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Split decision

Growing in popularity, dual consoles are versatile do-it-all boats used for fishing, water sports or just kicking back

The dual console serves today’s time-strapped boaters well, providing a platform for a variety of activities and lots of deck space and seating. Run around inland waterways, bays and rivers with the smaller models, and take the 24-plus-footers offshore.

Family fun aboard the versatile Boston Whaler 270 Vantage

Most are powered with a single engine, so they get good gas mileage and cost less to operate and maintain than twin-engine or sterndrive boats. They’re getting bigger, too. Grady-White builds a 33-footer, the Freedom 335, and the North Carolina builder unveiled a 37-footer, the Freedom 375, at the Miami International Boat Show in February. Edge Water offers the 28-foot EdgeWater 280CX that carries a hefty beam of 9 feet, 6 inches and can hold up to 12 people.

Boston Whaler bolstered the dual console market with two boats: the 230 Vantage and 270 Vantage. Boaters like the dual console’s ease of maintenance, storage and outboard power, says Jeff Vaughn, Boston Whaler vice president of sales, marketing and customer service worldwide. “There has been a migration of people considering and choosing outboard-powered boats instead of sterndrive,” says Vaughn. “They can tilt it all the way out of the water. They like the access to the engine, and they like these great 4-stroke engines we have.

“Today’s dual console may be filling the need that the sterndrive open boat once satisfied,” he continues. “Some people look at the Vantage or a dual console, and they see it as a bowrider. They see it as a play boat, as a runabout.”

The dual console’s main appeal is its versatility, says Peter Truslow, president of EdgeWater Power Boats. “They want a boat that they can fish on, that they can do water sports, that they can use to entertain,” he says. “Many of the husbands realize their day of having a strictly offshore fishing boat are over.”

The center console typically has had limited seating, but that’s changing, says David Glenn, marketing manager for S2 Yachts, parent company of Pursuit. Pursuit has “softened up” its center consoles with comfortable seating in the bow, at the console and at the transom, says Glenn. Even so, the dual console’s layout has more seating and is “more of a social boat,” he says.

Those who used to buy coastal fishing boats or other single-purpose boats are stepping aboard dual consoles. “They realize mom’s say in the whole decision is more important,” says Truslow. “So there has to be room for entertaining, and the dual consoles sit more people than other boats, such as center consoles. The layout lends itself more to open entertainment and comfort.”

Since the recession, people are using their boats for more short outings rather than overnighting, says Shelley Tubaugh, vice president of marketing for Grady-White, which builds nine dual console models. “Overnighting still appeals to many people, but the idea of going out on the boat on two consecutive days or a couple times over a long weekend is more appealing now in many cases than having the family go camping on the boat,” she says. “The overall need has shifted, but you still need a head and changing area or even a place grandkids can take a nap. But you don’t necessarily need all the other accoutrements of a cabin boat.”

The dual console also has a look that’s appealing to many. “I think a lot of people see a boat with a full windshield and an open bow as sporty, as what a boat ought to look like,” says Vaughn. “It looks versatile. It doesn’t look like it’s just for one thing. It looks sporty, but it looks like you can fish with it.”

Truslow agrees. “Some people, especially the moms, seem to like how a dual console presents itself,” he says. “It looks more family friendly. The moms say, ‘This boat looks like a boat that I could be, and my family could be, very comfortable with.’ ”

EdgeWater’s 245CX is a testament to the dual console rising popularity. The company is selling as many 245CXs as the center console version of the hull, the 240 CC, says Truslow. “It’s a pretty boat that customers who are used to owning a bigger boat or high-end cars can be proud to own,” he says. “So that boat has been very popular for us.”

The offshore-capable 245CX is powered with a single outboard. With a 300-hp Yamaha, the boat gets 3.3 mpg at 29 mph and 3 mpg at 33 mph (50 gallons of fuel, ski arch with hardtop and two people on board).

Many of these boats are offshore capable. The EdgeWater 280CX rides a 21-degree-deadrise hull, and the Grady-White dual console fleet rides variable-deadrise hulls designed by C. Raymond Hunt Associates. “We start with the offshore capabilities first,” says Tubaugh, adding that the 33 and the new 375 ride the same hulls as the Express 330 and 360 (both designed for offshore duties). “We’ve been able to combine the true offshore fishing boat quality and performance of really being able to run offshore comfortably with the versatility to still function as a family boat.”

Let’s take a closer look at Boston Whaler’s 230 Vantage, Sea Hunt’s Escape 250, Pursuit’s DC 265, EdgeWater’s 280CX and Grady-White’s Freedom 375.

Boston Whaler 230 Vantage

Boston Whaler 230 Vantage

Whaler’s 230 Vantage, along with the 270 Vantage, mark the return of the dual console for this well-known builder. The dual console had been absent from its fleet since 2002. Vaughn points out that these two Vantages are new from the keel up. “The hull for our Vantage is its own separate hull,” he says. “It was designed to be a Vantage hull, as opposed to a hull that we build a center console or a cabin on.”

The companion console is all about comfort and convenience, says Vaughn. It folds into a variety of positions so passengers can face fore or aft and be partially or fully reclined, or it can be used as a leaning post. The transom seats stand out, too, he says. They are 4 to 5 inches deeper, and when they are unfolded the backrest pops up. “It is truly sofa-like,” says Vaughn.

