My Next Boat – William Sisson

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A Classic Outrage 22

would be a nice Boston Whaler upgrade

A Classic Outrage 22 would be a nice Boston Whaler upgrade

 

 

 Regulator 26

Even when we’re perfectly content with our current boats, many of us are at least thinking of the next one. I’m very happy with my restored 1968 Boston Whaler Nauset, but I can already see the day when the family is going to outgrow this classic little Ray Hunt-designed 17-footer.

So what’s around the corner?

For unmatched versatility in a small boat, I’m sticking with a center console. Instead of the small cuddy cabin you find on the typical walkaround, I’d rather have the open deck space forward for fishing or passengers. And the small cuddy really is a bit too tight for comfortable overnighting, at least with my active 6- and 8-year-olds.

My next boat will have to do several things well. She’ll need to be seaworthy and stable, with a decent turn of speed (mid-20-knot cruise, mid-30-knot top end). It’s going to see duty as a sportfishing boat, family beach boat, gunkholer and tow horse for tubes and, eventually, I suspect, wakeboards and water skis.

Size? Suffice it to say she’ll be a proud member of the “mosquito fleet,” which is made up of those small, seakindly craft that can take more punishment than their operators and go more places than many people think possible.

For family boating, it should be able to comfortably transport at least four adults and four children — more in a pinch. For fishing, I’m looking for a boat with enough room to allow three adults, or two adults and two good-sized children, to cast relatively unobstructed and to move about without tripping over one another. The right length is somewhere between 22 and 25 feet.

For good all-around performance, I’m likely to go with a modified-vee hull with a transom deadrise of 18 or 19 degrees, rather than a full-blown 24-degree deep-vee. The modified-vee will be easier to power and more stable at rest. I need a boat that can run in the sloppy conditions found in the sounds, bays and coastal waters of southern New England, as well as one that is sure-footed in the tidal rips. It’s not going offshore, and I don’t expect to run it in 6- to 8-foot seas.

I want a boat that will operate well in 95 percent of the conditions I expect to be out in, not one set up for that 5 percent we rarely, if ever, encounter. When I do get caught out in more wind and seas than I’d like, I’ll do what I’ve always done: slow down and carefully work my way home.

I also like being able to reach over the side and easily touch the water, whether it’s to “lip” a striped bass or haul up one of my kids. For that reason, the next boat will have lower freeboard than is common today. Side and bow rails will keep the young ones in the boat while allowing them to reach over and do what kids do: drag a hand in the water, scoop up a jellyfish, work a crab net. And she must be self-bailing.

A T-top is a must, as much for a place to mount a radome, antennas and a spotlight as for shade. Electronics will include a VHF with digital selective calling (DSC), a GPS/plotter/sonar unit, radar and compass.

I’m not a big fan of overpowered boats. I’d like my next boat to cruise between 22 and 24 knots and have a top end in the mid 30s; maybe a tad more. That’s fast enough. (On the flip side, I don’t want to underpower the boat either and affect engine durability and longevity.)

Not too long ago we spoke with a respected boatbuilder who said 50 mph was the new benchmark for a modern center console. That may be true for tournament anglers, but not for me. I’m one of those who believes the journey often is as important as the destination, so why rush? In my experience, those very high speeds are not terribly practical in most real-world conditions. And I don’t believe in running wide open back to the marina to beat a thunderstorm. Most of the time, it’s safer to ride it out or wait for it to pass.

For several reasons — engine cost and fuel economy among the important ones — I’d like my next boat to be powered by a single outboard, probably 200 hp or 225 hp, which obviously will affect the size of the boat. At the moment, I’m leaning toward a 4-stroke (as long as the boat can handle the weight), but I’m also keeping an open mind regarding direct-injection 2-strokes. In the end, I’m going to make my decision based on what’s right for the boat.
There are a bunch of small preferences, too. I prefer bench-style helm seating with a backrest to individual seats. The boat would need a live well, a modest number of rod holders (four to six), and enough dry storage for dayboating, which shouldn’t be a big issue.

New or used? I’ve bought both new and (very) used in the past. My current boat was a project boat, and I suspect the next one will be, as well. There certainly are advantages to rigging and modifying a boat yourself. You get it just the way you want it, with the components of your choice, and you save money.

When all is said and done, my goal is a versatile, seaworthy family boat with simple, bulletproof (as much as possible) redundant systems. And within reason, she needs to be an all-weather coastal fishing boat, at home drifting through a building tidal rip or running through choppy waters in midnight fog. That’s not asking too much of a quality center console. There are any number of good center consoles on the market today. And they are as varied as the traditional looking Handy Billy is from a modern center console like the Regulator 26.

I’m still a few years away from that next boat, but at the moment I’m looking closely at a Boston Whaler Outrage 22 from the 1980s or early ’90s. It’s a solid, proven hull that I can power with a single outboard. She still retains that low-sided “skiff” shape that, to my mind, makes for a good fishing and beach boat. And with a dry weight of about 2,000 pounds, I can tow her with my van. Stay tuned.