They say you can take the boy out of the country, but you can’t take the country out of the boy. With just a slight spin, this applies to Glastron. A big builder based in a small Minnesota town nestled near the headwaters of the Mississippi River, Glastron is trying to shake up its All-American image with a new cruiser that sports decidedly European lines. What the company hasn’t changed is its penchant for delivering solid performance at budget prices.
With its GS 269, Glastron marries Continental chic with down-home American value – and the upshot for boaters is a 26-foot cruiser that, nicely equipped, is priced in the low $60s. That’s a marriage everyone hopes will last.
And why not? Glastron’s latest offers a good turn of speed, enough topside amenities to keep the party rocking and cabin accouterments that will sleep a bridal party of four. That’s worth a champagne toast, for sure.
STEP UP TO THE TOP
The boat we tested near Hoover Dam on Arizona’s Lake Mead was rigged with the optional Volvo Penta 5.7L GXi DuoProp mated to a stainless F4 prop set. We liked the combination’s power and smoothness. This engine develops 320 hp – the boat’s maximum rating – and the twin, counter-rotating props allow the GS 269 to hook up quickly during holeshots, keep the hull glued down in hard turns and generate bow lift at speed. Twin-prop drives also aid slow-speed maneuvering and backing, which is handy around docks and launch ramps, especially when the wind is gusting – as it was when we came in from our test session.
The least expensive power options are a 250 hp 5.7L MerCruiser or 270 hp Volvo Penta 5.0L GXi – both with single-prop drives. Judging from our test, however, we recommend stepping up to one of the more powerful engines and either Volvo’s DuoProp or Merc’s Bravo 3 drive. Here’s why:
We tested in generally calm water aboard a rig carrying two men, test gear and three-quarters of a tank of fuel – in other words, it was pulling light duty compared to a cruiser’s typical burden of passengers and gear. In addition, we weren’t blasting around in steep chop that would challenge a marginally powered hull to get out of the hole or maintain a comfortable planing speed. Now, imagine you’re slugging through rotten conditions in a fully loaded boat – wouldn’t you want to be able to grab more throttle when you needed it? You’re better off buying that extra power and the additional load-carrying capability of the twin-prop drive on the front end – instead of later bemoaning the fact that you hadn’t.
That said, our boat was rigged just right. The lightly loaded Glastron clocked 9.7 seconds from 0 to 30 mph and topped out at 44.7 mph at 4800 pm. Now, that might not sound like much compared to a runabout, but it earns cruiser bragging rights.
VIEW FROM THE KEEL
Two strakes on each side of the keel extend all the way to the bow and work in concert with the boat’s broad chines and 81/2-foot beam to provide lift. The GS 269’s standard Bennett trim tabs assist it when coming out of the hole and also allow you to fine-tune the boat’s attitude. For example, they were very welcome when the wind came up in the afternoon; by dropping one tab, we were able to correct for listing as the big cruiser’s considerable windage caused it to heel over in the gusty desert breeze.
The hull’s speed efficiency also translates to fuel savings, as witnessed by its 2.9 mpg economy at an optimum cruise of 24.3 mph at 3000 pm. That’s excellent and promises a range of 187 miles from the boat’s 72-gallon fuel tank. Although it’s on the lower end of the scale for cruisers of this size, the GS 269’s capacity is comparable to most competitive models – which points to one thing: In general, this class needs to carry more fuel. This kind of tankage is not enough to do these boat justice and limits the room to roam that an otherwise capable cruiser like the GS 269 should, by its very definition, enjoy.
True to what we’ve come to expect from Glastron hulls, the new model handles with agility and confidence. It carves through turns in a sure-footed way – although excessively sharp cornering will result in a noticeable list as the tall-sided cruiser leans over and comes about. The boat does just fine; it’s the crew you have to worry about. It is at this point that you’ll discover there aren’t enough grab handles.
With the upgraded engine, the GS 269 offers a lively feel for a cruiser. We only regret water conditions didn’t provide much indication of how she takes a sea. Small wind waves and nasty old’ boat wakes were the best we could do, and the 26-foot hull spanned these with indifference, as it well should have. We’ll reserve judgment for another day.
The helmsman commands from a station fitted with flat panels designed for flush-mounting electronics such as a plotter/radar or VHF radio. Highlighted by gold bezels, the white-faced gauges are divided into a three-tier arrangement. Set against a beige background, each cluster is easy to monitor at a glance – although the abundance of white gel coat creates some glare. Our boat was also equipped with Volvo Penta’s Sealey satellite communications system. Besides providing boaters with a 24-hour concierge service, Sealey allows remote monitoring of high-water alarms, low-voltage situations, and other key systems.
