Finding a middle ground

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Center Consoles: the pickup truck of the boating world.

Also in this package: Triton breaks the 30-foot mark

The center console has become the pickup truck of the boating world.

Versatile with a straightforward layout, they appeal to hard-core anglers and family dayboaters alike.

“They’ve become a real staple,” says Paul Perry, vice president of sales and marketing at Pursuit Boats, who made the pickup truck comparison. “They started taking on the aura of a boat that’s multipurpose. It’s not just for fishing.”

The designs also are becoming more diverse. Many center consoles are being built with shallow draft, some with more seating to accommodate family cruising, and some larger boats are being fitted with fighting chairs for serious offshore angling. It’s no wonder the center console market continues to grow.

“When we did the 2470 center console back in ’95, there weren’t very many players,” says Perry. The increased competition has brought a higher demand for quality, he notes. “What was the state of the art,” he says, “is [now] just a nice boat.”

And overseas in France, Sweden and elsewhere, Perry points out that U.S.-built center consoles actually have become trendy. Pursuits and other center consoles have a classic, conservative look that appeals to European boaters. “They like things that are timeless,” he says.

Center consoles come equipped with more standard features than in the past, especially the large ones, says EdgeWater Boats president Peter Truslow. “Every boat goes out loaded,” he says.

More and more the console houses a head compartment and even a shower, and the boats’ layouts are clean and uncluttered thanks to the use of recessed bow rails, pop-up cleats and other flush-mounted hardware.

The boats are getting larger, too. “I remember a day when the 24-foot center console was the biggest you saw,” says Earl Bentz, president and CEO of Triton Boats. He says some owners are downsizing to center consoles from 50- and 60-foot convertibles and motoryachts so they can be with guests in the cockpit, where the action is.

And as center consoles grow in size, so, too, have the outboards (and number of outboards) that power them. “As long as the outboard motors will push you to the performance, I don’t think there’s any limit to the size,” says Jupiter Marine president Carl Herndon, who is building a new 38. “I have an old saying that there’s nothing to substitute for length and weight in the ocean. They just simply ride a little better.”

How big is too big? Bentz, for one, believes center console boats beyond 35 to 38 feet might run into trouble due to trailering and rack storage issues.

Several of the boats featured here were designed specifically to handle the weight of today’s 4-stroke outboards. In fact, Southport Boat Works started with that very design goal. But it’s not just big boats that need to consider 4-stroke weight. The 17-foot EdgeWater 170 CC is designed to accommodate the weight of a 90-hp Yamaha 4-stroke, according to Truslow.

The little EdgeWater bucks the trend toward bay boat designs by incorporating more freeboard and more vee in the hull than center consoles of comparable size, Truslow says.

Here’s a look at six new center consoles from 17 feet to 38 feet, ranging in price from less than $24,000 to more than $210,000.

EdgeWater

The EdgeWater 170 CC is something of a rarity these days in the center console/bay boat market: a boat smaller than 20 feet designed to run in a good chop.

“The idea behind this boat … is to build a small boat that is capable of doing a broad number of things and is also capable of lasting a lifetime,” says Truslow. “It’s a little larger, heavier, deeper than other 16- and 17-footers on the market, and because of that it [offers] a little more security.”

The 170 can be used for fishing, utility work, water skiing or as a tender, Truslow says.

The no-wood hull is constructed of hand-laid fiberglass, with a fiberglass stringer system, fiberglass composite transom and closed-cell foam flotation for unsinkability. Stainless steel cleats and grab rails, and a welded stainless steel bow rail are standard. The 17-footer also has a console cooler seat, a pair of transom jump seats, a bait well/cooler helm seat, gunwale-mounted stainless steel rod holders, and a stainless steel steering wheel. There’s 22 inches of freeboard, and the 44-square foot cockpit is self-bailing, which Truslow says was tricky to do in such a small boat.

“It’s got all the features of our bigger boats, just compacted,” he says. “It looks like a little 26. And it’s a great family boat because it comfortably seats six.”

SPECS:

LOA: 16 feet, 10 inches BEAM: 7 feet, 3 inches DRAFT: 10 inches DISPLACEMENT: 1,700 pounds HULL TYPE: modified-vee TRANSOM DEADRISE: 15 degrees TANKAGE: 32 gallons fuel ENGINE OPTION: single outboard to 115 hp SPEED: unavailable SUGGESTED PRICE: $23,743 (with Yamaha F90) CONTACT: EdgeWater Power Boats, Edgewater, Fla. Phone: (386) 426-5457. http://www.edgewaterboats.com/

McKee Craft

McKee Craft builds unsinkable fiberglass boats from 14 to 28 feet, and the Freedom series center consoles are the builder’s largest.

