Review: Caribbean 24 Flybridge Sportsfisherman

By: Ben Keys, Photography by: Ellen Dewar


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This Caribbean 24 Flybridge Sportsfisherman is perfectly matched with this new MerCruiser V6 sterndrive.

Few vessels here or overseas, inspire such passion, such reverence, such spirited discussion as a Caribbean boat — and especially a Caribbean 24 Flybridge.

To mess with the legend would be sacrilege, but realistically there’s little chance of the Caribbean Boats team putting a foot wrong. They know their market and they know their fishing boats. There’s a reason little seems to have changed since those first-generation Bertram hulls started hitting the water in the 1960s.

 

V6 MerCruiser in a Caribbean 24

Caribbean 24 Flybridge Sportsfisherman

That’s not to say this popular winner is not deserving of a few tweaks. Such as the just-released MerCruiser 250hp 4.5lt petrol sterndrive that fits neatly into the rump of this Caribbean 24.

And yep, this is the same 23ft Bertram hull that’s been in production since the ‘80s, albeit with a minor increase in length and beam, but here with Mercury Marine’s latest saltwater-cooled marine engine, one they tell us provides "V8 power in a V6."

The lucky owner of this 24ft (8.4m) Caribbean flybridge is a fellow from Queensland with a young family, who plans to use this boat for both cruising and offshore. After hearing about the Caribbean 27 Runabout twin-inboard fitup, he specifically requested the Caribbean 24 with the same powerplant.

This boat represents the first time Caribbean Boats has fitted this latest MerCruiser sterndrive to the popular 24 Flybridge, and a Merc TDI diesel is also available, as is freshwater-cooling. Twin outboards have also proven popular in the Caribbean 2300.

250hp MerCruiser in Caribbean 24 Flybridge

But you can bet the petrol bill for this new MerCruiser will be considerably less than the running cost of two outboards.

Interestingly, Mercury has just published the results of its own testing, pitting this new 4.5lt V6 against the super-popular 5.0lt V8.

When run in the same conditions, on the same boats, the new V6 showed better fuel consumption, plus an 8% improvement in acceleration between 0-48kmh. Sorry, V8 fans!

 

Construction and design

Caribbean 24 Flybridge bow

Given the indisputable popularity of the timeless Bertram/Caribbean 23-footer, her larger sister is not radically changed. It’s Caribbean, after all. They’re not likely to start producing carbon fibre hardtops or solar-powered fishing boats. Because that’s not what their customers want.

The Caribbean boats that emerge from the International Marine factory are famously bare-bones – a blank slate for you to paint your fishing dreams upon.

As Caribbean Australia sales and marketing manager John Barbar explained, the build process has remained basically unchanged over the past three decades, but now utilises improved materials for buyers demanding ever-increasing horsepower. "We are still building boats the way Bertram taught us many, many years ago," he said. "Obviously, the resins and the materials and glass have changed, but the basic principles remain the same.

Like I said, you don’t mess with the classics.

 

Caribbean 24 layout

Caribbean 24 Flybridge layout

Stepping aboard the Caribbean 24 Flybridge Sportsfisherman, there’s no mistaking you’re on a Caribbean boat. The update has extended to the interior fitout, following a ‘less is more philosophy’.

It’s a good thing I wore sunglasses on this unseasonably reasonable winter day, as I’m met by a blinding expanse of white, with a scattering of gloss teak trim. It’s not fancy, but it’s neat, clean and functional, and sometimes, that’s all you need.

Having said that, the vinyl wall liners do add a stylish touch and these extend below the gunwales all the way aft. In the cabin, there’s teak-look carpet for a plush feel underfoot, while the dancefloor down aft cops white non-skid.

Behind the helm is a small galley for overnighting or knocking up a bacon sandwich out at the shelf. This comprises a two-burner alcohol stove, a hot/cold sink and a handful of cupboards.

You certainly won’t be wanting for storage on this Caribbean boat, that’s for sure.

 

Helm

Caribbean 24 Flybridge helm

At the lower helm we find a minimal setup, with SmartCraft gauges and the ergonomic awesomeness of Merc’s Digital Throttle and Shift (DTS) controls.

The FUSION head unit as standard was a nice touch, but any nav screens in this area will need to be bracket-mounted.

However, most driving will likely be done from the flybridge, where there’s more room for flush-mounting electronics.

In fact, the Caribbean 24 Flybridge Sportsfisherman is available with just a single upper control station, if you’re looking to save a few bucks.

What I did like was the headroom in this cabin – more than enough for lanky writers. In through the lockable cabin doors is a comfy vee-berth cabin, with carpet lining and wide shelves all around, plus a plumbed marine toilet.

There’s a tinted hatch to the bow, but in reality the Muir winch will take care of anchoring duties.