Shaded by a standard Sunbrella Bimini, the helm seat is a doublewide affair. The flip-up bolster allows operators to stand while driving, and the GS 269’s tilt wheel also accommodates various driving positions. The bolster is fairly narrow, however, which compromises comfort when employed as the kind of “midlevel” seat drivers sometimes use. And we were surprised to see only one drink holder at the two-person helm.
One thing we didn’t care for was the helm’s “sunken” footwell. Moving from the cockpit forward, you step up one level as you approach the helm, then down again as you slide into the seat. By raising a portion of the deck, Glastron was able to create more headroom at the entrance to the mid-cabin berth. By the same token, “lowering” the helm deck also increased both legroom and wind protection offered by the walkthrough windshield. The trade-off is that it creates a possible tripping hazard. Everything is a compromise.
FRONT TO BACK
As with all deck surfaces, the foredeck features a nonskid pattern that provides positive grip without being too aggressive to use comfortably while barefoot. As a concession to the boat’s value price, a polyethylene plastic hatch covers a large, self-draining anchor locker. The locker is served by an anchor roller and has an eyebolt for tying off the bitter end, but what’s interesting is the special mounting shelf for a subdeck windlass – a setup that not only eliminates a toe-stubbing obstacle but also helps maintain the boat’s flowing lines.
The other unusual feature is the remote-control bow spotlight. And while a spotlight isn’t that unusual, the fact that it’s standard is.
Stepping back into the cockpit reveals U-shaped seating to starboard and a portside entertainment center with a sink, icebox, and two-tiered fiberglass countertop. Snaps secure the carpeting and seat cushions, and storage bins under the seats lift out to provide additional access to the engine bay and ship’s systems, augmenting the flush-deck engine hatch. Glastron’s self-bailing cockpit drains via a large, grate-style scupper near the transom walkthrough. Given our druthers, we would like to see a gate or filler cushion added so you could close off the transom when underway.
Unlike bolt-on units, the GS 269’s swim step is integrated into the deck-and-hull design and is the finishing touch for the “Euro” sheerline that tapers from bow to stern. Although the platform is completely out of the water when the boat is at rest, a four-rung, telescoping ladder allows you to climb aboard after a swim – or when the boat is on the trailer. The platform also includes a transom shower, two sizable line lockers and a 22x11x11-inch transom lazarette. Because it’s hinged at the top, however, you’ll have to step out on the swim step to use the lazarette, whereas if it were hinged at the bottom you’d be able to access gear from inside the boat.
HIT THE HAY
Naturally, being able to duck below and enjoy a cheery cabin is a key reason for choosing a cruiser. Glastron’s GS 269 fares well in this department. It comes standard with must-have items such as a shore power system, alcohol/electric stove and a microwave, so you don’t have to spend extra for the basics. Cherry-wood cabinetry lends warmth, and the stand-up head includes a manual china toilet that adds a touch of class. The faux-granite galley counter features a fiddled edge, which helps contain inevitable spills – always a plus. Covered in blue and cream leatherette upholstery, the convertible dinette/V-berth and 6-foot-long by 40-inch-wide mid cabin berth offer plenty of room to relax.
Measured at the galley, cabin headroom tapes out at 6 feet, while the mid cabin is 31 inches at its highest point. The use of ladder-style steps for the cabin enhances the feeling of room in the mid berth, and a curtain, rather than a bulkhead, assures privacy. The open arrangement “enlarges” the main cabin, as well. At the cabin entrance, the companionway hatch slides completely out of the way so you’ll never bang your head.
Our boat’s options included: dockside air conditioner with reverse heat ($2527); a full canvas package ($787); and a blue gelcoat hull stripe ($553) that adds a welcome splash of color. Also offered are a flat-screen TV, radar arch and 5 kW generator that will really open up your cruising options. However, in keeping with the boat’s value mission, the Sirius-equipped Clarion AM/FM/CD stereo is standard – as is a one-year satellite radio subscription.
All told, this rig offers a lot for the money. Like all boats, there are some areas that could be improved; and, like all reviews, we’ve voiced opinions on how things could be done differently to make it even better. Then again, you might like the GS 269 exactly as it is. Either way, one thing we can all agree on is that this new cruiser hits plenty of high notes. Glastron has managed to combine fresh Continental styling with a boatload of cool features, and has brought the whole marriage together for surprisingly little dough.
European chic at budget American prices: No matter which side of the pond you hail from, that’s a match made in heaven.
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