Boat Review Date: March 2011
Author: Mike Brown
The Americans are strong on trailable boats with genuine cruising ability. They are often not pretty, and almost as often balance day and night use poorly; but they use every available centimetre to the utmost.
The Chaparral 270 (yes, a 27 footer) does it far better than average. At night the whole of the length is used to accommodate up to five sleepers in comfort, and by day various folding and unfolding arrangements open up a spacious cockpit. Curtains, clears and Bimini allow as much or as little air and sunlight as wanted, and the seating is exceptionally flexible. A three- seater unfolds from flush in the transom, and what had been a bed slides and tilts to reform into a double driver’s seat back to back with another double. A table brought from its special storage in the engine space can drop into a socket between this and the transom seat to form a dinette.
To port of all this is a sink with esky below, with ahead of it a fore and aft two-seater lounge with a turned up fore end for a relaxed ski observer - this structure also forming the roof of part of the mid cabin. The tricky seating reduces the possibilities for storage in the cockpit, but aft of the transom is the equivalent of a luggage boot, and here is room for fenders and berthing lines, hoses and cables.
Exit to the fore deck or entry to the cabin both use the sliding cabin door; when closed, the steps moulded in it give passage forward through the opening windscreen. The main section of accommodation contains the galley, bathroom and a dinette that converts into two single bunks or a double bed.
The galley has a sink, fridge, preparation space and lockers, and a microwave but no stove, and even the microwave is limited to shore power. A buyer could opt for an inverter running off the twin battery system, or even a small genset. Or he could do what most people do anyway and cook on a cockpit barbecue. And although there is space around the dinette for half a dozen, the eating will probably be mostly done in the cockpit as well.
The bathroom is very fully equipped and completely useable, which is not true of all boat bathrooms. Naturally space is a little tight, and headroom is less than in the main cabin – where headroom is more than generous.
The forward bunks have plenty of sleeping length, and with the infill in place have vast area. This forward space has good storage arrangements for clothes and other gear – more than enough for a long weekend. A double bed for two more sleepers is under the cockpit deck. Mid cabins on trailer boats can be claustrophobic and cramped, but the 270 scores well here. Not only is the headroom above average, but entry gets a high and wide bulkhead opening.
Driving the 270 is a pleasant task. The seat, as well as sliding to suit, has a bolster mode for half standing, and this feels the more natural position; the steering wheel adjusts to suit the driver’s altitude. All the engine gauges are analogue – not very technological, but probably preferred by most because of the quicker transfer of information – and they leave plenty of space for navigation and fishing electronics, which would be let into a screwed-on panel. If later you wanted a different-sized display, you would just replace the panel rather than figuring out what to do with the gaping hole.
A 300hp V8 Volvo sterndrive powers the 270, and it has the torque of a 5.7 litre block and the grip of a Duoprop leg. It took us to an exact 40. Nothing, not the tightest of hard turns could make the Duoprops let go. Just occasionally you will really need instant acceleration, and these are the propellers to transmit it.
The throttle and gear shift lever works effortlessly, as you would expect from electronic controls, and also progressively: smooth power delivery without lumps. But, unlike some electronics, it has enough détente to let you find neutral easily. The engine space has enough room for two Volvos (that is an option), and if you install say a 3KW genset as well, there would still be plenty of elbowroom for servicing.
On its tri-axle aluminium trailer the Chaparral weighs 3.13T, so is towable by a standard large 4WD. Like many US-built boats this one has a 2.59m beam, which means you will need a towing permit and will have some restrictions in times when you can be on the road.
This boat’s versatile cockpit layout brings it close to an all-rounder. With folded rear seat and carpet rolled up there is space and practicality for half-serious fishing and fully serious diving.
Length overall 8.23m
Fuel capacity 303
Fresh water 83L
Motor 5.7l Volvo sterndrive @ 300hp