|Caribbean 2700 runabout
The Caribbean brand has operated for three generations with a long reputation for Premium products. These not only guarantee safety and longevity, but ensure a sound investment with a high demand on the resale market. Hence, there's always an air of excitement when there's a new model or update. We joined the Mercury and Caribbean crew at Melbourne's St Kilda Marina on a brisk morning to check out the new features on the Caribbean 27 Runabout.
Sometimes a simple statement can summarise an entire test. I asked Caribbean's Richard Spooner if it were safe for me to use a side pocket as a step to jump out of the beautiful new machine. The answer was simple and perhaps sums up the entire Caribbean philosophy: "There's never a worry with strength in a Caribbean!"
He's right, I thought to myself. There are a million acronyms that I could use for Caribbean, and many have been used previously. The builder works on the KISS principal, "Keep It Simple Stupid", with the firm knowledge that premium quality is timeless. Caribbean doesn't change anything just for the sake of it, only for genuine improvement.
The Caribbean heritage dates all the way back to the invention of fibreglass and the concurrent boating revolution that occurred with the American offshore racing circuit of the 1950s and '60s.
The hull designs are timeless and to be perfectly honest, have only been refined, but never bettered.
Roll on 2015 and the world of technology has jumped ahead in leaps and bounds. The famous old 25ft Bertram/Caribbean grew slightly in the early 1990s to become the 26ft Caribbean to facilitate the wider 4.31t V6s replacing the older inline offerings.
In 2009, Caribbean went back to the drawing board to produce the wide bodied (3.21m) 27-footer which facilitated more fuel and water as well as a greater internal footprint. The relationship between Mercury Marine and Caribbean also rolls back to the early 1960s when company founder Archie Spooner brought the Mercury (and Bertram) agency to Australia. More than 50 years of technological advancements have been the testing ground that has now produced the new 250hp 4.5lt MerCruiser, a perfect fit for the Caribbean 27. We were lucky enough to get a ride in the first 27 Runabout immediately after propeller trials and commissioning, and just prior to its delivery. It simply blew our socks off.
Sportsboats are usually long, sleek and narrow gutted, but I put the Caribbean 27 Runabout in the same stable due to its stallion-like performance. The new 4.5s had the big runabout bolting out of the gates with impressive holeshot. It transmitted the grunt impressively through the high-performance Bravo 1 stern drives and thin Black Max propellers with no hesitation; this thoroughbred wanted to run.
Port Phillip Bay turned on its usual conditions, with just under a metre of steep chop trying to slow us down- it didn't! I tickled the reigns and she immediately galloped up to a speedy 23.7kts at 3200rpm punching directly into a head sea with five of us on board. The telltale as to how good the ride was is that we all remained comfortably seated. She didn't buck at all as we rose to the plane and visibility
remained almost constant throughout the whole event with the helm looking straight ahead through the big, strong safety glass windscreen that has always been a Caribbean trademark. I felt a bit guilty kicking the beast in the guts to find out what it's really made of, especially on brand-new engines, but the Mercury boys were quite content as we hit a top speed of 43kts with a wide open throttle at
The big, wide hull obviously pushes a lot of water, but never copped a drop on the windscreen until we rounded into a little blowback from the stiffening breeze.
She stampeded downhill as if there were a hot stallion in waiting and all the while we never left the saddle. This is one hell of a boat with some very impressive hard-water performance.
It turned what could have been a spine-splintering hurdle into a casual canter with the surefootedness of a cross country champion.
Then it was time to play. She turned from a sprinter to a dependable quarter horse with amazing traction through steep turns from the control of the Bravo 1 drives. This boat had no trim tabs, and
didn't need them. It continued down the rough track sitting bolt upright even with four gents at the dinette seating on the port side and myself at the helm.
There is very low windage across the sporty profile, which gives total confidence in the slop - I'd love to take it to sea. Trim it back to a more sensible 4200rpm and you will feel like driving all day. I have no doubt that this prime mustang will achieve more than 40kts once properly run-in, weighted and trimmed.
Mercury has produced some terrific innovations that enhance the Caribbean. It took forever to convince Caribbean that single-lever controls were far superior to the older twin sets that were superseded around the time they invented electric guitars!
