While at the 2006 Fort Lauderdale International Boat Show, Sport Fishing's Chris Woodward hopped aboard several boats to document new trends in center console design. We show you some of her most fascinating owner-friendly finds here, listed by manufacturer.
Step over the gunwale of the Everglades 350 CC, and the first thing you notice is the phenomenal bait-prep station, with a built-in mini fighting chair - but only because it's the first thing you encounter.
The fighting chair folds up between two sets of four drawers along the vertical face of the station. On top, a see-through lid covers a massive 45-gallon baitwell painted a soothing ocean blue inside. To the right, Everglades placed a freshwater sink, and on the left, a cutting board and knife/pliers holders.
"We and other companies have put more into the seat arrangement with livewells, sinks, washdowns; we're really using that space in the boat," Dougherty says. "The days of a plain leaning post or pedestal chair that serve a specific purpose are gone. A good center console has versatility. It does everything well. There aren't many compromises."
Forward of the bait-prep station, the 35 features a leaning post with flip-up bolsters that allow the helmsman to stand or sit comfortably. The seats also come with individual chair backs and armrests and a storage space between them similar to an automobile console. The seats even adjust forward and back electrically for precise positioning. Below, you'll find a dry battery compartment with easy access through a broad panel hatch.
The helm station features a very clean look from the adjustable steering wheel to the electronics panel, gauges and switches. The electronics mount flush in the panel, and when not in use - or in foul weather - they're covered by a security shield that raises and lowers electrically. Above the electronics in a single row are the gauges and switches, ergonomically designed for ease of use and visibility.
A glass windshield wraps around the full forward arc of the console and binds it to the hardtop, which provides the kind of wind and weather protection of isinglass panels. On some Everglades boats, this glass windshield slides up and down with the touch of a button, but on the 35, it's fixed. Dougherty says making the shield from glass rather than plastic allows the company to mount a windshield wiper that won't scratch the surface - offering better visibility in driving rains.
The console's interior is fully finished fiberglass and is easily hosed down. Inside, you'll find a china head and sink and a padded berth or storage area.
Sea Vee Boats
The last decade has seen a steady increase in the size of center consoles, says Sea Vee president Ariel Pared. Ten years ago, the largest Sea Vee measured 28 feet long and 8 feet 3 inches wide. Today, the company's smallest center console is a 29-footer with a 9-foot beam, and its largest totals 39 feet in length with an 11-foot beam.
Customers are demanding bigger boats, better and more electronics, satellite radio and open-array radar units.
"As the need for bigger electronics packages grows, we need to be able to house the equipment," Pared says. "The consoles have gotten bigger, and we've better developed the seating area. Ninety-five percent of the boats we build have a tackle station or rigging area."
If you can't build a tackle room onto your house, you have to store that gear somewhere, right? Sea Vee began building its custom tackle organizers below leaning posts about six years ago. The units feature two doors that open out into the cockpit and hold four plastic Plano boxes and sliding drawers. Sea Vee also incorporated a folding rigging tray that offers a horizontal work surface.
Below the rigging station, the company engineered a custom slide track that holds a cooler. Remove a pin, and the cooler slides out from under the leaning post. Lock it into place if you need to use it as seating.
Inside the console, Sea Vee adds stylish amenities with an enclosed electric head, clean fiberglass walls and 6 feet 4 inches of headroom. The front of the console seats two people and serves as the entry point to the console. A standard side entry would conflict with Sea Vee's attention to fishing detail by eliminating important rod-storage space. The 39-footer features a new console system that partially slides sideways.
On the helm-station face, Sea Vee allows room for oversize flush-mounted electronics behind a 1/2-inch lockable Plexiglas door that opens on gas shocks. Because electronics heat up during use, Sea Vee ventilates the back of the electronics area with fans.