Early springtime in the Chesapeake Bay is the angler’s best chance of encountering a trophy size striped bass. During this time, these fish are heading for the spawning grounds in freshwaters of the tidal rivers and upper part of the Bay. Fairly soon after spawning, most of these large fish migrate back out to the ocean. The trophy season for rockfish (minimum size of 28") typically begins in late April and Maryland's proposal for the 2004 season calls for an April 25th opener.
With the recovery of striped bass and other fish populations, good fishing can be found almost year round in the Chesapeake Bay. If you’re hooked, all you need is a great boat to go after the big ones.
Shamrock Boats was founded in 1971 and, with the exception of a period in 1995 and 1996 when the company fell on some financial hard times and changed ownership, has built boats ever since with only one purpose in mind - fishing.
The Shamrock 260 was introduced in 1980 and, although commonly referred to a 26 footer, the actual centerline length is 25’ 9’. The design has what is known as a modified "V" hull shape with deep "V" shape forward that gradually flattens towards the transom. The area where the bottom and hull sides meet forms a sharp edge known as a hard chine and there is a full-length skeg keel along the bottom. Flatter sections aft provide better lift and more speed with less horsepower but can cause the boat to pound at high speed in choppy water. The full-length keel aids directional stability and protects running gear but at the cost of speed-robbing additional wetted surface.
Like all boat designs, this one is a compromise but those compromises have been made with plenty of thought and planning to produce a boat with excellent speed and handling characteristics that makes an excellent fishing boat and is trailerable to boot. This 260 model continued in production until the end of the 1999 model year when a new 260 Express model was introduced.
Many manufacturers of boats in this size range build their hulls and liners with machinery called a "chopper gun" that mixes resin with strands of fiberglass that is then sprayed into a mold. Although it is a more time consuming method, all Shamrock 260 hulls decks and component parts were hand-laid using rolled fiberglass materials and resin. The hull is molded in two halves and, depending on the deck and cabin configuration, an additional 15 to 20 individual molds are used to create the parts necessary for the completed vessel. This allows for removable components that provide easy access for replacement of machinery and tanks. It’s a more expensive way to build boats but the result can often save hundreds, if not thousands, of dollars when repairs become necessary.
When the two halves of the hull are joined, the keel is filled with a mixture of resin, sand and glass fiber resulting in a rock-solid appendage able to withstand substantial impact.
Although not required by regulations for a boat of this size, the Shamrock 260 is constructed with fiberglass encapsulated foam in order to provide positive flotation and the cockpit is self-draining to prevent rain water and sea spray from going into the bilge.
Fuel tank is coated with a zinc chromate primer to help prevent corrosion from exposure to bilge water and marine quality stainless steel and bronze fittings and fastenings are used throughout.
According to Jack Cooper, owner of the nations oldest Shamrock dealership, Tidewater Yacht Sales in St. Michaels, MD, this carefully, hand crafted construction added several hundred hours of construction time to each boat. Cooper speculates the added cost was the primary reason the model was dropped from the company’s production and replaced with a less labor-intensive model.
Of the half-dozen or so brochures I have from mid-1970 through the mid-1990s I count no fewer than eight cockpit and cabin configurations offered on the Shamrock 260 over the years. With model names like the Stalker, Predator and Reefrunner, it is pretty clear these were all intended to be fishing boats, although some have minimal accommodations and slight styling differences to suit the personal taste and needs of owners. My personal favorite is the Open Fish which, as the name suggest, is a simple open boat with a center console. There is a bench seat at the forward end of the console, two pedestal-mounted seats aft of the console and a 16-gallon live bait well at the transom.
Other models featured a lockable cabin forward with enclosed head and V-berth that will sleep two in a pinch. For the fisherman who wants to extend his or her fishing day or season, there is the Mackinaw 260 that, in addition to the V-berth and head, has a fully enclosed helm under a hard top with permanent forward and side windows. The windows open for ventilation on those hot summer days.
All Shamrock 260s were fitted with two 12-volt batteries and battery control switch. There are individually fused circuits and weatherproof switches for navigation lights, cockpit lights and two bilge pumps as well as spare switches for the addition of equipment.
Kind of a signature feature of all Shamrock boats is that they are powered by direct-drive inboard engines rather than the outboard and inboard/outdrive power options offered by other manufacturers of boats in this size range. The weight to horsepower ratio of an inboard engine can’t compare to that of a modern outboard. However, inboard engines do offer some distinct advantages. They can be mounted near the center of the boat for better weight distribution and they are mounted lower in the hull for a lower center of gravity. This leads to greater stability and better handling characteristics for the Shamrock 260 which is known for her predictable motion, good lateral and tracking stability and full-length keel that helps dampen roll whether trolling or at rest.
Standard power on nearly all Shamrock 260s was a single Pleasure Craft Marine gasoline engine rated at 250 hp. In the early years of production, a 200 hp. Perkins diesel engine was offered as an option. Later models were offered with either a 210 hp. Cummins or 170 hp. Yanmar diesel engine options. Even with these rather conservative power options, the speed of the 260 is quite respectable. With the gas engine, cruising speed is about 24 mph while the diesel option improves the cruising speed to about 27 mph. Top speed is slightly over 30 mph regardless of gas or diesel power.
Diesel powered models offer significantly improved fuel economy and range over gasoline power models. For example, the 170 hp. Yanmar-equipped 260 consumes approximately six gallons of fuel per hour at a cruising speed of 27 mph while the 250 hp. gasoline engine consumes about nine gallons of fuel per hour at a cruising speed of about 24 mph. At an average cost of $1.40 per-gallon for fuel that works out to and operational savings of $4.20 per-hour for the diesel engine. Even more impressive is the fact that, for every 100 gallons of fuel, range increases by 184 miles with the diesel-powered boat.
All this economy and range doesn’t come without a cost though. The initial cost of the diesel engine option increased the cost of a new Shamrock 260 by more than $10,000. Repair, rebuilding and replacement cost of a diesel engine can also be significantly higher than that of a comparable gas engine.
Throughout their history Shamrock has remained a relatively small boatbuilder. Total production of all models is in the range of 200 boats per year. Tidewater’s Jack Cooper estimates that 260 models accounted for perhaps 30% of the company’s production in some years and less in others. Still, with nearly 20 years of production, there are enough boats to keep the used boat market reasonably well supplied. Prices vary quite widely depending on age, condition and equipment. I quite quickly located several boats for sale ranging from a 1985 gas-powered boat in Maine offered at $16,000, to a 1991 gas-powered model in Delaware priced at $28,000, to a 1996 diesel model on Maryland’s eastern shore with the owner asking over $50,000.
Shamrock Boats has a reputation for building no-nonsense quality fishing boats for work or play and the 260 is an excellent example of their product. Its size is well suited to bays and tributaries as well as coastal waters. With caution, planning and good seamanship, she is even capable of venturing reasonable distances offshore in search of fish.
Weather you are already an avid fisherman or you’re just considering taking up the sport, the Shamrock 260 is tough to beat. With the price of new fishing boats of the size and quality of the 260 ranging between $75,000 and $100,000, a used Shamrock 260 is worthy of serious consideration. The stripers are waiting.