Thunder 'Balt

Graham Lloyd | VOLUME 28, ISSUE 6

Cobalt’s super-sized bowrider, the 26 Sport Deck, is the consummate entertainer.

Bigger does not always mean better, but the Cobalt 26 Sport Deck makes a good case for the original adage. This is a giant bowrider with a heap of space for up to 13 people to enjoy all our beautiful waterways have to offer.

Competitively priced from $113,490, it is packed with neat touches, like a patented swim step that folds out and down from the boarding platform and a convenient toilet in its own private compartment.

FRESH APPROACH

Cobalt has taken a fresh approach to creating some extra space in the bowrider area by carrying a wider beam further forward. The keel curves up to the top of the stem in the usual way, but the quite wide forward chines end abruptly just before they camber inwards toward the stem. That creates near-vertical faces that angle out slightly as they cut up to meet the gunwale. This allows the boat’s front deck and forward cockpit to be wider, adding both comfort and storage capacity.

Unique stem aside, the rest of the hull is fairly conventional, with two strakes either side of the keel. The latter centres a quite deep deadrise of 21 degrees, which is helpful in providing a soft ride. There is a recessed area in the middle of the transom so the MerCruiser Bravo Three drive, with its twin counter-rotating props, sits snugly between extensions that add additional planing areas and aft floatation. They also provide mounting points for the small hydraulic trim tabs.

The porcelain toilet is concealed under the port-side screen console. There’s also a small basin, a shelf to hold a few toiletries and a porthole for natural light. It’s not overly spacious, but it’s entirely roomy enough to achieve its objective. The electric toilet and sink are optional upgrades – a simpler Porta Potti is standard.

UNDER THE HOOD

Nestled in a very clean engine bay at the back of the 26SD is a potent MerCruiser 8.2lt V8 that produces a healthy 380hp (283kW). Driving through a Bravo Three set-up, it’s a good match for this hull, also delivering turbine-like acceleration away from rest through to intermediate speeds. An even driving force is maintained through all but the tightest turns and drive trim isn’t critical, although the hull does react pleasingly to smaller trim adjustments.

Both the throttle and the wheel are smooth and light to operate. There’s a little bowrise under initial acceleration, but forward visibility remains good and it improves further as the hull quickly and smoothly drops back to an efficient running attitude.

The Cobalt is easy and rewarding to drive as it spears away under full throttle to reach just on 82km/h at 4900rpm. That’s fast for a boat of this size and style. The hull planes at 2300rpm (30km/h) and by 4000rpm we were really hooting along at 71km/h. At 4500rpm the GPS was reading 78km/h – an impressively fast and effortless cruise.

There is moderate banking in tighter turns: enough to be interesting without risk of raised eyebrows from inexperienced crew members. The overall ride is soft and that high freeboard will keep spray well away except, perhaps, in the windiest of conditions.

DEEP SPACE

A boarding platform across the transom is below a panel with grab-handles and stereo speakers; there’s also a removable ski tow pylon. Above that, a convertible sunlounge has a pivoting backrest that, when swung forward, makes a full-size aft-facing sunlounge. Or it can be swung back to still leave a sunpad behind a forward-facing aft settee across the rear of the cockpit.

To starboard, between the platform and cockpit, is a walkthrough passage that’s equipped with a hinged safety-gate above a large underfloor stowage compartment. There’s an even larger, insulated storage area under the sunlounge.

The rear starboard quarter of the cockpit has a neatly curved cabinet that contains a workbench and sink above a storage cabinet and a fridge/freezer. The quality seating extends from the rear settee along another lounge on the port side, which continues to become the first mate’s seat with another pivoting backrest. When swung forward, the backrest forms an aft-facing recliner lounge.

A demountable circular table with inset drinkholders can mount to a bracket on the port lounge or to another bracket in the forward cockpit. In that bowrider area is more delectable seating, including – wait for it – two armchairs! Well, the seats in front of the screen have drop-down armrests and they do, indeed, make superbly comfortable spots to relax. More seating is down the sides and across the front of this extra-wide bowrider area.

COMMAND AND CONQUER

The skipper’s seat swivels and adjusts and has a flip-up bolster for driving while standing or seated. A patterned stainless panel forms an angled footrest and there’s a drinkholder and small storage areas for sundry items.

The wheel is adjustable so skippers of just about any physique can get comfy at the controls. Four dials set in a wood-style veneer deliver everything a skipper would want to know in a mix of analogue and digital formats.

The digital information is fed to the MerCruiser SmartCraft engine management system. There’s no read-out for the trim tab position, though. Those tabs are quite small, but they do work – it’s good to be able to adjust the boat’s lateral angle to counter a strong side breeze or uneven passenger distribution.

The deck hardware is a quality affair and can include clever stainless fender clips. These allow fenders to be set up with securing lines of just the right length, while special clips snap into fittings on the topsides with ease. It’s another patented Cobalt feature.

There are showers both at the transom and bow, smart LED lights either side of the stem, an automatic fire extinguishing system, docking lights and more.

THE BOTTOM LINE

Our heavily optioned test boat took the price up to $146,990, which still remains competitive when you list out all the inclusions. The friendly team at Cobalt distributor JD’s Boatshed can provide all the help and information you need to explain the features in more detail and/or to tailor the 26SD to your own requirements, so pay them a visit and see for yourself just how spacious and inviting a bowrider can be.

SPECIFICATIONS: COBALT 26SD

Length: 7.97m

LOA (incl swim platform): 8.38m

Beam: 2.59m

Weight (dry): 2495kg

Capacity: 13 persons

Fuel capacity: 189lt

Freshwater capacity: 38lt

Power (as reviewed): MerCruiser 8.2lt MAG V8 (283kW/380hp)

Drive: MerCruiser Bravo Three twin prop

Price (from): $113,490

Price (as reviewed): $146,990

For more information, contact JD’s Boatshed, tel (02) 9525 3166 or go to: jdsboatshed.com.au.


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