We tested the 251 Walkaround while fishing the rock piles and reefs off Steinhatchee in the Big Bend area of Florida's Gulf coast. Starting out early in the day gave us a chance to feel how the boat handled calm waters while the afternoon onshore breezes allowed us to run in an uncomfortable chop.
Our 4,600-pound boat sported a single 225-hp, naturally aspirated Mercury Offshore outboard, and I admit feeling skeptical about pushing this boat with so little power. But once up and running, a top speed of 46 mph eliminated any further doubts. As you know, you rarely get to use top speed on boats offshore, though most boats come from the factory propped for maximum top-end performance. Personally, I'd rather prop my boats for the most economical mid-range. In the case of the 251, a 32-mph cruising speed showed 4,000 rpm on the tach and proved very comfortable. Of course, a single engine will provide much better fuel economy than twins.
I also had doubts about the design of the dramatically raked windshield, but those too were soon put to rest. I found that while seated, I looked right through the middle of the pane. When I stood, I looked well over the top of it - and enjoyed the breeze. As with all cuddies, an enclosure is a good idea for inclement conditions. Make no mistake, though, the new SportCraft 251 WA runs extremely dry. In fact, I worked hard at stuffing the bow into the back of a wave, in the worst possible demonstration of seamanship, just to see what it would take to get a little spray on the windshield.
The Teleflex Sea Star hydraulic steering seemed to provide just the right balance between steering feedback and ease of turning. The 251 turns more like a big boat than a 25-footer. Sharp, high-speed turns cause the boat to lose speed. Otherwise, each turn is totally predictable and smooth.
Cruising down-sea provided a smooth ride with little noticeable lurching when confronting the back of the next wave. Running home in 2- to 3-foot seas, I had to really work at getting some spray onto the windshield. As the bow dropped off a wave, I experienced no pounding, slamming or loud hull noises. SportCraft attributes the smooth ride to the 6-inch-wide flat pad running lengthwise along the keel from about the forward end of the cockpit to the transom. Production director Sean Hall claims the pad helps the boat to run flatter, with the sharper bow deadrise rather than the flatter after-section cutting into the seas.