Where do you go for a boat ride in the middle of winter? South, yes,
but South Carolina? It gets cold there, although the lakes don't freeze.
I was a bit hesitant when Al Fink, president of Stingray Powerboats in
Hartsville, South Carolina, invited me to test the newest addition to
his company's line. He said it would be worth the trip.
The Stingray 220DS was everything Al promised -- and more. It's a lot
of boat -- in fact, several boats -- in one. The lines, like those of a
sleek runabout, will turn some heads. The layout is that of a spacious
deckboat with room for the whole gang. Underneath it all lurks a
powerboat that's pure performance sportboat. And remarkably, everything
works in concert with no compromise.
The 220DS deckboat looks like it wants to move. From the side, the
bow railing is the only thing that gives a hint that this boat is more
than it appears. A bold graphic strip is offset by the stylized Stingray
logo. The curved-glass, walk-through windscreen flows into the lines of
the deck. When you really look into the 220DS, you see all it has to
offer. There's room for 10 aboard, plus all their gear.
The deck plan of the 220DS offers two separate activity areas.
Forward are two facing bench seats along either side that double as
loungers. There's a removable table to go between them. Front to back,
this space is over 6 feet long. The aft cockpit has an L-shaped seat
running along the port side and across the helm, in addition to an
adjustable captain's chair. Another convenient removable table can be
placed in the center.
The helm has full instrumentation including a tachometer with
built-in engine hour meter. A Ritchie compass is standard, as is a tilt
steering wheel. Switches are to the left of it and a blank panel for
mounting electronics is to the right. All controls and gauges are offset
by a rich, burled-walnut woodgrain background. A high-power JVC AM/FM CD
player that mounts below the switch panel is standard, as are four
speakers -- one pair forward and another aft.
Amidship and directly under the helm console hides a compartment,
spacious enough for changing, that holds a portable head -- another
standard feature. Opposite that, and across a wide walk-through to the
foredeck, is a console that houses a sink, a 36-quart insulated ice
chest and a lockable storage compartment. A 17-gallon tank supplies a
pressurized water system for the sink and a transom shower, both of
which are standard.
One thing that struck me about the design of the 220DS is how much
storage space the boat contains. In the foreward cockpit, the seat
cushions lift out to reveal carpeted compartments, and there's another
in the sole. The space under the sink and cooler is accessible as well.
The L-shaped seat aft has more compartments under it, and there's
another removable panel in the sole directly behind the captain's chair.
The 10 people the 220DS can carry would have to bring a lot of gear
before they'd fill all the space. It has a maximum load capacity of
For the safety of younger passengers, the 220DS has 36 inches of
freeboard, but that's not an obstacle to boarding. Getting on and off
couldn't be easier. There's a walk-through transom door to the swim
platform and a step-through forepeak in the bow to access the anchor
locker. Recessed steps and fold-away sections of the bow rails let you
board the forward area from either side. The swim platform features a
three-rung boarding ladder.
When you take the 220DS out on the water, its hidden personality
comes out. This boat gets up and moves. Power options start at
MerCruiser's 220-hp 5.0L engine with an Alpha One drive and go up to the
260-hp 5.7L EFI. The latter is
what was on our test boat. It also features Stingray's patented Z-plane
hull. Al Fink promised me a 50-mph boat ride, and he was about to
They say timing is everything. That's especially true for winter
boating. It couldn't have been better on the refreshingly brisk but
bright and sunny 48-degree day that Al and I took the 220DS out on a
lake near the Stingray factory. He told me the weather the day before
was freezing rain and sleet with a high of only 19!
Al put the boat through its paces while I took notes, trying to stay
low and take advantage of the maximum protection of the windscreen. Ever
the salesman, Al pointed out the advantage of a deckboat with a
windscreen as opposed to a pontoon boat. After you've gone for a swim
and are ready to move on, you won't be chilly while you dry off. I told
him I was sold by the demonstration. He laughed.
Coming out of the hole, the 220DS got on plane in an average of 3.7
seconds and hit 25 mph in 5.8 seconds. There was a bit of a chilly
breeze coming across the water -- enough to create a slight chop -- but
the 220DS didn't seem to mind. It cruised the shimmering, sun-drenched
lake as though it were sliding over ice. (A few degrees colder and it
would have been!) We clocked the top end at 50.2 mph. I didn't bother
to calculate the wind chill factor.
Al turned the helm over to me and I checked the maneuvering at both
fast and slow speeds. The 220DS is smooth and responsive. It took tight
turns crisply. Docking movements were positive and quick. In the
upper-20-mph range it created the flat wake that skiers look for, and
slowing down to around 20, there was a good curl for kneeboarding. The
220DS holds plane down to about 25 mph.
For protection against the elements -- well, maybe not the cold --
the 220DS comes with a standard Sunbrella bimini top with a see-through
filler. An optional full camper top is available, as are a mooring cover
or a cockpit cover.
Stingray's new 220DS deckboat manages to be everything you've always
wanted in a boat without compromising anything. It works remarkably well
as a platform for entertaining family and friends, shines as a
watersports workhorse, and kick up its heels as a weekend warrior pocket