The new Freedom 22 is the sole single-engine model in the series. It has slightly less deadrise — 22 degrees opposed to 24-1/2 degrees at the transom — than the Freedom 24 and 28. “It’s a really good-riding 22-footer,” says Scott Harris, McKee Craft vice president of sales. “It’s as capable as a 24-footer, but with a single engine.”

The Freedom 22’s flush-deck design makes it easy to move about the boat while fishing, Harris says. Standard fishing equipment includes a 35-gallon lighted oval live well, four flush-mounted rod holders, four transom-mounted rod holders, and a seven-drawer tackle center. There is a 270-quart insulated storage box in the bow and a pair of 170-quart insulated storage boxes in the cockpit.

The walk-in console has space for a head or additional storage. Other standard features include a leaning post, hydraulic steering, Plexiglas windshield and raw-water washdown. Options include wraparound cockpit bolsters, foldaway aft bench seat, 13-gallon freshwater system, portable marine head and a T-top.

The foam-filled hull, built using McKee Craft’s Pressure Bonding System, has a 10-year fully transferable warranty.

SPECS:

LOA: 22 feet BEAM: 8 feet, 6 inches DRAFT: 1 foot,

9 inches (engine up) DISPLACEMENT: 3,000 pounds HULL TYPE: deep-vee TRANSOM DEADRISE: 22 degrees TANKAGE: 120 gallons fuel ENGINE OPTION: single outboard to 300 hp SPEED: 50 mph top, 34 mph cruise (with 250-hp Evinrude E-TEC) SUGGESTED PRICE: $50,724 CONTACT: McKee Craft, Fairmont, N.C. Phone: (910) 628-0926. http://www.mckeecraft.com/

Pursuit

The Pursuit 2570 center console replaces the 2470 in the Florida builder’s lineup. “It replaces the most successful boat we’ve ever had; that’s obviously big shoes to fill,” says vice president of sales and marketing Perry.

Though the 2470 was modified over its nine-year production run, the company at some point, Perry says, needed to “change chassis.” The new hull is a little beamier than the 2470’s. “The ride is excellent,” he says. “We didn’t lose anything there.”

In addition to the new hull, the 2570 has a larger access door to the head, redesigned leaning post incorporating a larger bait well, recessed bow rail, and recessed cleats and lighting, all-metal through-hulls, and a new T-top.

Standard equipment includes a raw-water washdown system, bifold transom door, cockpit coaming bolsters, and a stern bait rigging station with a removable cutting board, freshwater sink and 40-gallon cooler. The console head compartment has a manual marine head with a holding tank and macerator, screened port light and interior lighting. A cooler seat forward of the console comes with a cushion and backrest standard.

The 2570 reaches a top speed of 50 mph, and cruises at 28 mph when equipped with a pair of 150-hp Yamaha 4-strokes. Base price with twins is $82,515. It has a two-year limited warranty, and the hull and deck carry a five-year structural warranty and a five-year warranty against blisters.

SPECS:

LOA: 24 feet, 9 inches without pulpit BEAM: 8 feet, 6 inches DRAFT: 1 foot, 6 inches (engines up) DISPLACEMENT: 4,555 pounds (without power) HULL TYPE: deep-vee TRANSOM DEADRISE: 21 degrees TANKAGE: 150 gallons fuel ENGINE OPTION: single or twin outboards to 300 hp SPEED: 44 mph top, 27 mph cruise (with single 250-hp outboard) SUGGESTED PRICE: $71,380 CONTACT: Pursuit Boats, Fort Pierce, Fla. Phone: (772) 465-6006. http://www.pursuitboats.com/

Scout

The 260 Sportfish is a new center console in Scout’s line of fishing boats from 14 feet to 28 feet. The 26-footer’s sheer follows a line from the flared bow to the console, where it breaks at the start of the cockpit area.

The cockpit gunwales hold a bait prep station to starboard with a freshwater sink and 27-gallon live well, and a 60-gallon insulated fishbox to port. A 55-gallon leaning-post live well with a Plexiglas lid is optional. An aluminum leaning post is standard, as is a T-top with electronics box, spreader lights and rocket launchers. A mechanically actuated cover locks electronics in the dashboard.

 

The cockpit is self-draining, and there’s a transom wave gate with a foldaway stern seat. The boat has full bolsters and a recessed stainless steel bow rail. Storage in the bow area includes 120-quart insulated fishboxes to port and starboard, as well as a dry box.

The 260 also has a head compartment with opening port in the console, and standard trim tabs. Options include outriggers, a portable or porcelain marine head with holding tank, and a hardtop.

