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February 10, 2005

Southport Boatworks 26 Center Console

New models from established companies come along at a regular clip of course, but the Southport 26 represents something else entirely: a design arising from a clean sheet of paper.

Rarely do I get a chance to try out a boat based on a truly brand-new design. New models from established companies come along at a regular clip of course, but the Southport 26 represents something else entirely: a design arising from a clean sheet of paper.

The players in this new company intrigued me as well. Marine industry veterans Frank Longino and Alton Herndon created Southport Boatworks. Longino has held marketing positions at several prestigious boat companies during the past decade, including Grady-White, Mako/Sea Craft and Rampage, and Herndon has served as general manager at Rampage and as president of Hatteras. These guys know a thing or two about fishing boats. Given this combination of good omens, anticipation ran high as our review date approached.

Performance
Longino met me for a day of reef fishing in the Florida Keys, and as I steered the Southport 26 offshore into a fresh breeze, I mentally prepared myself for the inevitable spray. Our bearing took us at a 45-degree angle into a short 2- to 3-foot chop, a situation that invites a saltwater shower on many center consoles. We took it easy on the way out, but as we braced for each wave, we were amazed that the shower never came.

Emboldened by the dry ride, I next tried to get us wet. Although we ran at different angles both up- and down-sea, the big drenching didn't happen, just a minor mist from time to time. I can confidently declare this to be one of the driest boats I've driven, at least in conditions like those we encountered.

Designed exclusively for four-stroke Yamaha outboards, the 26 performed well with a pair of F225s. The boat cruised at 32.5 mph at 4,000 rpm while burning 17.8 gph, and topped out at 50.4 mph at 6,100 with a fuel burn of 43.1 gph.  With its 22-degree deadrise deep-V hull designed by C. Raymond Hunt Associates, the 26 cut through the waves with little effort but provided excellent stability, as we found out during the fishing portion of our trip.

Fishing
We anchored on a patch reef in 30 feet of water, a situation that can bring on mal de mer for even the hardiest anglers, if the boat rocks excessively. Fortunately, we experienced no such discomfort aboard the Southport. It matched its excellent cruising performance by sitting calmly on the hook, creating no unpleasant distractions to keep us from the task at hand - catching yellowtail snapper and cero mackerel.

A cleverly designed leaning post/rocket launcher serves as the focal point of most fishing activity. The launcher reminded me of a Swiss army knife, with clever features hidden in every nook and cranny. It's built around a 45-gallon livewell on the centerline, with port and starboard tackle-storage compartments above the well. Storage bins on either side of the well hold loose items, and a slide-out bait-cutting board disappears into a recess when not in use.
The transom bulkhead contains a sink and an insulated bait tray, with a transom door to starboard. Beneath the cockpit sole, a 38-gallon transverse fish box drains through a macerator pump, and lifts out to provide access to the bilge and pumps. The macerator comes with an innovative touch: a quick disconnect that allows you to clean it out when it becomes clogged. With two more 45-gallon fish boxes in the bow area, Southport has made sure there's room to haul home your catch.

Design and Construction
 Southport uses no wood in its boats, opting instead for 100-percent fiberglass and composite materials. A foam-filled fiberglass-grid stringer system ensures structural integrity, with all four pieces of the boat (hull, stringers, cockpit liner and deck) chemically bonded together. The 26 also features top-quality components like stainless-steel thru-hull fittings above the waterline, bronze thru-hull fittings below and thru-bolted 316 stainless-steel hardware. High-density composite material forms the core for the transom and is bonded to the fiberglass stringer system.

The console's sliding door to the head compartment faces starboard, and its large surface for mounting electronics has been divided in half by a vertical row of switches. The blue and green lights in the backlit switch panel can be dimmed for night fishing. The helmsman will enjoy the large, angled footrest and tilt helm for more comfort while steering. An insulated cooler in the front of the console keeps beverages cool and accessible. To top it all off, the standard T-top features no-lace canvas, LED lighting and a spreader light.

The boat comes with an impressive array of thoughtful touches not usually found on boats of this size, such as stainless-steel drink holders, port and starboard aluminum toe rails aft, a recessed aluminum bow rail forward, 360-degree coaming pads, and a standard Vacuflush head with holding tank and pumpout. It even comes with emergency boarding steps on the transom in case you fall out of the boat (hopefully with the engines in neutral). How many companies can say that about their boats?

Longino and Herndon did their homework, and it clearly shows in this impressive debut for Southport. Expect more models, with a 28-footer due soon. Given the impressive quality and features found in the 26, I can't wait to see what these guys come up with next.

SPECIFICATIONS

 
LOA 26 ft. 6 in.
BEAM 9 ft. 6 in.
DEADRISE 22 deg.
Weight 4,600 lb.
Fuel 204 gal.
Max power T250-hp OB
MSRP $118,123
(with TF225 Yamaha
 four-strokes)
Yamaha F225 Four-Stroke
Type 60 deg. V-6
Displ. 204.6 cid
Max RPM 6,000
HP/LB Ratio 0.39
Fuel System DOHC EFI
Gear Ratio 2:1
Weight 583 lb.
Alt. Output 45 amps
MSRP $18,370 


 






Notable Standard Equipment

  • Vacuflush head with holding tank
  • High-water bilge-pump alarm
  • Blue/green switch panel
    night lighting with dimmer
  • Hydraulic steering with tilt helm
  • Battery parallel ignition switch
  • T-top with no-lace canvas


 

 Impressions

The Southport 26 will surely please discriminating fishermen with its excellent fit and finish, combined with well-designed fishing features into an overall package that's good-looking as well.