WORDS + PHOTOS: ANDREW RICHARDSON
International Marine stick to the ‘if it ain’t broke, don’t fix’ approach.
Step onboard the Caribbean 26 Open and it’s immediately clear that she will please new blood and old money. The solid, sensibly-priced Caribbean 26 delivers everything a fast open day boat requires without the weight and expense of unnecessary bells and whistles.
There’s something telling in the simple but informative spec sheet that describes the Caribbean 26. Its unpretentious graphic design offers all the information required without complicating things and this no nonsense approach flows onto the vessel itself.
“This model Caribbean 26 has been around since 1990,” Finn Crutch, from Gameboats, explained. “The company doesn’t release a revamped model each year, so new boats grow old gracefully while holding their value very well.”
Performance & Handling
A quick turn at the helm reveals why the Caribbean 26 hasn’t had to change! The vessel’s seating position offers good visibility and, once up and running, there’s no need to fiddle around getting the boat trimmed – she just goes well. If anything, a few minor adjustments to leg trims will find the sweet spot at a given rev range and there the Caribbean 26 stays. Like a well-built guitar, she stays in tune and requires little attention to please her audience!
International Marine, the third generation Victorian-based boat builders behind Caribbean, follow the ‘if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it’ rule, and by adhering to this they have created a classic. The Caribbean 26 heritage stems from the renowned Bertram 25.
The original 1960s 25ft design gained a foot in length and some waterline beam in 1989, to accommodate V6 MerCruisers. And since then the 26ft vessels enjoy well-balanced power from twin sterndrive 220hp V6 MerCruisers that deliver a top speed approaching 40 knots.
Finn explained that there were a few single engine vessels about, but he feels that the twin-engine arrangement produces a more balanced vessel. There’s even a few diesel Caribbean 26s around, but generally the extra expense and loss in performance keeps the twin petrol engine configuration the most popular.
Full noise on the 26-footer is truly ‘full noise’ because you can really hear those 12 cylinders doing the job they’re designed for. Knock the throttle back to a mid 20s cruise speed and things quieten to levels suited to longer voyages. It kind of sounds like the air intakes don’t have baffles and when the box is opened there is no evidence of soundproofing. So, if you don’t want to listen to the tune of 12 cylinders performing at 40 knots, a bit of engine box insulation might come in handy on this vessel.
It’s good to know that the Caribbean has the power to hit 40 knots, but I reckon the 26-footer will spend most of her years traversing the more efficient 20-knot range. Aside from the engine noise, the Caribbean 26’s performance is tremendous.
She gets on the plane quickly, holds well in the turns and her classic deep-V cuts through the chop with ease.
The helm is serviced by all the necessary engine gauges and straightforward trim controls. The most useful electronic gizmo is the electric anchor winch. Other electronics, such as a GPS, can be fitted during or after delivery. The windscreen has wipers, but no freshwater wash.
The topside layout caters for about 10 people with engine box seating, a helm seat and a four-seat settee. The spacing between furniture and large side pocket stowage suggests that this vessel won’t feel crowded even when there is a full load aboard. The removable carpets make the cockpit easy to clean and keep the vessel to the $115,000 ‘as-tested’ budget. If you had some extra funds in the kitty I reckon the optional teak sole would make this boat look a treat. Even without this, the modest use of timber trim keeps a classic feel about the vessel.
The bow areas feature non-skid decks with reasonably wide walkways, but a lack of grab handles and step-up to the walkways will keep the less nimble in the cockpit.
The deck hatch offers alternative access to the bow and might be the choice in rougher conditions, but once there, the high stainless steel bowrail provides plenty of security.
Finn explains that the vessel tested has a layout that is a notch up from the single helm seat base model. This craft features a starboard side galley with sink and cupboards and a port side lounge table and icebox.
These two very popular features make the vessel an ideal entertaining day boat and there’s enough room for a couple of slabs in that icebox. Below deck is a simple affair with a V-berth concealing a small head. It’s simple but works, and the solid cabin door offers enough separation from the cockpit to ensure that more sensitive souls won’t be deterred from using the head.
Customisation is the key with this vessel and there are various options for setup. Starting with a practical open platform, you may end with a show pony featuring teak decks and all the extras. At $115,000 as tested, compared to your average import, there is money in the kitty to add some of your favourite extras.
Overall, the Caribbean 26 has endured, and will continue to endure, the test of time. This is the type of vessel that you buy, put on your mooring and enjoy, and 10 years down the track she won’t look a day older.