Boatowners with teens can remember the faces of their kids when handed the keys to the family boat for he first time . . . or the excitement of younger ones when Dad, or Mom, leads them on a fun-filled day on the water.
Parents who own the Chaparral 236 SSi will have no fears of letting junior drive and no fears of screaming across the water. This runabout handles well and performs with the best in its class.
New for 2005, Chaparral introduced the 236 SSi in response to consumer demand for larger bow riders. The boat was based on the company's extended V-plane hull, which was basically a semi-V with a radiused keel and four strakes.
The bottom has been a proven winner in other models and it resulted in the same crisp handling in the 24-footer when tested.
This Chaparral boast a new, in 2012, 300 horse Volvo Penta power source allowing it to quickly plane and reaching speeds of around 50 mph.
However, top-end speed is low on the list for most runabout owners but acceleration is important, especially when it comes to water sports. And we know the boat will see a lot of skiers and boarders behind it for many years.
A nice bonus comes at the end of the day when the boat's 54-gallon tank is still close to full. The hull and engine package yields better than average fuel economy, except when you give in to kids demand and "let her rip." Then fuel economy suffers somewhat.
During the manufacturer's handling tests, the boat earned the highest mark in slalom turns at 20, 30 and 40 mph. Turns at cruise and full-speed were superior for the runabout breed and something we expected from the simple hull design.
When you build as many boats as Chaparral does in a year you might expect the company to overlook a few details. That certainly was not the case with the 236 SSi,
Practice can make perfect, and the hull sides and mold work were very good on this 24-footer. To prevent scratches while at the dock, Chaparral included a rubrail with a stainless-steel molding set into a plastic extrusion. The testers noticed some gaps between the rail and boat but nothing out of the ordinary for production work.
According to the manufacturer, the boat was built with a quad-radial lamination process. Chaparral uses an NPG polyester gelcoat and adds alternating layers of woven roving and fiberglass mat.
Then an acrylic epoxy resin is sprayed in the hull skin coat to prevent bottom blistering. The company says it finishes with syntactic foam in the sidewalls to prevent print-through. Chaparral says the results are a lightweight but stronger hull. Our test model weighed in at a little more than 3,600 pounds.
Under the hatch, the Volvo Penta is lag-bolted to the stringer blocks in typical production fashion. The bilge was finished in a white gelcoat with the trim pumps screwed down to the floor.
One of the first things we noticed when approaching the 236 SSi at the docks was the large, Integrated, swim platform done in nonskid. With this platform, the boat actually looked larger than its 24-foot length.
The builder included a boarding ladder on the starboard side that folds away and stores in a compartment on the swim platform. On the opposite side, Chaparral included a small draining cooler.
Access to the cockpit was easy thanks to the center walk-through from the swim platform. When not in use, filler cushions tuck in to create added space on the U-shape rear bench. Under a cushion on the port side, Chaparral included an insulated ice chest.
Unlike many runabouts, the builder incorporated lots of padding on the gunwales around the bench, driver's and observer's seats.
Chaparral included snap-in carpet , a special feature. A large stowage locker was situated in the middle of the sole, providing plenty of room for wakeboards or to stow additional fenders.
At the driver's seat to starboard, the throttle and shifter is mounted on the gunwale. The gauges from Faria are set in wood-grain panels. Rocker switches are off to the right Up high on top of the dash was a Ritchie compass.
Typical for a runabout, the driver and co-pilot's seats are mounted on a pedestal. Not typical is the flip-up bottom cushion for those two wanting to get a little better view.
The three-piece windshield from Taylor Made does did a good job shielding the wind from the driver. It also doesn't rattle while going over some sizable chop on Bay. The center section opens toward the co-pilot's side, providing easy access to the open bow.
Space is abundant in the open bow, which includes angled backrests that allows passengers to recline slightly and watch the scenery while the boat was moving. Stainless-steel rails are provided on both sides of the bow.
Also atypical on a runabout is a boarding ladder incorporated in the bow. The three-step stainless ladder folded and a hinged lid held it in place.
Take your time . . . or not . . . and enjoy your Chaparral 236 SSi and let the kids drive once in awhile.