Most people in the market for this type of boat are very happy to be in a position to buy it, but even so, they can feel overwhelmed by all of the options,” says Jonathan Kirby of Southport Yachts, which recently debuted a new version of its 33 FE. This center console is a hybrid design engineered for fishing trips and family time, and at close to 33 feet, it has a sea of competition in the LOA range. So, the company had to do some heavy lifting to figure out how to differentiate its boat from the competition.
Fortunately, the builder had a good foundation to work from. Southport splashed its first 33 FE in 2014. At that time, the model was one of the plusher hybrids on the water, gracefully walking the line between legitimate bluewater sportfish and day boat set up for socializing. It quickly became the company’s most popular model and remained its top-seller for about five years. Over time, though, buyers in this segment began to search for designs with even more inviting features. “Even the most hard-charging weekend warriors were expressing a desire to be more comfortable when driving offshore,” says Kirby, who is sales director for Southport.
For that reason, Southport engineered a whole new deck mold for this refreshed 33 FE. One of the things it offers is more usable space. The console, for instance, is longer and wider so there’s a really comfortable interior for dressing, with a head and shower, plus 6 feet 2 inches of headroom. The walkways on either side of the console are also wider for easier footing, and there’s more space in the bow, including improved legroom for seated passengers.
Seating throughout the boat has been upgraded, with thicker, bolstered cushions, pricier upholstery and improved ergonomics for good lateral support, all of which passengers will appreciate when traveling over lumpy seas. “You really feel the difference in the seating in places like the bench at the forward end of the console. On other boats, this seat can be as comfortable as a church pew. Here you feel as if you’re lounging on a couch,” says Kirby.
Like the original 33 FE, the new version still has a U-shaped lounge at the bow that’s deep enough for the crew to feel secure if the boat hits a wave. The seat converts to a sunpad or casting platform. There’s another home-style lounge at the transom.
While the new 33 offers many places for passengers to just park it for an afternoon, by no means is this boat for the sedentary. The refreshed 33 is a sportfish that means business offshore. The standard equipment list includes four in-deck fish boxes (up from two on the original boat) in the 40-square-foot cockpit; rod holders on the covering boards; rod racks under the gunwales; cockpit coaming; dive door; tackle storage; pressurized freshwater washdown and oversized scuppers. There’s also a livewell and cooler in the transom, although that cooler can be plumbed as a second livewell—a feature that will appeal to those who like to use more than one type of bait.
The boat is capped with a new hardtop that adds more style to a model that has always captured a lot of eyes and attention with its handsome refined looks; they’re underscored by a flared bow and pretty tumblehome at the transom. The forward section of the hardtop has a nice bullnose edge, and the pipework has been beefed up. We especially like the addition of the yacht-style ladder.
One thing that’s been carried over from the old 33 to the new version without any modification is the hull. It’s a proven deep-V that helped establish Southport’s reputation among anglers with high expectations for offshore running bottoms. The 33 rides on the same hull design as the first boat from Southport. That was a 26-footer that came to market when the company was based in North Carolina. “The boat was recognized as one that punched above its size class in terms of bluewater performance and reliability,” says Kirby.
The 33’s hull has a deep deadrise forward that flattens to 22 degrees near the transom. That can be a nice compromise between a 24-degree V, which cushions the ride but rolls in a sea, and something like an 18-degree modifed-V that is stable but not as soft-riding. The Southport’s exaggerated flair at the bow (a nod to the boat’s Carolina roots) pushes water out and away from the hull for a drier ride.
As for propulsion, the 33 is offered with twin outboards, from 600 to 850 horsepower max. With a pair of 425-hp motors, the boat will cruise at 30.4 knots and top out near 51.7 knots, according to the builder. “We still do a lot of boats with 300s, but the $40,000 upcharge on the 425s doesn’t seem to scare people off.” With twin 300s, the base price of the boat is about $420,000, although most owners will spend close to $500,000 once they get the boat set up with the features they want. A popular optional item on the refreshed 33 is a Seakeeper gyro.
Southport was founded in the Carolinas, but the builder made a move to Maine in 2011 after a change in ownership. “The phrase ‘Made in Maine’ isn’t just a catchy phrase. The people building these boats are extremely talented and put their hearts into the work,” says Kirby. “The boats have evolved and, more than ever, are great fits for New England marinas. Features like varnished teak accents are appreciated by boaters in the Northeast, but we don’t try to overstyle the boats. Particularly on this 33, we let the comfortable layout and hull speak for themselves.” —Jeanne Craig
This article was originally published in the September 2022 issue.