Issue: June 2006
She can turn on a dime and hit 50mph in the blink of an eye.
It’s a bit weird hearing that familiar, high-pitched song of a V6 two-stroke on the back of a boat, only to turn around and not see an outboard sitting there. How could it be?
On this the latest Oasis, Sugar Sand has used a Mercury 250hp OptiMax powerhead and set it up as an inboard driving through a jet unit. The result is a 23ft fun machine that can turn on a dime, rocket out of the hole with all the thrust of a V8 and top out at 50mph in seconds. In fact, during this test the Oasis accelerated from 0-35mph (at 5000rpm) in only four seconds, pulling up just as quick. How’s 0-30mph in three seconds? That should get you out of trouble should a problem arise.
Driving a jet boat is quite an experience for newcomers – the super-responsive handling takes some people by surprise. But it won’t take you long to feel completely at home behind the helm.
Slow speed manoeuvring around the marina is a dream. Turn the helm in the direction you want the stern to go, throw the boat into reverse and she’ll spin around in her own length, which makes berthing a breeze. It’s the same in forward, but I should point out that with a jet drive there really isn’t a reverse gear. The motor always remains in forward. A bucket drops down over the jet’s venturi and forces the water coming through the jet forward towards the bow to provide reverse thrust.
There’s no strain on the motor at any time and no clunking into gear. One minute you’re going forward, the next you’re going backwards with a minimum fuss. This is what allows jet boats to perform those spectacular 180-degree turns at high speed.
Jet boats are also the ultimate go anywhere boats. Being more responsive than most ski boats means they can turn quicker in tight waterways and stop faster when a skier, or wakeboarder, does a face plant. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying the Oasis is the ultimate ski or wakeboarder, because a purpose-built tournament or boarding boat is just that, purpose-built for those jobs and they do them beautifully. But for a family watersport fun boat, the Oasis is ideal.
Having a draft of only 40cm also allows these boats to be run up onto a beach easily, but that’s not a jet’s biggest assest. Once planing they only need 15cm (6in) of water to operate in. This is because the jet unit is positioned inside the hull and only the venturi protrudes through the transom. The large water-intake grate is located centrally near the stern of the boat. Here the hull is quite flat, so the boat’s excellent turning abilities are generated by the hull’s relatively sharp (18-degree) bow entry, wide chines (which she carries well forward for lateral stability) and pronounced strakes to keep her tracking straight.
Just on the intake grate, unlike some of her opposition, if this boat happens to suck a large clump of weed into the grate, the grate opens and the weed is force through the jet unit and macerated. The motor hiccups once, the weed is spate out the back and you’re off again simple. The jet-drive system also has another plus – the lack of an outdrive, or sterndrive unit. The kids can swim around the back of the boat without banging their feet on the leg or propeller, there are no lower unit or prop repairs to contend with and there’s overall less maintenance worries. It sounds like a good option to me.
Sugar Sand has really done its homework and come up with a design that caters for everything you need in a dayboat.
The wide swim platform (with boarding ladder) is integrated into the hull, which increases the planing surface of the hull for better overall performance. Above the well-insulated engine box is a sun pad for those wishing to soak up a few rays and there’s a padded transom door on the starboard side for easy cockpit access. On the port side of the cockpit is a U-shape lounge with removable table and there’s a sink unit with fresh hot and cold water to starboard. The aft cockpit, helm station and forward bowrider are fitted with easy to clean clip-out carpet, a bimini protects those in the helm and cockpit area and bow covers come as a standard feature. A clip-on cockpit ‘travel cover’ is an option.
The sports steering wheel helm station is a big winner with drivers. The dash features a large array of both analogue and digital gauges (Mercury SmartCraft ), so keeping track of fuel usage and how the engine is operating isn’t a problem.
The racked/split toughened-glass windscreen offers both driver, observer and those in the aft cockpit, good protection from the slipstream.
There’s a deep, long ski locker between the driver’s and observer’s seats and a lockable glove box housing the AM/FM CD stereo. On the stylish dash is a 12V-charger outlet (so the mobile phones won’t go flat), all of the other switches for the engine blower, bilge pump etc., and plenty of the obligatory drink holders, as you’d expect from any American boat.
But now for the clincher. The Oasis features a ‘Skyview’ seat. Yes, you read correctly, a Skyview seat! We call it a driver’s bolster seat, but the American brochure writers have come up with a new name. I wonder if it will catch on ? I doubt it, but it tickled the team’s fancy anyway.
The interior finish of the Oasis is first rate and only top-quality fixtures and fittings have been used in her construction. You only have to pass your eye over the smooth Gelcoat of her hull to truly appreciate Sugar Sand’s American-made Midwestern work ethic of striving to build excellent boats.
The Oasis is rated to a maximum capacity of 10 adults, but I reckon that may be getting a bit crowded. A day on the water for seven would be fine. Plus, with the weight of 10 people onboard, and all the paraphernalia they are likely to bring, a move to a 300hp powerhead might be called for.
The only downside I could find on this boat was the lack of a toilet. The ladies won’t like that and according to the brochure, it isn’t even an option on this model.
So, if you can live without an onboard loo, but want a dayboat that can go just about anywhere, this is the 23-footer for you.
THE GOOD OIL
Sugar Sand is part of the giant International Marine And Recreational Group (IMAR), with offices is the US, Canada, Mexico, Europe, Africa, Middle East, Japan and Australia.
Originally, the company used only Mercury jet engines, because they feature fuel injection for economy, easy starts and state-of-the-art integrated marine technology for complete engine and performance monitoring. But for 2006, Sugar Sand is also offering the German-made Weber compact four-stroke engines, which have impressive performance and revolutionary design features.
A 250hp Mercury OptiMax outboard powerhead supplied the grunt for the Oasis.
In calm condition the Sugar Sand Oasis produced the following performance figures.
MPH – RPM
17 – 3500
22 – 4000
29 – 4500
35 – 5000
50 – 5600
DEADRISE: 18 Degrees
ENGINE: 250hp Mercury OptiMax
+ Top ride; Excellent manoeuvrability
– No toilet onboard