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1993 Mastercraft v 2000 Malibu Sportster v 2002 Calcbiria Cal-Air

EwojerEwojer Posts: 14 New Baller
edited October 4 in Boat Talk
Hi all,

I am looking to purchase my first inboard and am seeking input from the group. I have read many similar posts on boats in this forum and they have been very informational as I work toward making this purchase. I grew up skiing, trick skiing, kneeboarding, discing,... on many older outboard boats and have owned a stern drive as well about 15 years ago. I now have two boys (8 and 5) and am looking to purchase a "deal" inboard boat at the end of the season.

My thoughts were to possibly purchase a boat for under $10,000 now or to save for two more years and increase the price to $15,000. I would like an open bow as it provides family flexibility and I have never been a tournament skier and will not be too picky about the wake. I have been around and skied off of some great inboards in the past and it would be great to own one. That being said I have a couple of options on boats that I would like to get feedback on if anyone is willing to chime in.

Do any of these boats send up any red flags or does one seem to be a "better" deal than the other? I realize that a great deal of the worth of these older boats are how well they were taken care of but all three seem to be in good shape (owners seemed to have pride in the boats and took care of them).

Option 1: (4 hour drive from me)
1993 Mastercraft Prostar 205 $6,700
1000 Hours
Open Bow
Fiberglass Stringers
Single Axle Trailer

Option 2: (4 hour drive from me)
2000 Malibu Sportster $8,500
650 Hours
Playpen style open bow
Fiberglass Stringers

Option 3: (Local)
2002 Calabria Cal-Air $10,000
420 Hours
Open Bow
Wood Stringers
Tandem Axel Trailer with surge brakes
Wood Stringers

I am going to drive each/any of the boats that I seriously consider buying to make sure they are mechanically sound. I have read many people say to ski behind your future boat, but I have skied behind some really crappy boats in the past and honestly didn't care too much about the type of wake, so I don't think that would matter too much. I am just looking for a solid boat that will get the family out on the water that would be as trouble free as possible that would keep options of tubing, wakeboarding, skiing... open. I have also talked a bit to each of the sellers and all are willing to field offers on their boats as it is late in the season for what that is worth.

Any and all input would be appreciated...

Thank you!


  • skimtbskimtb Posts: 260 Baller
    edited October 3
    I don’t know about the Calabria.
    The mc205 has a much bigger and easier to access open bow. Back is very open with the seat out. Only drawback is the walk thru makes the observer seat small. I like the wake better than the sportster. Great wake. The one you found seems to be priced VERY well. Go get it...
    Actually they all seem priced nice.
    The Malibu I think has a firmer wake at -15 and -22, I haven’t skied one for a long time but preferred the 205. The full spotter seat would be nice. It is a shallower boat, will feel smaller and lower to the water. The open bow will seem much smaller than 205.
    Are they 4 hours same way or different ways?
    500-1000 hours you would want to be somewhat confident maintenance has been done at least close to recommended schedule. That may be more important than other things.
    Good luck and have fun.
  • jcampjcamp Posts: 784 Mega Baller
    I own a '94 ProStar 205 and used to own a '01 Malibu Sportster so I'm actually pretty familiar with two of the boats you are looking at. Here are my two cents:

    1) The wake, believe it or not, is better on the 205. It's bigger than the Sportster at longer line lengths and slower speeds, but much better at shortline, although at 38 and beyond you'll have side spray issues. The Sportster's wake is small, but quite hard.

    2) The 205 is wider by a few inches and the open bow much more usable, so if room is of concern to you, the 205 should be your choice. The Sportster is really quite small.

    3) The Sportster is an absolute blast to drive. Think sportscar on the water. The 205 is probably more like an Oldsmobile Cutlass.

    All that being said, the newer Sportster is probably the best bet, especially since you say you aren't too picky about the wakes and your kids will appreciate the Sportster's smaller wakes at slower speeds.
  • lazznlazzn Posts: 32 Baller
    The biggest red flag (for me at least) is wood stringers on the calabria. I have no experience with this boat, but even if the wood stringers are good now, if they do rot it will be a headache for sure.

    What do you want the open bow for? The playpen bows end up being more useful for keeping equipment in than anything...

    Both the sporty and the prostar are excellent choices. Your determining factor may be whichever one was better cared for mechanically
    Wisconsin Waterski Team
  • 6balls6balls Posts: 5,112 ★★★Triple Panda Award Recipient ★★★
    205 is a nice boat, sportster is tiny and a blast to drive. For a family and non tourney aspirations save the $$ and get the 205. Lots of boat for $6700 and Mastercraft build quality.
    Dave Ross--die cancer die
  • EwojerEwojer Posts: 14 New Baller
    The Mastercraft and Malibu are 4 hours in different directions. I am not at all opposed to driving, but it would have been nice to kill two birds with one stone...

