By Michael Vatalaro
Family In The Front, Fish In The Back
As consumers, we demand that many of our day to day items multitask. Boats are no different.
The fact that most boating families pursue a variety of activities on the water hasn't been lost on boatbuilders, and most boats are suited to several tasks. Fishing boat manufacturers in particular are challenged with balancing the needs of the hard-core angler with the realities of bringing the family along on the rest of the trips. But they haven't shied away from the task.
Back in late 1960s, Stamas introduced the V-24 Tarpon as "the world's only open fisherman with an enclosed toilet compartment," and the discomfiting headline "Stamas Builds the Open Fisherman That Ladies Love." (While we're indulging in nostalgia, the starting price for the 24-footer was $5,895. Nope, there's no digit missing).
Today, it takes a lot more than an enclosed head to make the family happy. Think refrigeration, seating that's more than a cushion on a cooler, plenty of shade, cup holders, handholds, and, oh yeah, the grill. Many of these creature comforts used to mean you had a cabin forward, in either a walk-around configuration or a cuddy layout. That meant either less seating above deck, or less fishing space, depending on your perspective. But with some clever engineering, today, heads, fridges, grills, and even below-decks berths, are showing up on dual-consoles and center-consoles.
The Freedom 255 dual console from Grady-White is a great example. "We've brought the cabin up onto the deck," explains Joey Weller, vice president for sales and marketing at Grady-White. "Those cabin features are up top now." In this case, an optional wet bar or grill behind the helm seat stands in for what might've been a single burner stove down in the cabin of a walkaround. Weller says that Grady-White has seen an increased demand for boats with greater flexibility such as a dual-console. In response to customer input, they've expanded their lineup of dual-consoles from three models to six, now going all the way up to 30 feet. They're not the only manufacturer responding to these demands.
Last year, Scout released their flagship center-console, the Scout 345XSF. It has everything you'd expect from an open fishing boat, including a tackle center, livewells, fish boxes, and plenty of rodholders. But it also features an enclosed head, microwave, stainless sink, Corian counters, and a double berth that converts to a dinette, all tucked under the console. You can even get air conditioning. Forward of the console, where many builders are content to put a bench seat or cooler seat, Scout built in a sun lounge. That also opens up to reveal plenty of storage for all the family's water toys and the Armstrong dive ladder.
If a forward cabin is still on your wish list, there are plenty of models around. One of the newest is from Hydra-Sports, called the Hydra-Sports 3000VX. It's one of the first models in their new Custom Line, and in addition to offering all the features you'd expect down below, it offers the chance to customize your boat's appearance, with 14 different color options. You can pick the color of the hull below the chines, the hull sides, and even the shade of Hydra-Sports distinctive "bolt" along the sides. Add underwater lighting and a white rub rail to finish the look.
Anchoring in a quiet cove overnight is one of boating's finest pleasures. But how many of us find that peaceful experience interrupted by worries that the anchor has dragged? Traditional anchor alarms rely on the boat's GPS to register significant boat movement. Anchor Alert, from Deep Blue Marine USA, sounds the alarm if the anchor itself moves. The system is made up of three components: a transducer that can be either thru-hull mounted or simply hung over the side; an accelerometer that attaches to the anchor or rode, inside a high-strength, bronze housing that "talks" to the transducer via sonar; and the handheld alarm/control unit. The entire system can be set up in 15 minutes.
When the accelerometer senses movement, it records and sends that info to the alarm unit, updating every few seconds. If enough movement is recorded, the aggregate will exceed the user-selected threshold, and the alarm sounds. Adjusting the threshold allows you to select how much dragging you will tolerate before you want to be woken up. The basic system includes the accelerometer inside a 7-ton working strength housing, the transducer, and control unit. $2,600; www.deepbluemarine.com
A Nap In A Bag
There's really no outdoor pursuit that can't be enhanced by the simple addition of a hammock. The Grand Trunk Travel Hammock packs down small enough to stow in a locker on deck or throw in your backpack for a quick trip ashore. Think of it as tactical napping-equipment, or maybe a ditch-kit for the extremely lazy. Seriously, what would you want on your deserted island? $20.
Throw Someone A Line
If you think you don't have room onboard for a throwable life preserver, you're probably wrong. The football-shaped Hammar Lifesaver is just 12 inches long, and weighs less than two pounds. When it hits the water, the case pops open to inflate a horseshoe lifebuoy. The open case then acts as a sea anchor, so it doesn't blow away. While it's not yet approved as a Type IV throwable device by the U.S. Coast Guard, it'd be a worthy addition and terrific upgrade over that old seat cushion. $149; www.cmhammar.com/products/lifesaver for details, and www.datrex.com to purchase.
Give Yourself An Out
Thinking back to the one that got away is frustrating, but it's not as bad as the one that got away and took you with it. Zak's Safety Knife is just a simple line-cutter you can keep handy and use quickly without fumbling with opening a knife. $3.75; www.zaktackle.com
A Feathered Friend
PYI introduced their new fourblade Ecowind Max Prop late last year, and sailors wanting a self-feathering prop should take a look. The prop automatically adjusts its pitch according to the load on the blades, not rpm, flattening out under heavy loads such as when accelerating, and then increasing pitch once the demands are met, giving you greater speed for the same rpm. PYI claims greater fuel efficiencies of up to 30 percent when compared with a conventional fixed prop.
Best of all, the Ecowind Max Prop is easily tuned to suit your engine with a built-in pitch adjustment ring that requires no special tools to adjust. And because the blades respond to demand in forward and in reverse, there is no loss of thrust in reverse and less prop walk compared with a fixed pitch prop. Available in 14- to 22-inch diameters, for one- and two-inch shafts. $4,800 to $5,600; www.PYIinc.com.
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New At The Miami Boat Show
557-HP Outboard Unveiled
Seven Marine debuted their new 557-hp outboard in Miami, with a pair of the flashy, black-cowled engines mounted on the transom of an Intrepid 370 cuddy. Based on a GM 6.2-liter V8, the supercharged engine provides nearly 60 percent more horsepower than the next most powerful outboard on the market. With an allaluminum block, and dual-walled stainless steel exhaust manifolds, the engine weighs just 1,000 pounds, allowing boatbuilders to put more horsepower on the transom in a twin-engine configuration, while saving weight and drag, compared with triple 300-, or 350-hp packages.
The transmission is an electronicallycontrolled, disk-clutch designed by ZF Marine especially for the engine. The ZF transmission offers trolling speed control and joystick control, when mated with a ZF bowthruster. www.seven-marine.com
A Dry Bag That's Not A Drag
A dry bag is a great way of protecting important personal stuff on those dinghy rides ashore, but most are designed for whitewater rafting or kayaking and built of heavy, rubberized cloth. Coghlan's Dry Bags are made from lightweight, rip-stop material that's urethane-coated making it waterproof. They fold down compactly for easy storage when not in use. They'll keep your stuff protected from the splashes and spray, but aren't intended for full submersion. Available in 10-, 25-, and 55-liter sizes. From $7; www.Coghlans.com