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December 26, 2006

Right in the Middle

From the Forward Seat to the Leaning Post, Center-Console Builders Offer Tricked-Out Trends

Grady-White
Grady may have built its reputation on cuddy-cabin boats, but its center consoles rack up some impressive points for fit and finish. The 30 CC we boarded in Fort Lauderdale featured an electronics panel that electrically rises from beneath the console, rotating to a viewing position, then folds down to completely hide the expensive machinery.

Below it, the helm station molds into various levels and planes for better steering ergonomics. Under the tilt steering wheel and gauges, Grady placed storage spaces for charts or handhelds. A broad footrest opens to store more gear and safety equipment.

The leaning-post design incorporates individual captain's chairs with a glove box/console between the seats, but allows for great storage beneath and room to accommodate the rigging station/livewell system, accessible from the cockpit.

To port, the rigging station houses a sink with removable faucet. Next to it, a large livewell opens from the top and tunnels under the leaning post. On the right side of the leaning post, a washdown hose allows for quick cockpit spray-down. Three tackle boxes fit into the left side of the leaning post.

With a nod toward the family-boating trend, Grady designed the interior console with all the comforts of home. The teak accents, drawers, cabinets and a towel rack complement the head and sink. At the same time, the space still affords easy access to electronics and other equipment.

Southport
Val Jenkins, director of engineering for Southport Boat Works, took me on a guided tour of the Southport 28 TE once I spied the red LED lights atop the aft-facing rigging station. But instead of indulging my childlike fascination with the ET glow, he ushered me toward the bow.

"The front (of the console module) begat the back," he said, pointing to the "island box," which I might describe as a combination chaise lounge/coffin box. The padded lounge starts with a cushioned backrest along the forward vertical face of the console. Then it levels out to provide a comfortable seating or suntanning area. Lift up the cushioned lid, and the 157-gallon, insulated box beneath can fit a lot of gear, fish or ice.

Aft of the island box, the console door opens to starboard, and a hatch atop the console rises to allow a larger entry. Southport provides ample room for the head and sink, access to wiring and stereo, and six holes in the sole to allow vertical rod storage inside the console.

At the helm station, the gauge toggles line up vertically on a panel so that they remain in the captain's line of sight. With the aid of a dimmer switch, the panel lights illuminate the description for each toggle, and the ends of the toggles glow when on. The helm station also features two cell-phone or spotlight outlets.

Footrests on the console and the seating module provide a comfortable ride for helmsmen of all sizes whether sitting or leaning. The bench seat is molded into the solid unit that comprises the seating and tackle center. Beneath the seat, Southport places two compartments for access to the livewell pumps, a first-aid kit and washdown hoses.

On the port side of the tackle center, a door houses six plastic tackle boxes and a drawer for loose gear. Along the back face of the center, the first of three compartments provides a tackle drawer and allows storage of a 5-gallon bucket; the second provides a rig rack and room for tall boxes; and the third offers room for more plastic tackle boxes. Atop the center on the port side is a sink with a cutting-board top. A middle hatch opens for cold storage for soft drinks, and the right hatch opens to a 45-gallon lighted livewell. Hatch tops are held open using magnets.

Slightly above the tackle center, along the back of the bench seat, a rocket launcher provides room for four rods, racks for hanging lures, and a pliers holder.