Lang says the 260 rides a new hull, the V3, which has a sharp entry forward and three planes of deadrise aft. The V3’s bottom is designed to provide speed, stability and seaworthiness, according to Lang. The boat planes in 3-1/2 seconds with a pair of Yamaha F150 4-stroke outboards, according to Scout. Suggested price with a single Yamaha F250 outboard is $75,309.

SPECS:

LOA: 25 feet, 5 inches BEAM: 8 feet, 6 inches DRAFT:

1 foot, 3 inches DISPLACEMENT: 3,000 pounds (without engines) HULL TYPE: deep-vee TRANSOM DEADRISE: 20 degrees TANKAGE: 145 gallons fuel, 15 gallons water ENGINE OPTION: twin outboards to 300 hp SPEED: 53 mph top (with twin Yamaha F150s) SUGGESTED PRICE: $85,009 CONTACT: Scout Boats, Summerville, S.C. Phone: (843) 821-0068. http://www.scoutboats.com/

Southport

Southport Boat Works produces high-end center consoles designed for 4-stroke outboards, and the North Carolina builder has introduced a second boat for its second year of production.

The 28CC joins a 26-footer that was introduced last year, both of which ride hulls designed by C. Raymond Hunt Associates. Southport’s Hunt4 hull technology calls for a beamier boat with a deeper-vee bottom to accommodate the weight of twin 4-strokes. The 28CC can handle a pair of 300-hp outboards, says managing partner Frank Longino.

Longino says starting out with a “clean sheet of paper” has been advantageous for Southport. “We figure that’s going to give us a two- to three-year technological advantage over our competition,” he says.

Southport has a crew of boatbuilding veterans behind its two offerings, says Longino, including director of engineering Val Jenkins, who ran go-fast builder Cigarette for 16 years. One way that experience has manifested itself is with the relatively light weight of the all-composite boat, says Longino.

The 28CC is fitted out for fishing, with topside storage for 22 rods and vertical storage for eight more in the console, which has 6 feet, 2 inches of headroom and a Vacuflush head. The boat also has a 38-gallon insulated in-deck fishbox with macerator, rigging station with tackle drawers and a 45-gallon live well in the leaning post, a 157-gallon insulated fishbox with macerator forward of the console, and in-sole storage.

SPECS:

LOA: 28 feet, 6 inches BEAM: 10 feet, 6 inches DRAFT:

1 foot, 7 inches DISPLACEMENT: 5,800 pounds HULL TYPE: Hunt4 deep-vee TRANSOM DEADRISE: 22 degrees TANKAGE: 250 gallons fuel ENGINE OPTION: twin 4-stroke outboards to 600 hp SPEED: 54 mph top, 31 mph cruise SUGGESTED PRICE: $143,310 CONTACT: Southport Boat Works, Wilmington, N.C. Phone: (910) 383-0365. http://www.southport-boatworks.com/

Jupiter

The Jupiter 38 is a big center console ready for fishing, diving, cruising and a variety of other family activities. “We tried to design the boat to give more accommodations to the families,” says Jupiter president Herndon, adding that it has more seating than a typical tournament fishing boat.

The 38 has a shower, sink and vanity in the stand-up head compartment. There is seating at the bow on storage boxes that can hold rods, and a stowable stern seat also is available. There is an additional in-deck storage compartment forward, and a pair of in-deck storage compartments on both sides of the console. An 85-quart cooler/seat is forward of the console, which also has a lockable electronics compartment, an emergency gear locker, and a Plexiglas windshield.

“We’ve got a huge amount of storage on the boat,” says Herndon.

The self-bailing cockpit has a pair of 104-gallon fishboxes with macerators, and a tackle center with a 50-gallon live well, tackle drawers, and fresh and saltwater sinks. A transom door and gate lead to an integral swim platform.

“We tried to build a lot of features into it that would attract fishermen and their families,” says Herndon, who notes one piece of equipment owners might want to omit from the 38-footer: a third outboard.

“We wanted to have a boat that would give you very adequate performance in two engines,” says Herndon. “We were very successful in accomplishing that goal. … I think the key that differentiates us is that boat runs so well on twin engines.” A triple-engine setup, however, is available for those who prefer that power package.

SPECS:

LOA: 38 feet, 2 inches BEAM: 10 feet, 7 inches DRAFT:

2 feet (engines up) DISPLACEMENT: 8,970 pounds HULL TYPE: deep-vee TRANSOM DEADRISE: 24 degrees TANKAGE: 320 gallons fuel, 60 gallons water ENGINE OPTION: twin or triple outboards SPEED: 50 mph top, 40 mph cruise SUGGESTED PRICE: $212,970 (with twin Yamaha Z300s) CONTACT: Jupiter Marine, Fort Lauderdale, Fla. Phone: (954) 523-8985. www.jupitermarine.com

Also in this package: Triton breaks the 30-foot mark