WORDS + PHOTOS: IAN MACRAE
Hang onto your hat when you unleash the 425 wild horses.
After more than 40 years mucking around in boats of all shapes and sizes, I’ve developed extremely strong intuitive radar that immediately alerts me if a boat is going to be a lemon or a gem. (It’s all to do with ‘obvious’ build quality… if something small is visibly wrong, then it probably won’t be the only thing that’s wrong with the boat and it could go right down to performance.)
On the day we tested this Cobalt 222 Bowrider my radar pinged right off the scale for a different reason. I didn’t even have to board this sleek new bowrider, to realise this was going to be one hell of a boat. And my radar didn’t let me down.
Cobalt boats have built up quite a following in this country in a relatively short period of time and it’s well deserved. Cobalt is a privately owned company with its founder still firmly entrenched at the helm. The company has been building boats in the small Kansas town of Neodesha for more than 40 years. The people that build these boats are country folk, with a strong work ethic, amazing skills and a sense of pride in everything. This shines through on every boat that leaves the factory.
These beautiful boats are also built to last, which is why they hold their resale value so well. It’s also why a fully tricked-up boat like this test boat (wake tower, 496 Magnum HO 425hp MerCruiser with Bravo III leg and what seemed like every other boating accessory known to man) retails for almost $130,000.
Some may think that’s pricey for a 22ft bowrider, but remember you only get what you pay for and that’s a lot with a Cobalt. A base model 222 starts at around $82,990. But readers should bear in mind that the build quality and the standard of fixtures and fittings used on these boats are second to none.
But once I got behind the wheel it was ‘bugger’ the build quality… hit it! A flick of the ‘Captain’s Call’ switch had the big V8 howling at full noise as the unmuffled exhaust let loose. Before I knew it I was doing more than 60mph across the ruffled waters of Port Hacking. And that was before I’d given myself a few minutes behind the wheel to acclimatise to the boat’s handling characteristics.
I tried to have a word to the guys from JD’s Boatshed, who’d supplied the test boat, but that throaty roar from the big V8 won out. I quickly realised that my hooning days were over and flicked off the Captain’s Call switch. The muffled tones of the 425 horses allowed us to talk normally again.
The big motor purred like a kitten, but I was also aware that there was only a slight loss of top end speed when the exhaust was muffled.
With the exhausts open (Captain’s Call on), this boat has a top speed of almost 70mph. Flick the Captain’s Call off (muffle the engine) and the top speed drops to 65mph. But it begs the question – how fast do you need to go when you’re cruising around?
I quickly realised this boat’s driver proof. With the leg trimmed in and the trim tabs up, even a novice boatie could get behind the wheel and wind her out to a WOT speed of 70mph and not get into trouble.
Yes, she is fitted with trim tabs, but these only need be used for lateral stability. You know, when all the big guys sit on one side of the boat.
A head-on quartering 30-knot wind blowing across the bow did little to affect the boat’s trim, which is a testament to the lift generated by this hull’s aggressive chines.
Trim the leg out a bit, to get the bow slicing cleanly, and this high freeboard bowrider can slice through a half metre chop like a hot knife though butter without any banging – the ride was superb.
She’ll definitely make a top dayboat for Sydney Harbour. Even if it does blow up, you’d have few problems getting back to the ramp. I’d even go so far as to say that she’d easily take on Moreton Bay’s notorious afternoon chop and handle it better than many much bigger vessels.
Wakeboard or ski
The boat’s performance as a ski or wakeboarding boat was also impressive. Sure, she wasn’t designed to be a tournament towboat, but even advanced skiers and wakeboards will enjoy a ride behind her. At waterski speeds of around 35mph, the boat’s wake was flat and even, and the engine has the power to pull skiers out cleanly.
Drop the throttles back to 20mph for wakeboarding and the weight of the engine and the V-drive sterndrive digs the boat’s bum in and walls-up a reasonable wake.
Ski lockers, wet storage, through-transom walkway for easy access to the swim platform, wake tower, quality sound system with a huge sub woofer and tower speakers, plenty of room in the cockpit, remote stereo control on the transom, freshwater shower, she’s got it all. And, low and behold, this is one of the few imported bowriders I’ve seen that does have a usable anchor locker at the bow.
The Cobalt 222 Bowrider is a quality bowrider that can easily handle most recreational needs. Use her as a ski or wakeboarder, take the family out for the day cruising, or go for a full speed belt around the harbour with your mates, this is a boat of many colours.
With a price tag of $130,000 (as tested) for a 22-footer, some readers may baulk, but you have to remember that this is a fully tricked-up boat with absolutely everything a day boater could need. Drop some of the extras and pull the price back to around $90,000 and you have a luxury boat that can more than compete with other 22-footers on the local market.