Wellcraft Coastal 2800
In a market where the cost of a well-outfitted, mid-sized fishing machine can easily top $150,000 there are still a few reasonably priced offerings. The Coastal 2800 model offered by Wellcraft Marine between 1986 and 1994 is one example. Keep in mind, there’s usually truth in the old adage "you get what you pay for" and bargain prices often reflect problems and discrepancies ranging from annoying to dangerous.
Wellcraft Marine, of Sarasota FL, has been one of the most prolific manufacturers of production-built fiberglass powerboats for more than thirty years. By the mid-1980s, when the company was sold to Irwin Jacobs’ Genmar Corporation, Wellcraft had established a market presence that was second only to Chris Craft in name recognition and popularity among boaters. Although Wellcraft had created numerous models over the years, the company’s reputation was built upon its solidly constructed, moderately priced Nova and Scarab series of "muscle boats" in the 1970s.
In 1984, under new ownership’s, Wellcraft introduced their Coastal series of fishing boats hoping to expand their market to include serious fishermen who were also looking for a boat that would provide some accommodations for family or extended fishing outings. The series featured conservative styling, reasonable accommodations and competitive pricing.
Introduced in 1986, the Coastal 2800 was the second in the series. It measured 27’ 7" length on deck and 29’ 8’ length overall with the standard bow pulpit. Other principal dimensions are beam 9’ 11", draft 2’ 4" and displacement of approximately 8,200 lbs.
Construction of the Coastal 2800 is fiberglass composite utilizing standard construction materials. The hulls are solid laminates while decks and the superstructure utilize various core materials depending on the strength required. This is a proven method of construction that, when done with care, results in strong, durable boats. The history of the Coastal 2800s has recorded more than a usual number of significant structural problems due primarily to the lack of quality control in the assembly process. Models built between 1986 and 1990 are most prone to problems although all models should be thoroughly inspected for signs of structural concerns.
Most common is failure of fiberglass attachments of structural supports beneath the forward berth, galley and the settee in the cabin area. These areas are often difficult to inspect due to permanently installed liners and joiner work, but careful inspection is a must. If any failures are observed it is almost certain there is hidden damage. In this case, removing of liners and joiner work is warranted in order to detect and repair all areas of concern.
Another regularly observed problem is rotting of fiberglass encapsulated wood stringers due to water that enters through drain holes that have not been properly sealed against moisture. With experience, these areas can be detected by random tapping with a small hammer or plastic mallet. Signs of problems more apparent to the inexperienced observer include shifted motor mounts and depressions around bolt heads or washers of bolted attachments.
According to Wellcraft Customer Service Representative Gordon Imes, Wellcraft began using plastic fuel tanks on the Coastal 2800 model in either 1990 or 1991. Prior to this, tanks were welded aluminum. I know of at least two aluminum tanks that have failed in the last two years due to corrosion on the bottom of the tanks that sit on plywood platforms. The life expectancy of aluminum tanks installed in this manner varies considerably depending on how the boat is used and under what conditions. Salt water and wet bilges will expedite the deterioration although 10 to 15 years is likely a reasonable average life expectancy.
On one hand, these are all serious potential problems and on the other, they are all repairable. The cost of a professional repair of secondary bonding failures and rotted structural supports can run between $1,500 and $15,000 depending on how much removal and fabrication is necessary in order to get to the problem. Fuel tank replacement can cost between $3,000 and $6,000 again depending on accessibility and the replacement tank chosen.
Owners and prospective purchasers should also check plastic through hull fittings at and above the waterline thoroughly for cracks. Fuel, water and waste tank vent fittings should be checked for corrosion and replaced if necessary. These are considerably less expensive repairs but, none the less, necessary to maintain the integrity of the vessel.
Despite the known and reported problems of the Coastal 2800, a survey of Wellcraft owners, conducted by Powerboat Reports in 1996 indicated 78% of owners would buy again. One reason for this loyalty is that even the Coastal 2800’s most ardent critics are quick to praise the functionality and utility of the cockpit and deck layout. The arrangement is what is commonly called a walkaround design and can best be described as lying somewhere between an express cruiser and a center console model.
