"I never knew hot boats could actually raise the temperature of a
body of water," I observe. We are standing on the docks at Lake
Robinson, near Hartsville, S.C., watching a dozen or more runabouts
perform. The heat emanating from the lake weighs on our skin.
Al Fink, president of Stingray Boats, grins.
"This whole lake is a cooling pond for that nuke over
there," he says.
I peer at the tower peeking through the pines. I prefer my version.
A few minutes later, I step aboard the fire-engine red 230SX
closed-deck sportboat and in about the time it takes to get the boat
up on plane--i.e., a nanosecond or two--my curly locks have been
straightened out by the apparent breeze. These boats are quick.
Al Fink is right about one other thing: "This is a real
sensitive boat," he said. "It's like a fighter plane: it
goes where you point, right now."
Does it ever!
This little hotshot is the end product of what has to be the most
technologically advanced boat company in the world. Al Fink, the
ultimate tech head, was using computers, high-pressure water jets to
cut parts, and five-axis routers to perfect hull shapes before most
folks ever heard about them. He was the first boat company on the
World Wide Web and by, 1999, he will have expanded his database so that
every buyer of Stingray boats--model years 1997 forward--will have
their boats listed by serial number. Punch it in and call up complete
construction data on your boat. All parts and builder history are
Meanwhile, out on the lake, I'm admiring his handiwork from several
different angles, not the least of which are comfort and style.
The 230SX has a handsome, functional helm station with a black
dash and very fighter-plane-looking gauges. Two bolster seats drop
down (an option) so you can stand, if you like. Under the console
is a swing-out step for getting up and through the walk-through,
although you can only use it when the cabin door is closed. There
also is a rear bench seat for three diminutive lovelies or two
people who've just feasted on tomatoes, fried chicken, macaroni
and cheese, green beans, and biscuits, which I just had. (Al is
the consummate host.) Handholds on both sides. Necessary item.
Below, there is an ingenious V-berth with three cushions on the
after end. Under the one on the far left is a sink; the center one
lifts to reveal a Porta Potti, and the one on the right conceals a
one-burner Origo 2000 alcohol stove. Nice round hatch over the berth.
You could live on this boat. Sort of. Neat for overnighting,
Power on the 230SX is a single 300-hp Merc Mag MPI with Bravo I
outdrive. In the engine room, flanking the engine, are two carpeted
panels that swing up to form storage spaces.
Back on the dock, the laconic Al Fink watches as I reinvent my
"They're good on handling a load," he says. (Am I
supposed to take this personally?) "If you like to drive a
ten-year-old station wagon, you won't like our boats. If you like
the sensitivity and response of a Porsche, you'll love them."
Al Fink is right about that, too. Al Fink is right about a lot of
Motor Boating & Sailing