- Open-backed hardtop
- Seadeck flooring
- 185-litre underfloor fuel tank
- Ultraflex hydraulic steering
- Plenty of interior volume
- Nicely appointed inside and out
- Stylish looks
- Performs well with modest horsepower
- Could have used trim tabs
- 3.0-litre Mercury 150hp very quiet
- Rides well, level attitude
- Qute lively at rest
When launching his first boat-building venture, Mark Presnall drew on his experience with aluminium trailer boats and worked with Jarrod Hall of Hall Marine Design to create the Ultimate 21, the first of a planned range of Ultimate boats.
Boating NZ met the first Ultimate 21 in September. It had left Ultimate’s Tauranga workshop for Auckland the day before on an Enduro dual-axle braked trailer with smart black mudguards. Presnall reckons the rig weighs-in at 2000kg on the road.
The Ultimate 21’s design pedigree is evident when seen bow-on, but the sheerline is quite different from other boats on the market. Ultimate Boats has opted for plenty of beam, a moderate 18-degree deadrise at the transom and a relatively fine entry with 6mm thick hull plates to provide a soft, quiet ride. The boat’s sides, cabin and decks are 4mm aluminium while 3mm is used for the hardtop roof.
The cabin and cockpit are lined with Frontrunner with black vinyl used inside the hardtop, on the dashboard and for the hardtop ceiling. A pair of fully adjustable upholstered pedestal seats is comfortable and supportive, but is the only seating option aboard the boat, unless you want to sit inside the cabin. However versions such as king/queen, and padded Iceytek bin seating are optional. The seats have fold-up bolsters for excellent back support when standing up and there are plenty of hand rails, including on the hardtop ceiling, so standing passengers remain secure when the boat’s underway.
The forward cabin feels spacious. There are no windows or ports, but the bulkhead is completely open, including under the helm console, and there’s a large hatch in the foredeck, so the cabin’s flooded with light. The vee-berths are long enough to lie down on, unless you are really tall. There’s generous seated headroom and provision to plumb in a marine toilet with a curtain for privacy.
The hardtop feels spacious too, taking advantage of the Ultimate’s beamy nature and wrap-around frameless windscreens. Presnall is a tall man but the hardtop ceiling leaves him plenty of headroom. The side windows are fixed rather than sliding. A couple of opening hatches overhead admit light and air, and LED lighting brightens the space at night.
Access to the foredeck and the Maxwell RC6 remotely operated capstan is either around the hardtop – the neoprene covered side decks are wide enough to negotiate easily with rails on the hardtop roof to hold onto – or through the foredeck hatch from the cabin. The tall bow rail provides a measure of security.
With only two pedestal seats, the cockpit is completely uncluttered. So far there’s no bait station, but Presnall is considering options. Probably not a built-in bait stations on the transom, because they can get in the way when fishing, but perhaps a removable station. King and queen seating is an option, as is a rear lounger or a padded chilly bin.
The hardtop is furnished with a six-position rocket launcher for rod storage and a tow point for tow sports. Drink/sinker holders are set into the coamings, which are covered in grey neoprene for grip, softness and warmth. Teak-look brown Seadeck is used on the cockpit sole and in the cabin well. It feels good underfoot, probably contributes to how quiet the boat is and offers excellent grip, wet or dry.
Four through-coaming rod holders complement full-length cockpit side shelves, wide enough for dive bottles, though there’s good space under the cockpit sole in a pair of long, deep lockers: one dry and the other wet. Across the transom a removable acrylic panel is engraved with the boat’s Ultimate 21 branding. Once removed it reveals the batteries on a shelf, fuel filter and stowage.
A 185-litre underfloor fuel tank is under the floor, aft and there’s a live bait tank under the transom step-through awaiting plumbing. Tuna tubes can be installed in the transom corners; inspection hatches are already in place to facilitate the plumbing and electrics, and there’s another inspection hatch on the swim step.
Easy to drive
The Ultimate 21 has benign handling characteristics. There’s neither a pod nor an outboard well. Instead the engine is bolted to a bracket welded to the hull which extends back under the swim platform. As a result the boat is not too fussy about engine trim, though getting the trimming right offers the usual benefits of improved fuel consumption and more speed.
Power came courtesy of Mercury’s lightweight, compact four-stroke 150hp. This is a large displacement, in-line four-cylinder with electronic fuel injection. Although the hull is rated to 200hp, the 150hp Merc is grunty enough and Presnall thinks it would perform just fine with a 115hp outboard, though he says the hull likes a bit of weight on the transom.
The Mercury 150hp benefits from its 3.0-litre displacement, quickly propelling the Ultimate 21 onto the plane and holding it up there right down to 10-11 knots. This with four adults aboard and a full tank of fuel. Steering is light, thanks to Ultraflex hydraulic system, the helm position works well and Mercury Smartcraft gauges provide plenty of useful engine and navigation data, or use the Garmin GPSMap 1020XS to display the same data.
The Mercury is quiet, especially at idle, complementing the Ultimate 21’s soft-riding hull. There was little slapping and no slamming and even the usual sound of water running past an aluminium hull was muted. There wasn’t too much chop to contend with during our demonstration, except where wind and tide clashed around North Head, but we did find plenty of boat wakes from which to launch the Ultimate into the air. Landings were soft and the ride was smooth and dry.
Transitioning onto the plane is smooth; the boat rode level all the way. Trim tabs were not fitted. In a crosswind hardtop boats naturally lean into the wind. We compensated by shifting passengers around.
The boat’s stability was more affected by shifting passenger weight than I had expected. It’s beamy but it moves around quite a bit at rest. Since the test an optional 100-litre freshwater tank has been fitted for the washdown, which has further improved the performance and stability of the boat. QL trim tabs have also been added, Presnall says, and they do their job nicely in a crosswind.
At 3600rpm the Ultimate 21 cruises comfortably at 23 knots burning 20 litres of fuel per hour; at trolling speed, 7 knots, fuel consumption is a miserly 6.7 litres per hour. Top speed is around 37 knots.
Ultimate Boats is pitching at all family members wanting style with a quality finish as much as performance and utility, but still with the ability to catch fish and make a mess. The Ultimate 21 is well mannered and comfortable with plenty of interior volume and enough range for big days on the water. It’s nicely appointed inside and out, so it should have as much appeal for the woman of the house as it does for the man. Base packages start at $87,000.