The design features an unobstructed, 55-square-foot cockpit, deep and secure side decks that are nearly 9" wide at the narrowest point and a raised bridgedeck with starboard helm and port companion seat. The principal advantage of this design is that it provides quick and safe mobility for 360 degrees around the vessel and places the boat operator out of the way of the action, yet in a position that affords excellent visibility and communication with the anglers. Standard features of the Coastal 2800 that make it so popular among anglers include standard rod racks on each side of the cockpit, removable in-deck fish boxes in the cockpit deck and a transom door for landing larger fish. There is a live-bait well beneath the helm seat and a built-in tackle center beneath the companion seat.
While the Coastal 2800 has wide side decks and a large cockpit, she still manages to provide a reasonably comfortable interior for a 28 footer. There is a V-berth that, with filler cushion, makes an adequately sized berth for two adults. The small port side galley features a two-burner counter top stove, sink and under-counter, front-loading refrigerator. There is an enclosed marine toilet aft of the galley, which is minimally sized but includes a shower and drain.
Prior to the last year of production, there was a starboard settee in the saloon. This was replaced in the 1994 model with dinette that converts to a small berth. There is adequate storage space below berths and seating but no hanging locker, a rather annoying shortcoming.
A variety of twin-engine options were offered on the Coastal 2800 over the nine years of production. From 1986 through 1990, choices included factory installed, 225 horsepower OMC Sea Drives (transom-mounted outboards) and a variety of gasoline inboard options, ranging from 220 to 270 horsepower each. In 1991, the OMC Sea Drives were discontinued although outboard models continued to be offered. Between 1991 and 1994, Mercruiser, Crusader and Volvo inboard gasoline engines were standard installations and Volvo and Yanmar diesel engines were offered as options.
Inboard engines are installed below the bridgedeck and access requires removal of the helm, companion seats and lockers. This can be a bit of a pain particularly in the event of an on the water emergency. The water heater is mounted between the forward portions of the engines and reaching engine seawater intakes is a challenge even for those blessed with long arms and slim builds. There is little that can be done to improve this arrangement without making serious compromises elsewhere.
Economical performance and handling are two other areas in which the Coastal 2800 receives consistently high marks from owners. Equipped with 260 horsepower inboard engines and normally loaded, she will cruise comfortably and economically at 25 mph and reach a top speed of 35 mph. The hull form is a modified-V with 16 degrees of deadrise at the transom, which is a reasonable compromise for economical performance and comfortable ride. As is the tendency of the modified-V hull form, steering tends to wander at slow speed however, at normal operating speeds, control is excellent.
Reflective of the problem-prone reputation of the Coastal 2800, prices range considerably below prices of similar fishing boats. For comparison, the current mean value, published by a popular source, of a 1990 Coastal 2800 is $31,500, while the average of five competitive models of the same age is $41,200, nearly 25 percent higher. This is a substantial difference.
There seems to be no shortage of Coastal 2800s available on the used boat market. In early May 2004, I was able to find 17 boats offered for sale between the Great Lakes and the Gulf coast of Texas. The model years ranged from 1986 to 1993 and asking prices range from $13,000 to $49,900. Two of the offerings were outboard models and none were found with the diesel engines.
A good supply of Wellcraft Coastal 2800 models are available at prices considerably less than comparable models. Some may represent excellent values depending on the boat and the buyer.
It is essential a prospective purchaser has a good understanding of the condition of the boat and a clear understanding of the cost of any necessary repairs. Most necessary repairs are those that are labor intensive with little or moderate cost for materials. Buyers who are willing and capable of making their own repairs can cut repair costs dramatically and end up with a lot of boat at reasonable cost. With 78% of owners reporting they would buy again their boat again, it suggests most have purchased their boats, with no illusions and they were happy they got just what they paid for.