August 13, 2013 I had the pleasure of attending Chaparral’s Dealer Meeting. It was held at Ocean Reef Club in Key Largo after my employer’s suggestion, and it was just beautiful! This place, being its own little resort-city, truly is Paradise. The meeting itself was very informative. Chaparral is introducing a new jet boat for 2014 as well as a larger 21′ H20 model and a new 307 SSX (bowrider) model.
Now, on to the fun stuff. After lunch, we got to get on the water and test drive some boats! I though I would be brave and ask to drive the 327. However, my boss Patrick kinda beat me to it when he bellowed from the docks: “MAKE SURE THEY TRY DOCKING WITH THEY JOYSTIIIIIICK!!!” – or something to that effect, as we pulled away, causing a bit of a panic.
Nevertheless, I pretended that I was a lot braver than I really am and actually manned the boat. Thank goodness for Mercruiser rep Steve who was there by my side in case of an emergency. We made it back safely to the marina, and then I docked the 327. Having the Axius docking system makes all the difference in the world. It controls the outdrives in a way that makes sense.
After driving the 327, I figured I had to drive the 216 and the 21′ H20 as well because, you know, I had to compare them all. So here are my observations.
Chaparral 327 SSX with Axius – Very smooth handling- almost TOO smooth. The steering wheel is highly responsive and almost feels like it’s sliding on butter. The throttle was very, very smooth as well. Naturally, it feels solid. When I increased the throttle though, I looked back and was afraid I was going to lose the passengers sitting stern; I guess the bowrise was a little higher than I had expected. My real only gripe with this model is that I cannot see over the windshield. The upper metal beam was right in my line of vision. I had to sit up on the bolster seat, which is fine unless there is a lot of spray and your windshield is salty. So I ended up having to stand on my tippy-toes most of the time. Big thumbs down for that.*
Chaparral 216 SSi – This one was my favorite. Surprisingly, it was large enough to accommodate 10 of us (though I’m not sure that was legal), and the steering wheel and throttle were smooth enough without being too “buttery”. It was just right. The boat felt solid even though we took it out in the ocean. It wasn’t scary – though mind you, I’m only scared because I had so many people with me and I would have hated to get us killed…
Chaparral 21 H20 – Nice enough for this size boat, but not as “solid” as the 216 SSi. All 10 of us fit in it just fine, but it was a lot scarier than the 216. It just felt like it skipped more on the water. Also the throttle is a little bit tighter than the other two, so it is harder to control.
Overall, the Chaparral Dealer Meeting was a success. It was nice seeing the company’s growth in market share of the last few years. And naturally, I’m just grateful any time I get to be on the water and driving a boat. I’m going to tell my boss that their media person really *should* cover more dealer meetings…..
* In all fairness to the Chaparral 327 SSX, I must disclose that I am a very short boater standing at only 5’0… but still, that windshield issue would probably keep me from purchasing this boat for myself.