As we motored toward the Kennebec Tavern & Marina in Bath, Maine, I could see the Southport 29 on the outside dock, tugging gently at its lines. The rich, maroon hull against the searing white of the deck and console gave it a crisp, regal look in the mid-August sun.I was not surprised at all to step aboard and see that quality carried through the design and layout of this yacht-like fishing machine. And I was pleased to know I'd be fishing from and around this new center-console for the next three days to generate a photo gallery and upcoming 2013 feature article about Northeast sharking.
Between trips offshore on flat-calm seas and treks up the Kennebec River to plumb cooler depths for stripers, I was able to wrestle the helm away from my fellow anglers long enough to tick off the items on my boat-test checklist.
Time to plane: Depending upon whether I ran into the tide or with it, my measurements ranged from 3.8 to 4.6 seconds, for an average of 4.2 seconds. The boat, powered by twin Yamaha 300s, carried three adults, 170 gallons of fuel, tackle and gear.
Time to 30 mph: The average after trying both directions — 7 seconds.
Top speed: 51.8 mph at 6,000 rpm, achieving 1 mpg.
Optimal cruise: 29 mph at 3,500 rpm, with 1.8 mpg.
Yamaha’s test data varied and is worth mentioning. With two testers aboard, the boat planed in 4.1 seconds and reached 30 mph in 5.13 seconds. The 29 topped out at 56.3 mph, achieving 1.05 mpg. At 3,000 rpm, the testers logged 24.8 mph and 1.92 mpg for optimal cruise.
With tabs down, I was able to plane the 29 on one engine at 17.6 mph. It backed readily to both sides, even bucking the river current. In turns at speed, the optional power-assist steering gracefully carved the water, even in the tightest arcs.
In a sloppy sea just outside the river mouth, SF publisher Dave Morel was able to safely stand on the foredeck, casting toward the rocky coastline for stripers. However, that was about the only real test for the 29 during our August trip. Maine produced glasslike conditions for our offshore sharking.
|Above: Tackle drawers and seating flank the livewell, aft of the helm. Top right: The console face easily accommodates twin 12-inch multifunction displays.|
Regardless, everything about the 29 says “comfortable” fishing, from the 10½-foot beam to the sunpad/coffin box forward, coaming pads throughout and the plush helm chairs that flip up for standing. Aft of the helm, a tackle console — with two cushioned bench seats and a 45-gallon livewell — stores boxes, leaders and valuables. A knife- and towel-holder to starboard also provides room to store loose sinkers or downrigger balls.
Along the transom, an insulated baitbox keeps your iced, prepared ballyhoo, and a sink to starboard lets you quickly wash up after rigging. Transom doors port and starboard give you easy access to walk a fish around the outboards. An aft in-deck, 38-gallon fish box, with macerator, pulls out for access to the bilge.
The outrigger-ready, standard hardtop holds six rods; six more rods can stand inside the console, six more in the gunwales, and another 10 rods can lie in horizontal storage below the gunwales fore and aft. That’s a total of 28 rods!
The sunpad/coffin box offers lounging comfort forward but also 157 gallons of insulated storage for fish or supplies.
Design and Construction
The 29 carries the exclusive C. Raymond Hunt Associates design signature. It features a Carolina bow, a continuously variable deep-V hull and a reverse transom with classic tumblehome aft.
In construction, Southport uses vacuum infusion to pull the vinylester resins into the fiberglass, making for a strong bond. Stringers are solid, pre-molded fiberglass, and the transom is composite.
Closed-cell foam is injected for flotation and strength. The hull, stringers and cockpit liner are bonded with Plexus adhesive.
The helm features an acrylic windscreen molded to follow the rake of the console. The console face accommodates twin 12-inch multifunction displays and a broad panel of lighted rocker switches.
Inside the console, a standard Thetford Tecma marine head and sink with a pullout shower offer family comforts. Over the sink, a mirror lifts up to offer access to the back of the dash-mounted electronics.
Southport even thought of the little things, such as storage bins on either side of the console for brushes, mops and sponges and an additional freshwater shower head at the transom.
Clearly, the 29 targets the hard-core fishing market, but it’s fully featured rather than stripped down, which makes it the best of both worlds for discriminating anglers.