BOAT TEST: CARIBBEAN 24 FLYBRIDGE SPORTS FISHERMAN
The only trailerable flybridge cruiser on the Australian market is the Caribbean 24 Flybridge Sports Fisherman. Geoff Middleton puts it to the test
FROM THE ARCHIVE: First published in TrailerBoat #223, 2008
There is no doubting the genealogy of International Marine's new Caribbean 24 Flybridge Sports Fisherman. The company has produced one of the most recognisable powerboats on the Australian market in the Bertram 25, not to mention the 23, 28 and, more recently the Caribbean 26.
In fact, so recognisable was the 25 that it almost became a generic term for a small flybridge cruiser.
Although the new 24 bears a startling resemblance to its forebears, we are informed by the manufacturer that the 24 is an entirely new hull and shares very little with any of the previous models. What it does share is a similar layout with a cosy dinette, galley, double berth forward and enough of the comforts of home for a leisurely weekend away.
But the big news for this Caribbean is that it's trailerable. In fact, if you want a flybridge cruiser that is trailerable you need look no further than the Caribbean 24 as it is the only one on the market today.
You will, however need a pretty big 4WD wagon to tow the Caribbean as it tips the scales at a hefty 3250kg on its dual axle MacKay trailer and, with a beam of 2.69m, you will also need to check you local road rules. The other option, of course, is to delete the trailer and stick the boat in a dry stack.
Our test boat was a fully-optioned version put together by St Kilda Boat Sales in Melbourne. The package they offer includes all the necessities you'd need for a drive-away fishing or family cruising outfit. As part of the package, you get the trailer, electronics (including a Garmin 178C colour combination unit with GPS, plotter, sounder and fishfinder), a VHF radio and Clarion CD stereo. You also get marine-grade carpets, flybridge clears and cockpit storm cover, fenders and fender baskets, safety gear and registration for the boat and trailer.
Stepping aboard at the St Kilda Marina, the first thing I noted was the size of the cockpit. It's huge for a trailerable boat measuring 4.5m² and it offers storage compartments for rods and other equipment plus a handy deck shower to rinse off after a swim or to wash down the decks. The engine box sits aft flanked by two removable cockpit seats.
The engine box folds forward to reveal a 5.0lt MerCruiser V8 MPI sterndrive which delivers 260hp through a Bravo II leg.
Under the cockpit is the big 300lt fuel tank but there is no kill tanks nor, for that matter, did I find any bait tanks - a curious omission for a boat with the Sports Fisherman moniker.
Forward in the main cabin is the dinette to port and the galley to starboard which includes a sink with pressurised water, a two-burner metho stove, and storage cupboards. One downside here is that I would have liked to see a fridge in the galley or at least the option of a fridge on a boat of this size.
Forward of the galley is the lower helm station which offers an icebox under the seat.
It's worth noting here that the lower helm station can be deleted with a cost saving of around $2500. Personally, I wouldn't bother. I'd keep the lower helm station for those days when the weather turns nasty and with a flick of a switch you can have the wipers flicking away the rain, and be warm and cosy under the solid roof.
The lower helm has basic instruments and controls for the anchor winch. The side windows slide for ventilation and the seat, although not adjustable is quite comfortable.
The forward cabin is accessed via a lockable door and has a double bed that will comfortably take a couple of adults. Under the infill I found a proper marine pump-out loo.
There's plenty of storage under the bunks as well as upholstered side storage strays. There's also an opening hatch for ventilation or to access the foredeck. Lighting is provided in the form of a single 12V halogen lamp.
Under the floor resides the 1000lt water tank.
UP ON TOP
The flybridge is obviously the main helm station and once up there, a full set of MerCruiser instruments provides all the necessary engine info including revs, temperature, volts, trim, oil pressure and fuel. The helm itself is centrally located with plenty of room for a passenger to port. I did find it a tad squeezy and bigger folk might struggle for room but, that said, there is a cut-away footwell for the skipper and the bench seat was well padded. The view from the flybridge is great, with bow and foredeck as well as the aft extremities all visible.
