The white cruiser with the red stripe sat glittering like a jewel atop her custom, swivel-bunked trailer. In many of our boat tests, the adventure starts with the ride. In this case, it started at U.S. Marine’s prototype facility in Everett, Washington. Before a drop of water splashed her hull, we climbed aboard the new Maxum 2600 SE to uncover for ourselves her considerable headlight bulb charms.
As a prototype, the second of her kind ever built, the 2600’s hull striping was a smidge rough on the edges, and her bow rail was not quite arrowed straight. But her otherwise clean, sweet lines made us want to overlook those imperfections — a task made all the easier when we started checking out a choice of two innovative transom layouts, each unique and supremely functional.
Maxum’s new “transformer-style” transom seat options are clearly the star of this show, and are so easy to use that, according to Steve Farb, exterior designer for Maxum, “a one-armed, one-eyed pirate could work them.”
A few months prior to our exclusive test, we had the opportunity to meet Farb and some of the other engineers who worked on the led bulb Maxum 2600 SE when we visited the Washington plant. The 2600 features the company’s integrated hull system with a hand-laid fiberglass overlay, and webbing integrated into the seating aids rear-end weight distribution and amps up the comfort level. But the newsy innovations go far beyond that. The designers’ enthusiasm was evident as they showed us countless drawings they had made of the boat.
Borrowing from the runabout arena, Farb and crew brainstormed like crazy until a few lightning bolts struck pay dirt. The result was not one but two designs that offer durability, flare, simplicity and, most of all, versatility. Each layout had so much to offer that they couldn’t choose — so they built both.
The basic design started with what Farb facetiously refers to as “the sand and gravel version,” which calls to mind a big pickup with the tailgate down. You see, the 2600 SE doesn’t have a transom — at least not in the traditional sense. Instead, depending on what the customer wants from the boat, it can be fitted with either of the two “transformer” setups that serve as a sort of transom separating the cockpit and swim step.
TWO BOATS IN ONE
The more straightforward option is the standard transom bench seat with the gated, starboard-side walkthrough (see lead photo). With the flip of a lever, the seat unlocks and slides back and forth on linear glide bars to create more swim step or cockpit acreage, depending on your activities du jour. It can lock into three positions in all. This is the version we used on the first day of our evaluation.
The next day, we checked out the optional center-entry configuration (a $1577 upcharge): twin seats that can be adjusted independently into various positions (upright, chaise and sunpad), separated by a center transom gate. Or, if you like, filler cushions can be used to create one queen-size sunpad. “It’s called ‘active seating,’” says Project Manager Kaydee Johnston, referring to the fact that you can utilize so many different configurations on the boat. She adds that the idea of the twin configuration, especially, has been attracting lots of attention.
Storage for the filler cushions is hidden beneath the seats, and the seat bases lift on gas-assist struts — a good safety feature. The barred transom gate lifts up to swing open or pops down to secure shut, but we questioned how well it would keep items from flying overboard. Perhaps a solid gate would be better. We also wondered about waves from a following sea coming into the cockpit through this area. We had no problem with this during our lake-based test, and the manufacturer reports no trouble while running the boat on Puget Sound. But how would it fare in this regard while adrift in bigger water?
One improvement we would suggest for the twin transformer seats (see page 56) is to have the seatbacks lock more positively. Each seatback is rimmed by a grabrail, but even with the seat upright and locked down, the seatback jiggles an inch or two fore and aft — just enough to create an unsettling feeling while reaching for the grabrail when moving from the swim step to a cockpit or vice versa.
Overall, however, we really enjoyed our time onboard the 2600 SE headlight bulb and can see how the variety of seating choices could be tremendously popular.
No matter which seating arrangement you choose, it’s obvious that Maxum’s design team put a lot of thought into this boat. For instance, if you’re not paying close attention, you might not notice that some of the cupholders are designed to drain into the sink, or the cutting boards that pull out, both in the topside entertainment center (though this one was a bit sticky on our boat) and in the galley below deck.
Attention to detail is also seen in the skylight and screened portholes in the cabin, which allow plenty of light and ventilation. In fact, the hatch to the cabin offers an optional screen door to keep out bugs. And you’ll find plenty of storage tucked here and there around the boat.
