By: David Lockwood, Photography by: David Lockwood

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It takes Australians to put the grunt back into an otherwise exemplary bowrider, such as Monterey’s 214FS, writes David Lockwood




Yanks may like their tanks, but Aussies are vying for pole position as the new throttlemen. Take the Monterey 214FS. The base donk on this American bowrider-to-go is a doughy 190hp 4.3lt MerCruiser with Alpha I sterndrive or, should you prefer, the equivalent Volvo Penta block and tackle. But such a donk will give you the Clark Kent of sportsboats - mild and weak - and, rightly, we Downunder drivers won't have a bar of it.
Answering our call, the importers fitted the top engine option, a grunty MerCruiser 350 MPI V8 putting out 300 untamed horses. And with a Bravo One sterndrive leg, you get better handling to boot. The Bravo One is built for 100mph-plus (160kmh) top speeds on water. With the 350 MPI you'll find 50-odd mph (90kmh) top speed. That's still eye watering, plus you get seat-banging acceleration and great mid-range towing torque.
But, ironically, the engine upgrade is one of few distinguishing features of this exemplary American bowrider. Here, once again, Monterey proves that you don't need to reinvent the wheel to impress. What you do is refine it. As such, you won't find far-out styling, too many tricks or trappings on the 214FS. The boat is a clever blend of form and function, where the sum of the parts is greater than the whole. No smoke and mirrors, just a really nice specification.
On the styling front, the boat is best described (without wanting to sound tautological) as a contemporary classic. There are hard lines in keeping with current design trends and no gratuitous use of curves due to a madman with a computer program and a CNC router. That said the interior has the bumps in the right places to prevent bumps in the wrong places.
There's also enough gleaming stainless steel to handle saltwater use, a nice solid hull colour - in this case black but you can have red or blue - and the right amount of bling to arouse interest in the showroom and on its upgraded heavy-duty tandem Dunbier Rollamatic trailer with brakes. The 214FS sure would look the bomb behind a matching black 4WD.
Speaking of which, you'll need a decent tow vehicle to haul this baby. On road, the 214FS weighs about 1980kg with upgraded engine, says the dealer. And with the optional extended swim platform - a must have in our eyes - the boat measures 22ft 9in (6.90 metres to the younger generation) overall. That's a big 21-footer.
Moreover, with a super-wide 2.60-metre beam, this will appear a big boat on road. Due to the wide beam you will need a wide-load permit in NSW where the only restriction will, I'm told, prevent towing on major freeways during public holidays. Ah, well, leave a day earlier and return a day later. You'll beat the traffic anyway.
Besides the bigger engine and the extended boarding platform, both of which we help make this boat, the demonstrator had optional Fireboy fire-suppression system to enhance safety, plus clip-in carpet to up the underfoot comfort factor. Together, these options push the drive-away package from a starting price of about $68,000 to $76,450. But that's still good buying for a fleet-footed family bowrider and the 214FS will reward all aboard.




It's interesting in this day-and-age of electronic spruiking, and where everyone's an expert, to do an internet search of Monterey. Forums from here to America don't have much bad to say about the badge. This may be indicative of the fact the Florida-based boatbuilder is still family owned and independent in an age where the multinationals own most mainstream boat-to-go badges and are crank-up production to the hilt.
In fact, things have been going so swimmingly for Monterey that they recently extended their factory. I suspect it's for this reason that whispers about plans to build the boats under licence in Australia have fallen through. With demand on the rise and a strong Aussie dollar, there's no need for that, I guess.
Monterey backs their boats with a lifetime limited warranty for the hull and deck, that's transferable for up to 10 years; a five-year warranty on cracking, crazing and air bubbles in the gelcoat; and five years for fading of the Sunbrella canvas used in its bimini top. Incidentally, the bimini and all boat covers come with the 214FS package.
Construction is time-proven GRP with vinylester resin. The hull, however, boasts air-assisted chines or cutouts roughly amidships designed to direct air under the hull and break the surface. Monterey reckons this device aids low-speed planing at wakeboarding speeds of 18 to 22mph (30 to 38kmh). Maybe they're right? More on this later.




