The morning weather looked grim. Twenty to 25 mph winds out of the north buffeted the upper Florida Keys, and we hadn’t yet left the dock to fish-trial Sea Vee’s new 290B center-console.
“We’ll be fine,” said John Caballero, sales and marketing director for Sea Vee Boats, as he eyed the swaying palm trees and shrugged. “This boat was built to handle nasty stuff.”
Indeed, the 290B seems large for its size. The interior handily accommodated our four-person crew as we hustled to load tackle, gear, provisions, chum and ice. I wondered if the 29½-foot LOA would still seem big amid the 4- to 5-foot seas forecast for offshore waters on this mid-April day. I would soon find out.
Joining us were two crewmembers with the experience and know-how to put fish in the boat. Robert Ponce, whose dock we used to moor the 290B for the evening, loves to fish the wrecks of the upper Keys. Capt. Alex Laurel has spent a lifetime plying these waters as a hook-and-line commercial fisherman.
Caballero fired up the twin Mercury 350 outboards, and we cast off. As we idled out, he outlined some of the new elements of the 290B. “This boat is constructed using Sea Vee’s proprietary vacuum-assisted resin-transfer molding technology, which infuses the fully cored hull, stringers and bulkhead simultaneously” he explained. “As a result, it’s 600 pounds lighter (than the predecessor 290), and also stronger. That results in a faster, more fuel efficient and quieter ride.”
The additional strength and rigidity allowed Sea Vee to reduce the number of hull stringers from four to two, and that creates more space belowdecks for stowage, as well as for larger epoxy-coated aluminum fuel tanks. The 290B features a 251-gallon fuel capacity, up by 19 gallons from the original model.
Sea Vee’s 290B also features a redesigned interior that includes integral molded trays to stow recoilable hoses — one for fresh water, another for raw water — on each side of the boat. A heavy-duty transom door in the port quarter eases the task of landing a big tuna or swordfish.
Caballero used the twin Garmin GPSMap 7616xsv multifunction displays to guide us to the first stop, one of Ponce’s wrecks, to catch bait. The prismatic deep-V hull of the 290B rode smoothly through the 2-foot chop of the inner waters at 3,500 rpm and 30 mph. As we crossed the patch reefs, seas rose to 4 feet at four- to five-second intervals. A speed of 23 mph at 3,000 rpm proved very comfortable in the bigger stuff.
Equipped with an Airmar B265LH two-channel chirp transducer, flush-mounted within a dedicated transducer pad, the sonar clearly outlined the wreck in 50 feet of water. We anchored and set out a chum line.
While waiting for bait to gather, Caballero pointed out the target market for this boat. It’s for someone who wants a great offshore boat that’s also trailerable, he said.
“Not every angler wants to keep his boat in the water,” he continued. “The 290B is perfect for someone who likes to keep his offshore boat on a trailer at his house and tow it wherever he wants to fish.”
Sea Vee has built an enviable reputation for uncompromising construction, and you can feel it in elements such as thick, heavy-duty deck hatches that close with an authoritative oomph. Rigging and cable-routing is immaculate, a hallmark of Sea Vee’s obsessive attention to detail. Deep gutters around the level, self-bailing deck help route water to scuppers in each corner of the aft cockpit. The nonskid offers outstanding traction when wet.
Ballyhoo began swarming off the port quarter. With two throws of the cast net from the aft cockpit, Laurel filled the pressurized 50-gallon central-transom livewell with bait, and we were ready to go fishing. In case you want more bait capacity, you can option the 290B with an additional transom livewell in the starboard quarter and/or a deck well below the aft cockpit sole.
Seas grew to 5 feet as we headed out farther to a wreck in 138 feet of water to target mutton and cubera snapper. The Sea Vee hull rose and landed gently as it met each whitecapped wave on the up-sea run. “We would be turning for home in any other 29,” Caballero said above the wind noise as he idled back and approached our fishing spot while the crew prepared to anchor.
The 290B proved seakindly in more ways than one. A strong uphill current opposed the wind, stacking up the seas and causing the boat to lie in the deep trough while on anchor. Yet the 290B displayed minimal roll in the cross sea, making for a comfortable fishing platform in less-than-ideal sea conditions.
While we waited for a bite, I decided to check out more of the interior features. Like all Sea Vee models, the 290B can be completely customized at the factory. My tester was fitted with the Captain’s Edition leaning post, which includes a tackle cabinet, foldout rigging table, four vertical rod holders, and slide-out cooler underneath. A convenient grab rail wraps around the sides and back of the leaning post.
A cool new option — which I had seen on another 290B at the 2018 Miami International Boat Show — is the Coastal leaning post with a stylized backrest that incorporates rod and drink holders and a grab rail, but also features a tackle cabinet and slide-out cooler.
Five gunwale rod holders punctuated each side of my test boat, and a single rod holder was installed on the exterior transom bulkhead, allowing anglers to easily troll or kite-fish from this 290B.
My tester featured a clear polycarbonate enclosure on the front and sides of the console that extended upward to the hardtop. This offers better protection from spray and wind versus a conventional acrylic windshield.
A Key West-style hardtop allowed for vertical stowage of six rods along each side of the console. A forward lift-up hatch offered easy access to a step-down console interior and its 6 feet 4 inches of headroom. I stowed my camera gear inside for safekeeping.
After an hour with just one short bite, Laurel and Ponce decided to move to another wreck in 125 feet of water. This run put the wind on the port beam. I prepared for a drenching but was pleasantly surprised; we took a few drops but nothing like what I expected. The 290B’s bow flare tossed spray down and away to keep us all dry.
We anchored on this second wreck, and in an attempt to change our luck, Laurel used a 25-foot leader with a heavy sinker and a chunk bait. Soon after the bait reached the wreck, he was bit. He wound down to set the hook, and the rod bent over double as Laurel battled to keep the fish from diving into the jagged hulk. Eventually, a bronze apparition appeared in the depths, and soon we welcomed aboard a 20-pound cubera snapper. With that success, and the weather growing worse and our time running short, we decided to pull the anchor around 1 p.m. and head back to the dock.
Thankfully, I had previously gathered performance data on this boat on Florida’s Biscayne Bay in nicer weather. During that session, I found that boat had a great personality on the water. Handling was easy, and it was fun to be behind the wheel.
Turning Mercury Revolution 4 21-inch-pitch four-blade stainless-steel propellers, the twin 350 Verados pushed the 290B to plane in 4 seconds, reaching 30 mph in 6 seconds. Top speed was 63 mph at 6,200 rpm, where the engines burned 61 gph for 1.03 mpg. The 290B achieved its most efficient cruising speed at 4,000 rpm and 35.2 mph, where the outboards consumed 18.4 gph for 1.9 mpg — remarkably efficient for a boat of this size with 700 ponies on the transom. With the increased fuel capacity, cruising range grows to more than 450 miles.
Ultimately, the 290B combines the room and seaworthiness of a larger offshore center-console with the efficiency and easy handling of a trailerable model. For many anglers, it just might be the perfect boat.