I remember my first ride in a center console. It was in 1986, aboard an Aquasport in the 20-foot range powered by a 90-hp Yamaha. Like a lot of fishboats built at that time, it was pretty basic.
The deck was completely open, with no overhead protection from the sun, water or wind. If seas kicked up, the driver could turn his baseball cap backward and duck behind a small windshield to keep dry. There was a leaning post, but it was just a hard bench propped up on stainless rails that straddled an old Igloo cooler—our refrigerator.
Four of us were heading out to find bluefish off Point Pleasant, New Jersey. Other than the leaning post, there were no seats on the boat, so the three people traveling with me crowded around the helm console, leaning into it for support as the boat picked up speed over a bumpy chop. In the cockpit, I sank down onto a beach towel I’d folded onto the sole. I sat beside a plastic bucket secured against the gunwale with a bungee cord—the head for the girls, I was told. As the boat sped away from the shoreline, the sound of that outboard was all I could hear. I remember feeling happy and excited for the adventure ahead.
Last month, I was in the cockpit of another center console that had debuted at the Miami International Boat Show. I was sitting in the beamy 36-footer on a beautifully upholstered seat tucked under a hardtop that kept the sun off my face. There were three outboards and 1,200 horses hanging off the transom, and a gyrostabilizer under my feet. A few steps away was a door to a head compartment with everything from a shower to racks for nice towels—for the girls, I thought.
Center consoles have come a long way. The boats that were lean, mean machines for avid anglers hell-bent on casting lines all weekend have evolved into hybrid designs that cruise as well as they fish. Check out some of the newest models in the story “Fancy Fish” on page 58. These boats will get you thinking about just how enjoyable a day of trolling can be, given the right mix of creature comforts. It’s not that I no longer feel nostalgic about that rough-and-tumble run for bluefish in the back of the Aquasport, but I see the possibilities for new and better adventures ahead.
This article originally appeared in the May 2020 issue.