Issue: March 1999
Unless you’re a regular reader of American boating magazines, the Mariah name would mean little. This Illinois-based company was established just on 10 years ago, intent on building the most fully-equipped boat in the world. Company founder Jimmy Fulks resolved ‘to build a family pleasureboat that was unlike any other boat on the market, a supreme water vehicle that would lack nothing, provide the ultimate in style, and perform like the wind’.
In the most competitive market in the world, boasting more brand names and models than I’d care to count, that’s an enormously bold statement. Where manufacturers come and go as regularly as clockwork and the major companies invest millions in research, design and development, Fulks has stuck his neck out as far as it will go.
Under normal circumstances Australian boatbuyers would probably never care less about Jimmy Fulk’s dreams or the Mariah boat company. However, in 1998, National Yacht Sales at Narellan (just south west of Sydney) took on the sales and distribution of the brand in Australia. The full range comprises 38 models from 5.5-9m (18 to 30 feet) in runabout, bowrider, cuddy cabin, open deck and mid cabin cruiser configurations, with the first imported models being in bowrider format around the 6-7m range. On the basis of the 6.7 metre Z222 bowrider, as supplied for our test, the manufacturer’s mission statement seems on target.
Whether you look at the standard 222 bowrider (priced at $58,000), or the ‘Z’ series (priced at $68,000 as tested) with its range of absolutely luxurious additions, the Mariah doesn’t miss a thing. The test boat has all the features – and more – we come to expect from an import. There s the custom-moulded consoles equipped with storage compartment and insulated ice box on the passengers side; multi-level helm console, fully adjustable sports wheel and electric adjustable driver’s bucket seat; plus a fully-lined cockpit interior that’s luxuriously detailed in double-stitched upholstery.
Specifically listing all the remaining features will take too long, but to call up just a few there s an electric-powered engine hatch and sunlounge; an electric-operated retractable sternlight with emergency flashing beacon; electric adjustable passenger s seat (optional); CD player and storage stacker; windscreen defogger; and recessed docking lights. For a 6.7 metre hull there’s some limitations to main cockpit area because of the rear sunlounge and engine hatch. However this is just one of four cockpit seating options. I didn’t feel cramped for space in the test boat, appreciating the abundant storage space that was provided under the hatch. With the top being power-operated, access into this storage facility is very simple. Apart from housing the folding canopy, and storm and trailing covers, there’s space for spare ropes and anchors, jackets wet-weather gear and water toys.
The cockpit and bow has ample seating for eight or so. The beauty of such a big bowrider is that a couple of adults can sit up front without impeding vision or affecting boat trim. Power for the test boat was top-shelf, in keeping with the fitout, employing a 7.4 litre 415hp V8 MPI MerCruiser sterndrive swinging a 21′ Mirage Plus prop. This installation is fitted with the optional dual exhaust system, giving the driver the choice of full underwater (thru-prop) exhausting, or a combination of thru-prop and thru-transom exhaust.
This latter exhausting produces the growl that performance buffs lust for, but there is virtually no measurable performance benefit. It’s a gimmick! The driver has the choice of having his boat travel extremely quietly, or if wanting to be ‘noticed’ produce a little of that throaty sound of a powerful big-block V8. Purists will see this an unnecessary element that pollutes the environment for the sake of the driver’s macho image – and probably it is. But the noise level with the thru-transom exhaust falls well inside regulatory limits and isn’t much different to that of a diesel cruiser or performance outboard.
I must be getting old, since for most of the test I was content on staying with the conventional underwater exhaust, keeping on-board noise levels way down so that we could talk without any background competition. The 415hp MerCruiser is a good match, giving excellent sporty performance in what is a very bulky and solidly-built boat. Top speed is 45.6 knots (53 MPH in old language) but be warned the 7.4 litre really likes a drink at those 4400rpm. The best feature is the ease with which this boat will cruise. It only needs 2500revs for 25 knots, and at that speed the boat is very easy going and smooth, with noise levels so low the engine can hardly be heard. The power is smooth right through the RPM range, making the boat manoeuvrable and responsive in tight docking areas, while water skiers will like the ease with which it will pull them out of the deep. Tow speeds are attainable at less than 3000rpm.
The hull is almost planing at 2000rpm (9 knots), with a smooth glide from displacement to planing speeds, shown by the big increase in speed in the 2000 to 2500 range. The response to sterndrive trim is about average for a boat of this size. While excessive trim does not appreciably lift the bow, it does get the hull up and free, with the reduction in displaced water and wetted surface area reflecting in boat speed gains. The wheel is light but firm enough to give a positive and confident response, while the boat will turn and track true. Still, this is a big boat and I would expect such comforts and ease of handling from a $68,000 bowrider. Boats like the Mariah are hard to hand back at the end of the test day and I was disappointed that I couldn’t have more time to enjoy the pleasures of boating in such first class comfort and surroundings. A day on the water should be pleasurable, comfortable and relaxing and this boat has everything to make that a reality.
Story by David Toyer.