Most boats seem to shrink once they’re off the trailer and on the water. Yet as I launched the Robalo 266 Cayman in California’s sprawling San Diego Bay with the help local Robalo rep Tim Walters, the size of this bay boat still impressed me.
As well it should. The 266 represents the largest model to date in Robalo’s popular five-boat Cayman series with a length overall of 26 ½ feet (with swim platforms) and a beam of 9 feet, 4 inches. That translates to the expanse and stability of a micro aircraft carrier. Walters and I both stood on the aft port gunwale, and the 266 barely listed.
Robalo makes good use of all that space with a layout that includes a deep mid-cockpit nestled between bow and stern elevated casting platforms. Leading to the 6-foot wide bow casting deck, elevated pods wrap around the forward cockpit. I found that these serve as convenient steps up to the bow area, but they also house abundant stowage that includes a rod locker under the port side, a fish box below the starboard side, and additional stowage and a battery compartment in the middle.
On those days when fishing is not the first priority, upholstered pads and removable backrests transform this area into a relaxing lounge. You can also add a dining table to maximize the social factor. When not in use, the table stows inside the center console, which is accessed via a forward companionway that also serves as the forward console seat.
I found that the console interior offers 5 feet of headroom, plenty of space to stow gear and access the rigging behind the dash. My test boat also came with an optional electric marine toilet inside (with an 8-gallon holding tank).
Let’s get back to fishing. The bow casting platform features a 20-gallon pitch well and anchor locker below the deck. An optional 36-volt Minn Kota Terrova Riptide trolling motor adorned the bow of my test boat.
I loved the 7-foot-5-inch wide stern deck, which is flanked by a pair of insole 30-gallon livewells, each with clear acrylic dividers to keep different species of live bait separated. Abaft each well lie compartments designed to hold 5-gallon buckets for equipment such as cast nets.
The stern deck on my boat featured an optional powder-coated rail with a central tow point for watersports just ahead of the splashwell. Since I’m not big on watersports, I viewed it as an obstruction until we headed offshore. That’s when I realized that it serves as a great way to brace yourself while fishing aft, especially when battling fish in rough seas.
A couple of crew members can take a seat by folding out a padded bench from the aft deck. The entire seat assembly also lifts up for easy access to the starting batteries, battery charger and other bilge rigging. On days when you want to take a dip, there are swim platforms on either side of the outboard motor with a fold-out, telescoping boarding ladder on the starboard platform.
Speaking of the outboard motor, a Yamaha 425 XTO Offshore V-8 outboard power package propelled my 266. It’s the most powerful outboard available for this boat, and it was mounted on a standard Atlas jackplate to optimize the boat’s shallow-water capabilities. The jackplate bolted to the super-thick, heavy-duty poured ceramic transom. Optional Lenco trim tabs on my test boat helped compensate for any heel while underway. I observed that this boat features a motorwell versus an integrated outboard bracket; the well minimizes the chance of following seas slopping onto the deck, according to Robalo.
Curious about the performance? So was I. The Yamaha came with a 20-inch-pitch XTO three-blade stainless-steel propeller. The 266 jumped on plane in 5 seconds and reached 30 mph in 9.5 seconds. With 53 gallons of fuel onboard and two crew members, the big bay boat reached a top speed of 52.3 mph at 5,800 rpm in my test, burning 37.5 gallons per hour for 1.4 mpg at wide-open throttle. In previous testing by Yamaha under different conditions, the 266 reached a top speed of 55 mph.
To see what kind of range the Cayman offers, I throttled back to 3,500 rpm and 28.5 mph, where the 425 XTO achieved an optimum burn of 11.1 gph for 2.57 mpg. How far will that take you? About 254 miles, based on 90 percent of usable capacity within the 266’s 110-gallon fuel tank.
The 425’s all-electric steering made for easy handling during my test. While the tilt-and-lock wheel is in the center of the helm area, and the digital throttle-and-shift binnacle control resides on the far starboard side, this design leaves plenty of room for both the helmsman and companion perched in the leaning-post style helm seats with flip-up bolsters. The helm seat comes with a 70-quart cooler below and a backrest with integral rod holders. A two-tiered footrest at the base of the console let me brace my feet while seated or perched on the flip-up bolster.
Both Tim and I stood nicely protected behind three-sided bonded glass windows within the hardtop’s powder-coated aluminum frame. A vent at the top of the windshield opens to usher in fresh air on sultry days.
My test boat featured an upgraded electronics package that included a pair of 12-inch Simrad multifunction displays for monitor and control of the chart plotter, sonar, Halo radar and engine instrumentation. Both displays flush-mounted into the 30-inch-wide dash panel, which was flanked by push-button two- and three-way accessory switches. The helm also featured a Yamaha multifunction engine display and an audio controller feeding six coaxial speakers throughout the interior.
In relatively flat sea conditions, Robalo’s 266 Cayman can venture offshore, and that’s exactly what we did on test day. We shot out onto the blue Pacific for several miles, and I marveled at the seakeeping and stability of this big bay boat. It sliced smoothly through waves and carved turns with predictable ease. I think the 266 would be great for chasing bluewater species such as mahi, sailfish, tuna, wahoo and more. You can also take it to out wrecks and reefs to fish for cobia, grouper and snapper. It will also serve West Coast anglers who want to fish offshore islands for calico bass, rockfish and yellowtail.
Robalo designed the 266 with 18 degrees of deadrise at the transom using a Hydro-Lift multi-angle running surface and a Kevlar-reinforced hull that tapers to a sharp cutwater at the bow to slice through waves. It also created a deeper mid-cockpit with padded coaming bolsters to improve crew safety and comfort, especially when fishing offshore. With this in mind, the 266 falls clearly in the category that many boating anglers know as a hybrid.
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Offshore aside, the 266 retains the features that make it an effective inshore fishing machine. Drawing 17 inches with the outboard raised, this bay boat can sneak into shallow bays, coastal rivers and creeks to target bluefish, redfish, snook, striped bass, tarpon and more.
Ultimately, Robalo’s 266 Cayman is a brawny bay boat that does not seem to shrink once you’re on the water, and that translates to great versatility—a superb inshore angling platform that also allows you to venture offshore to fish the blue water and wrecks when conditions permit. On top of this, it provides creature comforts that beckon the anglers and non-anglers alike to get out and enjoy adventures afloat.
|Engines:||Yamaha 425 XTO Offshore V-8|
|Load:||53 gal. fuel, two crew|
|Time to 30 mph:||9.5 sec.|
|Top Speed:||52.3 mph @ 5,800 rpm|
|Best MPG:||2.57 mpg @ 28.5 mph (3,500 rpm)|
|Length:||26 ft. 6 in. (w/ swim platforms)|
|Beam:||9 ft. 4 in.|
|Draft:||1 ft. 5 in.|
|Water:||13.5 gal. (optional)|
|Transom Deadrise:||18 deg.|
|Dry Weight:||4,500 lb. (w/o power)|
|Max HP:||425 hp|
|Price:||$169,430 (Robalo’s Reel Deal price as tested with single Yamaha 425 XTO outboard and other options)|
Robalo Boats – Nashville, Georgia