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Half & Half

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Hybrid center consoles nicely combine inshore and offshore traits, as well as fishing and dayboating features

There’s an emerging subcategory of center consoles that function well inshore and offshore and as fishing or family boats. These hybrid center consoles of about 25 feet are powered with a single outboard and have the low freeboard and shallow draft of a bay boat but enough deadrise to venture offshore without beating you up.

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“You still have to pick your days, to some extent,” says Charlie Johnson, director of marketing for Maverick Boat Co., which owns the Pathfinder brand of center consoles, including the 2600 HPS, which is featured here. “It’s not a big center console with a deep-vee, but at the same it gives the angler the opportunity to fish 365 days of the year. If the weather isn’t so great, he can still fish inshore. But in a good-size chop you can fish offshore all day long.”

Inshore anglers will appreciate the lower freeboard and shallower draft (typically 11 to 14 inches), compared with conventional center consoles. And owners who want to head a few miles offshore will find that they deliver a relatively smooth ride. Most boats have bow and stern casting platforms but also good-size cockpits and toekick space.

Two of the boats below — the Pathfinder and the Sea Born — have stepped bottoms. Steps allow the boat to get up on plane quicker and at a flatter angle, reduce wetted surface for better efficiency and improve offshore running characteristics by holding the nose down.

“The hybrid does everything most boaters want except for running offshore in big seas or if you’re inshore and want to fish in 8 inches of water,” says Scout Boats president Steve Potts. “Those are extremes. You take away those extremes, and it’s the ideal boat.”

Builders pack them with live wells, rod holders, fishboxes and other angling must-haves and extras. But the hybrid also lets you take a load off and sit or stretch out on comfortable seating — with a cup holder within reach, of course. They have become showpieces for innovative storage and seating solutions, such as bow seating that converts from inboard- to forward-facing, using pop-up backrests. And the hulls are deep enough for stand-up heads, which come in handy on those family outings.

They’re speedy, too, with some capable of 60-plus mph. But practicality and diversity remain the primary attributes of the hybrid center console. Use them to run around the bay. Zip over to a favorite sandbar or drop the hook in a secluded cove. Take the family out for a day of tubing. One more positive: They’re trailerable.

The hybrid has a lot going for it, says Jeff Vaughn, vice president of sales, marketing and customer service worldwide for Boston Whaler.

“It is the right type of boat for fishermen,” says Vaughn. “People don’t have enough time to have a different boat for each purpose. There were times when some families had an offshore boat [and] an inshore boat. These boats have very few compromises. Having something they can use in so many ways makes the investment so much more palatable for people.”

Boaters simply want more — a better boat, a more versatile boat, adds Potts. “People started desiring more than what a typical runabout does or a traditional center console has done,” he says. “[Hybrids] are rugged but have creature comforts, like nice seats with styling.”

We’ll look at a half-dozen of them here — all relatively new boats with an engine as large as 350 hp. They get from 3 to 4 mpg at about 30 mph. In addition to Scout, Whaler and Pathfinder, our fleet includes Grady-White, Sea Hunt and Sea Born.

Pathfinder 2600 HPS

Pathfinder developed the 2600 HPS (High Performance Step) in response to owners of its 22- and 24-foot bay boats who wanted something that could handle offshore conditions, says Johnson, the marketing director at Maverick. “On the east coast of Florida, we have a fishery where you could start your day fishing along the beach for tarpon, then run out for sailfish, and when the onshore breeze picks up in the afternoon head in and finish up fishing inside for snook and trout,” he says.

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The 2600 has twin steps, lifting strakes and a bustle transom that “frees up the aft deck of rigging obstructions and puts the engine farther back into cleaner water, so the prop gets a better bite,” Johnson says. The steps particularly help in choppy water, keeping the bow down and more of the boat in the water.

“Guys who fish a lot want to do both — inshore and offshore. In the past, you needed two boats to do that,“ says Johnson.

The boat’s strengths inshore and offshore have helped it become a top seller for Pathfinder, says Johnson. With its 14-inch draft, the boat allows anglers to explore the shallows and wet a line from fore or aft casting platforms, and the gunwales are high enough for fishing in unsettled waters. The boat comes standard with two live wells.

The Pathfinder is outfitted to hold large rods and big offshore fish, but you can also mount a trolling motor on the bow for skinny water or trolling off the beach. At 29 mph, the 2600 with a single 300-hp outboard gets 3.7 mpg. Top speed is 59 mph.