The cable steering is light and the controls easy to use. There are forward stowage lockers with hinged doors in the dash and more storage for safety equipment etc. under the seat.
The stainless steel targa-style bimini is a sturdy item and I found the clears were a necessary inclusion with about a 15-knot sou'easter blowing.
The Garmin combination combo unit was up here as was the VHF. One inclusion I'd have up on the flybridge is a remote for the stereo which is located at the lower helm station. I'd like the option of adjusting the volume from above rather than having to climb down the ladder or yell at the crew.
Up on top, you also have the switch panel for the lighting and other electrical systems on the boat as well as a second switch for the anchor winch.
The owner of this particular boat had added a rocket launcher on the flybridge and a cockpit spotlight that I thought were sensible inclusions.
Access to the foredeck can be gained from the cockpit via the narrow sidedecks which are topped with non-skid. There's a stainless steel rail on the cabin side to the journey forward and, once there, the pulpit will keep you in place. The anchor sits on a broad bowsprit and is controlled by the afore-mentioned anchor winch. The foredeck is quite broad for a trailerable boat; you could actually sit up there and wet a line or just kick back in the sun.
ON THE WATER
As we took off from the marina, the breeze was just starting to fill in and a small chop was evident. Short work was made of the chop by the big Caribbean as we glided effortlessly up on to the plane. The 260 horsepower provided by the Merc was plenty of grunt and we were soon sitting on a comfortable cruise of 22kts on the GPS at 3400rpm. Drop it back to 3000rpm and the SOG showed 20kts for a very economical cruise.
For trolling, a smidge under 2000rpm showed seven knots. Although we didn't achieve it on the day, we were informed by the guys at St Kilda Boat Sales that the top speed on flat water was 31kts at 4600rpm.
The Caribbean 24 flicked nicely into turns but I did notice some cavitation as I powered on through the turns. I reckon this could be dialled out with some experimentation in the prop department but it remained my only gripe with a pretty well-balanced boat-and-motor package.
As the chop increased, I noted that very little spray was coming aboard, no doubt due to the nicely flared bow and the chines.
Into the breeze and slop, the boat performed admirably with hardly any slamming and a nice, smooth ride.
Overall, I liked the Caribbean 24. I like the classic styling and while some might think it a bit dated, I find it quite a handsome boat. It has plenty of room for up to six or seven adults and it is certainly big enough for a weekend away. It has a strong and seaworthy feel to it and on a good day, I'd have no hesitation in taking it out into the deep stuff.
I think it's a great entry into the bigger-boat market once you're ready to step up from the open fishing boat into something more substantial and, if so, this could be the boat for you.
WHAT WE LIKED
The only trailerable flybridge on the market (check local legislation)
Sturdy and strong feel
Good all-weather boat
Big on room for the family and more
Good reputation should lead to good resale value
NOT SO MUCH
Cavitation of prop through power-on turns
Could do with slightly more aggressive non-skid on decks
Some might think styling and some of the trim items are dated
A tad squeezy for larger folk on the flybridge
Specifications: Caribbean 24 Flybridge Sports Fisherman
Price as Tested: $124,000
Options fitted: MacKay tandem road trailer, Garmin 178C Colour combo unit, VHF marine radio, Clarion AM/FM CD stereo, bimini cover and clears, Cockpit storm cover, safety gear, carpet throughout, stainless steel fender baskets, and fenders
Priced from: $92,667
Length overall: 7.32m
Weight: 3250kg (on trailer)
People day: Seven
People berthed: 2 + 1
Make/model: MerCruiser 5.0 MPI sterndrive
Type: Fuel-injected V8 Petrol
Rated HP: 260
Gear Ratio: 2.2:1
Prop: Black Max 16in alloy
St Kilda Boat Sales,
St Kilda Marina,
Elwood, Vic, 3184
Phone: (03) 9525 5500
Originally published in TrailerBoat #223
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