The fish at the end of my line could have been an east Florida tarpon or a red drum, for all I knew, but whatever it was, it was making a dash for the dual Yamaha F250s, and I was braced against the starboard coaming pad amidships.
I lurched aft, following the fish, fighting for balance, and stabbing the stiff spinning rod deep in the water. The fish wasn’t slowing down, so I leaped to the aft casting deck and deftly took the two steps down to the swim platform, guiding the rod tip around the motors.
The fish was headed to port at a high rate of speed, but barring a failed knot or straightened hook, I was pretty sure it was mine. And then the bull red rolled on the surface.
This happened literally minutes after we dropped anchor from the Everglades 273cc test boat, hull number one from the central Florida builder. We had five anglers on board that late-June day, and we kept at least three lines baited with croakers. We could have easily fished two more rods and carried two more anglers without being overcrowded.
This first red drum catch showed perfect proof that the 273cc offers a superbly spacious and stable deck plan for fighting big fish. And wrangling the fish around the outboards also proved that the aft-deck design was easily navigable; the swim platform flush with the water was a great addition.
I found cockpit rod holders ample and located from aft to amidships. These Mate-series combo cup/rod holders came in handy during the heat that day. Everglades considers the number and location of additional gunwale rod holders to be a personal touch, unique to the angler. By request, the company can add as many holders throughout the boat as a buyer desires. I would have chosen a couple each for the forward gunwales and maybe another pair to flank the anchor locker.
Everglades set rocket launchers in the leaning post and hardtop to store rods. Three more rods could be nested in horizontal hangers beneath each gunwale. The test boat came equipped with a pair of Taco Marine Grand Slam outriggers as well, but we never used them during our quick half-day inshore adventure.
Everglades fitted the 31-gallon livewell in the leaning post with a standpipe. I found a freshwater sink to the left of the well.
That’s all fairly normal rigging, but what stands out aboard this boat is the space offered to anglers scrambling back and forth to bait hooks and fight fish. Too often in boats with an aft casting platform, I find scant deck space.
I’ve seen rods placed in the rocket launchers encroach on headroom; often the bulkhead to the platform can dramatically narrow the footpath. But none of us felt crowded as we battled several big reds and lost what we believed to be two sizable tarpon.
A windlass made anchoring easy. The motor is controlled through the switches in the anchor locker rather than at the dash. The wraparound bow bench seating offers a quick step up to the windlass. It also affords a convenient fish-fighting platform and, as expected, features plenty of storage beneath. The insulated compartments drain overboard, making them ideal fish boxes.
If you found the fish mother lode, you could also ice down a catch in the insulated compartment beneath the forward console seat. I’d expect it could chill a good number of triggerfish, snapper, slot reds and trout. A central deck locker can hold life jackets, net buckets and other gear.
I found rod holders aft of each forward bench, which come in handy for free-lining baits from the bow or storing rods out of the action zone, in the cockpit. On the 273, these holders do double duty: When not holding rods, they can support the legs of a backrest for the forward bench seating.
Convertible seats in the aft casting deck featured wide, deep, comfortable cushions and offered a good view for long rides to the fishing grounds.
Clearly a highly fishable boat, the 273 still leaves me with one question: Is it an inshore or offshore vessel?
It looks low and sleek, and its gunwales sweep lower toward the stern than on the average offshore fisher. That’s a nod to inshore fishing. The low freeboard would minimize windage if you were positioning the boat with a trolling motor.
A removable trolling motor can be mounted to the bow, making this a great boat for tarpon on the beach.
On the other hand, the stem is tall, giving good flare and protection from offshore seas. Its 18-inch draft represents a compromise between aggressive offshore hulls, which need 24 or more inches of water to float, and inshore or bay boats, which normally float in 12 to 14 inches.
This kind of design versatility means the 273 can chase fish inshore, on the beach, and even offshore without compromising fishability or safety. In fact, this test boat had already spent several weeks cruising the Bahamas, blurring the boundaries between shallow and deepwater fishing and offshore cruising.
Everglades also designed the helm station for long trips. The dual station seating comes with flip-up bolsters for standing or sitting. A built-in step on the station provides a comfortable seated riding position. Dual Garmin GPSMap displays gave us the ultimate in navigation and fish-finding reliability, and a radar array on top let us see targets on our charts.
The trademark hydraulic windshield gives skippers protection or the option for a better breeze over the helm. It’s made of tempered glass, and its hydraulic actuator has proved reliable over the years. The windshield slides in firm tracks on the hardtop supports integrated into the console.
Yamaha and Everglades connected engine data to the Garmin displays, eliminating standard gauges and adding only one Command Link display. Designers positioned a VHF radio, Fusion stereo and the SeaStar Solutions Optimus 360 joystick display above the helm, on the hardtop.
Optimus 360 comes standard on the 273, though the boat responds obediently using just the throttles and wheel when docking. Optimus allows the skipper to slide the stick from port to starboard and fore and aft, and to twist it to pivot at the same time.
After we enjoyed our early-summer day with the redfish and tarpon, I took the boat to flat water. I found terrific acceleration and a quick jump to plane from the dual 250s. With the throttle down and tabs up, the boat reached 30 mph in 5.7 seconds. I found a top speed of 54 mph at 5,800 rpm.
Powered by a single 350, the 273 loses about 7 mph on the top end, Everglades says. However, hanging just a single outboard shaves off nearly 500 pounds from the overall weight, which results in a best-mpg figure of 3.6 at a slower 18.5 mph, turning 3,000 rpm. While some might scoff at 18.5 mph, the test boat, with twins, handled nicely at that speed. Plus, that’s often the ideal speed to skim through rougher seas to the fishing grounds.
Everglades works hard to make its boats easy to own, and I was impressed with the access owners have to the pumps, filters and fittings in the bilge. The entire aft seating deck lifts on struts, putting everything, including battery switches, fuses and seacocks, in unfettered reach. Trim-tab machinery proved easy to access, even with a pair of batteries on each side of the bilge. Dual bilge pumps add safety and can be easily serviced if required. The magnetic-drive livewell pump seemed close enough, offering reassurance of easy repair even while underway. Battery switches aligned along a bulkhead below the hatch, and could only be handier if they were left out in the open. Ditto for the circuit box.
That accessibility, together with the 273’s fishability, comfort, economy and performance, makes it a pleasure to own and operate, particularly for the conflicted angler who can’t commit to just one style of fishing and still wants to impress the neighbors with a comfortable cruise to dining hot spots.
Power ** Twin Yamaha F250s, **Load 90 gal. fuel, two crew, Top Speed 54 mph @ 5,800 rpm, Time to 30 mph 5.7 sec., Best MPG 2.1 @ 32.7 mph (3,500 rpm)
LOA 29 ft., Beam 9 ft. 3 in., Deadrise 20 deg., Dry Weight 7,980 lb. (as tested), Draft 1 ft. 6 in., Fuel 160 gal., Max Power 500 hp
MSRP AS TESTED $208,000
Everglades Boats Edgewater, Florida 386-409-2202 evergladesboats.com