    I want the open bow for the extra space for people when we take the boys friends or other families out. The boat will be used on the Mississippi river so we can drop people off on a sandbar and then ski the day from there. So when I take more people/gear out I would need the space.

    Does anyone know anything about the Calabria? I have read up on the manufacturer and the wood stringers send up a red flag for me, but it is a really nice looking boat.
  • LoopSkiLoopSki Posts: 533 Crazy Baller
    edited October 3
    not sure where you got your information on the wood stringers on the sounded weird to me that a 2002 boat would still have wood stringers.So I just texted a friend of mine that was a top guy at Calabria and he confirmed that it is an all fiberglass boat.

    for that price I'm betting the Mastercraft beat to crap.

    so for what you want to use the boat for I would seriously consider the Calabria.
  • EwojerEwojer Posts: 14 New Baller
    The seller told me that it has wood stringers... Hmmm. I tried to Google it but didn't find anything about a 2002.
  • LoopSkiLoopSki Posts: 533 Crazy Baller
    well someone is wrong, and I bet its the seller.
  • DavidNDavidN Posts: 277 Solid Baller
    edited October 3
    I wouldn’t want to be in a tiny Sportster on the Mississippi river, especially when there are passengers in the bow. That boat has a super low freeboard and the nose will easily dip in any major wake!
  • skihackerskihacker Posts: 314 Baller
    I owned a Malibu Tantrum for a number of years, same hull as the Sportster. @DavidN is right, it was almost useless in "big" water, really prone to stuffing the bow, really rough ride whenever it was choppy. Skied really well, great on gas, light, but when it was busy it stayed on the hoist.
  • 6balls6balls Posts: 5,112 ★★★Triple Panda Award Recipient ★★★
    Yeah if you are on the river 205 all day long and twice on Sunday as opposed to a sportster where your open bow space is limited and any big waves are coming over the bow. @loopski is right a '93 205 priced at that spot is one of two things...needing work or under-priced. If it's in good shape it's a steal. Even if it needs a little TLC it's a steal.
    Dave Ross--die cancer die
  • ALPJrALPJr Posts: 1,861 Mega Baller
  • MISkierMISkier Posts: 2,551 Mega Baller
    If the 205 is solid and mechanically reliable, it’s the one to get.
    The worst slalom equipment I own is between my ears.
  • EwojerEwojer Posts: 14 New Baller
    My goal from the start was to get a Mastercraft. But is there something to be said for 9 and 7 year newer boats? Especially if they are quality manufacturers (still not entirely sure on the Calabria). From my understanding the motors are pretty much the same (unless I am mistaken).

    Where we are in the Mississippi is overall very sheltered and mostly calm. I usually have not gone out skiing in the highest trafficked weekend times. In other words I don't plan on bringing the boat through much if any rough water, but I appreciate the warning on the Sportster.

    My thoughts are that the Sportster might be the perfect starter boat for my young boys (and wife and myself) but might want the extra space of a bigger boat soon. The benefit is that it would be good on gas and easy to trailer as I would be putting it in and out of the water every time I use it.

    The Prostar would actually be my dream boat. The downside is that it is 7 years older and 500 more hours.

    The Calabria is local, looks great and is newer, but I don't know much about the company. Was hoping someone here could tell me more about the company and boat. There is not much online about it that I have been able to find.

    Either way it looks like I have a couple of good choices. I guess the next step is to go for a couple of drives...

    Thanks for the info so far and if anyone else has any thoughts feel free to chime in.
  • LoopSkiLoopSki Posts: 533 Crazy Baller
    Call Dave at Wakecraft boats. He will tell you everything you need to know about Calabria. If he is in the mood ! lol
  • HallpassHallpass Posts: 148 Solid Baller
    I think Loopski is correct about the stringers in the Calabria, but I cant' find any literature to prove it. I'm not sure exactly what model Calabria you are talking about either. In your title your talked about a Cal-Air. That would be a direct drive boat with a tower on it.
    In the description in your post, you mention a Pro-Air. Calabria did not have a Pro-Air.
    They had a model called Pro Comp, a direct drive boat with no tower. They also had a model called a Cal-Air Pro V, a VDrive boat.
  • EwojerEwojer Posts: 14 New Baller
    If serious, I would love his contact info. The Calabria looks sweet.
  • EwojerEwojer Posts: 14 New Baller
    edited October 4
    My bad. It is the Cal-Air direct drive with a tower.
  • EwojerEwojer Posts: 14 New Baller
    edited October 4
    The Prostar also has a tower. The Malibu has a boom and high pole.
  • LoopSkiLoopSki Posts: 533 Crazy Baller
    Dave can probably tell you everything about that Malibu too.
  • andjulesandjules Posts: 815 Crazy Baller
    Calabria had a very good reputation back then for fit-and-finish. I'd also be surprised if it had wood stringers or floors (and if it does, I would expect it was done properly).
    That said, they built up a wakeboard following but not too much of a skier following. The Calabria would be a niche, unusual ski boat to own at this point, with all the headaches that might go with that. Personally, I wouldn't pay a premium.

