried all the way up to the bow. This boat absolutely maximizes that space. Start with the 6'5"-by-3'1" bow cockpit. (In New York City that's a studio apartment.) Lift up a hatch in the sole and, surprise, there's a little wading pool, an innovation first seen on the Sea-Doo Islandia, a 22' jet-powered deckboat ($31,999). It's a great way to entertain young passengers while keeping them safely onboard. ** **

THE HIGHS: Beam carries throughout the length of the boat, maximizing deck space. Huge stowage bins built into deep hulls. Trimaran gives it a rough-water ride most deckboats can't match.** **

THE LOWS: Turns flat in hard corners, like a catamaran, which takes some getting used to. Needs a lockable glovebox at the helm. No drain in the head on our test model.

The head compartment in the starboard console also shows innovation, doubling as a small rest area. When the cushions are in place, it offers a 6'-by-2'10"-by-2'2" room for changing or for kids to lie down. When you need to use the facilities, roll the mattress and side panels forward and snap them into place to reveal a spacious fiberglass-lined head with 3'7" of headroom. There's also a dedicated stowage slot for the cockpit table. The stainless-steel towel rack will see double duty as a grabrail; Rinker would do well to add a true one. The head in our test boat also had no drain, but Rinker says it's installing one. Overall, the 26 Flotilla is rated for 12 people. I usually scoff at maximum capacity ratings because on most boats that means cramming everybody in like sardines. But the 26 Flotilla might actually be able to pull it off. Having 10 people aboard could definitely work, and 8 would be no sweat. Another place where the 26 Flotilla separates itself from other deckboats is in stowage. The lockers under the lounges in the bow cockpit, built into the outer hulls, are the largest I have ever seen on a deckboat. They are 4'-by-1'10"-by-1'9". You could fit a family of four inside each one. The port locker holds the bow sunpad filler cushions and still has plenty of room left over. Both are plastic lined and offer completely dry stowage. Comparing apples to oranges, the Four Winns 254 Funship has exceptional stowage for a conventional V-hull, with large bow lockers, a deep but unfinished ski locker in the bow cockpit, and nice dry stowage in the starboard console. But the trimaran allows Rinker to take advantage of long, deep hulls, where a V-hull is constrained by its forward taper. The 26 Flotilla's ski locker is built into the center hull, located in the sole between the two consoles. At 5'10"-by-1'7"-by-1'5", you can stuff it with your water toys. The port console offers even more great stowage. Basically, anything you could possibly want to bring aboard for a day on the water will fit.

PLAY STATION. How many deckboats do you know of that have room for a transom swim platform and an aft sunpad? The padded engine hatch, reinforced with 3/4" treated plywood, makes a great aft sunlounge when closed. It opens on gas-assisted struts for easy engine access. The 4'10"-by-1'9" bow platform allows for easy and safe water entry forward, and the slightly larger aft platform gives skiers and boarders plenty of room to put on their gear.

The cockpit lounge is well set up with an entertainment center that has a stainless-steel sink, a 25-quart Igloo cooler, and a removable trash can. An AM/FM cassette player with four speakers comes standard, as does the stereo remote on the aft swim platform. The helm sports VDO controls and a swivel-seat captain's chair with a flip-up bolster. But where can I throw my keys and cell phone? Other builders also omit a dedicated spot for the sundries we tend to bring aboard, but I wish the 26 Flotilla had a lockable glovebox at the helm. With all the space available on this layout, I'm sure Rinker can find room for it.

LAST WORD. With a trimaran's handling and stability and a lot of wide open space, this is one deckboat that more than lives up to its name.

LOA..........26'4" ** **

Beam..........8'6" ** **

Draft..........2'10"

Displacement (lbs., approx.) ..........4,740 ****

Bridge clearance.....4'10" ****

Minimum cockpit depth...2'8" ****

Max. headroom.....3'7" ****

Fuel capacity (gal.)...60 ****

Water capacity (gal.)...10 ****

Price (w/standard power) ..........$33,795 ****

Price (w/test power) ..........$41,995 ****

STANDARD POWER: Single 220-hp MerCruiser 5.0L Alpha V-8 gasoline stern drive.

OPTIONAL POWER: Single MerCruiser stern drive to 320 hp.****

TEST BOAT POWER: Single 320-hp MerCruiser MX 6.2L MPI Bravo Three V-8 gasoline stern drive with 377 cid, 4.00" bore x 3.75" stroke, swinging a 14 1/4" x 24" three-bladed ss propset through a 2.2:1 reduction. ****

STANDARD EQUIPMENT (major items): Built-in removable trash container; cockpit snack table; ss cockpit sink; transom shower; 25-qt. Igloo cooler; bow and stern 3-step telescoping ladders; cockpit wading pool; snap-in cockpit carpet; wrap-around windshield; dual battery system; Bimini top; depthfinder; 12v outlet; AM/ FM cassette stereo w/4 speakers; remote transom stereo control; docking lights.