Boat Review by: Matt Spencer
Princecraft is well known for building high quality aluminum fishing and pontoon boats. But what you may (or may not) find surprising is that they have also been building aluminum deck boats as well for around 20 years!
I remember distinctly when I saw the first princecraft deck boat hit the lake at my cottage, nearly 20 years ago. A wave of thoughts immediately ran through my head as I thought “WOW! That’s a cool boat! It’s like a pontoon, kind of, but also like a regular boat, kind of. “Little did my 10 year old self know, that is exactly what a deck boat is in a nutshell.
The deck boat popularity has seen a spike in popularity in the past couple of years. They have been the number one runabout in Florida and Southern US for a while now but their popularity has been rising farther North due to what I am going to call the SUV effect.
When the mini-van first came out there were those who jumped right in. They were big, spacious, had lots of room and were very functional. Well you can think of the mini-van as the pontoon boat. There is no denying that a pontoon is spacious, comfortable and functional. Well just like with a mini-van there are some who just can’t seem to mentally jump into that world yet. So enter the SUV.
The SUV was introduced as a way to blend the attractive features of the mini-van into an easier to swallow pill by giving it a little more styling, a little more utility and by adding the word “sport” to it. Well the same thing is true with deck boats. The deck boat offers the space of a pontoon with an open seating arrangement, plenty of storage but still keeps a sporty exterior with exciting performance.
Princecraft’s line-up of Ventura deck boats features all of those things with 6 models to choose from depending on what size you are looking for and what type of boating you do (fishing vs watersports vs cruising.) All come in a side console style helm design except the Ventura 220 WS that I got to test. It’s the only model in the Ventura line that comes with a full windshield, which is traditionally a Northern region favourite.
The Ventura is made from the same high grade, H36 aluminum alloy as Princecraft’s pontoon and fishing boats and sitting dockside it has striking and sporty lines. If you were walking up to the Ventura at a boat show, you might have to tap the side of the boat to double check that it is made of aluminum because the high gloss urethane paint and decal package give it a look that let’s it run in the same pack as other deck boats.
But the advantage of aluminum construction is that even though it has a beautiful exterior, it’s also tough and durable, just like an aluminum fishing boat. Beach it for the afternoon or leave it at the cottage at the dock without a worry. But perhaps the most impressive aluminum attribute of all is how light this boat it.
At 22-feet, 2-inches the Ventura 220 WS has a dry weight of roughly 2100 pounds. Lets add another 500 pounds for an outboard, then fuel and fluids etc. and we will call it an even 3000 pounds. A competitive fiberglass deckboat, at 20-feet, so 2-feet shorter, comes in with a dry weight of 4,000 pounds! Then you still have to add fuel, fluids and gear! The deeper we dig, the more the Ventura line of boats starts to make a lot of sense and we haven’t even gotten to the best part!
Boarding the Ventura 220 can be done one of two ways: you can walk through the center walk thru at the bow, which depending on the height of your dock is usually at the same height so it’s an easy step on and into the bow. Or you can enter at the stern through the starboard walk thru of the oversized sun deck.
If you entered through the bow you will notice how tempting the seats are to just jump into. They’re plush with thick foam and have an attractive rounded curve to them that make them comfortable whether you’re lounging by yourself with your feet up or have to sit upright and share. There are grab handles, drink holders and ample storage under both seats. Just like a pontoon, if you can sit on the seat, there is probably storage underneath it.
Moving through the walk thru windshield you will find two things at your feet: a ski locker, as well as a built in floor cooler. Lugging a cooler to the boat is annoying and cumbersome so it is nice to have one built right into the boat that you can just toss the drinks into.
Right beside these you can find the port side entertainment center which features a sink, plenty of counter space, drink holder and your entertainment center.
Again taking cues from pontoons, the Ventura 220 has an L grouping layout instead of the traditional twin captain’s chairs and rear bench seat. I personally prefer this layout, it’s more open, more functional and provides the most amount of space. And like I mentioned before, it also provides the most amount of storage since that large L-seat also opens forward for storage. I talked earlier about the large sun pad the Ventura 220 has. Again, it lifts up on the starboard side for the walk thru but also on the port side the sun pad lifts up to reveal more storage, with another compartment at the bottom of that one, for gear that you might not need readily available. I think it would have been nice if one of them propped open to make a lounge, but that’s just being picky.
The helm offers a row of multiple gauges set into a shaded hood, tilt steering and a dual row of rocker switches forward of the throttle. The seat spins, moves fore and aft and offers a great line of sight.
When you look at the spec sheet of the Ventura 220 WS you will notice that it is rated for a max of 200 hp. You might be thinking that for a 22-foot boat that’s not a lot. But if we circle back to the thought of how light this boat is compared to fiberglass competitors you start to realize that it needs less horsepower overall. Less horsepower means less fuel, which means more savings. One of the things that families are very conscious of when choosing a boat is the bow rise. Too much bow rise not only is unsettling, but it also blocks your forward line of sight. And if it does it empty, it usually only gets worse when the boat is loaded up with people and fuel.
When we talk about bow rise on the Ventura, what bow rise? Thanks to the deep Vee and reverse chine hull, the Ventura is basically on plane instantly. From a stand still to going full throttle, the bow rose, maybe 10 degrees if that and was immediately on plane. This is a huge selling feature if you ask me.
The ride in the Ventura was soft and quiet. All that plush padding absorbs and water noise or vibrations, along with the foam that’s injected into the hull itself. The Ventura doesn’t feel like an aluminum boat at all at both cruising speeds and wide open throttle. Just like any Princecraft boat, the ride is also quite dry. As I kicked up some waves with my own wake and crossed back over them I didn’t get as much as a drop on my windscreen.
Cruising range was 23.5 mph at 3500 rpm, 28.9 at 4000 and 32.4 at 4500. Top speed, a respectable 45.9 mph with the 175-hp Mercury Verado. The Ventura has a HP range of 150 to 200, so based on these numbers I would be confident it would perform admirably with a 150, and a 200 would give you that little extra zip you might be looking for if you favour speed. It’s hard to believe that in the almost 10 years I’ve been reviewing boats, and the hundreds of boats I’ve reviewed, this is the first Princecraft deck boat I have reviewed. I don’t want to say I was surprised. In fact, the Ventura was exactly what I thought it would be. A functional, comfortable boat with lots of space and great performance. And really when it comes down to it, what else is there?
|Dry weight:||2,108 lbs||956 kg|
|Fuel Capacity:||46 US gals||174 L|
|Base Engine / Drive:||Mercury Verado|