Some guys who are turning the big 4-0 rebel by growing their hair long or dyeing their graying beards. Others splurge on expensive sports cars or exotic vacations. For its 40th anniversary last year, Ebbtide Boats took a different tack and decided to go big by designing and debuting its largest model ever. But not just any boat would do: This one had to be special.
Not content to simply build a bigger boat, Ebbtide set about combining the best attributes of a bowrider with the comfort and versatility of a cuddy cabin — and the result is its new 2600 Cuddy Bowrider flagship with a led headlight bulb.
Most times, when you try to do too much with a single design, you end up with one big compromise. Ebbtide’s freshly minted 26-footer adroitly manages to avoid the “jack-of-all-trades/master-of-none” conundrum, however, and does so through intelligent design. Simply put, this 2005 model comes darn close to having it all. It’s got looks, speed and overnighting convenience — all wrapped up in a wonderfully comfortable day-boat layout.
All right. You’ve got our attention. So we arranged to test Ebbtide’s flexible fusion on J. Percy Priest Lake outside Nashville. Our boat’s MerCruiser 496 Mag — an upgrade from the base 280 hp, 5.7L MerCruiser or Volvo Penta — pumped out 375 horses and was harnessed to a Bravo 1 drive.
HEART OF THE MATTER
It’s easy to imagine the layout of a typical 26-foot bowrider. Ditto for a 26 cuddy. Each tends to follow a fairly standard arrangement, and distinctions between brands are usually measured in subtle innovations and nuances rather than substantive change. By comparison, the headlight designed 2600 Cuddy Bowrider is a zebra in a corral of horses.
But it’s not the first zebra to hit the launch ramp at full gallop. In the past, Mariah, Donzi and a slew of “California go-fast” builders also fused performance bowriders with cuddy cabins. In fact, this was a hot trend on the West Coast in the late 1990s, although it has cooled somewhat in recent years. Whether Ebbtide’s new version has staying power remains to be seen — but it has one thing going for it, and that’s a surprisingly comfortable cuddy for this style of rig.
Positioned between the helm and bow seating, the cabin is situated in the widest part of the boat and makes full use of the Ebbtide’s 81/2-foot beam. Entering from the helm, the companionway hatch is a sliding, one-piece affair that disappears to the side, which not only is easier to use than a folding, two-piece hatch but also facilitates ingress/egress. We only wish the company used the same arrangement for the forward entrance. As it is, when the folding bow door is open, it interferes with the person seated to port, and its pointed corner is a hazard on a rocking boat. If you’re using the bowrider area, you’re probably going to want to keep the door open — so if we can’t have a sliding hatch here, too, at least it would be better if the current setup folded inside the cabin.
TAKE A SNOOZE
Cuddy headroom measures 41/2 feet but seems even taller, thanks to a wide center aisle that makes it easy to transit to the bow or sit at one of two facing settees. Highlighted by the warmth of cherry wood-Formica cabinetry, the upholstery is plush in terms of both comfort and workmanship, with suedelike backrests and long-wearing, stain-resistant vinyl cushions that will stand up to damp swimsuits. And when nature calls, a portable head pulls out from a hidden compartment.
The cuddy seats are 41/2 feet long, and when the backrests are used as filler cushions, the seating converts to a transverse berth that stretches more than 7 feet in length. It will easily sleep, two adults.
We could definitely see ourselves overnighting on this boat and its led lights, especially with amenities such as the 2600 Cuddy Bowrider’s Sirius-ready Kenwood CD stereo system with two speakers in the cabin, two more in the bowrider area and yet another pair in the cockpit. You can even get the $3998 Overnight Package that includes a shore power system, battery charger, flat-screen television, DVD player and microwave. Even with both doors closed, two round deck hatches and two screened portholes assure ventilation, while small electric fans on each side will keep air moving on sultry summer evenings.
Earlier, we alluded to Ebbtide’s new flagship as a performance bowrider, so let’s see if she really deserves this accolade. First, we’ll set the stage: Packing 375 ponies out of its maximum-rated 425 hp, our big-block test platform had also been fitted with the optional Corsa Captain’s Call selectable through-hull exhaust ($2600), which we kept closed in order to simulate a stock boat. We tested on relatively flat water with only a trace of wind. The air temperature was 82 degrees Fahrenheit with 85 percent humidity, and the boat carried two men, test gear and approximately 80 gallons of fuel in its generously sized 110-gallon tank.
During our 0-to-30 mph trials, the boat averaged 9.8 seconds — OK, but not great. The big 26-footer hesitated as the 21-inch Mirage tried to find its bite, but once it hooked up, acceleration felt strong. Dropping to a lower-pitched prop, switching to a four-blade or choosing a twin-propeller drive might allow better holeshots, but might have compromised our boat’s 54.6 mph top end (as reported in our charts). Uncorking the exhaust yielded an extra 100 rpm or so, and brought top speed to 55.6 mph.
