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5 Boats Redefining What's Possible in 2024

There is currently a trend among boatbuilders to blend multiple boat 'types' into a single vessel. It makes sense, really. With so many options and choices in the market, why not put the best attributes of two or more designs into a single platform? It gives boaters more versatility and the opportunity to expand their horizons by going places and doing things that weren't possible with a single vessel. Who doesn't want more bang for their buck?

In the world of boatbuilding, it's often been said that things don't stay idle for long. Why should they? Competition is high, manufacturers are plentiful, and consumers are always looking for a boat that can check as many boxes as possible. There are very few among us who can purchase, let alone maintain, more than one boat. It's not the same thing as keeping a couple sets of golf clubs for Saturday afternoons, or an extra guitar for reliving our high school glory years in the basement. Boats are work. But the best kind of work.

Manufacturers are taking advantage of this change in thinking, and it's translating to better and more capable boats across the spectrum. There is still a place for dedicated vessels that are designed for one purpose and one purpose only, but there is also a growing space for vessels that bring two, or even three, options to the table.

Here is a look at 5 crossover boats that are blending multiple concepts to give boaters more options when they're on the water.

1) Regal 50 SAV

Let's start big, shall we? Almost every boatbuilder uses their flagship as their showcase design. The flagship is not only the largest, it's also often where designers and engineers use its mystique to test the limits. This can mean applying new or novel concepts to the design or function, or in many cases adding new features and perks. With the Regal 50 SAV, it's all of the above -- a 50' LOA with a 14'7" beam and a cross-pollination of cruising, fishing, and dayboating. The 'SAV' means Sport Activity Vessel, which is an apt title for such a crossover design. Regal clearly took the time to push the limits of their standard design protocol, choosing to add things like dual opening terrace doors to create a massive stern platform, an equally massive bowrider-style social area, and a hybridization of cruising and fishing features throughout the boat. Novel ideas likes the 'Garmrest,' which embeds a Garmin touchscreen into the helm arm rests, add an extra touch of both flair and function. Other wicked inclusions like a Seakeeper 6 stabilization system, FLIR night vision, and a 55" hydraulic drop-down TV overlooking the stern social area makes for a boat that's equally capable entertaining a large group at the sandbar as it does going offshore deepwater fishing with hardcore anglers.

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"We like to think of it in terms of enriching lives," said Duane Kuck at the 50 SAV launch in Miami. "Creating special boats, and new ways to use these boats, is additive. We keep adding to boating. The boat we're introducing this morning does all of that." Can't disagree.

2) North Channel NC9

You probably haven't heard of this small boatbuilder in Northern Ontario that just got started in 2021, but that might change soon. The North Channel Cabin Boat Company is building a unique catamaran cruiser for the, you guessed it, challenging waters of the North Channel in the Great Lakes. The North Channel is a Canadian gem, but it's also a place where a peculiar mix of cruisers, dayboaters, and fishermen all intermingle to make use of the region's vast island chains and inlets. It attracts Great Loopers, commercial fishermen, and everything in between. It's not unlike British Columbia's and Washington state's inland waterways, albeit with freshwater. It's rare enough to see a catamaran in the North Channel, it's even more rare that one be purpose-built to be an off-grid haven that's equal parts cruiser and houseboat. The NC9 has a 'Muskoka Room,' which is basically a window-lined lounge room with comfy chairs that's meant for soaking in nature. At 14' x 6'6" it's also a massive space for a 29'6" boat, thus drawing the houseboat comparisons. The NC9 is also meant to be fully off-grid with solar panels covering the roof, wind turbines, high output alternators on the twin outboards, and a variety of homesteading amenities that allow users to unplug from the mainland indefinitely. The NC9 is a true hybrid of boat design and lifestyle.

