Boat Review by: Rick Layzell
In 1974, George Rossiter took his love for boating into his workshop and began handcrafting exceptional wooden boats. Fastrack to 2023, and on the heels of an upcoming 50th Anniversary for Rossiter Boats, that passion still drives the building process in the shop. The difference now is that everything Rossiter builds is fiberglass, and their commitment to embracing modern manufacturing technology is a huge part of everyday life at their facility. With one exception, all Rossiter boats are built, one at a time, by hand, each and every day.
So, while the plant has introduced extensive use of 3D modelling, high-tech composite materials from Kevlar to closed cell structural engineered foam, stitched mat fabric for lightweight hulls, and custom gelcoat with barrier coating to resist osmotic blistering, the passionate craftsmen and women at Rossiter still do it all by hand.
Learning this before we headed to the docks had me excited to test our first Rossiter since 2017. Reading about the R23 Classic Picnic Boat had me curious, and my first question was simple: What the heck is a ‘picnic’ boat? What I learned is that a picnic boat has direct lineage to lobster boats where space on deck (for pots and gear) was critical, and hulls are designed to reach high speeds with little effort so the catch of the day could quickly and efficiently be brought back to local market. Ok, so a picnic boat is a boat with a ton of interior room and a fast and fun boat to drive. I’m in!
Let’s look at the specifications of the R23 -- she rests at 22’5” length overall and carries an 8’ 5” beam, draft is a modest 25”, she holds 264 L (70 US gal) of fuel, and her dry weight is 3,220 lbs (1,460 kg).
We arrived on test day on the Canadian side of the 1000 Islands and the R23 was waiting for us at the docks. If first impressions last forever (they do in my books) then my first impressions was ‘WOW, this boat is huge on interior space’. With a Yamaha 250 outboard mounted on her stern, the cockpit interior is truly massive. My second impression was an appreciation for the classic look to her lines – the deep grey exterior gelcoat was accented by a single blue gel stripe at the waterline, and her interior gelcoat was an ivory cream colour – clean and classic. The deck attached to the hull uses a traditional gunnel mold with a beautiful rope insert accent. The gunnel is wide and sturdy with extensive use of anti-slip for safe boarding access.
Her interior is clean and classic, featuring quality vinyl and stitching patterns with a simple deep blue piping addition. Dotted throughout the interior were subtle uses of teak (port & starboard gear storage), as well as captain and co-captain seating areas with teak accenting the phone charging stations. Her single piece wooden (highly glossed) steering wheel rested in front of a teak insert behind the gauge package.
And this is where her vintage style began to interplay beautifully with today’s modern tech. Mounted center on the helm station was a Garmin GPS system. This was framed with a digital Yamaha gauge to either side, Lenco trim tabs with gauge, and multiple toggle switches adorned the helm for our electrical needs. As my gaze moved to starboard, I noted the Yamaha digital throttle control system, and finally the Fusion sound system. Nested inside of the beautiful wooden steering wheel were 3 spokes and a center hub all dressed in stainless steel. The double wide helm seat also features a full-width and easy to use flip-up bolster. I must note that the sturdy windshield also featured vent windows on both sides – very vintage and very cool.
Extensive use of stainless steel was prevalent throughout the boat, including the many pop-up cleats for mooring lines and fenders, raw water shower head, four-step reboarding ladder, multiple grab handles, and the rugged bimini top.
The swim platform offers lots of room for reboarding after a swim, and two doors mounted to center provide access to batteries and on/off power switch. A rugged door is mounted to starboard using a serious piece of stainless-steel hinge hardware. Cockpit cushions mounted forward of the swim platform door can readily be removed to provide easy access for guests.
The mid-cockpit seating/lounging area is where the massive ‘picnic boat’ concept really comes to light. Here you’ll find comfortable face-to-face rows of seating for up to 7 adults. With twin rear-facing seats behind the captain, a single rear-facing seat behind the co-captain, and an enormous port to starboard four-person forward-facing bench across the stern, this area is huge. Underneath all these seats are a total of five watertight storage compartments for your gear – these use a latch and seal configuration like I’ve never seen – very rugged and sure to be very watertight (the seat bases incorporate a unique mount that securely attaches the seat to the storage door). Multiple cupholders are well positioned throughout her interior and LED cockpit lighting is perfect for setting the tone in the late afternoon or early evening.
Bow access is offered via a molded-in step in the cuddy cabin door. This step features safe anti-skid material which carries up the center section of the bow – if your crew needs to prepare a mooring line you can be confident in their safety, there’s even a pair of stainless steel grab bars.
The cuddy cabin itself features a large skylight (I’d like to see a screen for this), comfortable cushions on either side for an afternoon snooze (or an overnight if you so choose), and a center mounted electric porta potti ensures longer boating seasons with the family.
We eased away from the docks towards our afternoon test grounds under a sunny sky and 24 C (80 F) temperatures. Several local tourist cruise ships were plying the local waterways and their wakes were going to make for some solid big water testing for the Rossiter R23.
The camera boat was a few moments behind, so my passenger and I took quick advantage of some time to test the hull and get a sense for her performance capabilities. To say we were impressed would be an incredible understatement. The R23 delivered exceptional hole shots with limited to no bow rise – she was consistently on plane in 3.5 seconds. Her cruising capacity seems endless, and we settled in at 19 mph and 28 mph at modest 2900 & 3500 RPM ranges. Top speed trials just got better as the day went on, in the end I recorded 47 mph at 5500 RPM.
The R23 absolutely loved the wake and waves created by the tour boats. While our camera boat was getting tossed around, we were cruising through them like they weren’t even there. One of her greatest performance moments was running through some very tight turns. Turning to either port or starboard, the R23 never once cavitated, she made the maneuvers with purpose and a harmonious balance of power and hull design.
(Please note that our testing is done under strict safety protocols and we do not test near other vessels.)
The Canadian made Rossiter R23 is an exceptional watercraft. She would readily be at home on any large body of water, and her layout makes for a friendly atmosphere for entertaining with lots of guests. Her unique blend of vintage classic style readily pairs with today’s digital technologies, and her performance results are simply exceptional.
|Dry weight:||3,220 lbs||1,460 kg|
|Fuel Capacity:||70 US gal||264 L|
|Base Engine / Drive:||Yamaha|