Reviews: 21 Shadow Deck

Hot Boat magazine
October 2003
2003 TUNNEL TESTS - Ultra 21' Shadow Deckboat

Ultra's new deckboat is an impressive low-slung river rocket with good workmanship and a price tag that'll be attractive to the entry-level buyer. The only manufacturer to bring out a jet-driven tunnel boat to our performance evaluations was Ultra Custom Boats. This would be the inaugural run for its just-launched 21-foot Shadow deckboat, a low-slung river rocket built for those enthusiasts who frequent shallow-water stomping grounds. Remarkably this boat is available in either stern-drive or outboard configurations as well, although this boat appears to be a natural home for a setback jet pump. The 21 Shadow is an entry-level tunnel boat that will carry your entire gang to the water without busting open the piggy bank. This rocket will carry ten passengers and is capable of running 67 mph through waters too shallow for any stern-drive or outboard powered craft.

CONSTRUCTION The 21 Shadow begins life in the mold with a hand-lamination process that has both bi- and tri-directional fiberglass laying a foundation for full-length microlam stringers. The gunnels are fortified with three-mil-thick Coremat, and marine-grade plywood makes up the bulkheads. Beneath the Dana power hinge-actuated engine hatch, Ultra sealed the gunnels with a pair of upholstered panels. The bilge, stringers and transom were also color-matched to the white vinyl and accented with more Dana powder-coated bezels and hardware. In this realm, the Ultra scored big time for its excellent tooling, glass quality and finish. The Midnight Cherry and Platinum Grey gelcoat hues faded multiple times throughout the scheme and accentuated the lines of this boat beautifully. The Pro Dominator pump installation was executed just as well, with a color-matching and functional ride plate and cleanly routed control cables.

ON BOARD This is a purebred deckboat and, as such, is easy to board from the bow and has plenty of seating area. Ultra D&S Marine Interiors division stitched up the pure white and burgundy vinyl seating with plenty of cushion built in. Contrary to many boats built today, this 21 Shadow featured portside steering and a gas pedal instead of star-board-side controls. Even with short gunnels, Ultra did a superb job at structuring the controls for the boat, making them within reach of the average-sized driver. The dash contained Faria gauges with powder-coated bezels that were slightly obstructed by the steering wheel. Storage would seem to be at a premium in a low-slung boat like the Shadow, but we still found a full-length ski locker in the floor, as well as compartments in the gunnels. For the thirsty folks aboard, there are a pair of cup holders at the front of the boat, another pair in the cockpit and four in the rear gunnels.

PERFORMANCE The most common engine package in this boat would be the Marine Power 454/Dominator jet combination. Our test model was given some extra ponies with an upgrade to the 502 Chevy/Pro Dominator jet package. The big-block Chevy produces 500 horsepower, and the Pro Dominator jet is stuffed with a pre-loading impeller affixed on the shaft just in front of the main impeller. This smaller impeller is designed to load the pump at idle and improve acceleration. It seemed to work well in our boats as we ripped our way to the 50-mph mark in 13.13 seconds. On a course that was filled with moderate to rough chop, the Shadow soaked up most of the rough boat wakes on its way to a 67.3 top speed. The freeboard is short on this boat and at a first glance makes you think twice about where you would take a boat of this size. The tunnel hull does a great job in moderate conditions, but we'd still consider this a shallow-water boat that would make a perfect river runner.

DRIVER BUZZ Driver 1: "This boat gets right up on plane, and the Place Diverter really helps trim the boat out. I was surprised at how well it went over the rough water. It's actually got a fairly comfortable ride in it. I wouldn't recommend it for big swells, but it does run good in moderate conditions. The boat seems to be solidly built and turns good to the right or left. The jet is very, very smooth, and it's just a fun boat to drive. This is not a big-dollar boat, but the workmanship is good, and it's a boat that would do well for the entry-level buyer. Overall, I liked the performance of the boat and its looks. Certainly, it's got a lot more function than a regular closed-bow jet boat does because you can haul up to ten passengers". Driver 2: "You can't fault a boat for getting you a bit wet when you're running through three-foot white caps and 25-mph winds. This boat in moderate water handled well and is a good performance package. I was impressed. You could turn it, and it didn't slide a lot. It would just hook up and turn, and for a tunnel-hull jet boat, it was really quite sporty. I'm very impressed with the power package. The Place Diverter worked incredibly and easily trimmed the boat out. The bucket seats in the cockpit are a bit cramped for a big guy, but not terribly uncomfortable. The controls were in good locations, and everything was in its proper place".