3) Volvo Penta Paradigm Wakesurf Deck Boat

The Volvo Penta Paradigm is definitely a 'tester' project, meaning that both Volvo and Paradigm are testing the market to see what consumers are willing to try with respect to both watersports and casual dayboating. High-end wake boats are always packed full of 'chill' amenities like sweet seating, big stereos, and lots of bells and whistles, but they're first and foremost a watersports boat that designed to toss a huge wake. The Paradigm Damascus 296 Surf is a wakesurfing deck boat, which are two concepts that heretofore didn't overlap. From above the waterline, the Damascus has all the telltale signs of a pontoon -- the high perimeter fencing, the lounge-style seating arrangement, the square-shaped deck. Below the waterline, it's a slick wakesurf machine that uses Volvo Penta's Forward Drive and Watersports Control system to provide surprisingly high-performance that's both efficient and catered to hardcore wakesurfers. “By providing more space without compromising the wave, the Damascus 296 Surf is an ideal fit for large groups or families to enjoy a full day on the water – whether swimming, surfing, skiing, or just enjoying the fresh air on deck,"  says Jens Bering, vice president of marine sales for Volvo Penta of the Americas. That's a long list of options to cover, but the Damascus 296 does exactly that.

4) Southport 30 FE

The Southport 30 FE isn't new, per se, but there is something about it for 2024 that sets it well above the norm. The center console market is booming, and that's likely rooted in the fact that CC's are a great foundation for a multi-purpose boat. The most popular varieties typically include high-performance boats, dedicated fishing vessels, and various iterations of recreational dayboats that offer ample seating, easy mobility, and a variety of size options for both big and small water. The Southport 30 FE stands for Family Edition, so you already know it has a multi-purpose mindset, and it's been around since 2019. What is new for 2024, however, is best said by BoatBlurb columnist Richard Crowder: "What is radically new for Southport, and for all center consoles of this size, is the replacement of outboard power not only to sterndrive power, but also to diesel sterndrive power as well. To take it one revolutionary step further, the engine is not mounted inside the transom of the Southport 30 FE like you would normally see with sterndrive power, but it is further forward in the cockpit, just aft of and beneath the mezzanine seat, and connected to the Volvo Penta DPI outdrive by jackshaft."

That translates to multiple benefits that haven't been seen on a center console before, including a full-width stern platform that's ideal for bringing fish, riders, or divers onboard, no wings bracketing the outboard motors that inhibit movement or increase snags from lines or ropes. The biggest upside might be the fact that by moving the Volvo Penta D6 diesel engine forward in the hull, the center of gravity and the center of buoyancy are also affected. That changes the ride and the handling into a more responsive boat. Pair that with diesel power instead of gasoline and it means better fuel economy, longer range, and lower maintenance. That's a whole lot of neat stuff packed into a 30-foot center console. Read More.

5) Formula 387 CCS and CCF

The irony here is that we're talking about Formula's new Center Console series, not their 'Crossover' series, but hear me out: Since Formula introduced their Crossover designs a few years back, which includes the Crossover Bowrider, the All Sport Crossover, and the Super Sport Crossover, one could rightly claim Formula already does multi-purpose boats. And you'd be right. But, for 2024, their reintroduction of center consoles shows that a little bit of that crossover mindset has trickled into their latest offering. Both the 387 Center Console Sport and 387 Center Console Fish are well-equipped as dedicated designs for fishing or for family cruising. But, when you combine their center console design with a high-performance hull that can be used for anything from dayboating, to hardcore fishing, to offshore adventuring, to overnighting, you're getting a lot of options from a single boat. And that's the idea. With an LOA of 38'7", a 12' beam, 23° of deadrise, and Formula's legendary FAS3TECH hull, it's both big and fast. With the choice of triple Mercury Verado 300's, triple Mercury Racing 450R's, or twin Mercury 600 Verados, you're getting that Formula performance you expect. Below deck, there's enough amenities to go around with 6'4" of headroom, a U-shaped lounge, a full galley, fridge and microwave, air conditioner, 32" tv, a private head, and a full shower. There isn't much it doesn't have.

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Formula marketing manager Scott Smith told us, "the center console concept has been pretty steady in the past decade or so. We felt we could add the Formula touch to it. Our hallmark is well thought-out designs, and the execution of great concepts. The 387’s are for someone who wants more than the standard fishing boat or dayboat." More than a standard boat, indeed. The multi-purpose concept is going so well, in fact, that Formula is going even bigger with a 457 Center Console in 2024.

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