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New boat a slow, stylish ride

At most South Florida boat shows, quiet, economical electric boats are a staple. But they have not been eagerly embraced by the region's attention-deficit-disordered, need-for-speed boaters.

That outlook might now turn around with the introduction of the Lear 204 - a leisurely cocktail boat that literally transforms before your eyes into the look of a sporty runabout.

It won't go any faster than five miles per hour, but it will go in style.

"Hey, all of Fort Lauderdale is one big no-wake zone," points out Todd Sims, vice president of EPower Marine - the exclusive dealer for the Lear in South Florida.

"Since this boat doesn't make a wake, you'll never get in trouble."

What sets the Lear apart from other electric models is its retractable hardtop. Push and hold the remote button, and the top goes down flush with the gunwales.

Slide the hatch forward to open the pilot station for cruising.

"It looks like a mini sport boat," Sims said. "If I need to get under a low bridge at high tide, I just drop it a foot and slide right in."

At about $65,000 for a 20-foot boat, the Lear might sound pricey. However, it requires no gasoline and little maintenance.

Charge it overnight on a 120-volt dock outlet, and it will cruise for 10 hours at five miles per hour on its 36-volt electric motor. A gauge mounted on the console tells you how much battery life is left.

Sims says the batteries will last five to seven years, and replacing them costs $1,600. The motor has a lifetime warranty.

With the hardtop raised, the boat becomes a comfortable party platform for a small group.

A forward cabin contains a curtained head and storage for life jackets and other safety equipment. Removable windows shield guests from the elements.

There's a small sink and food prep counter and a teak cocktail table with folding wings that holds an insulated cooler. Drink holders abound.

The boat draws 22 inches of water and can be beached for island hopping. Guests may board from both port and starboard sides, and there's a dive ladder and swim platform aft.

"The hull, the motor are all purpose-built," Sims said. "This is not a hybrid, not an adaptation. This is an all-electric boat."

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