In the “Make it Yours” feature in January 2013 issue of Sport Fishing, I outlined 25 key steps to take in buying and equipping your ultimate saltwater fishing boat. Here are five more elements to explore with your boat dealer, whether you’re buying a new or used boat.
Trailer Talk: If you plan to tow your boat, your dealer can set you up with a new boat trailer, but make sure it will suit your style of boating. For example, since you’re a saltwater angler, your trailer will get dunked in the brine, so avoid a painted steel trailer that will rust away in three years or less. Insist on an aluminum or galvanized steel trailer. These hold up much better in salt water.
If you plan to use fairly shallow launch ramps, an all-roller trailer might be a good choice, especially for large boats that need to be winched onto the trailer. On launch ramps that are fairly steep, bunk trailers work just fine. Finally, make sure the trailer fits the boat well and is rated to carry the gross weight of the boat, fuel, water and gear, as well as the weight of the trailer itself. You will usually find the capacity plate on the trailer tongue.
Tab Please: If a dealer tells you that a particular boat does not need trim tabs, don’t take his word for it. Just about any hull can benefit from a set of trim tabs. They allow you to adjust the running attitude, correct for a list while making way, reduce your planing speed, control porpoising and jump on plane quicker. About the only exceptions might be catamaran hulls that don’t really have areas on the sponsons to mount tabs and stepped hulls, which are designed to ride up on a cushion of aerated water, somewhat negating the benefits of tabs. With any other type of power boat, insist on a set of trim tabs.
Play it Safe: Your dealer may offer to throw in the basic safety gear – life jackets, throw cushion, signal flares and fire extinguisher – as part of the deal. But there are other important safety items to consider. For example, an EPIRB (Emergency Position-Indicating Radio Beacon) is an excellent addition if you plan to fish offshore. When activated, these devices will broadcast an emergency signal to first responders such as the Coast Guard, alerting them to trouble and leading them to the EPIRB location. A PLB (Personal Locator Beacon) can do the same, but it is meant to be registered to and carried by an individual rather than a vessel. Also, PLBs must be activated manually. Other safety gear to ask about includes an automatically inflatable life-raft pack and a waterproof handheld VHF radio in case your main VHF fails.
Air it Out: In southern climes, an air-conditioning system can be a godsend, allowing you to beat stifling heat and humidity, particularly if you plan to overnight on the boat during the height of summer. Air conditioning is offered as an option on most new cabin boats of 30 feet or more, so ask your dealer about this. Also, make sure it’s of sufficient capacity to handle all of the cabin space in your new boat. Finally, keep in mind that air conditioning also requires support systems, including a shore-power system to provide AC electrical power and a generator, if you plan to use the air conditioning while away from the dock.
Water on the Brain: Most big boats have on-demand freshwater systems for the galley, head and transom shower as standard equipment. Freshwater systems are also offered as options on boats less than 30 feet in length, and they come in handy for washing up after cleaning fish or before meals. So don’t hesitate to ask your dealer if such a system is available. And while you’re at it, look for the raw-water washdown system – a must have item on virtually all saltwater fishing boats.