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March 21, 2012

Sundance NX23

Whether you fish with your family or just your buddies, the Sundance NX23 takes you offshore or into shallow back bays affordably, safely and in comfort.

As I motored away from the dock at Hickory Bluff Marina this past November, the tide had begun to fall in the south Georgia marsh. I quickly considered the potential obstacles of unfamiliar tidal creeks — namely oyster bars. Totally hidden by turbid water, these natural shell mounds can rudely beach an oblivious boater and end a lovely fall day.

Sensing my sharpened awareness, Sundance’s Wally Bell quickly told me about the static draft of his new NX23: nine inches. I breathed a little easier.

Bell calls the NX models “inshore/offshore” boats. This 23 — the fifth addition to the lineup — features a high-bow, high-gunwale, offshore feel combined with inshore capabilities and loads of fishing amenities.

Performance
Our run date coincided with a steady northeast blow, which kept the creek waters calm but churned the sounds and the nearshore waters. In the early ebb tide, we experienced minimal current, so we logged an admirable four seconds to plane with the engine trimmed down and no trim tabs. However, in previous testing with Yamaha and with a slightly different load, the vessel notched 3.27 seconds.

With the single F150 outboard, three people aboard and a light fuel load, we reached 47 mph at 6,100 rpm, while achieving 2.9 mpg. Backing off to 4,200 rpm, the boat settled into a sweet spot, traveling 31 mph and pegging a much-appreciated 4.5 mpg.

An F250 pushes this lightweight hull to 55.7 mph, burning 2.56 mpg, according to Yamaha. At 3,500 rpm and 31.6 mph, it still offers 4.65 mpg.

With its minimal deadrise, the vessel floats shallow and runs like a skiff, which means the stern slides in turns. Anglers learn to steer with the wheel and the throttle to optimize handling. The vessel ran best with its engine trimmed well down.

In the messy, mixed-up seas roiling a busy St. Andrews Sound, the 23 remained dry, and with a little judicious throttle use, rode quite well. When forced to land hard, the hull featured very little flex and no creaking or sound effects from hatches or the new optional hardtop.

Running with the seas, the 23 tracked straight and steered easily. At rest, the relatively flat hull gave the vessel tremendous stability even in washboard waves.

Fishing
Sundance designed the NX23 to fish offshore as well as in protected bays. The relatively high gunwales mean kids stay safely inboard at all times.

The vessel I ran featured optional bolsters lining the cockpit — a tremendous comfort factor when bottomfishing or landing and releasing fish. Bolsters also padded the forward console seat and standard jump seats at the bow.

Aft of the ample anchor locker, Sundance provides a broad casting deck with storage beneath as well as storage under the bow jump seats. Below the forward console seat, a foam-insulated, eight-gallon livewell offers space to segregate baits forward.

The seat back also lifts off for access to a locker with six tackle trays. With boxes removed, anglers gain space to work inside the console on flushmounted gauges and electronics.

A newly designed console allows anglers room to bypass rods in vertical holders on either side of the module. With in-gunwale, T-top and standard-leaning-post holders, Sundance provides room for 18 rods. The test vessel came with captain’s chairs; a third seating option anglers might prefer is a leaning post with a tackle center, sink and 35-gallon livewell.

Aft of the helm, optional ­cushioned jump seats frame a transom that features 21-gallon port and ­starboard cylindrical livewells as well as a 30-gallon fish box.

Design and Construction

The NX23’s hull is a traditional rollededge design with a full liner, which creates an overhanging lip between deck and hull, great for knocking down spray.

The boat I tested also came with hardtop No. 1; it added not only a sleek design element but also welcome shelter. Fully fitted, the top will offer LED lighting, an electronics box, speakers and outrigger mounts.

Sundance prides itself on the fact that it builds only shallow-draft boats, and it makes them light, strong and fuel efficient. The number of stringers per hull is generally greater than in similar boats. That improves rigidity but normally adds weight. The company counteracts that by using preform foam.

The stringers and transom cores are made using steel molds. Once removed, these pieces can be inspected. Many companies simply inject foam into already created cavities. A strong, ­lightweight hull needs less horsepower and can generate better fuel efficiency.

Sundance also adds foam insulation around livewells, and installs drainage tubes in rod holders. With a 10-year hull warranty, the NX23 offers anglers some unique choices for fishing fun.

LOA: 23 ft. 1 in.
BEAM: 8 ft. 3 in.
DRAFT: 9 in.
DEADRISE: 7 deg.
WEIGHT: 2,475 lb. (w/o power)
FUEL: 72 gal.
MAX POWER: 250 hp OB
MSRP: $40,550 (w/ Yamaha F150)

Sundance Boats / Blackshear, Georgia / 912-449-0033 / www.sundanceboats.com