LOA: 26 feet, 2 inches

DRAFT: 1 foot, 3 inches

FUEL: 79 gallons

DEADRISE: 18 degrees

MAX HORSEPOWER: 350

SPEED: 59 mph top, 30 mph cruise

PRICE: $87,120 (Yamaha F350), $82,423 (Yamaha F300)

CONTACT: Pathfinder Boat Co., Fort Pierce, Florida

PHONE: (772) 465-0631.

www.pathfinderboats.com

Sea Born FX25

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If you just don’t have time to run offshore as much and maybe want to spend more time with the kids or grandkids, the FX25 deserves a good look, says Wally Bell, president of Composite Research, which owns Sea Born, along with Sundance and Spyder boats. “Those guys who were running offshore 15 years ago still want a good-size boat but want to be able to run inshore, as well,” says Bell.

Naval architect Jeff Seyler designed the FX25. She’s a bit different from other hybrids in that she has a larger, sportfish-style cockpit with no stern casting platform, says Bell. Anglers still have plenty of casting real estate, though, with the huge raised foredeck.

The FX25, with its tumblehome transom and stepped hull, mixes style and technology in a fully equipped fish/cruise and inshore/offshore platform. Bell touts the boat’s engineering. A sea chest with centerline strainer stores raw water to feed the live well and other pumps, so multiple through-hulls are unnecessary.

With a Yamaha F300, the FX25 gets 4 mpg at 29 mph.

LOA: 24 feet, 11 inches

DRAFT: 11 inches

FUEL: 75 gallons

DEADRISE: 17 degrees

MAX HORSEPOWER: 300

SPEED: 61 mph top, 29 mph cruise

PRICE: $61,650 (Yamaha F250XA)

CONTACT: Sea Born Boats (Composite Research), Blackshear, Georgia

Phone: (912) 449-0033.

www.seabornboats.com

Scout 251 XS

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The 251 XS has been a popular model for Scout since it was introduced five years ago, says Potts, the company’s president. “We did not want to build just a stretched bay boat or cut-down offshore, deep-freeboard boat,” he says. “We wanted to create a whole different concept. It has deck features for inshore, but the design has offshore attributes, such as the T-top for outriggers and a proud bow.” The patented T-top design is built with a three-sided tempered glass enclosure and hardtop.

The boat also was designed to do its share of day boating. In addition to the two-person helm seat, there are two transom seats and a wraparound bow seat. Yet there’s space to fish, both in the cockpit and forward, Potts says. The foredeck between the bow casting platform and console has the highest freeboard, so it’s the place to be when fishing offshore, he says.

Access to the console is through a door that swings up on beefy stainless-steel hinges with the help of two oversized stainless gas lifts. The door design is an example of Scout’s workmanship and fit and finish.

With a Yamaha F300 4-stroke, the 251 XS tops out at about 60 mph and has a cruise speed of around 32 mph. Mileage at cruise is 4 mpg — an impressive number. “We work hard at designing planing surfaces that run efficiently,” Potts says.

The boat retails for about $75,000 with the F300. “It’s not an inexpensive boat, but the people who don’t want two boats and want the best of both worlds are looking in this direction,” says Potts.

LOA: 24 feet, 10 inches

DRAFT: 1 foot, 1 inch

DEADRISE: 17 degrees

FUEL: 80 gallons

MAX HORSEPOWER: 350

SPEED: 60 mph top, 30 mph cruis

PRICE: $74,969 (Yamaha F300)

CONTACT: Scout Boats, Summerville, South Carolina

PHONE: (843) 821-0068.

www.scoutboats.com

Grady-White 251-CE

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The 251-CE (Coastal Explorer) is the builder’s first hybrid center console, and its looks are quite a bit different from a traditional Grady-White. It still rides on the company’s SeaV2 variable-deadrise hull, with proven offshore capabilities and that classic Carolina raised sheer, says vice president of marketing Shelley Tubaugh. “We made sure it had a shallow draft, but you still have the capability to run offshore a few miles comfortably, too,” says Tubaugh.

The 251-CE stands out for offering the clever, functional seating and storage solutions mentioned previously. You can set up the bow in arrangements geared to fishing, lounging, sunbathing or dining by adding or removing cushions and the fiberglass insert or by using the flip-up backrests. Fishing features include two built-in 74-quart insulated fishboxes with drains under the forward platform. In the stern is the same kind of fishing/cruising functionality.

