By: David Lockwood, Photography by: David Lockwood

Know world-wide for their pontoon boats, Starcraft are starting to make waves with their new range of bowriders

According to the glossy brochure, Starcraft has been building boats for 102 years. So you may well understand my surprise at its belated arrival Down Under. But there’s a very good reason for the tardiness of this American badge even though conditions for importing boats have been favourable.
You see, this well-known American marque is largely associated with pontoon boats, those glorified barges, designed for gadding about the Great Lakes. Starcraft builds oodles of them in aluminium and, in more recent times, it has added a fibreglass range of deck boats.
The problem is, given Australian conditions, pontoon boats don’t have much application on our waterways. We haven’t the lakes or the lake-side infrastructure. However with the discovery of a range of Starcraft runabouts or, as we know them, bowriders, this looks set to change that.
Although American bowriders are a dime a dozen, I will admit to getting pretty excited when I first cast cynical eyes over Starcraft’s funky new C-Star 1700 IO model. The boatbuilder has put a thoroughly modern spin on the ubiquitous bowrider, with groovy new bumps and curves in different places, and a deck layout that more closely resembles that of a jet-powered boat.
Yet with a Volvo 3.0L 135hp inboard motor on a local trailer the package was selling for a very enticing $29,990. That’s the entry-level price for an American bowrider these days and I’ve seen plenty inferior to this boat, which measures 5.05m or 16ft 10in.
The Starcraft C-Star 1700 IO impressed in other departments, too. The attention to detail and finish was a cut above what I have seen from other established American production boatyards. I’ve since learned that the build quality is better than many others too.

The hulls in Starcraft’s GRP runabout range are all hand laid using woven multi-axial E-glass rovings, glass encapsulated stringers and, the best bit, injected foam between the hull and deck to provide stiffness and reduce noise. There is a choice of six gelcoat stripes.
The hull on this 17-footer was a moderate-vee design with 15 degrees of deadrise, two strakes per side, and a decent pronounced chine. None of it is rocket science, mind you, but the moderate vee and deadrise gave terrific stability to the small boat.
The boat’s drive, a sterndrive leg, was recessed in a pocket at the transom, thereby creating hull extensions either side of the leg that add buoyancy and extend the running surface. However, with the leg trimmed out and no weight in the bow the boat danced around and porpoised across wind waves.
It wasn’t alarming, this skittishness at speed, but more a function of the boat’s length and aft weight bias. And with the inboard leg trimmed back in I could button the bow to the water for a more composed ride.
At rest or underway, the cockpit freeboard is terrific and accentuated by the moulded hips in the gunwale beside the aft lounge. Despite having a practical application the hips don’t detract from the lines of the boat. The graphics package was sporty and the rig looked pretty on its galvanised locally made trailer.

Starcraft doesn’t appear to skimp on deck gear. Mounted through backing plates were a ski hook, two aft cleats and a four-step folding swim ladder. The circular stainless-steel engine vents in moulded GRP race hoods added some eye candy to the transom.
There was no extended boarding platform, nor is there an option for one, though the ladder and a moulded step in the deck, which needs non-skid tape, made climbing aboard straight forward. Gazing along the hull sides one might notice the stainless-steel rubrail, which isn’t always a given on high-volume production craft, and there are stainless steel struts supporting the windscreen.
I also noted heavy-duty stainless steel hinges for the engine lid, which contained sound insulation on its underside. However, the rig was a tad noisy at certain rev ranges. The importer was quick to point out that all future Starcraft boats will have the MerCruiser engine package. I think an extended boarding platform would help muzzle the exhaust from whichever engine brand you go with. Maybe a shipwright will make you one?

