NOTE : the 240CS was formerly the 729zp
USUALLY THERE ARE NO PASSENGERS ABOARD when I test a boat. Just me and
a factory driver to take the helm while I aim the radar gun and tend to
the fuel measuring gear.
But when I tested Stingray's new 729zp during the builder's annual
dealer meeting on Lake Robinson near the company's Hartsville, South
Carolina plant, there were six aboard including four Stingray dealers.
Why? Because boat dealers know an eyebrow-raising headturner like this
extended-family-sized mega-minicruiser could translate into dollars
back home at their showrooms.
The 729 makes a blatant appeal to those who seek livability in a 23
footer - and are willing to accept a profile that's...well, full-bodied.
There's no magic here, just an 8'6" beam, a 23'6"LOA,a high,
crowned deck and generous freeboard forward (4'11 1/2") and aft
This results in a deep cockpit that's secure for kids. The coaming
hits adults at about waist level. Belowdecks, there's 5'11" of
headroom in the galley, sleeping accommodations for four and comforts
that include four opening ports, a big Bomar hatch and an enclosed head
with its own port.
The dinette fully forward converts to a V-berth, and there's a
mid-cabin berth running athwartships, measuring 4'6" wide and
6'10" long. It'll be just right for your tall, hardheaded in-laws.
But tell 'em to slide in and out carefully. With 2'9"
clearance - it's located directly under the cockpit sole - it could be a
The galley not only lets most of us stand tall, but it also has a
sink, icebox and two-burner Origo 2000 alcohol stove with hardwood
cutting board cover. The 5'1"-high head compartment comes standard
with a porta potti - for $520 you can upgrade to a marine head with
holding tank. A standard pressurized water system, which includes a
transom-mounted shower, is a cut above the norm.
Packing all of this inside the boat raises the deck, so going from the
cockpit to the ground tackle means a climb. But Stingray helps out with
a fold-in stainless step. The anchor well is deep with an overboard
This full-bodied approach also moves the windshield up, which I like,
because it means that when standing at the helm I didn't get a face full
of slipstream. Instead of picking bugs out of my teeth, I could
concentrate on the task at hand.
The dash has a vinyl-covered tilting wheel and analog engine
instrumentation, as well as a digital Humminbird depthsounder. There's
also plenty of space to add your own electronics.
Making the most of the available real estate, the back-to-back
double helm seat folds down to form a sunpad. The aft bench
seats three, and it's part of the engine-compartment hatch.
Watch your back when you bring the hatch up. It's heavy and the two
recessed turn 'n' twist pulls are far enough apart to remind you of toe
touch calisthenics. But once the hatch starts rising, two gas-assisted
struts take over. Ahhhh.
The engine compartment is roomy and everything you need to reach is
at hand. Wires are harnessed and chafe-guarded where they pass through
the bulkhead, and ends are rubber-capped. Corrosion won't be a problem
here. A battery switch is a $55 option. Get it.
High and Wide
While the 729 is big for its LOA, underway, even quartering a 15-knot
breeze, the windage of its high freeboard didn't hamper handling. Our
boat wasn't equipped with the optional Bennett trim tabs and we didn't
need them. But then again, conditions were calm and we didn't face the
ever-changing loads that cruising families typically meet.
Our boat also had the advantage of a twinprop MerCruiser Bravo Three
drive. On this kind of single-engine cruiser, the double punch of a
Bravo Three or a Volvo Penta Duoprop can make all the difference in
handling and getting out of the hole.
For instance, with a 250-hp 5.7-liter MerCruiser-the hottest power
available-and a transom deadrise of 21 degrees, our 729 was up on plane
in 6.5 seconds. With this type of boat, you can't do that with a single
prop, no matter how good the hull.
And this Stingray has an impressive underbody. The 729 has what the
builder calls a "Z Plane Hull". Since 1992 all
Stingrays have had this bottom. The product of computer-aided design,
the Z-Plane eliminates the hard vertical edges found on the running
strakes of most deep-V and modified-V hulls. Theoretically, this results
in less performance-robbing turbulence.
On the lake, there weren't enough ripples for a newt to bellyboard,
but amongst the carnival of cavorting Stingrays we found plenty of
wakes to hop. The 729 jumped the curbs with a solid whump! Below,
everything stayed where it belonged. Figure-eights were tight and the
boat switched ends in almost its own length. You should be able to get
back to a downed skier before he soaks through.
More good news. Leave the Excedrin at home. The 729 is quiet. At WOT,
the iron chorus didn't get above 88 dB-A, and on a 3000-rpm cruise it
hummed at 81. That doesn't mean you can converse in a whisper, but you
can say, "Do you see the causeway ahead?" in an authoritative
tone rather than a panicked shout.
Old and New
Stingray has computerized more than any builder I can think of. Besides
using them for design, computers also control parts of the production
line, and microchip-directed machines allow tighter tolerances in some
components. Layup and construction, however, follow long-established
A 20-ml gel coat is followed by alternating layers of 12-oz. and
24oz. woven roving. Decking is cored with Klegecell, a lightweight
composite. Coremat is used to reduce print-through on the hullsides. A
1/2" plywood strip is glassed in place along the hull edge and is
used as backing for the stainless screws - one every 6" - that are
installed when the deck is shoeboxed in place.
Stingray molds the cockpit and foredeck as one piece - a step some
builders don't take. Five full-length stringers are built of plywood
and the transom - also 1/2" ply - is resin-encapsulated and
The 729 is a big 23-footer that you can curl up in. It'll turn heads
and raise a few eyebrows - whether you go it alone or take the whole