By Jack Hornor
Revised by BoatUS editors in October 2012
|Principal Dimensions & Specifications|
|Measurements should be considered approximate and the manufacturer’s specifications may be relied upon. Bow & stern appendages are generally excluded.|
|Length Overall||26’ 9"|
|Maximum Draft||2’ 6"|
|Fuel Capacity||100 Gallons|
|Speed Range||25 Mph|
At first glance, the clean, classic lines of the Fortier 26 might be mistaken for one of the Down East-styled boats that have proliferated over the last few years and are generally referred to as "Picnic Boats" after the Hinckley model of the same name that was introduced in 1995. Fortier 26 owners would likely scoff at the suggestion and insist that their's are no "Picnic Boats" but flat out fishing machines.
The history of the Fortier 26 dates back to 1957 when the noted New England design firm of Eldredge-McInnis drew the lines for a 26' bass boat to be built by Brownell Boat Works of Mattapoisett, MA. Later the design was slightly modified and built by Moss Marine of Fall River, MA as the Sakonnet 26. In the 1970s Alan McInnis modified the design to convert from wood to fiberglass construction. Fortier Boats, of Riverside, MA, purchased the design and began fiberglass construction in 1977. In the last 22 years 342 Fortier 26s have been built and production is still going strong.
There are bass boats and then there are bass boats. The Fortier 26 is patterned after a class of boats that evolved to meet the needs of fisherman who fished for striped bass along the shores from New Jersey through New England. Because the boat is such a stable fishing platform and handles short choppy sea conditions well, in more recent years, it has become a favorite of rockfish (striped bass) fishermen on the Chesapeake Bay. This bass boat should not be confused with the low-slung, trailerable models sporting 150 hp outboard engines and intended for freshwater bass fishing.
The Fortier 26 has a very fine bow and narrow entry forward which helps reduce pounding and improves maneuverability in short choppy seas. There is considerable flare forward and a full-length, molded spray rail that runs along the chine from the stem to the transom to help the boat and crew to keep dry. The boat's 10' beam is considerable for a 26' boat of this vintage and, combined with the hard chine, provides a very stable platform from which to fish. A molded keel runs nearly the full length of the boat and adds to the boat's directional stability as well as provides excellent protection for the shaft, propeller and rudder. The rudder is supported on the bottom by a cast bronze shoe that extends from the keel.
Photo by David McKenney
Although the styling of the Fortier 26 may be traditional, her construction utilizes modern, but not state of the art, materials and methods. The hull is hand laid-up utilizing chopped strand fiberglass mat and woven roving over a closed-cell foam core. The core is 5/8" thick on the bottom and 1/2" on the hull sides. Currently Core-Cell'™ is used although earlier models were built with Airex™ core material. The result is a hull that is over an inch thick in critical areas and exceptionally stiff and strong. The decks are constructed in a similar fashion and deck hardware is securely attached with stainless steel nuts bolts and washers. Even fish rod holders are bolted using fiberglass-backing plates.
The hull sides of the Fortier 26 are flared at the shear to form a rub rail and a unique method of joining the deck and hull. The joint is secured and reinforced with fiberglass for the entire length that results in, for all intents and purpose, a single piece hull and deck structure which is stronger and less prone to leaking than the traditional method of mechanical and adhesive fastening the deck and hull. A stainless steel molding is fastened to the rub rail for added protection. Since the early 1990s, the cockpit deck has been constructed of two removable sections that allows easy access to the bilges for service of fuel, exhaust and steering systems and since 1990, all Fortier boats have been built with an outer coat of vinylester resin to help prevent osmotic blistering.
Photo by David McKenney
The downside of this rugged, heavy duty, method of construction is increased weight. At approximately 6,500 lbs, the Fortier 26 is 1,000 lbs heavier than many fishing models in this size range and will cost a few miles per hour in performance.
Make no mistake about, it the Fortier 26 is designed to accommodate fishermen not overnight guests. There is a huge cockpit that measures nearly 9' wide and is 16' long between the cabin bulkhead and the transom. The cockpit is deep and provides a secure feeling even when conditions get nasty. There is a 3' by 4' engine box about centered in the boat and raised approximately 15" above the cockpit sole. With the optional helm seat and passenger seat in place moving forward requires stepping over the engine box that is a minor inconvenience. On the other hand, the box provides additional seating or a perfect spot to put out that "picnic" lunch.
The Fortier offers minimal accommodations for two in a small cuddy cabin. One step down through the 20" wide companionway there is a single stainless steel sink on the left and a two-burner alcohol stove fitted into the counter top on the right with storage behind and underneath. Forward there are two full-length berths in a "V" configuration that will sleep two adults comfortably. There is a marine toilet beneath the port side berth. Headroom in the cabin is limited to 5' 4" except directly in the companionway entrance. The accommodations offer no privacy but this is about the best that can be expected with space available.
As would be expected with any boat that as been offered for more than 20 years, there have been a number of gasoline and diesel engine options over the years. For current production the standard engine is the 200 Hp Volvo TAMD41 model. Various other offerings over the years have ranged from 255 HP Mercruiser gasoline engines to 230 HP Yanmar Diesel power. For more than the last ten years, diesel engines have been standard equipment. The engine box is easily removed for access and maintenance and if the engine ever has to be removed for maintenance or replacement the job is a snap.
Photo by David McKenney
Cruising speed, depending on the engine and how the boat is loaded, will range from 17 to 21 mph with a top end speed in the range of 23 to 27 mph. There are two 50-gallon fuel tanks fitted below the cockpit deck, which provide an approximate range, at cruising speed, of 210 to 250 miles.
As the numbers above suggest the Fortier 26 is not a particularly fast boat but generally she handles exceptionally well. Like most boats that have been refined over the years for a specific task, the Fortier 26 does have a few little handling quirks. One in particular is the tendency of the bow to swing off or hunt in a following sea. Most experienced operators of the 26, as well as the boat&s builder and designer, have found this condition can be mitigated considerably by not over-steering but by making slight helm and throttle adjustments to get the boat in synch with the sea.
The ride of the Fortier 26 is quite dry particularly in short chop and under normal loading she will run at a 4 or 5 degrees bow up angle which is considered just about ideal for this size and type of boat. Even with a single engine, handling is quite good in close quarters. At idle speed she'll complete a 360-degree forward circle in less than two boat lengths.
The Fortier 26 is a very solidly built boat with few problems even as these boats approach and pass the 20-year mark. Owners should keep in mind that these boats are constructed with a core material between layers of fiberglass that can present some unique challenges for repair and installation of through-hull fittings and attachments. If you are not familiar with the special requirements of this type of construction you should seek some advice from an experienced source before attempting any modification or repair.
Refinishing, necessitated by normal wear and tear, and rebuilding or replacing tired engines with high operating hours are the most common and expensive repairs. The cost to refinish will depend greatly on the condition of the present finish and the surface preparation required. A professional repair is likely start in the neighborhood of $2,500 for hull topsides. Rebuilding engines and repowering can range from $2,500 to nearly $20,000. (Calculated January 2006)
There is no perfect boat for everyone and the Fortier 26 is no exception. Her 10' beam prevents trailering without special permits so she will not appeal to the person to whom overland mobility is a concern. And, with a modest cruising speed and range she will be less than ideal for ranging far offshore. However, for the serious coastal fisherman, this is a tough boat to beat when it comes to classic good looks, quality of construction, comfort and accommodations in a 26' model.
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.