The C-Star 1700 has a lot of internal upholstery, padded backrests, carpet and liners to add to the comfort. While not huge, the circular seating area in the bow can comfortably accommodate two teenagers. Buoyancy is such that the bow didn’t drop perilously close to the water when I tried the seats on for size.
There were two cleats, a plastic navigation light that I would prefer in stainless steel, and two drink holders up front. And it was good to see stainless-steel grab handles on this boat instead of the flimsy plastic numbers.
An innovative feature is the concealed removable garbage bin and well for wet togs or personal items under the hinged centre cushion. The other underseat bow storage areas, where you will need to store the anchor as there’s no separate well, were lined.
Back aft, the boat has an aft lounge designed to seat two people or three at a squeeze, with an integrated stainless-steel grab rail in a moulding and a drinkholder within reach. There’s a moulded centre well for stowing the aft crew’s wet togs or personal effects, courtesy lights and lift-out lounge bases.
Under the lounge, the boat’s battery was to starboard and there was good access to the sender on the fuel tank, plus a void for storage. All of this was concealed from view by a clip-out vinyl curtain attached to the lounge base.
Further storage in the cockpit, which was a good size for a 17-footer, existed underfloor in a ski locker. There were wall-to-wall charcoal carpet and side storage nets too. Oh, and room at the foot of the co-pilot, under the dash, to store a portable cooler with the lunch and drinks.
Removing the lounge bases and unlocking a barrel bolt gave engine access. The moulded engine lid hinges back and is held up by two loose straps. However, compared with full-length moulded lounges and upholstered sunpads it was a small engine room that encouraged reverberation of engine noise. On the plus-side I could still access the screw-on fuel filter and dipstick.

Ahead of the co-pilot was a handy glove box and Seaworthy brand marine stereo linked to two cockpit speakers. Though there were no fold-up bolsters on the helm seats, the skipper’s was adjustable, comfortable and more accommodating than some.
The silver dash panels contained a spread of gauges relaying fuel, revs, speed, volts, trim and engine temperature. Skipper and mate each have a drinkholder. The switch panel, for lights, horn and so on, has breakers not fiddly fuses.
Importantly, vision through the windscreen was excellent when underway. However, as touched on, the 135hp Volvo petrol inboard was a little noisy at some speeds. The motor smoothed out at cruise revs before roaring again at high speeds.
At 2600rpm, the C-Star 1700 held a low-speed plane of 21mph, according to the speedo. The wake out the back seemed pretty decent for wakeboarding. At 3000rpm, I read 26mph and the motor was quieter.
But the boat really slotted into the groove at 3500rpm and 34mph on the speedo. With two aboard the relatively light boat was carrying most of its payload in the engine bay. With that weight aft I kept the sterndrive leg trimmed in for the best ride in the at-times choppy water.
At 4000rpm, the Volvo gave 36mph and a racy note, 4500rpm returned 42mph and more noise, and 5000rpm revealed 45mph top speed on the dial. Or to put it another way, the 17-footer felt plenty fast enough. Steering was nice and light, so mums can drive too.
By virtue of its waterline length this is more your fair-weather family day-tripper for a big river, smooth bay or harbour. Unlike some wake and ski boats the C-Star 1700 has high freeboard to keep the kiddies contained and the water out. The 87-litre underfloor fuel tank should serve the best part of a day afloat.
There are optional layouts and the Fish and Ski version with aft ski pole and forward removable casting seat caught my imagination. There’s also an outboard version, five-year hull warranty, and bowrider models to 19ft, plus a 23ft cuddy cabin with deep-vee hull. Outside the realms of pontoon boats Starcraft has a promising future Down Under.

Funky styling
Great deck moulding
Very good finish
Foam-filled hull
Comfortable seating
Deep freeboard to keep kiddies contained
Stainless-steel deck fittings
Good storage for a 17-footer

No extended boarding platform
No bolster on driver’s seat
Boat porpoises with the leg trimmed out
Noisy at idle and high speeds
Modest fuel tank


Specifications: Starcraft C-Star 1700 IO

Price as tested: $29,990 w/ 3.0GL Volvo inboard, Sealink trailer and registrations
Options fitted: None
Priced from: As above

Material: GRP or fibreglass with foam-filled hull
Type: Moderate-vee planing hull
Length Overall: 5.05m
Beam: 2.25m
Deadrise: 15°
Weight: Around 703kg (dry)
Towing weight: About 1522kg
Package length: 6.08m

Berths: n/a
Fuel Capacity: 87lt
Water Capacity: n/a

Make/Model: Volvo 3.0GL
Type: Four-cylinder petrol four-stroke inboard motor.
Rated HP: 135@4600rpm max.
Displacement: 3.0lt
Weight: About 304kg
Gearboxes (Make/ratio): Aquamatic SX sterndrive
Props: n/a

Blakes Marine,
Lot 7, Windsor Road,
McGrath’s Hill, NSW.
Phone: (02) 4577 6699

Originally published in TrailerBoat #201


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