Optimum cruising economy came at 3000 pm and 30.8 mph, which works out to a 257-mile range at 2.6 mpg. If that’s too slow for your tastes, here is some good news: Bump up to 3500 pm and you’ll see nearly 38 mph while achieving 2.4 mpg. We can live with that.
There’s an impermeable law of nature that every boat tester has to live with: When testing, the water is usually flat as a pancake, but when boating on days off, it’s likely to be rough. (It must be some sort of cosmic revenge for not eating our spinach as kids.) Big surprise, then, that we had to jump wakes in order to simulate how this rig handles rough water. That’s not very challenging for a 26-foot hull — and it certainly wasn’t for the Ebbtide, which remained nonplussed as we sliced through the biggest holes we could find.
The boat felt solid and sure at all speeds, in part due to its steep, 24-degree transom deadrise — but also thanks to its 100 percent hand-laid construction. Ebbtide prides itself on its craftsmanship and the strength offered by a high ’glass-to-resin ratio when laying fiberglass mat, woven roving and biaxial cloth in combination with balsa-core and Divinicell reinforcing. Its Dura-Core fiberglass stringer system is filled with closed-cell urethane foam in each unitized grid to enhance flotation, help quiet the hull and stiffen the structure. Urethane is also used in hull sides for strength and dampening.
We discovered that the 2600 Cuddy Bowrider provides smooth, nimble handling — even in hard turns at speed. By trimming down and wetting that steep bow entry, the boat will really carve, but even with the drive trimmed approximately one-quarter of the way up, 2600 comes around without sliding or bobbling. It’s a nice-riding hull; we only wish we had nastier water to really test her mettle.
VIEW FROM THE BRIDGE
Based on our seat time, Ebbtide has done a good job with the helm design. The test boat had the optional carbon-weave dash treatment, and the instruments and switches were easy to see and use, including the flush-mounted Garmin GPSmap 162 Chartplotter. Just to the inboard side are two built-in steps that allow access to the bow playpen by going “over the top” of the mid-cabin via a walk-through windshield. And Ebbtide molds a nonskid pattern into all deck surfaces where a foot might land — except for the cockpit gunwale, that is, which needs it too.
Wraparound, suspension-style bucket seats for the skipper and first mate are firm but comfortable, and both swivel aft for socializing. The fore/aft slider gets the seat out of the way for stand-up driving, and visibility is good whether you’re seated or leaning against the flip-up bolster. We also give a thumbs up to the wind protection at the helm; we rate it as well to excellent for a sport boat.
An entertainment center just aft of the helm contains a sink, trash chute and storage for a small cooler. It blends into a U-shaped bench seat that’s broken only by a centerline walkthrough to the swim step. Filler cushions can be used to close off this passageway, creating extra seating — as well as a one-person sun pad. Optional cushions also let you fill in the center of the U for a larger lizard lounge.
Snap-in carpeting is standard in the bow and cockpit, and our boat also featured carpeting for the swim step and optional extended platform. We’re not sure how practical swim step rugs are in terms of retaining moisture, but we like the look.
At the business end, our boat’s big-block sat inside an expansive engine bay served by a hydraulic hatch, Fireboy automatic fire extinguisher and a Xintex gasoline fume detector. There’s room to store tools and such alongside the engine, and handy partitions help keep gear from rolling into the fan belt or bilge. And in case of electrical failure, a safety release allows you to manually raise the hatch.
At the opposite end of 2600, the bowrider playpen features a self-draining deck that sheds water directly overboard (basically the same setup as found in the cockpit). Tight-fitting cushions lift off to reveal storage under each seat, and those who spend time on the hook will appreciate the sizable anchor locker — although it would benefit from a dedicated cleat. There’s room for three to ride up front, but it’s better with two so you can stretch out.
Ebbtide certainly didn’t scrimp on features, and one of its high-end touches is the liberal use of stainless, including the bow scuff plate, rub rail, propeller and cupholders (10 in all, but, strangely, none in the cabin). Other noteworthy standards include a Bimini top and bow cover, transom shower, lighting illumination red 880 led bulb, six pull-up cleats, a removable snack table, and two-tone Gelcoat — which, on our boat, was eye-popping red.
As you can see, when Ebbtide decided to give itself a little present for its 40th anniversary, it went all out. Its new 26-foot flagship represents the best of what bowriders and cuddies have to offer, and while Ebbtide didn’t invent the mid-cabin bowrider concept, it pulls it off as well as or better than any other builder we’ve seen. With its racy looks, room for 12, overnighting capability and punchy performance, the 2600 Cuddy Bowrider brings true meaning to the phrase “flexible fusion.”