Running Robalo's R300 out of Sarasota, Florida, over the gently rippling Gulf of Mexico was like trotting a racehorse around the backyard - no challenge at all. This big boat needed at least a 3-foot slosh to kick up its heels. But on this humid June day, the nearest white water was probably upstate - on the Suwannee River.
I told Robalo's regional sales manager, Joe Pegg, that he was probably fortunate we were running Florida's west coast; otherwise, we might be on our way to the Bahamas. There's nothing quite like a big run in a big boat over big water.
No doubt about it, this boat feels big. Its 10-foot-6-inch beam creates an immediate sense of stability, and its almost 30 feet of length packs in plenty of fishing amenities without any sense of restriction.
But while the R300 offers room to move, its helm remains compact and easy for even a petite captain like me to manage. I stepped up to the tilt wheel, found a footrest that matched my height, leaned on the bolster and threw the throttles forward. The Robalo snapped up on plane in 5 1/2 seconds with a half tank of fuel and three passengers.
With the twin Yamaha 250s topping out, we galloped over the bay. I trimmed up the engines to find 52 mph at 6,000 rpm, burning 42.4 gph. At 4,000 rpm, the vessel cruised at 31 mph and fuel burn backed off to just 17.4 gph.
Sharp turns port and starboard at speed created no cavitation and just a little slide, allowing the boat to turn safely in about two lengths. The vessel I ran came with standard hydraulic steering, which is certainly adequate. But I've become spoiled by power-assisted steering - an option Robalo offers for the R300 and one I'd seriously consider.
As we ran offshore to look for some form of chop or boat wake, I found the R300 needed more tab at slower speeds. Ramp up, though, and the vessel becomes more nimble, propelling through wakes dry and sure-footed. I backed the boat down to drift and felt a short roll moment with gentle transitions drifting broadside with the wind.
Backing down, the R300 became even more quick and responsive, turning sharply and deflecting spray into the splashwell rather than the cockpit.
Robalo tucked tons of fishing-friendly standard amenities into the R300 beginning at the bow with the 14-pound Delta anchor, chain and 5/8-inch rode, hoisted by a windlass that comes with foredeck and helm switches. Anchor up to bottomfish, and when you're ready to move, tap the foredeck switch with your foot and forget about heavy lifting.
The R300 features a U-shaped bow seating area that converts to a wide casting platform with the addition of a removable filler/table. The upholstered backrests remain in place as coaming pads. Aft of the seating, anglers can stow a five-gallon bucket with a cast net in the 55-quart in-deck storage bin.
Rod holders, livewells and tackle storage space obviously topped Robalo's design list for this R300. Port and starboard lockable horizontal holders, more horizontal storage aft, plus vertical rod storage inside the console, on the tackle station/helm seating and in the gunwales provide space for 29 rods. Add the optional hardtop and gain room for five more.
The tackle station incorporated behind the captains' chairs features a 50-gallon, LED-lighted, sky blue livewell with a Plexiglas lid. The rounded well includes baffles to better circulate water without turbulence. A second, more cylindrical 25-gallon well sits in the aft corner on the port side.
A freshwater sink with a cutting board, lockable bins holding plastic lure boxes, a fold-out lure bag, a leader spool holder and additional storage space round out the tackle station. Beneath the lockable horizontal holders, in a padded tray, mates can store downrigger balls, lures and tools.
The tuna door in the starboard transom remains open with the help of a magnet that keeps the door from swinging or closing. The boarding ladder, deployable from the water, telescopes from within the swim platform. Add a freshwater washdown aft and cavernous fish boxes in the cockpit sole and you should find landing and handling big fish efficient and safe.
Design and Construction
Robalo already built this 30-foot hull in a walkaround version. Opening up the deck creates the kind of extra fishing space hard-core anglers treasure. But Robalo didn't forget less enthusiastic fishermen: The forward U-seating comes with comfortable cushioning, covered in Dura-Life Max vinyl, which provides heightened UV and stain protection. An optional transom bench seat, flanked with drink holders, moves passengers astern when conditions warrant, and a VacuFlush head inside the spacious console adds creature comfort.
All hatches and compartments are insulated, and lids feature gas-assist shocks. Aside from the two 82 1/2-gallon, in-deck, macerated fish boxes, Robalo created two forward boxes with drains that hold 32 gallons each of fish, cold drinks or more gear.
At the waterline, Robalo begins each hull with Maxguard gel coat, followed by a layer of acrylic epoxy resin and a skin coat of fiberglass mat. The company then handlays a layer of Kevlar along the keel and finishes up with layers of woven roving throughout the hull. The one piece, foam-filled fiberglass stringer system is created in a separate mold and laid-up with gel coat to look like the finished boat.
Robalo then integrates every structural part of the boat into the stringer system, including the fibrous-ceramic transom. The liquid ceramic fills all the voids in the mold and cures in 30 minutes. The finished product doesn't compress and inhibits delamination.
Tough to test all that in a 2-foot chop!
LOA......29 ft. 2 in.
BEAM......10 ft. 6 in.
HULL DRAFT......20 in.
WEIGHT......7,500 lb. (w/o engine)
MAX HP......T300 hp OB
MSRP......$141,679 (w/ T250 hp four-stroke OB)
Robalo Boats / Nashville, Georgia / 229-686-7481 / www.robalo.com