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This is my 6th boat, a 1995 vintage Stingray 698zp. I purchased this boat in the fall of 1994 after finally having had enough of the drive problems from my previous boat, a 1989 Sea Ray Pachanga. I had been generally happy with the design, style, and performance of the Pachanga, so I tried to find another boat which closely matched it, and the Stingray was a close match. The 698zp was about a foot longer at 23', and had a slightly beefier engine, a MerCruiser 454 "Magnum" (50 more H.P. over the basic 7.4L model). This boat also had a slightly larger cuddy cabin, which included side facing seats that allowed you to sit in the cabin, as well as lie down.  It also came with a single burner alcohol stove and a sink (which I never used), and a porta-potty. The boat also came with a bimini-style top and I also opted for the full camper canvas package, which allowed us to be a little more cavalier in the face of those frequent sporatic summer storm fronts. This boat also had a swing open section in the windshield, which allowed easy access to the foredeck. This enabled me to launch and retrieve the boat by myself, at places which didn't have a parallel finger dock adjacent to the launch ramp, without having to go for a swim. A nice bonus when boating in the early spring and late fall. Top speed for this boat was somewhere between 65 and 70 MPH, with the same cleaver prop which I had used on the Pachanga.

Now for the bad news (And there always seems to be a little). Starting off with the little annoyances first,  riddle me this Batman, why would someone make a boat easily capable of touching 70 MPH, yet only equip it with a speedometer which topped out at 65? I never had any trouble pegging that speedo.  But jeeze guys, pay attention! Also, the engine cover wouldn't always stay up, especially in less than calm water.  I really missed the electric hatch on the Pachanga. When I took delivery of the boat, and took it out for the first time, the shift cable was not adjusted properly, and it would not always go into reverse. Of course this didn't become glaringly apparent until my wife was running it up on to the trailer.  There was also a small leak in one of the oil cooler lines that wasn't tightened enough, which resulted in about a cupful of oil spilling into the bilge. Luckily I always carry tools with me. The Stingray factory also used plywood spacers under the front engine mounts, which compressed under the weight of the engine, forcing me to have to align the drive the next spring. Finally, and this wasn't Stingray's fault, the engine was one of the first off the line, after MerCruiser switched from the venerable Rochester Quadrajet carburetor (which had been discontinued by GM) to a Carter/Webber replacement. MerCruiser had not done enough initial testing and as a result, the carb was not "dialed in" correctly, and the engine had some midrange throttle issues and well as a rough idle. After a few trips to a local Merc. dealer for a change in metering rods and jets, and some retrofitting of factory upgrades, the engine was finally running ok.  But at the time, I thought; "oh no, not again!". I was really tired of seeing dealers and service departments.

I used this boat primarily on the local Schuylkill River, camping trips to Lake Wallenpaupack, Lake Aldred, Harvey's Lake, and increasingly for day trips to the Delaware River, and the Chesapeake Bay. It was at these latter places, where I began to worry about the structural integrity of the boat.  Stingray prides itself on being faster and more economical than most other boats of the same horsepower and size.  Much of this success is attributed to their patented "Z-plane" hull, which uses reversed lifting strakes to reduce turbulence. The other, and I believe bigger, factor in their performance supremacy, is that they build light. This boat was a foot longer than my old Pachanga, yet actually weighed 100 Lbs less, and it was a full 1000 Lbs less than my next boat, the 24' Checkmate. The boat would literally leap out of the water, when you hit the throttle, and that helped contribute to an overall great sensory experience. The downside though, was that the boat didn't handle pounding chop eloquently. The hull seemed to "flex" and the cabin insert seemed to twist to some degree, as the cabin door would never stay closed. After a full season of use, I started noticing longitudinal stress cracks forming in the gelcoat along the lifting strakes amidships. I don't know if the cracks were a result of pounding on the water, or on the trailer while in transit.  But once again, I got that uncomfortable feeling of not being able to trust my boat.  Since we were spending an increasing amount of time down in the northern Chesapeake Bay, which had become the new home of the "river rats", my wife started complaining about the pounding that we endured on those rough days. It was enough to bring back memories of the Hydrostream.  Anyone who's ever been on the Chesapeake knows that the chop can be quite sharp, even if they aren't that deep. So in mid 1996, I traded the Stingray in for my next boat, a 1996 Checkmate Convincor 242. During a subsequent trip to Harvey's Lake during the following season, I saw my old Stingray covered up at a marina next to the Grotto Pizza. I hope the new owner had fun with it.

The pictures were taken at the Ledgedale Recreation area, on Lake Wallenpaupack, in Northeastern Pa.