Whaler designed the Vantage so the windshield walkthrough is offset to starboard about 5 inches, making the helm console slightly smaller, though plenty big for the skipper, says Vaughn.

Mercury Verado 4-strokes power the Vantage 230 and 270. With a 300-hp Verado, the 230 gets 2.6 mpg at 34 mph and sells for $97,133.

Sea Hunt Escape 250

Sea Hunt Escape 250

South Carolina builder Sea Hunt Boats offers four dual console models in its Escape series: the Escape 188, 211 LE, 234 LE and 250. Sea Hunt builds deep-vee hulls with a transom deadrise of 21 degrees and a sharp entry of 60 degrees. The Escape 250 has a more open cockpit than other dual consoles of this size. The two-person transom seat doubles as a cooler. Abaft this seat and forward of the engine well is a tackle station with a fishbox on centerline and a live well to port.

The bow has two forward-facing lounges. A wet bar molded into the aft side of the helm seat and back-to-back bucket seats round out the major deck components. A settee is across from the helm. The head in the companion console has a large doorway and a wood sole. And talk about battery access, with three in a centerline compartment under the deck between the helm and companion seats.

Standard equipment includes LED underwater lights, hydraulic steering and trim tabs. With a pair of Yamaha F150s, the boat tops out at 53 mph and cruises from 28 to 34 mph. Best mileage comes at 3,000 rpm, moving along at 22 mph and getting 2.75 mpg. This package produces good mileage even at 44 mph — 2 mpg. The Sea Hunt 250 with twin F150s is $98,462. Sea Hunt Boats, Columbia, S.C., (803) 755-6539.

Pursuit DC 265

Pursuit DC 265

The DC 265 was Pursuit’s first dual console, which was followed by the DC 235. The 265’s sheer line melds nicely with other Pursuit models, says marketing director Glenn. Its resin-infused front and side windshield frames with tempered glass also stand out for this 25-foot, 10-inch boat. With a beam of 8 feet, 9 inches, this model has seating and storage from bow to stern, he says. Standard equipment includes an enclosed compartment with a manual head, holding tank and macerator. A hardtop is available as an option ($1,175).

With a single Yamaha F300, the 265 tops out at 46 mph and cruises at 30 mph. At cruise speed, you’ll get 2.6 mpg for a range of 345 miles. Pursuit also hangs a Yamaha F350 on the 265 and has begun offering the boat with twin outboards, as well. Base price with the F300 is $110,330. Pursuit Boats, Fort Pierce, Fla., (772) 465-6006.

EdgeWater 280CX

EdgeWater 280CXA

Looking for a big dayboat that does it all? Consider the EdgeWater 280CX. “Yes, it’s a dual console, but in many ways it’s like an express boat with forward seating,” says EdgeWater president Truslow.

The 280CX is the largest dual console in the builder’s fleet, joining 18-, 20- and 24-footers. “It’s a great dayboat if you have many people,” says Truslow. “It could be used for overnights and could be a good fishing boat. It’s a big deep-vee hull designed to run offshore, but you can also load it up with the family and picnic supplies and fishing rods and run around locally.”

Features include a fold-away lounge in the cockpit, wraparound seating in the bow and “yacht-like” helm seating for four, says Truslow. EdgeWater designed the boat with high freeboard to accommodate a cabin with a galley and head. She rides a deep-vee hull (21 degrees at the transom) that will likely be used for a new center console, says Truslow.

Top speed is 53 mph, and she cruises from 35 to 40 mph. With twin Yamaha F250s, the 280CX gets 1.6 mpg at 37 mph and 1.5 mpg at 42 mph. Price is $205,294 with the F250s. EdgeWater Power Boats, EdgeWater, Fla., (386) 426-5457.

Grady-White Freedom 375

Grady-White packs a lot into the Freedom 375, which it calls the world's largest outboard dual console.

Grady-White introduced the the Freedom 375 at the Miami International Boat Show in February, touting it as the world’s largest outboard-powered dual console. The boat rides the same hull as the Express 360 and can certainly handle offshore duties, says Tubaugh, the marketing VP. But the 375 will particularly shine as an inshore platform for a variety of activities.

“It has a multigeneration appeal to it,” she says. “It’s one of the few activities the entire family can spend together. With a big boat like this, you can have activities in the bow and a whole different set of activities in the cockpit and the helm seating area.”

Grady calls the boat’s arsenal of amenities “ultimate transformer” features because of their dual uses. “Your fishbox one day can be your cooler holding your beverage of choice the next day,” says Tubaugh.

These features include hideaway sliding seats and storage units. There’s also a fold-away table in the companion seating area and a galley/wet bar abaft the helm seat. Standard equipment includes a SureShade retractable sun shade.

The port-side air-conditioned console cabin houses two bunks (both 80 inches long), an entertainment center with a 19-inch flat-screen television and iOS-compatible stereo system, a plush bench seat, cedar-lined locker, mirror and storage. The shower/head is in the starboard console.

Grady-White will hang double or triple Yamahas, and Yamaha’s Helm Master system with joystick control will be available. Pricing was unavailable. Grady-White Boats, Greenville, N.C., (252) 752-2111.

See related articles:

- Why choose a dual console?

- In its element

April 2013 issue