- Crowd-pleasing layout
- Performs and handles well
- Motorguide adds fishing utility
- Versatile set-up
- Well equipped for the price
- Fun to chuck around
The Monterey 196 MS (Monterey Sport) Montura is an American sports boat that feels perfectly at home on Lake Taupo.
Pitched as an entry level offering and built to a price point, the Montura is well-equipped without being over the top. It has everything you would expect in a boat of this type, plus a few things you might not, like a powerful 200hp 4.5-litre V6 engine.
The Monterey is a good-looking boat and fun to chuck around. The bowrider layout is optimised for recreational boating with the emphasis on entertaining family and friends, fishing, towing water toys and generally enjoying a warm summer’s day on the water.
Supplied by Lakeland Marine in Taupo, the boat is sold on an American-made, dual-axle Karavan galvanised steel trailer, braked, with bunks rather than rollers. Like many American boats, it is meant to be carried on a bunk trailer, which offers better hull support, but that does mean the trailer needs to be well submerged to launch and retrieve the boat. The towing arm swings away for easier garage storage.
As reviewed, there were no electronics fitted – these will be the prerogative of the new owner – but there is a decent multi-speaker stereo system and plenty of drink holders. Standard safety features include an engine blower and fire suppression system in the engine compartment.
Room for a crowd
Like other boats of this type, the Monterey 196 MS Montura accommodates a crowd. It’s meant for fun and there is enough seating for the whole family or all your mates, with storage for all the water toys, food and drink you might need – under the seats, in lockers, shelves, a cooler and under the floor.
Behind the wrap-around windscreen a pair of swivelling bucket seats provide comfort and support; there’s a deeply cushioned rear bench seat, lounging pads on top of the engine compartment and lounger-style seats in the bows.
Access to the transom and swim platform is via moulded steps on the starboard side; the telescoping boarding ladder is recessed into the right side of the platform and opens to that side of the boat rather than over the back.
Monterey has designed this boat for a variety of roles. There’s a ski pole for water-skiers, low-set tow-points for water toys and a wide swim platform over the sterndrive unit. There’s no tower and no ballast, so the boat’s not ideal for wake surfing or wake boarding, and you’d want to add a rear-view mirror if you did a lot of skiing, but it’s a great set-up for a fun day on the water.
There are quite a few fishing-specific features. These include a removable swivel seat and pull-out casting platform in the bows, a Motorguide electric motor, also mounted in the bows, rod racks under the gunnels, and a plumbed transom live well.
Like most bowriders, the pointy end is accessed via a fold-back split screen and walk-through between the boat’s dual consoles. There are three cleats per side, but no fairlead, and the anchor is housed under the bow cushion. A heavy-duty bow cover is available, which is handy for winter boating, complementing the canvas bimini top we left folded for our run in the boat.
Driving the Montura
The Monterey is a straight-forward drive. The blower operates automatically when you turn the key, to ensure there are no dangerous petrol fumes for a stray spark to ignite, and the Mercruiser Alpha One leg tilts and trims much like an outboard. No trim tabs were fitted.
The engine installation is tidy. The gas-stayed engine cover is hinged to the rear and allows comprehensive access to the engine’s service points and the fuel system. The starting battery is in a separate locker and bilge pumps (two, one positioned aft under the engine and one amidships) empty any water that finds its way onto the decks. Fuel capacity is 121 litres.
In Kinloch Marina the boat proved easy to manage and quite manoeuvrable; once out in open water beyond the five-knot buoys, it leapt onto the plane as throttle was applied, settling down to a nicely level riding attitude. As you would expect, trimming the leg allowed a little bow up or bow down trim, but the usable trim range is fairly narrow.
The boat hangs on nicely in the turns, not heeling over excessively nor sliding a great deal. The lake was calm but performing doughnuts soon threw up enough wake to prove the boat isn’t easily thrown off line and cuts nicely through a chop. It’s a fun boat to drive enthusiastically with ample power for skiing and a relatively quiet runner too, even at full throttle.
The big V6 Merc gave an indicated top speed of 50mph (43.5 knots) at 5,100rpm during our play with the boat. The gauges are analogue, set into a moulded dash console with an attractive brushed aluminium and black leather-look wheel.
There’s no dashboard space for flush-mounted electronics, which would have to be bracket-mounted or positioned away from the helm. A VHF radio would have to be mounted under the fascia perhaps, or somewhere on the other console.
I found the helm seat comfortable enough. This is a sit-down-to-drive sort of boat, though the front seat bolsters provide a bit of extra height for improved vision when docking. The windscreen surround was right in my eyeline while driving, but it would be different for a taller or shorter driver. The fishing chair also interferes with forward vision is better stored away in the underfloor locker while travelling. It, or an additional fishing seat, also fits a receptacle on the swim platform.
The passenger console is relatively plain looking, though it shares an upholstered ‘eyebrow’ with the helm console. There’s a good-sized storage locker though, and the four-speaker Jensen stereo features AM/FM radio, USB with Bluetooth, MP3 adapter and iPod interface.
A still slightly unusual feature, at least here in New Zealand, is the electric ‘trolling’ motor on the bows. Such motors are ubiquitous in North America, fitted to any recreational vessel with sport fishing pretensions, and is becoming popular with the sport fishing fraternity in Europe too.
Electric motors are seldom used for trolling, but are instead used to quietly move a boat and hold it in position against wind, tide or current. Some units can be programmed to navigate preselected routes, along an underwater contour for example, while the boat’s occupants cast towards potentially productive fishing water; others interface with the boat’s GPS system and/or depth sounder.
The Motorguide W55 electric on the review boat was a wireless model controlled via a foot pedal, allowing the angler (usually the angler in the bows) to control the boat’s position hands-free, so he or she can keep on fishing. The Motorguide plugs into a receptacle in the Montura’s bow where it feeds off a dedicated deep-cycle battery.
I’ve used such motors often enough in fishing situations to know they are fantastic. Fishing in Taupo, the Motorguide could be used to hold the boat over trout visible on the sounder, which could then be targeted by jigging or using soft plastics.
The Monterey 196 MS Montura is a very usable vessel. With its open layout, bowrider styling and comfortable interior, it’s great for summer boating. Although not a fishing boat per se, at least not in the traditional New Zealand sense, the Montura is well suited to US-style lure casting, which is becoming more popular in New Zealand.
In a lake fishing role, this boat with its electric motor is perfect for jigging and fly-casting, while the Motorguide could also perform trout-trolling duties. Either that, or an auxiliary outboard could be fitted, as is common on lakes around the country.
The Monterey certainly performs well and is fun to drive. It’s well equipped for the money and finished to a decent standard as well. The factory supplies a 10-year warranty