Mark Fitzgerald raises the bar for center consoles

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Center-console boats are most appealing, especially when the overall length reaches 30 feet and beyond. Well-designed models are generally lightweight, economical to operate and need a modest amount of horsepower to make them fast enough to satisfy all but speed-crazed owners. For the most part, these boats have been dedicated to fishing, leaning heavily on utility and sparingly on comfort.

Mark Fitzgerald designed the F28 with comfort in mind.

Many of the latest center consoles have become remarkably luxurious — the crossover SUVs of the marine world. Unlike bulky road vehicles, though, center consoles display a skeletal, businesslike elegance that visually transcends their utility. The F28 is a fine example.

Mark Fitzgerald drew the first version of the F28 a few years ago. He enlisted Wyatt Huggins, former chief designer at Fexas Yacht Design, to develop the high-speed and efficient hull form. Hak Soo Ha, at the time lead designer for Ford Motor Co., worked on the ergonomics and fabrication details. Fitzgerald’s goal was to raise the center console’s level of comfort and make it an agreeable partner for point-to-point coastal cruising and island destinations. Someone else saw the logic in this approach.

In late 2013, John Riddell phoned Fitzgerald with a request. They’d met a handful of years earlier when Fitzgerald worked for C.W. Paine Yacht Design. Riddell wanted to single-hand the Great Loop — about 6,000 nautical miles around the eastern United States. His age and physical limitations set the criteria. “No jumping or climbing up and down cabin structures,” he wrote in a brief. “No working on a slippery foredeck, no shuffling along narrow side decks, and I have to be able to quickly and securely handle all vessel operations, including the multiple lock lines in the canal system.”

SPECIFICATIONS LOA: 28 feet, 9 inches LWL: 25 feet, 2 inches BEAM: 9 feet, 8 inches DISPLACEMENT: 7,500 pounds DRAFT: 19 inches (drives up), 32 inches (drives down) TANKAGE: 180 gallons fuel, 25 gallons water POWER: twin 150-hp Mercury 4-strokes (hull No. 1); optional single 300-hp Yamaha 4.2-liter 4-stroke, single Volvo D4 300-hp diesel sterndrive PRICE (hull No. 1, custom cold-molded wood): $224,500 PRICE (series production fiberglass): $195,000 (150-hp Mercury outboards) CONTACT: Fitzgerald Marine Architecture, Thomaston, Maine, (207) 975-2358.

Although a 28-foot center console doesn’t fit many boaters’ notion of the ideal cruiser, everyone likely will agree that Fitzgerald and his team have produced an uncommonly attractive boat. Her broken sheerline and gently curved bow, which recall those of Carolina sportfishing boats, add a generous dose of grace to the profile. Try to picture her with a straight sheer, and you’ll see how much his treatment contributes to the F28’s good looks.

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Her aggressive stance comes from the forward thrust of the major design elements — the transom, stem, hardtop supports, the helm side of the console and the rail surrounding the foredeck. Note, too, how the leading edge of the rubrails adds its two cents’ worth to the illusion of forward movement.

Bulk is the enemy of good design, but in some areas it serves a purpose. Freeboard in the forward sections is substantial, but it increases the hull’s buoyancy in the bow, which keeps the F28 from burying in head seas, and it suppresses spray. The sliver of a hardtop and its spidery supports make the structure appear to be floating while reducing windage and weight high in the boat.

She’s an elegant little camp-cruiser, made more livable by a head inside the console and flats in the bow for sleeping under a soft shelter. Add a camp stove and icebox, and she’s ready for the Great Loop.

This article originally appeared in the November 2015 issue.