The Mercury DTS (Digital Throttle and Shift) mechanism makes life just so much simpler. It has knocked the number of control levers down from four to two, allowing single handed control of the whole boat, assisted with the hydraulic steering. That's nothing new- however the DTS controls have sync' mechanism that allows both engines to be operated off a single lever by matching the engine revs on both sides. It makes high-speed control a breeze and eliminates the need to be
constantly watching your tachos to match the revs.
The new Adaptive Speed Control allows a set-and-forget function similar to cruise control, whereby both engines will remain at a constant RPM even in a series of tight turns or perhaps in a confused sea where propellers can lose grip. Should an engine hit a point of cavitation, the Adaptive Speed Control immediately governs to whatever rpm is selected to avoid over-revving. You can still trim the engines individually to balance for sea and load conditions.
The DTS levers allow much better control of the hull both at speed and for close-quarters manoeuvring in tight marinas and moorings. She's an absolute breeze to drive, aided by the big bite in both forward and reverse from the Bravo 1egs. The dual set of analogue gauges have been replaced with a compact VesselView multifunction display. Caribbean has modernised the dash and created plenty of space for large electronics.
The 7in VesselView touch screen has a digital interface that lets you access full engine analysis data quickly and effortlessly for up to four engines simultaneously. It can even be used as a chart plotter or perhaps link to Simrad radar and sonar and Sirius Weather. Mercury calls it a "total digital information hub".
There are more practical improvements to the MerCruiser 4.5lt engines, other than just the obvious power and efficiency. All of the service points have been moved to the front of the engines making them much more user-friendly. This includes the oil filters and dipstick that have traditionally been quite a pain to get to, and often down low in the bilge.
The new long-runner scroll intake manifold draws in more air and converts it into additional torque giving excellent power-to-weight ratio. In tact Mercury claim "V8 power in a V6 package" They come in either mechanical or DTS, with both utilising the Adaptive Speed Control. The engines can be freshwater cooled by upgrading to the SeaCore option, have computer-controlled multiport electronic fuel injection (MpI), and are two-valves-per-cylinder V6s supplying 250hp per side. They run with a pleasing, yet very grunty acoustic, thanks to the rear-facing throttle body and a well-insulated fibreglass engine box. This engine has been solely designed and constructed for marine use - it's not a converted industrial engine.
Caribbean has refined the internal finishes, presenting a new, fresh look.
It has upgraded the 27 Runabout with some lush and warm Warwick fabrics, inviting some refreshing appeal and included piping on the seat and trim cushions. The laminate edges are now fully trimmed and the wide cockpit is supplied will a teak-look pop-in carpet that adds considerably to the prestige finish. The lockable cabin has a bunk infill making a very large double berth, and there's a pump-out toilet as standard.
Caribbean is offering optional layouts as displayed in our demo boat. It retains the convertible dinette, storage and large icebox on the port side, while the helm seating unit remains unchanged other than for the trim updates.
However the galley module on the starboard side has been slipped back slightly, allowing a very handy space for a removable icebox.
It really is quite a sensible option that doesn't reduce the living space by much and gives the boat a little more functionality.
From a fisherman's point of view I'd love to get my hands on a Caribbean 27 Runabout and fit it out for game fishing, but from a cruising and sports boat perspective, she's a ripper. There is 550lt of fuel under the floor to give excellent cruising range, a Muir windless out front to make life easy and the beamy hull provides exceptional stability at rest.
Caribbean has now produced more than 55,000 boats in a highly commendable history- just think about how many hours of happy family boating it has provided both in Australia and internationally. Its build quality has always been faultless and they tell me that the new 27 Runabout is now built stronger than its predecessors.
With improved performance from the new MerCruisers and a host of technological, ergonomic and aesthetic updates, the new package is sure to be another winner. Remember, timeless elegance is always in vogue that's Caribbean.
Twin 25O hp MerCruiser 4.5L MPI V6s, with five passengers
RPM SPEED(KTS) FUELBUR N(LT/H)
2700 18 21
3200 24 30
3800 29 42
4800 38 70
5200 43 n/a
*Pushing hard into a head sea we achieved 36.7kts at 490Orpm burning 76lt/h. Sea-trial data supplied by the author.
Merc claim the new 4.5tt engines deliver VB power in a V6 package Station-like performance and impressive holeshot.
So come Down and see this awesome vessel, its great for family and fishing