Issue: January 2005
It has been a very rewarding year for Scott and Lia Williams, the husband and wife team who operate Boatarama on the Gold Coast. Not only did they win the Australian Marine Industry Federation’s 2004 Imported Non-Trailable Boat of the Year award with a Four Winns 250 Horizon Bow Rider, but also they have been recognised by the giant American Genmar Corporation, which owns Four Winns, as one of the top three dealers in the world. This is the first time a dealer outside the United States has won the award. In addition, they have achieved number one in the world for overall sales for all 19 Genmar brands.
Since adding the Four Winns brand to their dealership just over 12 months ago, the Williams have already sold in excess of 100 boats and expect to have 160 new Four Winns on the water this coming season. Until September last year not much was known about Four Winns in Australia. The brand first appeared in 1975 in the United States when Bill Winn and his three sons, bought a small boat business in Cadillac, Michigan and renamed it Four Winns. In 2001, the company was bought by Genmar the world’s largest marine producer.
One of the best sellers in Australia is the Four Winns 328 Vista a very stylish big water cruiser. Scott admits that he can sell as many as he can get his hands on. A big feature of the Four Winns range is the ‘Stable-Vee’ hull design. The story goes that a Four Winn’s designer took his non-boating mum out for the day and not being much of a boating person she was a little uneasy when the boat rolled a little at idle. That’s when the Stable Vee hull was born. The designer changed the hull to minimise the lateral instability, engineered a variable deadrise and changed the shape, so that the hull gets on the plane at a lower speed and, along with the reverse chines, the boat handles predictably and corners like a sports car in tight turns.
As soon as we started to take the covers off the boat in the pen at the Runaway Bay Marina the innovation and quality, that we have come to expect from US boats, soon became obvious. All the zips on the covers have a flap, held in place by Velcro, to stop water leaking in through the zips in crummy weather. And if water does get in there are drain holes to take it over the side. There is also open mesh on the sides as well as the back of the covers. It only takes a matter of minutes to fold the rear and forward bimini frame back to the Targa arch to open the whole boat up ? just remove four pins.
The helm position is well thought out with a full set of gauges mounted in a binnaclestyle console and there is a real Danforth compass on top of the dash. The helm seat is split and turns into a bolster if the driver wants to stand up and the passenger wants to sit down. Opposite is a semi-sun lounge, which can also double as a bench seat with a footrest. Although, the most comfortable position is to sit with your back to the padded bulkhead and semi side-on.
Access to the bow can be made along the side deck and a handle has been placed in the right position on the Targa for this, but the best way is up the three steps moulded into the side of the helm console and through the split windscreen. And if you want to move the party from the aft cockpit to the ‘patio’ ‘ the swim platform is a wide 1100mm ‘ someone has thought of putting a remote for the stereo controls in the transom. We haven’t seen that before. Down below the layout and finish is top shelf. The owner’s berth up front comes with an innerspring mattress and fitted sheets.
There is another double berth, accessed from the main cabin, tucked neatly under the helm station. The big feature of the galley is the excellent 900mm-wide Corian bench top with the sink moulded in, a two-burner cook-top, microwave, fridge and plenty of cupboard space. Boatarama also fits additional safety switches for the shore power and the genset. A good idea, especially with kids on board. Another very noticeable feature was the positive ‘click’ sound heard when the lockers and cupboards were closed.
Even the transom door had that distinctive click, a sure sign of the workmanship that has gone into the boat. The carpet on the cabin floor is rubber-backed, so that it can be lifted for cleaning and has press-studs to fit protectors on top. Another feature is the sliding screen door on the cabin entrance. At night when the genset and the air-conditioning are switched off and the front hatch opened, there is airflow through the boat and no more worries about bugs or mossies annoying you during the night. When the Vistas arrive they are fitted with 24″ props, but Boatarama has found that 22″ props are better suited to Australian conditions.
They have a very similar performance to the bigger props, but because they drop the revs slightly, the boat gets on the plane at slower speeds quicker and they are more economical. The test boat was fitted with twin MerCruiser 300hp, 350 Magnums, with Bravo III legs. It loves to cruise at 3000rpm and 20 knots with very little trim out. At 3000 revs the engines use 76lt per hour. Below 3000rpm the performance drops off a little, but if you want a lazy day out on the water it will potter along at 1000rpm doing 7.5 knots.
Give it full noise and the speed will climb to around 40 knots before the rev limiter cuts in at 48-4900rpm. But at that speed the MerCruisers literally drink the fuel at a rate of 181lt per hour. For the $281,000 price tag, which includes the bigger engines and a number of other must have options; the Four Winns 328 Vista is an impressive boat.
Words by Kevan Wolfe