In 1968 my roommate bought a brand new SS170V model Slickcraft runabout. I can still picture it today sitting there with its huge 6 cylinder, 100 Hp Mercury outboard engine next to my 14’ Sea Sprite with a 40 Hp Johnson. I must admit I was impressed and envious of my friend’s new boat. At the time, I supposed the name Slickcraft been chosen to emphasize the boat’s sharp clean lines and glossy, unblemished finish. It wasn’t until later; when I learned the company was founded and owned by Leon Slikkers put two and two together and made proper sense of the name. Even at this early point in my career, it was clear Slickcraft had set the benchmark for quality of construction and finish of fiberglass boats. They literally and figuratively outshined the competition.
Mr. Slikkers sold Slickcraft in the early 1970s and founded S-2 Yachts Incorporated, the parent company of Tiara Yachts. Early on, S-2 was known more for sailboat than powerboat production, but in 1977, they introduced their first Tiara Yacht model, the 2500. Tiara now offer models to 50’ and continues to build some of the best constructed and finest finished fishing boats and family cruisers. The Tiara 2900, currently the smallest model offered, was introduced in 1994.
The Tiara 2900 is marketed as a dual purpose cruising and fishing boat although, with its large open cockpit and limited cabin space, I think the design tends to favor the fisherman a slight bit more than the cruiser. The style of 2900 is what is commonly referred to as an open bridgedeck or express cruiser. It features cabin accommodations forward followed by the bridge or helm positioned over the engines and an after cockpit for fishing, entertaining or relaxing. The bridge and cockpit are "open" with the exception of canvas tops and enclosures supported by collapsible frames.
The sheer of the 2900 is reversed meaning that, if you draw a straight line from the bow to the stern, along the sheer the edge rises above rather than falls below the straightedge. Functionally this provides more space in the center of the boat where accommodations and machinery are located. Freeboard forward is quite low and the cabin trunk rather high which tends to give the boat a bit of a top-heavy appearance. To my eye, these features are not very aesthetically pleasing but they are most prominent when the boat is viewed in profile at eye level. Fortunately, boats are most often viewed from something of an oblique angle and seldom directly at eye level.
The hull of the Tiara 2900 is constructed with a gel-coated surface followed by a layer of fiberglass mat and vinylester resin to prevent osmotic blistering. The bottom is laid up with a solid fiberglass laminate. The hull sides and decks utilize a balsa wood core between fiberglass laminates for weight reduction and stiffness. The deck and hull are joined with adhesive and stainless steel screws. My practical side tells me that adhesives used today are strong enough to hold this boat together even if all the screws were to be removed. But, my traditional side would still like to see nuts bolts and washers used to secure the hull to deck joint on a boat of this quality.
To their credit the builders have used bulkheads that are watertight between the hull and cabin soles to divide the boat into three separate compartments. No doubt, this will add an extra measure of security and survivability should any compartment suffer damage.
Transverse and longitudinal stiffeners and motor mounts are laminated plywood encased in fiberglass. There are drain holes to allow water to drain from the compartments formed by these installations, which are my only serious cause for concern for the method of construction. The holes are not sealed to prevent water from getting into the plywood and even a small amount of water can quickly damage and weaken this system. I strongly recommend sealing any holes. The cost to have this done should be under $1,000 and is money well spent if it avoids a serious structural problem in the future.
The Tiara 2900’s cockpit is over 6’ long, nearly 10’ wide and 29" deep. It provides plenty of space for anglers. The bridge deck is raised approximately 6" from the cockpit deck and features two back seats as standard equipment with the helm on the starboard side. Several optional seating configurations have been offered including a curved portside companion seat, a wet bar and icemaker behind the helm seat and a fold out lounge seat at the after end of the cockpit.
The helm is very well laid out with plenty of room for added equipment. The console is hinged at the base and opens to allow access for service and installation of equipment.
To make it easier to get in and out of the 29" deep cockpit there are steeps molded into the liner along both sides of the cockpit. Side decks are wide enough for secure footing and there is a welded stainless steel rail around the foredeck extending along the side decks nearly to the cockpit. The rail is 28" high at the bow and 26" along the side decks back to the windshield. This is well above the knee height of the average adult and offers a secure feeling and convenient handhold not commonly found on other boats.
The side, cockpit and forward decks all have a deep, diamond-pattern molded non-skid surface that provides very secure footing. There are 10" stainless steel mooring cleats forward, mid-ship and aft securely fastened with stainless steel bolts.
