NOTABLE STANDARD EQUIPMENT
Our profile boat had twin Mercury 200-hp OptiMax engines conn'cted to Mercury's new SmartCraft gauges, which won the best electronics innovation award at the last Boating Week convention.
Mercury entered the new century with its SmartCraft system (see New Power, January 2001). The system of gauges and controls works extremely well, though I noticed one annoying facet. If you set the engine trolling speed, then shut it off, the gauge switches from one rpm setting to the next, forcing you to scroll through the virtual encyclopedia of readouts to return to the trolling-speed setting.
As the breeze (and seas) picked up slightly in the afternoon (hitting the 3-foot mark), I discovered that the 27 Express qualifies as one of those boats that runs more smoothly when going somewhat faster than you might think prudent. Throughout the day, the 27 turned, drifted and got up on pl-ne predictably - the ultimate compliment.
Max-rated power (500 hp) will probably garner you a faster top end th'n our test boat's; however, I never experienced a time when I wished I could go faster. Top speed with the twin 200s was 44 mph, turning 5,300 rpm and burning just over 38 gph. Cruising speeds dropped fuel consumption dramatically. For example, at 35 mph (4,000 rpm) the 27 used less than half the fuel (18 gph) it did when running wide open. And surpr'singly, you don't gain much by cruising slower than that. A 30-mph run uses 16 gph with the boat loafing along at 3,800 rpm. But the OptiMax engines really shine at trolling speed. At 10 mph, the engines burned a mere 4 gph at 1,700 rpm.
C'tching fish isn't the primary mission when testing a boat. A good thing, too, because ma'y times, we don't have much luck. So it pleased us no end to come across a red-hot wahoo bite about 1' miles off Hawk's Cay in the Florida Keys while running the 27 Express. At one point we had a quadruple hookup and found that the cockpit of the 27 more than accommodated the controlled chaos. The pit proved easy to work, with baitwell and insulated fish boxes near at hand. The 35-gallon baitwell sits on centerline under the transom seat, a freshwater sink hides in the transom just outboard and to port, and the raw-water washdown is within arm's reach under the gunwale.
In addition to the standard two rod holders in each gunwale and four under each side, the T-top sports four, and you could also easily mount rod storage on the cabin overhead down below. Suffice it'to say that you'll never need to worry about space to store rods.
We caught more than 20 wahoo, though we only kept enough for dinner. But with three or four decent fish in the insulated fish box, we still had plenty of room for more. And whether it's by design or serendipity, the web band holding rods in place under the gunwale happens to be exactly the right size and in just the right place to reach over the top of the open fish-box hatch to hold it open.
I like the logical design of this Express. Since it's a 27-foot boat, you don't want to spend loads of time socializing belowdecks. You basically need that space for sleeping and a head, yet if you do want to sit there, you don't want to have to hunch over. Consequently, the head and sleeping area have adequate headroom, but the stove, sink, refrigerator and other accoutrements normally relegated to belowdecks have been moved to the cockpit. That way, the person using them needn't be separated from the guests.
Pro-Line has brought the fabrication of all tops and rails in-house. On this particular boat, the top covers a huge area. The only place you really can't hide from the sun is all the way forward on the bow, or in the cockpit.
It may not seem like a big deal to the casual angler, but real fishermen will a'preciate the 27's great new hatch latches. They look like the Perko anchor-shaped latches we're used to twisting, but instead are spring-loaded lift-ups for much easier entry. In addition, the helm seats use pins to adjust position rather than the age-old and awkward screw handles. Incremental adjustment just became super easy.
I found the walk-around to bow with its integral pulpit both comfortable and secure, with well-placed handholds and enough room for my feet and body.
Of course, like all Pro-Lines, the F.I.S.T. stringer system, specially blended resins and top-quality gelcoat allow the company to offer a 10-year transferable hull warranty.