On the boats: Cobalt R6 outboard
The first two tasks of a family runabout are to ensure the safety and comfort of its occupants. It should also work adequately for exhilarating adventures like day cruises, tubing and swimming, and sunset picnics. It should offer specially designed equipment to support these activities. Plus, as a major investment for any family, it should hold its value for however many years the family chooses to keep it.
Cobalt Boats has ticked all of these boxes for a long time, first under St. Clair family ownership and, for the past four years, under corporate ownership of Malibu Boats. The company has always offered inboard/outboard power from Volvo or MerCruiser, but the advent of large and powerful four-stroke outboards has made them favored choices in tidal waters like the Chesapeake. Cobalt’s strong naval architecture and engineering team responded with hulls specifically designed for the power of Yamaha and Mercury.
The subject of this review, the 25’5″ R6 outboard, is ideal as a family runabout. It’s big enough to haul 14 people and tame a Chesapeake afternoon south, but small enough to run well with 300-350hp engines. While Yamaha’s F300 is a strong and durable engine, the two Chesapeake Cobalt dealers prefer to equip the outboards with a 300 hp V8 or 350 hp Mercury Verados I6, citing the quiet running of the engines (resulting innovations from the dedicated Noise engine/Vibration/Harshness engineering laboratory). “A single 300 is very fast,” said Bosun general manager Jeff Truesdale of Grasonville at the wide mouth of the Chester River. “With it, an R6 tops 50s, but few families want to run that fast in the Chesapeake seas. More to the point is the boat’s efficient and comfortable running at speeds from the low 20s to mid-30s. It rolls especially well at 3400 rpm, 25-26 mph.
Credit the Cobalt design team and rolling crews for this performance. Wide, sharp inverted chines and sharp lifting strakes dampen spray and provide stability at rest, while an all-composite hull provides strength and enough weight to complement the shape for a smooth ride with no rattles or jerks. The engine bolts to an integrated transom mount, with carefully calculated balance around the placement of tanks, batteries, seats and people.
The outboard model has a sturdy, solid feel under way, with an 18-degree running bottom curving into a sharp arc. The R6 is a “tremendous hull,” said Truesdale, “a smooth ride with 16 layers of fiberglass crimped with vinylester resin, plus Kevlar in the keel.” Keith Carr, delivery captain at Prince William Marina on the Potomac, agreed. “We have extensive experience with cobalts. Their performance is incredible. They attract smiles to the ears of customers. I’ve made deliveries in all kinds of bad weather. There are no rattles, sprays or jerks. The boat will take more than we can handle. It is a great size for the bay and its rivers.
While the R6 legitimately offers seating for up to 14 adults, most family outings will include fewer people who will find the R6 downright spacious, with details carefully planned by “people who run their own boats”, according to Prince William’s longtime chairman, Carlton Philips. The foredeck contains an anchor locker for a thru-shank plow anchor, with an optional windlass. Cobalt mounts eight inch stainless steel cleats at the bow, amidships for the spring lines and aft. Phillips notes that they are supported by aluminum support plates laid into the slats of the boat deck. It also touts Cobalt’s stainless steel fender clips, quick-mount fittings installed in the decks at the proper fender positions. The fender lines are preset, with stainless steel pins at their upper ends. When mooring, simply insert the pin into the fitting and the fender locks into the optimum position to protect the boat’s shiny gelcoat.
The forward cockpit features an L-shaped lounge to port and center, with a single starboard seat. The area can accommodate up to four people, with cup holders and grab handles placed in the appropriate places. Double-stitched cushions, made of material that stays cool to the touch on sunny days, rise on stainless steel piano hinges and neatly attached gas struts to provide finished storage for fenders, rescue, towels and clothing. When raised, the starboard seat provides service access to the dash at the helm, including marine electronics and stereo.
The walkway between the port (head) and starboard (helm) consoles features a folding door and center section that closes tightly in snotty weather, with long padded storage under the sole for items like water skis, boards and towing toys. Cobalt engineers shaped the port console door and hinges so it swings freely and opens wide for easy access when reversing. The R6’s hull is deep enough for the head to be “functional”, as Carlton Phillips puts it. We would order the boat with porcelain electric toilet, holding tank and sink console. To starboard, the helm console offers a Garmin glass deck, featuring a pair of 7″ or 10″ electronic touchscreen displays that provide sonar and charts as well as engine data. Below is a neat row of switches, there are toggles for the trim tabs, controls for the stereo and to starboard of the dash is an optional cell phone holder/wireless charger. The throttle/shift/trim lever mounts on the side. The swivel bar and fixed companion seat have a folding bolster to sit higher on the go.
Multi-function sofas extend from both sides of the R6’s cockpit. On the port side, the forward end forms the companion seat, but a swivel backrest on a sturdy, polished stainless steel frame allows the space to convert into an aft-facing lounge for people-watching riding tow toys . The aft section of the port settee contains a similar seat back, which swivels aft to provide a forward-facing lounge or forward to provide an aft-facing lounge for watching swimmers when the boat is in on the hook or on a beach. The starboard settee offers the same folding backrest aft, as well as a dedicated space under the bench seat for a hand cooler.
Look at the photos on the Cobalt website of the two settees with both hatches up. They tell the story of Cobalt’s attention to detail. First, obviously, there’s extra storage there, and the bins lift up for service access to the plumbing, wiring, and tanks in the hold. But look closely at the two hatches, each rising on a stainless steel piano hinge and suspended by a pair of gas struts. Note that the undersides of the hatches are finished in gelcoat, with joints shaped to fit the ledges of the stowage compartments. Also note the gutters along the rims, so any water that falls will drain aft to the rear deck and overboard, not into storage. Note the stainless steel bolts secured with nuts and washers that hold all the fittings, especially the two backing plates for each backrest hinge. Each hatch is a complicated piece, but it is designed, manufactured and assembled to last. As you look at this photo, note the location of the cupholders both in the top pockets for those sitting forward on the couch and on the ledges just outside the back cushions for those sitting in front of the sofa. lounge in it with the seatbacks adjusted to face the rear. Also observe the scuppers at the aft end of the cockpit. Any water that might end up on the sole of the cockpit drains into gutters that run along both sides, leading to these two scuppers. In turn, they go through the transom and go overboard.
A central walkway between the settees conveniently leads back to a deep, full-width swim platform at the transom. Here the advantage of the power of a single motor shows itself. With the seatbacks facing aft, they and the aft deck form a happy space that can serve multiple swimmers and spectators, aptly including stereo speakers and a switch to control them on the port side.
To starboard of the engine is a folding step, an ingenious and patented Cobalt feature. The non-slip step is suspended from two sturdy polished stainless steel straps which allow it to be stored in a pocket on top of the platform, secured by a simple spring lock. When released, it flips over to form a secure water step for a person climbing in or out of the water. A telescopic ladder to port is an option.
“Cobalt is all about customer satisfaction,” noted Jeff Truesdale. “Customers often say I want one because it was my grandfather’s boat.” Carlton Phillips accepted. “Malibu has continued the tradition established by the St. Clair family. They work well with us, especially in today’s difficult circumstances. They are sturdy, well-built boats. Cobalt sticks to what’s proven. When something works, it works. People keep their cobalts and take good care of them.
The base MSRP at time of publication for an R6 outboard motor with a 300 horsepower Mercury Verado V8 is $131,298. Cobalt offers a Design Your Dream section on its website to outfit an R6 with a full range of options.