This is my 8th boat, a 2007 22' Azure AZ-228. This boat is powered by a Mercruiser 5.0L MPI 260 HP engine with an Alpha 1 drive. I took delivery of this boat in August of 2006, after letting go of my previous boat, the Checkmate Convincor 242. The Azure showcases the next chapter in my boating career. No longer a speed demon, but far more versatile and family friendly. The top speed for this boat is barely 50 MPH, with a single person on boat, a light load, and cool dry air. On the other hand, it's 2 full feet shorter than the Checkmate, but can hold 6 or 7 people comfortably (it's rated to hold 12), and has tons of under floor and under seat storage for water toys, life jackets, ropes, fenders, and all the usual "stuff" you tend to load a boat up with.
My last 3 boats have all been of the "cuddy-cabin" variety, with a cockpit which could seat up to 5 or 6 comfortably, along with a small cabin with just enough room for 2 adults (and maybe one child) to stretch out horizontally to escape from the elements, along with room for a porta-potti. Most of the time the cuddy area served as an additional place to stow water tubes and other things which couldn't fit in the usual storage places. We never gave an open bow boat much thought, because of the lack of a suitable private place to get changed and, of course, hold the porta-potti. But the Azure has a clever little changing area/potti place in the bulkhead opposite of the helm. Granted you have to be either a contortionist or be hormonally challenged to move around much in there. But it was enough that we decided to give the open bow boat a shot. And it was a good decision. Having the bow area available, gives the illusion of a larger boat and gives you more room to move about. The kids like riding "up front", and it's way easier to drop anchor from the convenience of the anchor storage bin at the tip of the bow. It's also easier for the wife and kids to get on and off the boat at the dock from the bow, rather than having to deal with a shakey finger pier off to the side. This boat also has a bow ladder, which comes in handy when I'm out alone and want to launch from a ramp with no adjacent dock. I can simply climb up from the trailer tongue and presto!, I'm ready to back off.
The Azure differs from my last 3 boats in another way. The last boats have all had thru-transom exhaust (and big block engines) and, with the exception of the Pachanga which had a wet muffler system, have been throaty and rather loud. The Azure has a far less obtrusive thru-prop exhaust which, on one hand, is disappointing for someone like me who likes the sound of a throaty engine roaring along at 4000 RPM. On the other hand though, I don't have to worry about my exhaust noise waking up any marina neighbors if I want to take a late night cruise, and I'll never get in trouble with the water cops for excessive noise. The quiet also allows for conversations to occur at cruising speed.
Anytime I've gotten a new boat, I go through a period of "dialing in" its handling and performance characteristics, and this boat was no different. When I was shopping for the new boat, I was fully prepared to take a hit in speed potential, knowing I'd be losing 100 to 160 HP going from a big block down to a small block. But I figured that since a 22' Pachanga could hit 60 MPH with a 260 HP small block, as can the Stingray 22' SX model, I was conservatively figuring on the mid 50's for a reasonable top end speed out of the Azure. Indeed, with the advanced hull configuration, which is designed to improve performance, I figured it should do fairly well. Imagine my disappointment, when the boat would barely hit 45 MPH at WOT with the stock aluminum prop. Well, I had some more fact finding and tinkering to do (the full story of which can be found HERE), and it took another season or so before I finally got a handle on what was happening with the boat's performance, and selected a good running prop which seems to deliver the overall best performance.
My last boats had some little (or not so little) issues to deal with when I first took delivery, and this boat was no exception. A poorly drilled drain hole in the bow anchor locker allowed water to enter the bilge making me think I had a serious leak somewhere. That was corrected with a little judicious application of sealer. The trim gauge sender was also off a little, but was easily corrected. As far as issues go, this boat was the best out of my last few. Haven't been back to the dealer once, and as of 2011, I have 52 hours showing.
It's hard to believe that I've had this "new" boat for 5 seasons already. Time sure flies. The Azure handles its duties fairly well. It pulls our water toys and is a fairly comfortable platform to fish from. While I do miss the speed that I had with my older boats, and the extra power a big block can deliver for pulling toys, the Azure is an overall decent boat. It handles the chop well, and it's a much more comfortable and relaxing ride than the Checkmate was.
So how long will I have this boat? Only time will tell.