By Jack Hornor
Revised by BoatUS editors in October 2012
Fishing boats come and go but there is an elite group of vessels within this genre with a reputation for being the finest of their kind. The Blackfin 29 is one of these. More surprising is that despite their modest size, Blackfin’s reputation is that of a truly capable blue water sportfishing machine, which sets these boats apart from the crowd and keeps used models in high demand.
The Blackfin 29 was introduced in 1983 and remained in production until 1998 when the company fell on hard economic times and closed. The design makes few concessions for cruising comfort and accommodations but is rather singularly focused on features most desired by serious fishermen.
Two separate models were offered — the 29 Combi, an open fisherman with a single helm at deck level, and the 29 Flybridge (pictured), with an enclosed cabin and flybridge. Both models share the same hull, with principal dimensions of 29’ 4” length on deck and a beam of 10’ 6”. A bow pulpit increases the overall length to 32’ 6” and provides a convenient platform for anchor handling and storage.
The Blackfin 29 is built to withstand the punishment that can be dished out by both anglers and the sea. The hull is hand-laid and the craftsmanship and attention to detail is excellent. The bottom is solid fiberglass composite and longitudinal support is provided by substantial laminated plywood stringers incased in fiberglass. The decks and cabin top are foam-cored for stiffness and all hardware is securely attached with backing plates to distribute loads. The hull and deck are bonded with adhesives as well as mechanically fastened.
Photo by Gene Colvin
The hull of the Blackfin 29 was unchanged throughout production although, in 1995, the decks and superstructure were retooled and updated. Newer boats use fewer molded parts and less wood, so they’re likely to have fewer maintenance issues than those built before 1995.
A weak point in the design — the fuel tank and its installation – is by no means unique to the Blackfin 29. The aluminum tank is installed below the cockpit deck and is exposed to normal accumulations of bilge water that will eventually cause the tank to corrode and fail. It’s difficult to predict how long tanks will last, as this depends on how well the boat is maintained, and where and under what conditions it is used. Boats used in salt water will see their tanks deteriorate more rapidly. Tanks more than 10 years old should be very thoroughly inspected and replaced if there is any sign of corrosion or pitting. The good news is that tanks can be removed and replaced without destroying decks or structural components of the boat, and replacement should cost less than $4,000 (2008 estimate).
Photo by Gene Colvin
The deck arrangement of both Blackfin 29 models is quite similar, although the forward cabin trunk of the Flybridge model is less angular and slightly lower in profile than that of the Combi. Both feature a single opening hatch on centerline in the cabin trunk, and a bow pulpit with a center roller for handling and storing ground tackle. The foredeck is surrounded by a welded stainless steel rail that tapers to deck level at the windshield and offers no security along the side decks, which are only about 8 inches wide. The Flybridge model has additional handrails along the side for security; although the windscreen is the only thing to grab on to along the side of the Combi unless a tower has been added. There are raised cleats forward and amidships, and the aft cleats are mounted inboard with hawseholes in the decks.
Photo by Gene Colvin
The cockpits of both models are identical and provide more than 60 square feet of area for fishing. Forward of the cockpit, a slightly raised bridgedeck has a narrow center passage between two aft-facing lounge seats that enclose the engines. Before 1995, there were actually removable engine boxes on each side, although the redesign eliminated these in favor of a molded fiberglass seat-and-motor box unit which is raised and lowered hydraulically. In the event of a hydraulic or electrical failure, access to the engine compartment is through the bulkhead forward of the engines.
No matter which model, it’s important to keep in mind that these are fishing boats, first and foremost. If maximum accommodations for a given length are important, this is not the boat for you. Nonetheless, both models have functional interior arrangements. The Combi’s cabin has minimal accommodations with a U-shaped dinette forward that converts to a double berth, and a galley to port with a single sink and a single-burner stove. The head is to port and has a sink and storage vanity. Storage is below the dinette seats and in a tiny starboard hanging locker.
Accommodations are improved on the flybridge model with a V-berth or diagonal (depending on model year) berth forward. The main cabin has a dinette is to port which converts to a small double berth, a starboard galley with two-burner stove, sink and a front-loading refrigerator. And, there is a small head. Standing headroom is 6’ 6” in the cabin, certainly a plus for tall fishermen.
A large number of power options have been available over the years ranging from twin 205-hp gasoline to twin 320-hp diesel engines. The original fuel capacity of 250 gallons was increased to 260 gallons in 1995. So, as may be expected, the speed and range of the Blackfin 29 can vary considerably, depending on year, engines and configuration. Top speed ranges between 28 and 32 knots, and cruising speeds range from 20 to 28 knots.
For serious sportfishermen intent on coastal and offshore fishing, the Blackfin 29 is among the best the market has to offer in this size. Purchasing a used model can be a very affordable way to own a top quality boat.
Naval architect Jack Hornor was the principal surveyor and designer for Marine Survey & Design, Co., based in Annapolis, MD. He was on the boards of the American Boat and Yacht Council, the National Association of Marine Surveyors, and the Society of Boat and Yacht Designers. He and his wife sailed their Catalina 42, Legacy, based on Maryland's Eastern Shore.