Boat Review Date: December 2010
Author: Mike Brown
Wake boarding is definitely a growth sport, and wake board towboats are one of the hotter items in marine dealerships. It is possible to spend well over $100,000 buying one, and there is no question it would be a ripper, but more modest boats are available at much more modest prices. I sampled one that comes at $36,900 with a tower, board racks and Bimini, or at $33,900 if you decide to add the hardware later.
The Chivers Rinker 186 Captiva does not give a square edged wake, has no water ballasting or electronic memory, and nor does it have speakers capable of deafening the boarder at the end of the towline. The main things it has are value for money and solid capability.
You get a 5.7m bow rider that can comfortably take seven or eight people in cruising or party mode, and it does not require flat water to take them in comfort. The hull has a 20deg deadrise and a sharp forefoot, and showed excellent shock absorbing when taking wakes at speed.
It seemed a particularly efficient hull because speed and acceleration felt out of proportion to the modest power installed. The motor was the venerable three-litre, four-cylinder Mercruiser, complete with carburettors and delivering 135hp. This motor has been around since the dawn of sterndrives, and if it ever had any bugs they would have been ironed out decades ago; it is a model of simplicity, which is reflected in its friendly servicing costs. But if you hanker for something more sophisticated and ferocious you could opt for a fuel injected V6.
It is a quiet hull too, partly as a result of its construction method. The stiffening sub-structure is a fibreglass girder that divides up the underdeck space into a large number of full depth compartments, making possible an absolute minimum of flexing. And, making it easily cleaned, the whole interior is a one-piece moulding. Not that you can see much of it at first glance because carpet, soft lining and upholstery covers most of it.
And good upholstery it is too; often only the two main seats get the right balance of resilience and softness – and thickness. Here it is one-class seating, with particularly good back support for the settees. All positions are also equipped with grab handles, and there are ample drink holders. A thoughtful touch is the glove box ahead of the main passenger seat: it has a horizontal lid that doubles as a personal table – at rest, anyway.
You would not want to balance a drink on it under way, not because of any shortcomings in the ride but because this boat cries out to be played with and lays on plenty of grip in tight turns. Power steering makes those turns effortless.
Bow riders have a great advantage for young families: children love to sit in the forward cockpit, and that is exactly where you want them under way – constantly under the driver’s eye. At rest they may well migrate to the vast sun lounge over the motor compartment, or to the boarding platform aft of it. The Captiva is very much an all-round style of boat rather than a single-minded towboat. River cruising, skiing, inflatable toy towing, even island trips are all in its repertoire. No one would choose it for purposeful fishing, but it is certainly a possibility. Sitting on the sun bed with feet on the platform is a likely position for it.
Despite its economy pricing, the Captiva has pretty well everything a buyer would find necessary – even a stereo system. It may not have armour-piercing volume but its speakers put out fine clarity. There is an underdeck ski locker, and storage generally gets plenty of attention. Hardware is of good quality and includes pop-up rear cleats.
The Captiva is American-built, and like so many others has a beam just over the regulation-free towing maximum. The extra regulations are not onerous, and the Captiva has the compensation of a tailor-made heavy-duty West Australian trailer rather than an imported model. It was super free running for us, and it has the highly desirable extra of a centre walkway.
Price from $33,900
Price as reviewed $36,900
Length overall 5.7m
Fuel capacity 109L
Motor fitted 135hp Mercruiser