We were running the Sea Ray SPX 230 Outboard through its performance numbers when we spotted a deer swimming in the middle of the lake. We zipped over and positioned our boat to watch as it slowly swam toward shore. As we idled forward, the water got shallower and shallower, until the deer was standing. But we simply trimmed the outboard and idled in, until we saw it sprint up the shore and into the woods. And that, more than any number, is a great real-world example of the benefits of outboard power. You can trim it up high and, if needed, completely out of the water.
For decades, runabouts have been paired with sterndrives, end of story. But boats like the SPX 230 Outboard are increasingly making that rigging yesterday’s news. Mated with a Mercury 250 Verado, the 23-footer showed ample spunk out of the hole, climbing onto plane in 4 seconds and hitting 30 mph in 6.5 seconds. Plus, it proved nimble in lock-to-lock turns at 30 mph, with no notable prop slip or blowout. It’s nearly 50 mph top-end speed was plenty fast for me.
While the trade-off with outboard power is a limited aft swim platform, Sea Ray makes the most of the space on board. There’s a huge stowage area under the aft sun pad—where an inboard or sterndrive would normally hide. Two large insole ski lockers swallow tons of gear. There’s bench seating along the starboard-side of the cockpit as well as the transom, and bucket seats for the captain and first mate. The port console houses a changing room with the option to add a portable potty. At the helm console, the driver has excellent views of the gauges and inset multifunction display. A stout windshield protects the cockpit from the elements, and the optional tower readies the boat for tow-sports duties.
The bow cockpit makes another great place to lounge, with plenty of legroom and forward-facing backrests against the consoles. Coincidentally, it’s also a great spot to keep your eye out for swimming deer.
- Molded nonslip on the aft gunwales as well as in front of the windshield is great for boarding.
- Two big insole storage lockers swallow gear.
- Captain’s bucket seat has a flip-up bolster.
- Anchor locker is under the bow seat. While common on small bowriders, it makes it awkward to handle the anchor.
- Great to have a small changing room with an optional MSD, but it could use a vent.
The Chaparral 23 H20 Sport OB sells for $59,572 with a Yamaha F250XCA.
Price: $72,145 (with test power)
Available Power: Outboard
How We Tested
Engine: Mercury 250 Verado outboard
Drive/Prop: Outboard/14 1/4″ x 17″ 4-blade stainless steel
Gear Ratio: 1.85:1
Fuel Load: 50 gal.
Water on Board: 0 gal.
Crew Weight: 450 lb.
Sea Ray Boats – Knoxville, Tennessee; searay.com