When a cuddy cabin model stretches into 30-foot territory, you’re really getting into another comfort zone. In the case of the new 296 Cuddy from Rinker, we’d be inclined to actually use this boat for overnight stays. But what you gain over the deeper, heavier cruisers of the same size (apart from major savings in cost) is a runabout sleekness and performance. Because the foredeck of the 296 is more streamlined than bubbled, the boat as a whole is more aerodynamic and carries the flair for which Rinker’s runabouts are known. We found the handling to be agile, yet with all the stability you’d expect from a boat this size. We came within a fraction of 50 mph on a Volvo Penta 8.1-liter engine.
What stood out first during our walk-through of the cabin, besides overall living space, was the cherry-veneer trim and the embossed headboard with the Rinker logo. This told us right away that the designers intend for boaters to stay awhile. Unlike previous Rinker cuddies, the pump-out toilet on the 296 is positioned in a “hideaway,” surrounded by cabinetry and storage — a much better use of this space. We’d be inclined to anchor out and use the area belowdecks at the end of the day instead of hauling out.
Rinker did a nice job with the four-position rumble seat, which completes the cockpit or stretches out the sun pad in various configurations. Deep storage compartments would allow travelers to pack enough gear for a day or two on the water. Rinker even includes a Lowrance chartplotter in the base package. Everything you see here is standard, except the aluminum sport arch with speakers and the windlass with 150 feet of rope and 30 feet of chain. Our advice is to spring for it if heading out, and staying out, is in the plans.
At a Glance
The 296 Cuddy is for boaters who want the performance of a big bowrider for large bodies of water, with the open invitation for overnight stays in calm harbors.
* Four-position rumble seat allows portside passengers to choose how to sit.
* Lowrance 5200 color sonar comes standard and provides considerably better resolution than black-and-white sonar.
* Pump-out head compartment and onboard refrigerator are big helps during all-day, all-night outings.
* Trim tabs are standard equipment, allowing the performance-minded boater to find just the right setting at all speeds.
* Corian surfaces with integrated trash containers highlight a huge cockpit.
Length Overall: 30’10”
Dry Weight: 6,310 lb.
Fuel Capacity: 100 gal.
Maximum HP: 425
MSRP (w/ Volvo Penta 8.1 GI DP): $79,473
NMMA Certified: Yes
Test Engine: Volvo Penta 8.1 GI DP
Test Prop: 24-pitch stainless steel
Test Load: People (345 lb.) Fuel (25 gal.)
Top Speed: 49.6 mph @ 4,800 rpm
Time to plane: 6.1 sec.
Time to 30 mph: 10.9 sec.
Minimum Planing Speed: 20.5 mph @ 2,600 rpm
RPM/MPH/Sound Level (db)