As boaters changed their ways through the late 1990s and early 2000s, small open boats became more and more popular while small cabin boats became fewer and farther between. This trend continued until just a few years ago, and if you wanted a flush-deck cuddy cabin boat in the 22- to 23-foot range, there weren’t a ton of new models to choose from. But just as we see fashion trends disappear only to resurface a decade or two down the road, boat styles sometimes enjoy a renaissance, too. And these days, as more and more families are looking for ways to enjoy safe, close-to-home mini-vacations, small cabin boats are staging a comeback. More and more people are packing up the mom jeans and round sunglasses and jumping aboard cuddy boats like the Jeanneau Leader 6.5.
The Leader 6.5 has a cuddy cabin with a V-berth and a center filler that pops out to access a head. It’s large enough for a couple to overnight, maybe with a small child or two tucked between them. And while one might assume that a cabin this small and simple is easy to design, Jeanneau applies a couple of tweaks belowdecks that are serious improvements over the cuddies of yesteryear. For one, they wisely finish the interior with smooth surfaces that are easy to clean, as opposed to using the tough-to-clean, mildew-attracting carpet or “monkey fuzz” so many cuddy cabins used to be finished with. Another smart move is raising up the overhead of the very aft section of the cabin just in front of the entry, so you can step in and sit on the berth without having to crouch down or bang your forehead on the way in. Finally, an opening port is located on the face of that raised portion, facing the bow. Since the boat will commonly face the wind when at anchor that means you’ll get the maximum breeze belowdecks, while also eliminating the need for those perpetually leaky hullside ports found on many old-style cuddies.
Forward of the helm the cabin top is not exactly flush but instead is slightly recessed and is ringed by a bowrail, allowing Jeanneau to place large cushions up there and turn the entire foredeck into a sunpad. There are plenty of handholds to grab onto while going forward since the rail extends all the way back to the sidedecks, and the windshield frame has plenty of room for gripping around it at the sides.
The cockpit layout is simple but effective, with twin bolstered pedestal seats at the helm and an L-shaped lounge aft. A removable pedestal table can be popped into a receiver mount for lunching on the hook, and the center lounger section swings open to expose a bulk stowage area for fenders, lines, and other gear.
Ready for some watersports? The ski pylon is definitely a feature you’ll want to opt for. After you carve out a few turns and jump a few wakes, getting back aboard will be easy because Jeanneau extends swim platforms aft to either side of the outboard, with a five-step reboarding ladder on the portside platform. Swing open the hatch forward of the ladder, and you’ll find an integrated drink cooler. And getting between the swim platform and the cockpit you’ll discover a very neat trick: the far port section of the lounge folds down and the seatback lifts up and swings open to transform into a transom boarding gate. Note that you can also order a swing-down seat for the port side of the cockpit, allowing you to turn that L-lounge into one big U-shaped lounge.
An unusual feature you’ll find in the cockpit is a manual bilge pump that serves as an emergency backup to the standard electric bilge pump. As we all know, bilge pumps can and do fail. But for some reason, few modern boats offer this added safety feature. In this case, however, flip down the cover, insert the handle, and you can dewater the bilge manually. It’s a nice addition seen on European-built boats (which have to meet CE certification requirements) that US boatbuilders should probably pick up on.
As times and trends change, so do boats. And if you’re trending towards overnighting aboard, a boat like the Leader 6.5 can make those mini-vacations a pleasure.
By Lenny Rudow
Jeanneau Leader 6.5 Specifications:
Displacement: 2650 lbs.
Transom Deadrise: 17 degrees
Max HP: 200
Fuel Capacity: 170 gal.
Local Dealer: Rudy Marine in Grasonville, MD: (443) 995-3785; Dagsoboro, DE: (302) 945-2254; and Wilmington, DE: (302) 999-8735