Seahunter Tournament 35
With triple 300-hp outboards, the SeaHunter Tournament 35 was one of the fastest center console fishing boats at this year’s Miami International Boat Show. But there are more important things than speed (don’t tell the marine industry’s marketing mavens) when it comes to boats meant to run 30-plus miles offshore in less-than-ideal conditions. In my book, a comfortable, dry ride at a decent clip — around 30 mph — through rough water counts more.
The SeaHunter’s long and narrow hull (beam is 9 feet, 10 inches), with its generous deadrise from stem to stern, delivers that soft ride.
Oversized chines deflect spray and keep the boat — and you — dry. And high-tech construction materials and methods should endure plenty of battles with seas of all shapes and sizes. Because of its beam and deadrise, the SeaHunter will be less stable adrift than a beamier vessel. It’s a tradeoff for that great head-sea ride.
Oh yeah, top speed is 62.3 mph. I registered this reading during an hour-long sea trial at the Miami show. The trio of Evinrude E-TECs revved to a pinnacle of 5,300 rpm, burning a combined 76.3 gallons per hour, which equates to 0.8 mpg. It was tough to record accurate engine-noise levels at this speed because the wind was drowning out the engines. SeaHunter’s service manager, Mike Flowers, was at the helm, and I asked him to slow her down to a comfortable cruise speed. Flowers found the sweet spot — around 3,700 rpm — at which the boat jogged along at 42 mph, the direct-injection 2-strokes consuming fuel at a rate of 42 gph for an even 1 mpg.
My decibel meter was picking up the engines now. The needle pointed to 90 dBA — a level at which you can just about carry on a conversation. At a trolling speed of around 8 mph, noise levels dipped to 74 dBA and fuel economy improved slightly to 1.3 mpg.
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With the numbers officially crunched, we headed for the ocean. I set the engines to 3,500 rpm and ran the boat at just under 30 mph through a 2- to 3-foot chop, turning her in every direction to the sea. The boat felt solid upon re-entries and ran smoothly. The power-assist steering worked well, providing adequate response and taking about five turns of the wheel to go from stop to stop. The wheel is positioned at roughly a 30-degree angle (like on a school bus), which made it easy to turn. Plus, the builder had bolted on a steering knob.
The boat had a noticeable list to port, which the builder attributed to offset alignment of the port engine. SeaHunter fixed the problem after the show. The builder also switched from three- to four-bladed stainless steel props. The port engine’s overheating alert sounded several times at full blast during the sea trial. I later found out this was occurring because the engine had a faulty sensor, according to SeaHunter vice president Charlie Schiffer. This caused the props to aerate, triggering the E-TEC’s alarm at the helm.
I’m impressed with the materials SeaHunter uses to construct the 35. Some builders use Kevlar in high-stress areas, like the keel or chines, but SeaHunter builds the entire boat with Kevlar and vinylester resin (which is stronger and more durable than polyester resin). The builder manufactures all hatches with carbon fiber vacuum-bagged to fiberglass skins. Vacuum bagging also is used to build the hull sides and bottom; the core here is Core-Cell, a linear PVC foam. The transom and the bilge areas are solid glass, so workers don’t have to mess with removing any core material from here, which could leave open the possibility of water intrusion. SeaHunter markets the boat with a lifetime warranty.
Safety on deck
The deck was designed with safety in mind, evidenced by the well-placed handrails and the toe-kick space all around the perimeter of the deck, console, leaning post and transom fishing station. Two vertical rails flank the console and another wraps around the leaning post, providing hand-holds for the companionway and crew standing abaft the leaning post.
There were three raised live wells on our test boat — two in the cockpit corners at the transom and one abaft the leaning post. Their clear lids and blue interiors are designed to keep bait alive longer.
The helm is set up for stand-up driving, with a hybrid bucket/bench seat that was positioned too far aft to reach the wheel while seated. Plus, the wheel is dead center on the console panel, so it does not line up with either seat. On our test boat, two 12-inch electronics displays fit easily into a recessed area on the console. A clear plastic cover flips open — again, with help from gas lifts.
The head door on the port side of the console opens — and stays open if you want — with the aid of a stainless steel lift. Good thinking. With no means of staying open, a head door blowing in the wind can be frustrating to deal with, especially if you’re using the compartment for storage.
The two-person seat forward of the console is about the only spot on the boat without a hand-hold within reach. The flush foredeck is completely open — no raised fishboxes or seats — so you can fight a fish behind the full height of the gunwales. The anchor locker lid opens to port and out of the way.
SeaHunter, which opened its doors only six years ago, builds what is, in my opinion, a strong, safe center console. This is clearly a fishing boat first, with limited seating and lots of open deck space. The boat does the job in choppy water and includes all the fishing equipment you’ll need.
The builder will hang three different brands of outboard from the transom: Mercury, Suzuki or Evinrude. With the triple Evinrudes, the Tournament 35 retails for $169,500. But you don’t have to get triples. The boat runs just fine with twin 250s, 275s or 300s. For instance, a pair of 300-hp Suzuki 4-strokes pushes the boat to a top speed of 57 mph and a cruise of 33 mph. With these engines, the boat retails for $136,000.
LOA: 35 feet
BEAM: 9 feet, 10 inches
DRAFT: 1 foot, 8 inches (engines up)
DISPLACEMENT: 6,500 pounds
TRANSOM DEADRISE: 24.5 degrees
TANKAGE: 348 gallons fuel, 35 gallons water, 3.5 gallons waste
BASE POWER: twin 250-hp outboards
SPEED: 62.3 mph top, 42 mph cruise
PRICE: $169,500 (with triple 300-hp E-TECs); $133,000 (with base power, twin Yamaha 250-hp 4-strokes)
CONTACT: SeaHunter Boats, Princeton, Fla.
Phone: (305) 257-3344.