ROOM TO DANCE
You could practically hold a dance aboard the standard, transom bench-seat version of the 2600 SE, with no shortage of room for wallflowers. We measured just aft of the portside lounge and found a 5-foot width, which is the widest spot in the cockpit with the bench seat in the far-forward position. With the bench seat in the pushed-back position, however, the widest spot tapes out at 6 feet, 1 inch. That’s a pretty decent gain.
Lengthwise, measuring from the end of the lounge to the bench seat, we got: 5 feet, 6 inches with the seat in the far-aft position; 5 feet, 3 inches in the mid position and 4 feet, 8 inches in the forward position. We also discovered that the swim step gains 7 inches with the sliding bench seat in the forward position — which is the perfect setup when you’ve got the boat beached or anchored for swimming or just kicking back.
Other features also carried the theme of space and leisurely elegance. The starboard entertainment center offers a reasonably sized sink with a cutting board and optional 120-volt Norcold fridge. Directly across is a padded, aft-facing lounge (sorry, servants with palm fronds not included).
Also cleverly designed, the doublewide helm seat is well-appointed, has storage underneath and swivels aft for socializing, but we thought Maxum could add a bit more knee room when the seat is locked in the driving position. More than one of our testers found themselves inadvertently hitting the lower control switch with their knees. Along with a woodgrain dash and rack-and-pinion steering with power assist, our boat featured a Navman 5500 Color Plotter (the Navman Navigation package costs $1179), and a wakeboard tower/radar arch ($2357).
The wraparound windshield is a walk-through model, offering easy access to the nonskid foredeck and anchor locker, which can house a covered winch. We thought this was nicely done, though we noted that it would be even better with a place to tie off the bitter end and some type of catch to hold the lid open when weighing anchor.
You’ll find much of the boat’s panache below deck, from its 6-foot-plus headroom to Maxum’s warm wood accents to its wraparound lounge/V berth. The galley has an up-to-date yet classic look and features a standard microwave and single-burner electric stove (our boat had an optional alcohol/electric single burner). A15-inch flat-screen TV with DVD and CD player (part of the $1550 entertainment package) helps fill out the list of what to do on cool evenings.
When it’s time to turn in, the mid berth is neatly tucked behind a privacy curtain and can sleep two comfortably. Inside the stand-up head compartment, you’ll find a mirrored medicine cabinet and a sink faucet that becomes a pull-out showerhead that can be hung on the wall. You won’t feel like you’re roughing it on those overnighters.
As with the rest of the boat, cabin storage is abundant and can even be found under one of the nonskid steps leading up to the cockpit.
THE ZEN OF CRUISING
The boat we tested was rigged with a 320 hp MerCruiser MX 6.2 MPI with a Bravo 3 drive. The engine sits in a spacious engine bay large enough to double as a meditation chamber.
Test conditions favored a generally smooth run, so we never really got to challenge the Maxum’s mettle in the rough stuff. We ran the boat through her paces in light chop and found the ride smooth, dry and free of rattles. But with nearly 4 feet of freeboard forward, the 2600 SE’s high profile was pushed around some by wind gusts. Like virtually all cruisers her size, it takes the right amount of tab and trims to keep the boat running at the proper attitude. But overall, she offered a solid feel when carving turns and good visibility from a seated position.
Our small-block-powered boat’s 0-to-30 mph times averaged 12.6 seconds and top speed came in at 42.4 mph — both modest times that won’t set your hair on fire, but this is, after all, a cruiser, not a racer.
And with the Maxum 2600 SE’s choice of an “expandable” cockpit and swim step, or the side-by-side seating or lounging, owners can pick the layout that best suits their boating lifestyle. In our case, one of the testers liked the former best; another much preferred the latter. No biggie. Each can have it his way.
Regardless of which way you lean, the innovative, new-for-2006 Maxum 2600 SE with led bulb leaves a heavy footprint and a lasting impression. For those who simply enjoy being on the water in a comfortable, attractive boat with more than a dash of class, this might just be the ideal rig. In addition, you can buy a 9140 led bulb kit install in your boat, that can improve the illumination at night.