With tundra-like temperatures and endless snowfall pounding the Great Lakes region back in February, many jumped at the opportunity to get warm and headed south to the annual Miami International Boat Show. It doesn’t take much to convince boaters to trade in snow boots for flip flops, and for us as a staff the biggest perk was not only the Florida sun, but being able to see the new 2019 boat models in the water months before our own boating season begins.
With the Miami Yacht Show also displaying models during the same week, there were plenty of new boats to discover. However, we had better odds at finding a snowball in Miami than actually seeing them all in just five days, but we did our best to take it all in. So after measuring the overall impact and coolness factor of the specific boats – while also noting the dealer bases in the Great Lakes – we came up with half a dozen boats that truly impressed us. These beauties stole the spotlight in Miami and are sure to be heading to a Great Lake near you this spring.
Sea Ray SLX 350
There isn’t a better place to start with our recap coverage of the Miami Boat Show than with Sea Ray who, if nothing else, won the best new boat presentation at the show in our opinion. As part of its 60th anniversary celebration, the new SLX 350 sat in the water in its own enclosed tent that was dark and air conditioned, with a VIP experience and presentation that was second to none. But beyond the short video playing on the ceiling or the bright lights that rivaled a Hollywood premier, it was the re-launch of this second generation SLX 350 that truly grabbed our attention. Sea Ray’s brand-new SLX hosts an array of features designed for an excellent on-water experience and optimal performance.
“The SLX series was launched to bring a luxury sport boating experience unlike any other to the market,” said Brad Anderson, Sea Ray president and general manager. “The evolution of the SLX 350 upholds the orchestrated excellence found across the SLX model line.”
Updates to the new version with room for 18 include one-handed operation of the “concealable” transom loungers that are as comfortable as they are easy to use. Wrap-around seating across from the helm along with the air-conditioned Port Hideaway compartment with a TV provide a relaxing space that was designed with families in mind.
The head compartment has been relocated forward of the helm console and there is a new seating configuration in the bow. Also, a fiberglass hardtop, with optional extended cockpit sunshade and bow shade, provide ample coverage from the elements.
What hasn’t changed according to Sea Ray rep Keith Miller is the superior ride and unrivaled handling: “The NextWave innovations, such as quietRIDE technology featuring Tuned Transom, and optional Dynamic Running Surface further elevate the luxury sport boating experience.”
The intuitive helm comes standard with dual 9-inch Simrad touchscreen information displays including Mercury VesselView Link Data, chart plotting maps, depth and fish-finder capabilities.
Sleek design elements, unexpected accents and unique storage spaces can be found throughout the cabin and cockpit. A host of intelligent features combine in a sleek, stylish package that exceeds all expectations. (www.searay.com)
Scout 520 LXF
Six outboards on the back of any boat will draw attention, especially when the combo involves Scout Boats and Mercury’s new 400hp Verado. Thanks to the release of this new outboard, Mercury saw its presence in Miami increase by almost 200 outboard engines at the show or a seven percent increase from 2018.
In the bigger is better category, Scout Boats took the wraps off its long-awaited 530 LXF, now the longest and largest member of the South Carolina builder’s lineup. The boat can be equipped with four, five or six outboards ranging from 400 to 627 horsepower each.
While the crowds flocked to the six outboard Scout 530 LXF, we “settled” for a test ride on a Scout that had only five outboards. Now that’s a sentence we thought we’d never write. The 520 LXF was powered by quintuple Yamaha XTOs, the new 425hp outboards that were released last year, and paired with this hull it can really fly.
One of our favorite features are the fold-down sides that when fully opened give the boat nearly an 18-foot wide beam, yet ride flush while the boat is underway.
Boston Whaler 330 Outrage
While the 330 Outrage was not a new model being released at the show, the new technology sure was worthy of attention. Boston Whaler and Raymarine announced the revolutionary DockSense assisted docking system
“Interest and adoption of autonomous technology is growing across most mobility applications and this path is a natural next step for Boston Whaler, which has brought a steady stream of advanced technologies to the recreational boating marketplace,” said Boston Whaler President Nick Stickler.
DockSense is designed to complement a captain's boat-handling skills using the system’s Virtual Bumper zone technology around the vessel. The Raymarine system uses advanced vision technology to sense and identify potential obstacles in the vessel’s path, providing the necessary inputs to allow the boat’s JPO system to autonomously respond and ensure a smooth docking process.
“We’re able to provide a product that makes it simple and easy to dock a boat without hitting anything,” added Mercury President John Pfeifer. “This will ultimately turn into an automatic-docking product.”
It’s the industry’s first intelligent object recognition and motion sensing assisted docking solution and with DockSense it continuously monitors the vessel’s surroundings, keeping the autonomous system updated with real-time detection of objects like pilings or another vessel.
