Friday, October 19, 2012
I think you’ll find this to be an unusual (but interesting) letter from a hard-core Cobalt owner raving about a model that is no longer in the Cobalt line-up: the 343.
I’ve always been an avid high-performance boater and have owned most of the usual suspects over the years when it comes to high performance off-shore boating (whole thoroughly enjoying my Cobalt’s – 293, etc. – for luxury boating on inland lakes). One question has always haunted me when it comes to boat designs: why do I have to give up so much in luxury, handling, and ride just to go fast? I get the whole weight vs. power thing, but as an engineer by background; I just had to believe that someone could solve that equation in a more balanced fashion than had been delivered to date. Enter the Cobalt 343 – a truly “stealth” solution to the problem I spoke of. My personal opinion is that the 343 was a great platform that was much more capable than most understood (or gave it credit for). And, it had all of the basic ingredients from the factory to begin to satisfy the luxury AND speed-minded owner (a little light on the original power choices but I’ll get to that in a moment).
When it was announced, I jumped at the chance to be on of the first 343 owners and George M. at the factory helped me spec out and build a fully loaded ’05 with basically every option box checked, including generator and air/heat (no speed top). Obviously, this boat is not a lightweight contender. When it left Neodesha, it was equipped with the top-end Mercury racing big blocks available at the time. It only took one shakedown ride to discover the phenomenal engineering done on creating the hull. It possessed the legendary Cobalt rode, carved incredibly in the turns, and had none of the normal idiosyncrasies typical of stepped hulls (skipping or skating in turns, etc.). To this day, other boating friends of mine are still amazed by this wolf in sheep’s clothing. It is truly the ultimate performance “sleeper” and now can run at GPS verified speeds that are (in their words) “amazing”. That statement sort of brings us to part two of the story.
With the expiration of my warranty, I decided to do a little “experimenting” in the power department. I’ve always found the best results by turning to the best people for help, so I turned to the proven marine power-making leaders: Mike D’Annibelle and the Sterling Performance guys in Michigan (my 343 sits on a lake in Ohio). His marching orders were simple: build me a couple of nasty blown on big blocks that make a ton of horsepower, but in a dependable, conservative EFI configuration that makes them very easy to love with on 91 octane. Now I had the pure grunt to do what I wanted to, but as you well know at Cobalt, there’s much more to do on getting the power to the water in the most efficient manner. Enter the second partner on this innovation: Art Cook of Art Cook Marine in Detroit, Michigan. Art has partnered with Sterling on many a hot-boat, and has a library of “little secrets” that go far beyond the typical speed parts catalogue approach to going fast.
Mike and Art took the challenge to heart and they personally propped, rigged, and massaged the 343 to a level that is an incredible blend of power and luxury. By their own admission, they were absolutely amazed at what it delivered. The result: a 343 that will tickle triple digits (GPS certified) at 6000 rpm with custom lab-finished BBlades props – and a hull that is just as confortable there as it is at 60 mph! And I still have all the luxury and legendary Cobalt attributes (including generator and A/C)! I have seen a few folks mess with alternate power in their 343’s, but to my knowledge no one else has engineered the complete combination that really put’s it directly in performance contention with a bunch of other hot-boat brands and models. We love to watch the expression on people’s faces as we pull away from they when they’re already at WOT – particularly on rough water when we’re riding like it’s a dead-calm in the Cobalt!
Jon J. Ricker
Well, there you have it. A fairly short story from a long time Cobalt fan and customer that continues to love our Cobalt’s (I’m thinking about getting one of the WSS-series boats for my oldest son). If there is ever a Cobalt model in the future that is a “next generation” to the 343, you can again put my name on one of the first hulls. Thanks again for your dedication in keeping the Cobalt name (and everything it stands for) consistent decade after decade.
Categories: Cobalt Boats, Lifestyle | Tags: Cobalt Boats, Cuddy , Lifestyle, Luxury Boat