By Andy Adams
Few people ever really define what they mean by “family boat ” or what it’s function should be . There are about as many categories and criteria as there are individual owners, but in terms of a light, trailerable runabout, there are some points common to the majority of owners. The boat should be seaworthy (deep, dry, and without running quirks or peculiarities); the boat should be simple enough and safe enough for virtually anyone to operate. It should be versatile for a multitude of uses, yet of reasonable size and economical to buy, use and sell.
This Test Bench report deals with the 1978 Century Raven with a 190 h.p. OMC stern drive, which I consider to be a family boat. It is trailerable at 18-ft, accommodates six people and their gear, will handle a multitude of different uses, is simple to operate, deep, dry and seaworthy and offers good value for the money.
Our test boat was a pretty design in a traditional sense with a pale blue hull, contrasting coloured graphics and an off white to tan deck and hull. making it one of the most pleasant combinations in the industry; I warmed to it quickly.
The Century has two sleeper seats, similar to the seats I liked so well in the SeaRay. The seat rails are heavy, have locking clips, adjust for reach forward and backward and fold flat. It sounds odd to say they fold flat since they are sleeper seats. But often the seats in other boats only fold into a stretched “W”, making them very uncomfortable for the serious tanners in the group.
Rear jump seats are seldom, a pleasant spot to spend the day, but the Century’s are well shaped and padded and would be fine even for a long trip.
The pile carpeting is brown which contrasts nicely with the rest of the boat and shouldn’t show stains or age. There is lots of storage space in the side panels under the seats, and under the centre section of teak flooring. At the front is a teak covered cooler with a drain. There are the usual drink holders and various touches expected in a quality boat, such as the locking glove box for cameras and other valuables.
Two things came out during the test that I really didn’t like. The steering wheel is a small diameter wheel with handsome stainless steel spokes. In the spokes are rectangular cutouts. It looks very nice and feels comfortable in the hands, but while the face sides of the cutouts are filed and smoothed at the edges, the back sides are not. The result is a series of knife-edges where you least expect to find them. This isn’t uncommon on inexpensive boats, and would certainly not be enough to prevent me from buying a Century, but I was very disappointed to see a lapse in quality control in such an obvious spot when the rest of the boat is so carefully finished.
My second objection was to a new feature from OMC. In place of the oil pressure gauge found on many boats there is a warning light which is large and bright, supplemented by a loud buzzer. This is probably a good idea for careless owners who never take the time to read the gauges they have paid for and if it ever saved you from seizing up an engine, it would be worth the aggravation.
What I didn’t like was that it came on when the ignition was turned to the ‘on’ position because the engine is not running and therefore has no pressure. I found it distracting when trying to start the boat and also when the engine stalls. It is most disconcerting to have the buzzer sound when you are docking. It turns the simple act of re-starting the boat into a wild emergency drill. I mention this because if I found it annoying so will other owners and I expect some people will disconnect the buzzers as they do in their cars. That defeats the purpose of the whole system and could prove to be costly.
The test boat was equipped with an OMC 190 h.p. stern drive which uses a large V8 engine. From rest, the boat would pick up with a rush. There’s the usual induction roar from the carburetor, and the strong velvety smooth V8 acceleration that many people like. It has all kinds of power for skiing, and would plane off a big load without strain, but there’ s a penalty to be paid for all this; weight. It’s a really heavy engine for a boat this size and since the Century is rather light, due to its foam core fibreglass construction, this weight is all the more noticeable.
There are good things to be said for the OMC unit. It has dual-cable, push-pull steering that never gets too tight, a solid, soft gear change that never grinds and should take a lot of abuse and its trim mechanism is one of the more dependable ones. However, I believe that the boat would be a better all round rig if it were equipped with a lighter power plant.
When the Century moves off from rest the bow comes up more than necessary because of the heavy engine. The extra weight is also noticeable in docking where the bow does not respond to helm as well as some boats during tight manoeuvres.
At 1,000 r.p.m. idle in gear, which is 7 mph, the boat tends to make a snaking path. Any correction from the helm is an over -correction and starts the snaking motion fairly common to deep -V boats. Advancing the throttle slightly will straighten out the slow-speed steering and the boat would be much easier to dock with a load to hold the bow in place.
Since the cockpit is long for the boat’s length, the helm is far forward. This gives a clear view of the water ahead and even with the bow up as high as it will go when planning off, the boat never obstructs the drivers line of sight. In other words, the boat is not as good with the large engine as I think it would be with a smaller one, but it still isn’t bad. If you have a large family, or frequently run with a load then stick with the big motor, otherwise a smaller one will do.
In large waves the Century rides high in the water like a much bigger boat and it will handle turns in the rough stuff as well as any boat its size. It is really soft coming down on a wave, and I’m sure much of the credit must go to the strong, foam core glass hull. It just soaks up the big impacts like a sponge.
The boat banks steeply in a turn and hangs on very well, with little slip. It’s directionally stable and would pull a skier nicely. I would hate to see the carpet marked up by sloppy fishermen, but it seems to be fairly impervious to stains and marking, so even that is within the Century’s range of capabilities. The beam is not as wide as some boats in this size range and this will make the Century easier to trailer.
In terms of real performance, the Century is quite good. It accelerates strongly, and with a top speed of 45 mph @ 4,200 r.p.m., is going places fast without straining the engine. Its fuel mileage of about 4.85 m.p.g. at a cruise of 32.5 mph. is as good as most boats in its class and probably would improve with a lighter power plant. Also, the test boat was new and still very tight so all the figures reported will tend to improve slightly with age.
The Century Raven 190 has a list price of $11,545 and there is little in the way of options. There are other boats in this size range that cost less initially but over the years, and considering the re-sale value of a quality boat like this. I anticipate that the Century will fill my last requirement for family boats – overall economy of operation.
Originally Published in Canadian Yachting’s February 1978 issue.
Engine: 190hp OMC stern drive.
Photo1 – Good looks are on the plus side but there were criticisms to be made of the engine size and finish details.
Photo 2 – The Century Raven 190 fits all criteria for a family boat including maneuverability, dependability and economy.
Photo 3 – An OMC 190 is on the heavy side.
Photo 4 – The sleeper seats really do fold flat.
Photo 5 – Teak trim is good and plentiful.
Photo 6 – The poorly finished steering wheel is a hazard.