We took a turn at the wheel and attempted to run into a nearby dock but the system simply would override us and wouldn’t allow the boat to do it. As we were just idling and talking we got within the pre-set radius of a dock and the engines automatically revved up and kept us at a safe distance. When we were ready to dock, we simply pressed a button to turn off the sensor on one side and then used the Joystick to perfectly line up.
The DockSense system includes multiple FLIR machine vision cameras, a central processing module, and the DockSense app running on Raymarine’s Axiom navigation display. It’s still being developed, but it does bring some excitement to what we can expect in the future. (www.bostonwhaler.com)
Chris-Craft Catalina 27 Pilot House
Chris-Craft was another one of those manufacturers who had plenty to showcase, but it was the debut of its new Catalina 27 Pilot House that seemed to get the most attention.
The new model combines wind protection with elegant styling, making it uniquely Chris-Craft. The design eliminates the need for multiple supports, providing unobstructed movement on deck. The console of the Catalina 27 Pilot House has also been newly redesigned and boasts varnished mahogany accents.
“The meticulously redesigned Pilot House reflects the rest of the Catalina model range, unifying our center console line in a consistent design style,” said Chris-Craft VP Gavan Hunt. “As a signature design feature of the Catalina line, the starboard side dive door has been integrated into the new Catalina 27 Pilot House.”
The gorgeous and newest member of its Catalina center console family was powered by a pair of 200hp Yamaha F200 four-strokes and included some unique Chris-Craft firsts, including the use of S-Tech synthetic teak decking, which looks convincingly like the real thing, and a center console that is fully supported without the use of the pipework or metal framing that can reduce walk-through space on the side decks. We like the inclusion of a starboard-side dive door, a generous leaning post livewell and rich touches of varnished Brazilian mahogany. (www.chriscraft.com)
Yamaha 275 Series
Yamaha WaterCraft Group not only introduced a premium line of 27-foot boats at the Miami Boat Show that are now the largest, most luxurious jet drive runabouts the manufacturer offers, but it also earned the 2019 NMMA Innovation Award in the Jet Boat category as well.
The all-new Yamaha 275 Series is available in three choices: the base model 275E, the more deluxe 275SE, and the flagship 275SD.
The 275SE features a semi-rigid top while the SD model features a hardtop with skylights. Exclusive to the top-of-the-line 275SD model is Yamaha’s new DRiVE system with paddle controls on the steering wheel that provide new levels of confidence for slow speed maneuverability in tight spaces and around the dock.
“Our intention with this boat was to take a category that was ripe for innovation and completely turn it on its head with new technology and marine industry first ideas,” said Bryan Seti, general manager, Yamaha WaterCraft Group. “Between the DRiVE technology, 500 horsepower propulsion package, patent-pending new seating options, high tech digital display and premium styling, there isn’t a boat on the market quite like the new 275 series.”
The Yamaha 275 Series boats are the first to feature twin, supercharged Yamaha 1.8L SVHO marine engines. These engines are the most technologically-advanced motors in a jet drive boat today. The Yamaha SVHO engine is powerful, fuel-efficient, and virtually maintenance-free.
“Our customers were asking us to create a bigger boat, and they wanted us to bring a new experience to this class of boats like we’ve done across the other segments,” continued Seti. “Our engines and driveline allow us to do things other boat companies can’t do.
From the power of Yamaha’s supercharged 1.8L engine block to the effortless fluidity of the DRiVE system, I think it becomes clear from the moment you get behind the wheel and look around this boat, that this new 275 series is a revolutionary experience among the premium boat segment.” (www.yamahaboats.com)
Last but certainly not least, NauticStar Boats released its largest offshore model to date, the 32 XS Offshore. Its latest delivers all the necessary fishing features for the serious angler with a smooth, dry, comfortable ride and cutting edge styling and comfort.
With its 10-foot, 6-inch beam, the 32 XS Offshore offers a spacious and comfortable bow that features a large forward lounge seat and plush wrap-around seating. The head console has a fully lined interior with a stainless steel sink, SeaDek floor and electric flush porcelain toilet.
It has a large helm station to allow for dual 12-inch (standard) or 16-inch (optional) multifunction displays. The leaning post features ergonomically correct Llebrock double billfish seats with flip-up bolsters and pivot arms. It has a sink, tackle storage, and a slide-out, 35-quart YETI cooler or optional refrigerator. The D-channel, integrated T-top can be fitted with a variety of options such as a retractable shade and fold-down cockpit television. Aft, the jump seats flip-up for a roomy fishing deck with port and starboard 8.8-cubic-foot in-floor fish boxes and large port side dive door.
At full throttle with twin Yamaha 425hp outboards we just missed the 60 mph mark with a full crew onboard. (www.nauticstarboats.com)