    On the other hand, looking at three 15-25 year old boats (and assuming they all have composite stringers and floors and engines run well), I'd think hard about (i) which one looks like it spent the most time out in the weather (vs stored indoors), and (ii) which one has the most life left in the upholstery. The mechanical stuff is relatively maintainable and replaceable; but a tired and waterlogged or sun-dried hull/cockpit/interior is a pain to restore.
  • wawaskrwawaskr Posts: 212 Baller
    The Calabria is all fiberglass, they switched from wood to fiberglass in ‘93 or ‘94, when it was still Brendella. I used to have a 1998 Calabria Pro Comp that I purchased new, and it was all glass.
  • EwojerEwojer Posts: 14 New Baller
    edited October 5
    Thank you @wawaskr it is good to hear multiple people say that it has fiberglass stringers. Not sure where the seller got his info from...

    What did you think of the Calabria?
  • BraceMakerBraceMaker Posts: 3,708 Mega Baller
    My opinion - the 205 in good condition could be worth more than 10K particularly if it has a 1.5:1 trans. Of those boats the 205 has an active users forum on the Mastercraft site - which can be helpful if you want to work on/fix anything.

    That's probably my choice of those boats - unless you happen to trailer long distances in which case a dual axle with brakes is always a good choice.
  • JetsetrJetsetr Posts: 303 Solid Baller
    These direct drive carb boats are about as simple as they get until you get into the EFI Uber electronic versions. It’s a basic V8 engine, simple driveline, nothing special. If you’re not capable of working on it, I’m sure you know peeps that can. You can tell how something was taken care of.

    You can always trade up, but if what you REALLY want is close in price I would recommend doing that. There’s a LOT of information (sometimes too much and not so good) available on line for these boats.
    Get someone to go with you to be the “objective eye” (a mechanic would be ideal) and take away the
    I WANT IT factor that comes with a purchase like this. It’s a lot of money, and it’s easy to overlook defects when caught up with the excitement.

    I guess it kinda surprises me that a lot boat owners have no clue how to work on their own equipment. Not trying to be insulting, just surprising. Maybe honestly most boat owners are waaaay more affluent than I am and just don’t want to mess with it, and it’s easier to write a check and that’s cool too...

  • LoopSkiLoopSki Posts: 533 Crazy Baller
    seems like a lot of the advice you're getting is for the boat that they would want to get for themselves. I would also probably choose the Mastercraft 205. but I live on a private ski lake and would primarily use it for slalom ski.

    for your use on public water with a family and friends, the Calabria seems like a no-brainer. it has a usable open bow unlike the Sportster and higher freeboard than the others. it also looks like I has a trunk for storage.priced at $10,000 that's a smoking deal if it checks out.
  • GarnGarn Posts: 483 Crazy Baller
    I agree with @LoopSki Most the comments here seem to be around which is the best slalom tournament boat with the best ski wake - which isn't your priority. For a family boat that does it all and skis well, out of those three boats the Calabria seems the clear winner.
  • EwojerEwojer Posts: 14 New Baller
    edited October 4
    All comments have been helpful, mostly I just wanted to see if anyone saw any red flags with any of the boats. I also wanted to know more about Calabria and I think it seems like a solid boat.

    Basically they all have the same motor...

    They all seem like good options...
    I am test driving the Calabria early this coming week.
  • wawaskrwawaskr Posts: 212 Baller
    @Ewojer nothing wrong with the Calabria. The interior vinyl is not quite up to the big 3 in quality level, but does the job. Wake will be firm, but with prop trial and error and adjustment of the wake plate, you can get it pretty decent (but firm). My 1998 had the fuel injection on the mercruiser not the carb version. One thing that you may be interested in (for the family-storage aspect) is that that 02 Calabria probably has the rear trunk storage - something that the Response or the 205 will not have.
  • slvrbulitslvrbulit Posts: 189 Baller
    Newer boat for sure
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