One of the more sportfisherman-like features of the 2900 is a starboard transom door for landing that big rockfish in the cockpit. The door is well done and opens inboard, as it should but, truth is, this is an expensive feature that I would guess is seldom used by most owners. I would prefer the builder to offer this as an option and include a few more useful features for fisherman such as fish boxes, a saltwater wash down pump and rod holders as standard features.
The standard model lacks a live-bait well, fish storage boxes or even rod holders. Optional flush mounted boxes that fit into deck hatches are available from Tiara for about $1,000. Live-bait wells are available from any number of after market providers from a few hundred to several thousand dollars. The serious fisherman may want to consider the addition of outriggers at an added cost of about $2,200.
The Tiara 2900 is almost evenly divided between cabin space and open cockpit. A fisherman will likely consider the accommodations downright luxurious while a cruiser will find them a little short on privacy. This probably means it’s just about right for its dual-purpose intent.
There is a single cabin with a berth forward set at an angle slightly off centerline. The dinette is along the starboard side and also converts to a berth. Their length is adequate but both berths are about 44" wide at their narrowest point, which makes them a bit tight for two adults. Along the port side is a small galley fitted with a single burner stove, microwave oven, stainless steel sink and a front-loading AC/DC refrigerator mounted under the galley counter. The head is aft along the port side and there is a manual toilet with 20-gallon waste holding tank. There is a hot and cold-water shower, a 30-gallon fresh water tank and an additional 6-gallon water heater. This is a small supply but common for this size boat.
The Tiara 2900 makes excellent use of a limited amount of space. There is a small hanging locker between the galley and forward berth and ample storage space below seats and berths. There should be no difficulty for weekend and short cruising for two or weekends for four if privacy is not a concern.
The entire bridgedeck of the Tiara 2900 is raised hydraulically to reveal the engine compartment below. The opening is only about twenty inches and can be a bit of a tight squeeze. Once inside there is enough room to get around both sides of both engines for service.
Until the 2004 model year, the standard engine installation was the 250 Hp, fresh-water-cooled Crusader gasoline engine or an optional 225 Hp GM diesel. With the introduction of the 1995 model year, larger 320 Hp Crusader gas engines were offered as an option and beginning with the 1998 model year the GM diesel option was replaced by a 250 hp Cummins.
With the standard engines the Tiara 2900 will cruise at about 20 Knots with a top speed of about 28 knots. Larger gas engines will add about 4 knots to both. I haven’t had a chance to operate a boat with the diesel engine option although; I would expect it to cruise at about the same speed as with the larger gas engines with a little less top end performance.
For the coastal fisherman, particularly those along the Maryland, Delaware, New Jersey and south Shore of Long Island, who routinely run 60 miles or more offshore on fishing trips, the 200 gallon fuel capacity of the Tiara 2900 is on the short side. By comparison the Luhrs 290 and Grady White 300 both have 300 gallon fuel capacity and the Black Fin 29 and Black Watch 30 have about 250 gallon capacity each. At cruising speed and allowing for a 10% fuel reserve, the range is about 250 miles with gas engines. Put the pedal to the metal and the range drops to well below 200 miles. Tiara does not offer optional increased capacity and adding extra tanks is not a very practical solution.
The Tiara 2900 has a 19-degree deadrise at the transom, which makes for a smooth ride and good handling. Hydraulic steering is standard. The boats I have operated require nearly six turns of the wheel from hard over in one direction to hard over in the other and I feel the steering is a little sluggish. Freeboard forward is low which can result is a wet ride particularly in short choppy seas. Hydraulic trim tabs are standard equipment as are electric windshield wipers both of which you are likely to make good use of from time to time.
This is only the seventh year of production for the Tiara 2900 and that’s not much time to build a used boat market. However, there are usually one or two boats available for sale along the Mid-Atlantic and Northeast coast. Asking prices range from about $75,000 to $130,000 depending on year, condition and equipment. The market is strong and good clean used boats don’t stay around long when they’re priced right.
Like with his Slickcraft models of the 1960s, with the Tiara 2900 and other Tiara models Leon Slikkers continues to set benchmarks for high quality construction and finish. There is however a price to be paid for an upscale boat built to this higher level of quality. If your only interest is in fishing there are likely less expensive alternatives that will do the job quite nicely. But if you’re looking for a boat to do a little fishing, a little entertaining in style and an occasional short cruise the extra cost of the Tiara 2900 is money well spent.