In the spirit of another Boatlopnik Review I saw recently, I thought I’d write up one about my boat, which is now in the middle of its 10th summer with me. I have a hard time believing that since I was 24 when I got the boat. That was a very different time of my life, I’ve since bought a house, gotten married, changed jobs, had 4 different cars, and had two kids; just to name a few things that have changed while this piece of 80’s nostalgia has stayed (sort of) the same.
This being an older boat, I have had my hands and eyes on just about every cubic inch of this boat. I know it inside and out, every fastener, every odd quirk, all of it. So here goes:
Full disclosure: Supra wanted me to review this boat so badly, they sold it to someone in 1989 who sold it to somebody else who traded it in to the marina where I was working in 2005 - for a pontoon boat, no less. I then had to wait for Kinja to be invented, and wait a few years more for all the kinks to be worked out.
This is a little polarizing. I happen to love “ski” boats, as they’re called - also known as small-ish inboards, made primarily for water sports. I would say that Supras from the 80’s are hit or miss. The smaller ones had similar lines to mine, but the bigger ones were very chunky and, well, hideous. They also kind of pioneered the bowrider inboard. In the 80’s most ski boats were like the Correct Crafts which were not a lot different from what would be called a “utility” boat in the wooden boat world. A basic hull shape, straight gunwales (that’s “gunnels” to you flatlanders), closed bow, bench seat front and rear, engine in the middle. Supra decided to make “Luxury Inboard Boats,” a tagline they still use, although most $50k + toys would be considered Luxury.
But I digress. Do you like the style? I go back and forth. The bow is too long and the nose is too low. The rainbow stripe waterline is cool, very 80’s. The colors are bland but that’s good with respect to a boat that sits out in the weather all the time. Red boats are the WORST with fading gelcoat color; the gray hides imperfections and fading very well.
The tower that I added is another love/hate. It’s more function for me, I like the high tow point for wakeboarding/wakeskating, and I like the shade from the bimini. I may have liked the boat better without that whole contraption, but I do think it matches the curves of the boat well. I want to get it powercoated dark blue so it doesn’t stand out, and to match the blue accent gelcoat on the boat.
Exterior Score: 7/10
This is where this boat really, err... sucks. One reason Correct Crafts are so popular is that they just get everything right. Like, the windshield is pushed up as far forward as possible to maximize interior space. You don’t get much storage, but you are supposed to use these boats for pulling a slalom skier, right? What do you need to store? Supra decided to maximize storage on this one. The storage area up in the bow is accessed by a small door you can crawl through, and it’s cavernous. The result is a front seat that is ludicrously close to the engine box. Like, 6” in some places. However, the seat is curved so you can sit a few ways that aren’t horrendously uncomfortable. At least the driver’s seat is fantastic. God help you if you have wide hips though. I’m 145 pounds and I fit “snugly.”
That brings me to the opening to the aforementioned bow storage area. This is a 16” wide crawlspace, directly in the middle of the boat between the driver and passenger seat. WTF. I took the door out and put a jump seat there many years ago.
Pictured: Typical seating.
The back seat is better, but why didn’t they just put in a bench like, hmm, IN EVERY SKI BOAT EVER MADE? Just to be different? I do have to say, the curved seats are best utilized with two people in them. They’re actually better with someone else, provided that you want to get cozy.
However, the interior has a saving grace. We do a lot of boating at night, and I installed a heater with vents in various locations around the boat. Anyone who has been boating at night in New England knows that even in July it typically gets cold at night, like in the 50’s. This has made the difference between my wife wanting to go out countless times. Priceless. Also I set up the dash lights to be able to switch them all off, and the low nose means you can see everything from the driver’s seat even though it’s very low, like, almost at water level. No lights in the face + low bow = great night visibility.
See the space between the passenger seat and engine cover?? Also, the giant space where there should be a seat in the middle.
Interior Score: 4/10
It’s 21 feet long and has a big Ford 351 in the middle, plus a 37-gallon fuel tank and it’s old so it’s probably carrying a few pounds of saturated water weight. Put it on a dual-axle trailer and you need a decent 1/2 ton to tow this beast. That said, I towed it plenty with my 2001 Suburban and it was fine, even on the highway. I towed this thing on an 8-hour trip for a friend’s wedding and it was no trouble. But this is no lightweight.
This picture was from taking the boat on a ferry across Lake Champlain. Pretty fun actually, we sat in the boat and drank beer while all the less-fun ferry passengers gave us dirty looks, or av0ided making eye contact altogether, unsure whether to report us or if we were allowed to drink in a boat on a trailer on a ferry while underway. I guess it’s allowed?
Portability Score: 5/10 *(if you have a good truck, it’s a 10/10. But without that, it’s pretty damn hard to move)
This boat came from the factory with a carbureted Ford 351 making about 240 hp fed into a 1.23:1 reduction transmission spinning a 14” diameter x 16” pitch 3-blade nibral prop (like bronze but better). That was plenty to get this thing up on plane with double the stated capacity (1100lbs / 8 ppl rated).
So naturally, my friend gets his hands on a newer marine EFI 351 like those found in late 90’s Fords and we swap that in, good for a claimed 310hp. Now we’re playing with fire.