This utility space makes the Caribbean a top overnighter, whether you’re fishing beyond the shelf, or holed up with the family in a protected bay for the weekend.

Not many 24-footers offer the convenience of a proper dining table which you can squeeze four adults around, but the table drops, too. Toss on the helm seat cushions and, hello, extra berth. Pretty smart.

 

24 Flybridge

Caribbean 24 Flybridge

Ascend those gleaming stainless steps and you’re suddenly in bird-spotting mode, scanning the horizon for a bust-up. There weren’t many to be found off St Kilda marina, but we did have a chance to put the new V6 through its paces.

As noted, this upper helm will see most of the driving and a stylish bimini keeps the sun off while hunting out wide.

The flybridge helm scores a full suite of SmartCraft gauges, although you can conceivably monitor everything you need with just the one big programmable dial.

A recess beneath the wheel provides somewhere to tuck your feet while hooking into tight turns, but the low driving position would quickly become uncomfortable for skippers with long legs.

 

Handling and ride

Caribbean 24 Flybridge turning on the water

Rising onto the plane, the MerCruiser delivered a sweet note as the Caribbean 24 Flybridge Sportsfisherman slid up through the rev range. A few pirouettes for our photographer showed the hull biting incredibly well, the prop refusing to break free even through the most brutal turns.

Some brisk figure-eights through our own wake produced a satisfying thump off the back of the small swells – testament to that solid build pedigree.

Such a limited testing regime on a flat day is hardly going to convince anyone of the merits of this hull, but all potential buyers need to consider is the millions of sea miles put under these legendary boats since the 1980s.

 

The Trade-a-Boat verdict

Wake of Caribbean 24 Flybridge

That famous seakeeping ability and timeless design will be enough to keep hardened Caribbean boat fans coming back for more.

But in the Caribbean 24 Flybridge Sportsfisherman, International Marine has managed to inject a solid dose of new-generation smarts, courtesy of the MerCruiser V6.

This very modern engine brings appealing fuel economy, low emissions, and seemingly unlimited power to a boating platform which unashamedly has roots stretching back to the grand old days of sportsfishing.

Yes, this Caribbean boat will make a capable bluewater fishing boat when you’re miles from land and it’s designed by blokes who know their stuff, as evidenced by the round livebait tank so your lil’ fishes don’t bump their heads.

But extra touches like the hot ‘n’ cold shower at the transom or that neat galley means weekends away with the family are also possible.

 

Caribbean 24 FB SF sea trials

MerCruiser 4.5lt petrol sterndrive; Bravo 2 leg and Mercury 18¼ x 19 3-bladed alloy propeller. Two people aboard; 130lt fuel; 100lt water; 100kg ballast.

RPM

SPEED [KTS]

FUEL [lt/h]

EFFECTIVE RANGE

1000

5.5

5

345nm

2000

8

13

193nm

2200 [planing]

8.5

13.5

198nm

3000

17

25

214nm*

4000

27

45

189nm

5000 [WOT]

34

75

142nm

* Optimum cruising range between 3000-3500rpm.

** Sea-trial data supplied by author.

 

HIGHS

• The primal purr of that MerCruiser

• Head height in cabin

• Deep storage throughout

• Convertible bed in saloon

• Toeholds under the gunwales

 

LOWS

• Styling is a bit dated

• Flybridge seat set low

 

Caribbean 24 FB SF specs

Caribbean 24 FB SF price: $184,000

Subject to exchange rate; incl. Mackay electric-braked trailer

 

OPTIONS FITTED

2x Mercury DTS throttles and SmartCraft gauges.

 

PRICED FROM

$177,000 (subject to exchange rate; w/ flybridge helm only and extra bench to saloon, Mackay electric-braked trailer)

 

GENERAL

MATERIAL Solid GRP

TYPE Deep-vee monohull

LENGTH 8.4m (overall)

BEAM 2.69m

WEIGHT 2400kg

DEADRISE 21°

 

CAPACITIES

PEOPLE 6-8 (NIGHT 3)

FUEL 315lt

WATER 100lt

 

ENGINE

MAKE/MODEL MerCruiser 4.5lt MPI marine engine

TYPE Fuel-injected V6 petrol marine engine

RATED HP 250

WEIGHT 424kg

DISPLACEMENT 4500cc

PROPELLER 18¾ x 19

 

MORE INFORMATION

Caribbean Boats New Zealand

9 Clow Place, Hamilton

Phone 027 279 6664 or 027 487 4226

Email scott@caribbeanboats.co.nz or paul@caribbeanboats.co.nz

Web caribbeanboats.co.nz

 

See the full version of this review in Trade-A-Boat #255, on sale July 10, 2015. Why not subscribe today?

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