When I first heard the 6- to 9-foot-seas forecast for our Florida Keys fish trial on April 11, I pictured our crew drifting over a shallow pile of rocks in Pursuit’s new 32-footer, pulling on a few dink grunts as we rode a bucking ocean. Not quite the best test for a tastefully equipped offshore fishing boat.
Thankfully, those seas magically shrank to 4- to 6-footers, and this sleek new center console gave us a noteworthy day on blue water. Granted, the run from Caribee Boat Sales and Marina on Islamorada to productive grounds is relatively short. But on a stiff east wind, no piece of water seems sheltered.
Beating the Odds
I met our crew — Pursuit marketing director David Glenn and his wife, Nathalie; videographer Nate Harrington; and Sport Fishing group publisher Scott Salyers — at Caribee at the reasonable hour of 8 a.m. We loaded food, ice, tackle and camera gear aboard the S 328, employing the spacious cabin below the console and the refrigerator in the helm seating unit.
Capt. Billy Harbaugh, our local guide, had already supplied pilchards and pinfish for the 24-gallon cylindrical recirculating livewell in the starboard aft corner. We cast off lines and idled out of the marina’s channel.
A fresh breeze met us as we turned south toward the open ocean. Soft rain freckled the glass windshield. Harbaugh flipped on the wiper and began picking his way through a confused, choppy sea. The S 328’s moderate deadrise and broad beam meant taking a slightly more reserved path at reduced speed, but the vessel performed safely and comfortably as the waves grew.
About 15 minutes later, Harbaugh idled the twin Yamaha F300s in 105 feet of water and peered at the Garmin sounder, looking for a small wreck. The S 328’s console face can be equipped with an optional Garmin electronics package that includes two 12-inch displays, which leaves plenty of room for additional accessories.
Salyers grabbed a rod rigged for bottomfishing, clipped on a weight and pinned a pilchard to the hook. The leader setup included 40 feet of fluorocarbon, so we could deploy only one bait at a time. But leader-shy mutton snapper require such stealth.
As we drifted, I stepped away from the overstuffed bolster of the companion seat and stood in the cockpit. The 10-foot-10-inch beam meant the roll moment was long and gentle. I had no trouble standing without a handhold.
Our crew made multiple drops on the wreck. Repeatedly, our leaders came back severed. Something toothy, likely kingfish, Harbaugh said, kept liberating the bait. We considered a wire trace but decided on plan B: trolling.
As we motored toward a weed line, I began inspecting the multitude of amenities for fishing, watersports and cruising that this Pursuit offers. Coaming pads encircle most of the interior — including the top of the portside boarding/dive door — except where the tuna door notches the transom.
The expansive standard hardtop fully shades the center of the vessel and includes a large hatch plus front and side windshields, with a track for isinglass to enclose the entire helm seating area. An optional electrically actuated sunshade extends from the aft edge of the top, protecting any passengers who might perch on the fully backed, fold-up transom bench seat or a bench that folds out abaft the helm seating unit.
The sunshade supplants the rocket launcher often attached to a vessel’s hardtop, but anglers still find plenty of rod stowage — vertical and horizontal — along the transom bulkhead, in the gunwales, beneath the gunwales to starboard, beneath the port and starboard hardtop edges, and inside the console cabin.
At the bow, the S 328 really shines as a comfortable living space for family and friends. The forepeak locker features an in-stem anchor (with a self-righting shackle) and windlass for easy deployment and retrieval. The bow is rimmed with cushions that terminate at electrically actuated backrests.
Pursuit has placed multiple cup holders and stereo controls in this zone. Between the bow loungers, two removable tables complete a conversation-and-dining theme.
Salyers and Glenn each grabbed a trolling rod and placed them in vertical holders on either side of the cockpit. Before long, one schoolie dolphin, and then another, hit.
At one point, Nathalie Glenn, Salyers and Harrington all battled schoolies along the transom. Though the Yamahas hang on an integrated bracket, they never obstructed the lines. Had the anglers needed to, they could have stepped out the transom door and onto one of the extensions that flank the engines.
Several of the larger mahi came home for dinner; David Glenn stowed them in the starboard 45-gallon in-sole fish box.
As the bite waned, we tidied up the rods and Harbaugh pointed the bow west. “All right, let’s see what this sucker can do going down-sea,” he announced. Surfing the waves, the ride was smooth as butter; the vessel showed absolutely no tendency to bow steer. We set up to troll again, and picked up a few more schoolies — to about 10 pounds. I felt a little guilty that we’d bloodied the decks of this luxury vessel, but I shouldn’t have. This S 328 is as fishy a boat as it is indulgent.
On the ride back in, I checked out the cabin, which is accessed through a sliding door starboard of the console. Stepping down to the hardwood sole means most anglers will find ample headroom. The cabin features an aft-facing settee that extends to a full berth, a sink and a head. With the berth folded to a bench, you’ll find tons of storage for gear and rods.
My test boat also came with an optional generator to power the onboard air conditioning in the cabin and at the helm.
Once we entered calmer waters north of the Teatable Key Channel, we tested the boat’s speed and fuel-consumption characteristics. Harbaugh tucked in the twin F300s, fitted with 15¼-by-18 Saltwater Series II-SDS props, and punched the throttles.
The boat — loaded to the gills — planed in 10.7 seconds. It reached the 30 mph mark in 12.2 seconds. (Yamaha, testing with a lighter load, timed the zero-to-30 speed at 11.3 seconds.) Turning 5,700 rpm, the outboards generated 49.7 mph, achieving 0.9 mpg. Optimal cruise came in at 30.2 mph and 3,900 rpm, for 1.4 mpg and a range of 420 miles.
I took the helm for a piloting experience and found a perfect convenience: The shelves tiered into the bottom of the console below the wheel not only serve as footrests when the helmsman is seated but also fold down to create an elevated platform for standing.
The S 328 leans into effortless turns and runs at a proper attitude without trim tabs, making it not only a seriously good-looker, but also a graceful performer and a stout offshore-fishing platform — well worth adding to a shortlist of prospects.
PERFORMANCE: POWER Twin Yamaha F300s LOAD Six crew, 260 gal. fuel, tackle and ice TOP SPEED 49.7 mph @ 5,700 rpm TIME TO 30 MPH 12.2 sec. BEST MPG 1.4 mpg @ 30.2 mph (3,900 rpm)