I’ve gotten that boat on plane with 18 people clinging to it like a freaking clown boat. You basically can’t stop it. But, being an inboard ski boat it’s made to get up and go right up to its 40mph top speed. And that’s all it does, even with the newer engine and a new prop (okay, 42 if it’s just me in the boat). But it will still do about 36 with 12 people in it. So, yeah. Also, it’s loud so it FEELS like you’re going fast.
There’s a camp on our lake that only allows 25hp engines at their docks, and I like to drive by with this at WOT just for fun.
Powah Score: 11/10. Because unnecessary engine swap.
This is, afterall, a boat allegedly made for watersports. But, like anything that does many tasks, it doesn’t do all of them well. In fact, it doesn’t even do any of them particularly well. The wakeboard wake is too small unless you put a lot of weight in it. Then it’s ok. The waterski wake is too hard. The wake is so wide for wakeskating that it’s tougher to cross it than many other boats with bigger, but narrower wakes. Don’t get me wrong, you can adequately do all of these watersports, but it doesn’t excel at any of them. You won’t have any trouble getting up, so at least there’s that. There’s just no good reason you can’t have a great wake in a boat like this. Correct Craft has always done it right. In trying to be different, Supra just made it “worse.”
Watersports Score: 5/10
In 1989, a crappy tape deck was a “feature.” This boat didn’t do much better for what was billed as “Luxury,” at least as it was optioned. I added the heater, which was the single best thing I could have done. The tower and bimini, added later. I put a 1000w amp with 2 12” subs in the bow, and coupled with four mediocre 6” speakers it’s loud as hell. There’s a dual battery switch that I installed to ensure never being stranded with a dead battery.
This was back in the era where they actually gave you ALL the gauges, a trend that stayed around in boats far longer than it did in cars. Left to right: Oil, temp, fuel, speedo #1, (tach below), speedo #2, volts, hours, and mine has a clock where this one pictured has a depth finder. The switches are all also breakers, which is handy. Not having a fuse you need when you’re 2 miles from shore in a 3,000 lb bathtub with no sail... sucks.
Ooooh buttons... Gauges. *This isn’t my dash, but it’s almost exactly the same.
There are some nice touches, like in the bow area there’s a light that you can switch on and off from inside the “cabin” so, theoretically, you can turn it on from the dash, then go in there (to sleep??) and shut it off. There’s also a cupholder in that area, and everything is nicely carpeted. Trust me, though, no one is sleeping in there. That low bow means it tapers down in height as you go in. And as for any other activity you might try to do in there? Nope. Just nope. The ski locker over the gas tank makes a nice gigantic cooler, if you choose to use it that way. It takes 4 bags of ice and two 30’s. Skis don’t really fit in there, ironically. Oh and the clock on the dash always works perfectly, somehow.
Oh yes, I remembered that newer boats have things like touchscreens controlling ballast systems according to the boat’s load, the rider, and the watersport that you specify. And power-folding towers, trim tabs, and 20 speakers and LED underwater lights and “surf gates.” So... yes it’s a bit behind these newfangled things on the market nowadays.
Gadgets Score: 5/10
This is a tough one. A comparable boat new would be in the neighborhood of $70,000. You can spend over $100k on a new 21’ inboard watersports boat with options. Sooo... this boat is about $6,000 in value and it can still haul you and all your friends around the lake all day, and has a lot of features that newer boats tend to have. So I want to give it a really high score for value. However, it’s an old boat that’s prone to expensive problems. I had the benefit of working at a marina for the last 8 years, so I had access to tools, equipment, parts, and even some free labor in the form of extra hands or opinions when I had issues. But I still spent about $1,000/yr on maintenance and upkeep, so it’s a pretty damn expensive toy.
I will say that the depreciation is glacial in speed at this point in the life of a ski boat. 10 years ago, 80’s ski boats were selling for $5k - $15k depending on condition. That range hasn’t really changed - the $5k boats are just a little rough, and the $15k boats have been restored or had major upgrades like a new engine last season.
Value Subcategory - Fuel Economy:
LOL. It has a 37 gallon tank. Using the boat all day? You’ll fill up more than once.
Value Score: 8/10 *(because I feel like it)
As I mentioned, I worked at a marina, which means I spent most days watching people ruin their vacation/weekend/day by having some preventable issue with their boat happen at the worst possible time. So I stayed ahead of every possible issue, and the boat has only left me stranded once in 10 years and about 1,000 hours of run time. The damper plate between the transmission and engine snapped - actually the welds holding the splined piece in the middle snapped - and I got towed in. I had the transmission out and back in by myself (with use of a tractor) in about 3 hours with a new damper plate which cost about $100.
Oh yeah we also had the engine rebuilt about 5 years ago when it developed a knocking sound, there was a piston that was scoring its cylinder walls. But it didn’t break down!
God only knows the number of issues someone else would have had with this boat over the same time period. I’m very methodical and I know every single part of this boat. When something’s not working, it’s fixed immediately. I take my kids out (2 and 10 months) all the time and I don’t hesitate for a moment. So much of the time I used the boat was on my only day off in a week, and the last thing I wanted was a broken boat, especially with all the night cruising we did. Good luck getting a tow at 2:00 am on our lake.
Reliability Score: 10/10 (but only in capable hands!)
Overall Score: Who the hell cares? It’s a loud obnoxious fuel-chugging cruiser that one day would have been used to pick up girls, now it’s the family hauler, and it shares features with $100k watersports boats while looking like nothing in particular. I love it. It just ticked over 1,500 hours which is a LOT in a boat. Here’s to many more!