Once upon a time, runabouts were runabouts, deck boats were deck boats, and never the twain did meet. Today, however, those distinctions have blurred to the point that it’s hard to know what to call the Deckliner 215 from VIP Boats.
It might be a really fast deck boat, or it might be an unbelievably spacious runabout. Either way, I know the two guys cruising Lake Havasu in the outboard ski boat were looking to embarrass what seemed to be an easy target: us. They ranged up alongside, looked us over and gave us that American Graffiti look of wanting to drag for pink slips.
At that point, B.J. Stampley, the regional sales manager for VIP, simply put the hammer down on our Deckliner. The MerCruiser 4.3LX under our rear lid yowled briefly in surprise, the 19-pitch SST prop bit solidly, and we were nothing more than disappearing spray to our waterborne hustlers.
If you’ve been thinking that all deckboats have a pair of tubby aluminum pontoons, you’re as far off base as our two wannabe racers. Take a look at the Deckliner 215 on a trailer and you’ll see the patented tunnel hull that bears more resemblance to a Formula One raceboat than to Huck Finn’s barge. Essentially a trimaran hull with twin air slots running the full length, the main hull has a V-bottom that flattens aft into a planing surface while the asymmetrical outer hulls provide an amazing amount of stability.
Getting aboard the Deckliner is easy: there’s a boarding area forward or a step-through gate to port and, either way, it feels so solid you’ll think you just stepped onto another part of the dock. The forward deck is raised, with a pair of pedestal mounts for the standard folding fishing chairs, which can also be moved to another pair of mounts aft. An anchor locker is flush with the deck and the livewell can also be in the bow rather than in the port quarter as on our test boat.
The midships section of the Deckliner has a pair of sumptuously upholstered lounges that are more comfortable than the sofas in most homes. These face each other across a removable table that can be stored in a lockable central deck locker that is also big enough to hold water skis or fishing rods.
Further aft, the helm console is to starboard with a full-width bench seat providing additional seating for companions. The dash is fitted with an array of Mercury instruments and a row of rocker switches and fuse holders for the electrical system. Teleflex rack and pinion steering is standard and a sun pad covers the engine compartment. Aft, an integral swim platform on the transom has a hidden boarding ladder.
The result is that the Deckliner 215 is an extremely versatile boat as delivered with just the standard equipment. For a family, there’s plenty of room for lounging, for dining in comfort or for catching rays on the sun pad. Fishermen like the fore and aft fishing chairs, the built-in livewell and the ample rod storage that is out of sight and lockable. Hustlers like B.J. just love the performance, and so will water-skiers.
Standard power for the 215 is the MerCruiser 4.3LX V-6 with Alpha One drive; but, depending on how fast you want to go, you can go all the way to a 5.7L V-8 with Bravo 3 drive that will push you near the mile-a-minute mark.
Engine access is good, although the engine lid has no brace to hold it in place, making service either awkward or a two-person task. The battery is strapped down in the engine compartment to starboard, and there are storage areas outboard of the engine. The 44-gallon aluminum fuel tank is buried under the plywood cockpit floor, which makes it hard to inspect and even harder to replace, if necessary.
Construction is conventional and proven with alternating layers of chopped fibers and 24-ounce woven roving, and a sprayed core layer helps prevent print-through in the gelcoat of the fabric pattern. The hull stringers and floor are a specially-impregnated plywood (M-Liner) that carries a lifetime warranty beyond the standard five-year VIP warranty. All wood pieces, such as underdeck backing plates, are fully encapsulated in fiberglass for protection against rot. If you plan to leave your boat in the water, a fiberglass floorliner (which makes the Deckliner cockpit self-bailing rather than draining into the bilges) can be ordered as an option. VIP produces everything from the rails to the Luxura interior upholstery at their plant, enabling them to maintain quality control at a reasonable price.
There’s carpeted storage under the sofas and bench seat, in the main hull and in the engine compartment. Considering the price level of the Deckliner, I found the finish inside the lockers and under the hatches to be surprisingly high.
I was also impressed by the amount of standard equipment that VIP manages to provide while holding the price down. In addition to the fishing gear already mentioned, the Deckliner is delivered with stereo, Bimini top, trim tabs and carpet.
As our two youthful challengers found, the Deckliner 215 is a real sleeper in the performance department. Our zero-hour boat, prepared by Maverick Marine in Lake Havasu City, Arizona, topped out on the TrailerBoats radar gun at 43 mph, but I’d expect to see 47 mph as the factory numbers predict from an engine with some break-in time. At a lazy 3,000 rpm, we were cruising comfortably at 25 mph, which would be a good speed for a family outing up river, towing someone on skis or a board, or simply enjoying the breeze.
Unlike some tunnel hulls, the 215 seems unaffected by chop, either going upwind or crosswind, and the turns are sharp and distinctly unlike many tunnel hulls that lean outboard. The Deckliner banks comfortably into tight turns, and the steering is reassuringly smooth and positive.
Because the cockpit construction is plywood, there are several different arrangements available for the 215, including a center console with hidden head compartment that will extend your personal range as well as provide a place to change from a wet bathing suit.
Base price on the Deckliner 215 is $19,995, and our test boat listed at $22,995 including a custom tandem axle trailer with brakes and stainless-steel prop. Options you might consider are the center console with head ($667), the inner liner ($1,000) and perhaps one of the bigger engines, but only if you take pleasure in embarrassing other boats.
|Draft (drive up)||1′|
|Draft (drive down)||2′ 4″|
|Displacement (V-6)||2,740 lbs.|
|Std. Engine||MerCruiser 4.3LX|
|Price As Tested||$22,995 (inc. trailer)|
P.O. Box 232
Vivian, LA 71082
Phone: (800) 256-7579