I rarely see such topsy-turvy, washing-machine wave action as we encountered the day I motored the Cobia 296 center console to the mouth of Fort Pierce Inlet. The wind cranked about 20 knots from the southeast and stacked up steep peaks in the 4- to 6-foot range as it slammed the outgoing tide.
Cautiously, I tested the gauntlet, then finally picked my way through to rough outside waters. We stayed just long enough to feel this beefy center console launch and land solidly, though surprisingly softly and quietly.
While we carried just a quarter tank of fuel plus requisite safety gear for our outing, we ran with four adults aboard. During our brief time outside the inlet, the 296, with its 10-foot beam, provided a very stable platform even in pitching seas.
The vessel also backed quickly in both directions. And while backing created substantial splashing, water that entered beneath the transom door drained immediately.
Running with the seas, the 296 tracked like a Cadillac on smooth pavement. I slowed to idle speed and found 3 mph at 600 rpm moving into the current. From idle, I buried the throttles on the twin F250 Yamahas, and the bow tipped over to plane in 4.3 seconds, without the use of trim tabs.
I found the boat's sweet spot - where it cruised most efficiently and comfortably - at 3,800 rpm and 35 mph, burning 17 gph. At full gallop, it clocked 56 mph at 6,000 rpm, using 44.4 gph.
Hard turns to port with the standard power-assist steering produced an extremely quick reversal, within 1 1/2 boat lengths. Turns to starboard swung broader, and speed bled off more quickly.
The boat proved responsive in close quarters too, quickly spinning either way using just the throttles.