Compared with some bowriders, the 214FS has its helm pushed a tad farther forward. This means that you get more cockpit space, yet there is still abundant legroom between the twin bucket helm seat and the full-width permanent aft lounge, which usually constrains cockpit space on smaller bowriders.
The seats in the bow are still big enough to carry two adults, if necessary, and freeboard and buoyancy will support their combined weight without the bow dipping and shipping water at low speeds. The upholstery is a nice grade, too, with a number of textured panels used throughout, while the foam backing proved firm and supportive.
It's nice to find a dedicated anchor locker, which isn't always a given on made-for-the-lake Yankee bowriders, plus loads of potential iceboxes. There's a lined icebox with drain under the centre infill seat in the bow; an icebox in the glovebox; a liftout portable Igloo cooler under the aft lounge; and two wet wells in the swim platform that, when not carrying ski ropes and wet togs, can tote drinks. Hey, happy hour at every station in this family boat.
There's also storage space under the boat's seats, though it's not lined, but full marks for the hinged seat swabs in the bow that fold out to improve access. There's additional storage under the rear lounge and a cavernous central ski and wakeboarding locker, too. Though there are sidepockets, they lack a decent retaining lip and I could find no slot for stashing personal effects beside the helm.
I noted stainless steel support struts on the Taylor Marine walkthrough five-piece safety-glass windscreen, a neat magnetic catch that holds the central pane open, and a companionway that was nice and wide. The clip-out cockpit carpet will be easy to keep clean and, should you have a bunch of tykes aboard, there's non-skid underneath.
The helm seats are hip-hugging comfy bucket types, both with folding bolsters so you can sit up at low speed and get a better view of, say, the trailer during retrieval, the crab trap floats, little Johnny floundering in the water ahead, and scan the beach, off which you are about to fore-and-aft anchor for that picnic ashore. Which is where that anchor well, supplied portable Igloo and storage space for beach tent will come in handy.
Besides the aforesaid small drink's box, the co-pilot gets control of the boat's marine stereo/CD player, which is mounted in the upper half of the moulded glovebox, though the specifications also list a wireless remote as part of the kit. There are four speakers, provision to connect your iPod or MP3 player, and numerous stereo upgrades are available.
Passengers, meanwhile, score the U-shaped rear lounge that, I guess, could seat four when you add the infill panel over the walkthrough. With the panel removed and stowed in the engine bay, you get a thoroughfare from the swim platform to the cockpit that won't destroy your lounge upholstery.
Either way, the seating rates highly on the comfort scale and, with the internal deck moulding taken right to the gunwale and plenty beam to play with, cockpit space comes in spades. But I also enjoyed my time sitting on the transom with my feet planted on the swim platform, looking back at the water lapping astern, noting the swim ladder.
Should the eyes grow heavy, no worries, the boat has a permanent sun lounge on which you can recline. And with the infill of the aft lounge, you get two daybeds should you need them. As an aside, the boat is also available in a cuddy cabin version with a vee-berth. Just a thought.
Engine access below the lounge is excellent. Press a catch that's not dissimilar to that used for the bonnet of your car and the sunpad lifts to reveal the V8, storage space alongside, and good access into the bilge. The boat's 208lt fuel capacity should sate the upgraded 350 MAG during a typical family day afloat. A freshwater deck shower is optional.
Stainless steel drinkholders are in abundance - I counted 10 all told - as are stainless steel cleats and skin fittings but plastic grabrails. However, the LED courtesy lights are a nice touch and, depending on the depth of your pockets, there are options from bow infills to extreme graphics and a wakeboarding tower.
As tested, you're looking at a really nice no-frills family boat. Time for a drive...




There's nothing too cheesy about the dash, which has a raceboat like flavour with recessed analogue gauges including tacho, speedo with trim, and multifunction engine gauge relaying fuel level, volts, oil pressure and temperature. All basic stuff, as was the switch panel for horn, bilge, lights and so on. Docking lights are an option, but 12V outlet and drinkholder are nearby.
A sharp 20º of deadrise in the hull means the 194FS has some real cutting power. This proved handy on the bumpy harbour and doubtless will in many waterways on busy weekends. Yet the wide beam - if not the air-assisted hull - gets the boat up by offering plenty of buoyancy and, as a light ship with no gear aboard, this was an especially keen bowrider.
The hull planed at just 2200rpm but at 2400 to 2500rpm adopted a level running attitude for a 23-knot cruise. This also puts you smack bang in the middle of Monterey's projected wakeboarding speed, making this boat a nice tow craft. Having said that, the wake edge was crumbling, but countering that was the snappiness of the V8. And it, when not towing it, seemed wonderfully q-u-i-e-t.
At 3000rpm, the boat returns a smooth cruise of 29.2kts, which is fast for a family bowrider. The boat jumped to 35kts at 3500rpm, 42kts at 4000rpm and 46.1kts at 4500rpm. Top speed was 47.8kts, but that was just too fast for the exposed harbour.
But given its head in upper Middle Harbour, we found ourselves back at the ramp in the blink of an eye. Which is how we go-boaters want it these days; fast, flash and functional. Leave the wallowing to the sun lounges.




Winning combination of form and function
Flash without any tricks or trappings
Big, wide-beamed boat has lots of comfortable cockpit seating
Plenty of iceboxes and storage space
Hull is eager to plane and smooth riding
Upgraded V8 gives thrilling performance
Monterey has etched a following here as in America




A wide boat to tow and you'll need a permit on NSW roads
Stainless steel grabrails are optional but better standard than the supplied plastic numbers
It would be nice to see a liner in the sub-seat storage recesses
A storage pocket for the skipper's personal effects would be nice, too
Bow infill and tilt steering isn't standard
Wake crumbled at wakeboarding speed





Specifications: Monterey 194FS




Price as tested: $76,450 w/ 350 MAG MPI MerCruiser, options, and Dunbier trailer
Options fitted: Engine upgrade, Fireboy system, extended swim platform and clip-in carpet
Priced from: Approx $68,000 w/ 220hp 5.0lt and Alpha One




Material: Handlaid GRP or fibreglass hull and stringers
Type: Deep-vee planing hull
Length overall: 6.40m or 6.90m including extended swim platform on test boat
Beam: 2.60m
Draft: 0.91m leg down
Deadrise: 20º
Weight: Approx 1588kg (dry w/ standard engine)
Towing weight: Approx 1980kg on trailer



Fuel: 208lt
Water: Optional 34lt w/ deck shower
Berths: Two couples on sunpads
Engine: Maximum 300hp
People: 10




Make/model: MerCruiser 350 MAG MPI
Type: Fuel-injected V8 petrol four-stroke inboard
Rated HP: 300 at 4600 to 5000rpm (max)
Displacement: 5.8lt
Weight: Approx 463kg
Gearboxes (Make/ratio): Bravo I sterndrive
Props: 21in stainless steel




Ken Bullen Marine,
56 Garden St,
Narrabeen, NSW, 2101
Phone: (02) 9913 3522



Originally published in TrailerBoat #229

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