Standard equipment includes a bow ladder for beaching, a stern ladder, hydraulic steering, a recessed stainless steel bow rail and a step-down head in the console. A hard or soft T-top, the platform/table insert, trim tabs and a live well round out the optional features.

A single Yamaha F250 or F300 powers the 251-CE. With the F250, she gets 3.3 mpg at 26.5 mph, with a top end of 45.5 mph. The F300 powers her to nearly 50 mph at full throttle, and you’ll get about 3.5 mpg from 27 to 30 mph.

LOA: 24 feet, 7 inches

DRAFT: 1 foot, 2 inches

FUEL: 78 gallons

DEADRISE: SeaV2 variable-deadrise

MAX HORSEPOWER: 300

SPEED: 50 mph top, 30 mph cruise

PRICE: $96,720 (Yamaha F300)

CONTACT: Grady-White Boats, Greenville, North Carolina

(252) 752-2111.

www.gradywhite.com

Sea Hunt BX 24 BR

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Sea Hunt touts the price point of its BX 24 BR. “We’re bringing a quality product at a price more people can afford — that competitively priced quality boat is what boaters want,” says operations manager Scott White. “Every boat is expensive; we offer a high-quality boat for less that allows more people to enjoy the boating lifestyle.”

Like the other hybrids, the BX 24 BR was designed for the “inshore boater and fisherman who wants to go offshore, too,” says White. The boat rides a graduated-deadrise hull that measures 50 degrees at the entry, 20 degrees amidships and 15 degrees at the transom, says White. The Carolina flare helps keep spray to a minimum.

There’s plenty of seating, casting areas and storage from bow to stern. Two live wells (18 and 28 gallons) are standard, along with leaning post rod holders and forward storage compartments for rods. Store a cast net or tackle in the two compartments at the transom. A centerline live well separates the two stern seats, which are recessed several inches below the height of the casting platform — a plus on the safety side.

With a Yamaha F300, this boat gets very good mileage at cruising speeds: 3.7 mpg at 30 mph and 3.1 mpg at 37 mph. (The T-top is available as an option.)

LOA: 24 feet, 6 inches

DRAFT: 1 foot, 3 inches

FUEL: 68 gallons

DEADRISE: 15 degrees

MAX HORSEPOWER: 300

SPEED: 57 mph top, 31 mph cruise

PRICE: $62,000 (Yamaha F300)

CONTACT: Sea Hunt Boats, Columbia, South Carolina

PHONE: 803-755-6539.

www.seahuntboats.com

Boston Whaler 240 Dauntless

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The 240 is one of three 2014 models in the five-boat Dauntless fleet, which includes 17-, 18-, 21- and 27-footers. The 240 is a good example of a hybrid boat, says Vaughn, the company’s sales, marketing and customer service vice president. “The variable deadrise does the job running the boat offshore,” says Vaughn. “And above the waterline, the design is keeping the boat dry.”

The bow — the Whaler “smirk” just below the rubrail — consists of two concave recessions that knock down spray, he says.

Boston Whaler packs the boat with seating, storage and non-skid-covered fishing platforms. The stern bench seat converts to a casting deck and the entire bow area can be used as a casting platform or for sitting and lounging. There are three storage compartments under the platform, and two of them hold fishing rods. Two identical backrests flip up to create forward-facing seats. A snack table also can be mounted between the forward console seat and bow. The table post slides into the side of the casting platform, not the foredeck — smart.

The boat has a standard live well forward of the console and an optional leaning post live well. A step-down head is housed in the console, which has a two-person helm seat with a backrest that pivots fore and aft.

With a 300-hp Mercury Verado, the 240 Dauntless gets 3 mpg at 30 mph and about 2.8 mpg at 35 mph. The boat also can be powered with a 225- or 250-hp Verado.

LOA: 23 feet, 11 inche

DRAFT: 2 feet, 2 inches

FUEL: 90 gallons

DEADRISE: 16 degrees

MAX HORSEPOWER: 300

SPEED: 53 mph top, 30 mph cruise

PRICE: $90,756 (300 Verado)

CONTACT: Boston Whaler, Edgewater, Florida

PHONE: 877-294-5645.

www.bostonwhaler.com

August 2014 issue