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October 25, 2001

Scout 260 Cabrio

"We didn't need to wash the boat down after our test prior to the owner coming aboard: It ran that dry."

Scout Boats enjoys the enviable position of being one of the fastest-growing production boatbuilders in the United States. As with most businesses, the logical reason is that they build an excellent product at a fair price. But until now, Scout has strictly produced smaller skiffs. This new 260 Cabrio represents a radical departure from business as usual for Scout. Rest assured, however, that in both design and value, Scout remains faithful to its high quality and reasonable price philosophy.

Performance
Though the 20-knot northwest wind continued to drop following a cold front's passage, it still whipped up a considerable sea even on sheltered Tampa Bay. Heading out past the Skyway Bridge and through the Egmont Key ship channel into the Gulf of Mexico, the seas picked up quite a bit more. Even though I ran the 260 Cabrio pretty hard into both chop and 4-foot seas at the channel mouth, we didn't need to wash the boat down after our test prior to the owner coming aboard: It ran that dry.
Helm ergonomics contribute significantly to a boat's performance. If the helm doesn't "fit" right, you'll never get the most out of a boat. Scout has done a superb job of placing throttles and trim tabs for easy control. Lighted twist-type breaker switches by the helmsman's right leg can be easily seen and reached. Another oft-overlooked item on which Scout has done a better-than-average job: a selection of superb handholds for the helmsman.
The Intracoastal Waterway provided us with sheltered water to do speed runs. The 260 Cabrio hit 53.6 mph burning 53 gph at 5,200 rpm. Since the twin Yamaha 225 Saltwater Series engines rate a maximum 5,500 rpm, different props might yield a few more mph - if that matters to you. More importantly, 3,500 rpm produced a 37 1/2-mph cruising speed and only used a touch over 20 gph total.
The 260 drifts beam-to the seas, but you can easily steer it down-sea, drifting from one beam to the other by turning the steering wheel. Though relatively sensitive to running trim, you'll find the 260 to be very responsive to the tabs, needing just a quick tap to make fine adjustments. With engines trimmed all the way down, the Cabrio carves a sharp, hard turn. Trim them up to cruising configuration and the stern slips just enough in a hard-over turn to keep you in the boat.

Fishing
There's a relatively deep tarpon hole just off the end of Egmont Key. It appeared empty of tarpon, but I had no problem reaching to the water's surface to release the jacks we caught. The cockpit coaming pads surrounding the large fighting space hit me right at the knee, but Scout provides enough toe space beneath the rail that I didn't feel as though my center of gravity was overboard.
Cockpit rod storage consists of two under and two more atop each gunwale. The hardtop provides more, and the cabin can handle still others with aftermarket ceiling racks.
Like larger express boats, the 260 Cabrio's tackle centers can be found in modules at the end of the helm deck. One module contains a sink, cutting board and cooler while the other houses a live baitwell. But they serve an even greater purpose. I wondered why each module had space between it and the helm seat just to forward. It turns out that they've been designed as forward-facing seating with strong handholds on the helm-seat backs while underway. So sit forward underway and face aft with eyes on the spread while trolling. Very ingenious. Fish boxes port and starboard drained through a macerator pump, and fresh- and saltwater washdowns complete the fishing amenities. I found the Cabrio to fish most comfortably.

Design and Construction
Perhaps most significant innovation in the Cabrio is the Scout-Strata-Mount. Instead of the longitudinal full-length stringers ending at the transom as they do in most boats, they extend past it all the way into the engine bracket. Any naval architect will tell you that the greatest stress on a boat comes not from pounding in seas but rather from the thrust of the engine(s). Scout Boats president Steve Potts engineered this bracket to spread the engine forces much more thoroughly throughout the entire hull rather than just pushing in the transom.
A small cabin housing a V-berth with insert provides enough room for two with adequate sitting headroom. You'll also find a minimal galley stove and head as well as Corian-type finishes on the counter.
In addition to proven lamination technology and striking lines, Scout's 260 Cabrio supplies excellent access to plumbing and rigging through transom hatches. Batteries sit in a large midship lazzarette: a unique valve in the transom opens a reserve section of the fuel tank, saving your bacon if that big fish drags you farther offshore than your float plan had predicted.