26 May 2016

Luxury on the water: Century Coronado boats in fiberglass

What a ride! Above the waterline this boat is styled like the luxury Coronado runabouts of her lineage, yet this fiberglass model sports a different underwater running surface. That difference is manifest in a deeper vee, so she takes wakes and wind chop better than her wood predecessor.

But she won’t slide. Many fans of the Century Boat Company’s Coronado wooden versions like to slide her stern in a tight turn giving passengers quite a thrill ride. Typically, fans of the fiberglass’s steadiness don’t admire the wooden model’s ability to skate over the water’s surface… and vice versa.

There were two fiberglass Coronados ferrying us on a Canadian Muskoka lake area boathouse tour. Our boat repeatedly planed off a boatload of people as we toured from boathouse to boathouse. Both hulls—coupled with their powerful engines and gearing—are famous for towing a dozen or more water skiers in one pull. This Coronado had a big block Mercruiser stern drive that was a prime example of the adage, “there’s no replacement for displacement”. She pulled like a bull!

Despite some choppy waves and other boats’ wakes, ours was unfazed. She gave us all a great, almost cushy, ride. These boats are also famous for their over-padded interior amenities. For a moment, you might think you’re sitting on a living room sofa.

Fast? Not really. In addition to carrying so many passengers, she is heavily built with lots of woven roving. Years ago, I interviewed Al Hegg at his Century Boat plant in Panama City, FL. He told me then that he preferred lots of woven roving in his boats’ lay-up. He was even fond of its subtle “print-through” on the shiny finished boats. He liked to point out the quality of his fiberglass work was revealed by that occasional weave print-through.

This one is an unrestored standout that provides a luxury boating experience when riding across the waterways. Coronados have more glitz than almost any other boat. For many years their windshields were fashioned from auto industry glass. And often they were highly styled by Richard Arbib, who had worked for General Motors and Packard. For styling clues on the Coronado, reflect back to the Chrysler Imperial between 1959-63. Cars heavy with chrome trim.

Yes, I know this open cockpit model is best called a utility, as a true runabout is decked over between its seat rows such that changing seats is often only done dockside. This boat was a Cardel model. Cardels came with a different engine location than a traditional Coronado. They were also given separate hull codes by the factory. Distinguished from the Coronado models that have a center engine location and a straight shaft down to the prop, Cardels have a stern engine location and use either a stern drive or a vee-drive behind all the cockpit seating.

Although the Century Boat Co. was founded in 1926, it wasn’t until 1955 that they debuted a longer and very highly styled boat. They made 196 examples that model year. Not every year was that good for sales, but in other years they sold even more. The model was essentially in production until 1986. These Coronados still carried the Resorter’s (their predecessor) DNA, which were recognized as the ideal water ski boat.. They also offered cushy luxury and very high style, too.

And, much like the auto industry then, Century restyled the boats every two years, but kept the basic hull dimensions and features for the wooden hull models. The fiberglass models highlighted in this article were typically longer by several inches.

As an aside, touring Canadian boathouses by boat is something that should be on your bucket list. Imagine keeping a boat in a slip that’s been custom-shaped to follow her exact waterline section. And in a boathouse with walls adorned with smaller boats, trophies, oars and other elegant boating paraphernalia. Perhaps best of all, envision a substantial and lengthy dining table nearly at the water’s edge yet still inside the heated boathouse where the entire family can sit down to a Thanksgiving dinner in the company of their beloved boats.

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