By Mike Milne
When a small boat manufacturer is trying to fit as many features as possible into a compact space, there is usually a very fine line between designs that are effective and efficient and those that are overly complicated, cumbersome and ineffective. That fine line separates a boat with features that are easily converted, sturdy and ergonomically elegant from one with features that are hard to transition from one use to another and functionally ineffective.
Small cruising boats abound with dinettes that convert to bunks, head enclosures that double as showers and cockpit seats that convert to full-reclining lounges. Many fish ‘n ski boats are equipped with aft seats for additional passengers that fold down to form flat casting decks.
Personal watercraft, as very small boats, offer the ultimate challenge for designers with a bent for multi-purpose conversion. Sometimes, as with the ill-fated Sea-Doo 3-D — launched in 2006 and dropped after a couple of years — a concept that looks great on paper and even seems fun in testing fails in the marketplace. Converting the 3-D from one mode to another was awkward. And even added together, the 3-D’s three different riding modes (Kart, Moto and Ski) didn’t add up to as much fun as a well-designed sit-down PWC with one purpose.
BRP’s busy design department, however, always seems to take its less successful concepts in stride. And its new ST3 hull, with an accompanying range of convertible functions and purpose-designed accessories, seems like a winner.
Instead of trying to provide multiple PWC experiences in one machine, the new hull has convertible features simply designed to enhance and expand the sit-down PWC runabout experience, with a strong emphasis on day-cruising.
The new hull, used for 2018 GTX, RXT and WAKE PRO models, is wider and longer than its predecessor, with strakes and a running surface that provide stability along with speed and wave-taming performance. The deck sits closer to the water than previous hulls, adding ease of boarding and an aft deck is larger than earlier models.
The deck layout, with handlebars and controls atop the storage compartment lid, means that drivers can easily reach into the front storage bin. A waterproof mobile phone compartment keeps phones close at hand and the seat can be configured to create a larger lounge-worthy aft deck, or a flat “table” that makes picnics for two a simple matter.
The LinQ system has flush-mount brackets on the aft deck for holding a series of aftermarket accessories including a cooler, fuel caddy and soft-sided storage. Adding the LinQ system turns already capable luxury day-riding, performance or wakeboard towing PWCs into much more capable long-distance cruisers.
The LinQ system is the best kind of convertible accessory system, the kind that is invisible and out of the way until needed. The result is the rarest of things in a small craft — a multipurpose boat that can be converted easily and elegantly, providing well thought-out design solutions to practical challenges.
Yamaha and Kawasaki can see how Sea-Doo’s new designs are being accepted on the marketplace and may offer alternatives. But for now, BRP has some innovative and unique design solutions that address common day-cruising dilemmas.
This article is featured in the Winter 2018 issue of Boats&Places.