Regulator’s New 23
The scenario sounded dicey for my test day out of Port Salerno, Florida — early October winds blew 15 to 20 knots out of the northeast, with gusts to 25. On top of that, we were headed offshore in a 23-footer.
“It’ll be sporty out there,” said Bob Chew, Southeast representative for North Carolina-based Regulator Marine, as we readied the boat with Capt. Tony Ross in the pre-dawn hours. “But I think you’ll be impressed by how well the new Regulator 23 handles the seas. It’s a big 23-footer.”
Indeed, when I first glanced at the -boat at the dock, I had thought that Ross, who also serves on the sales staff for the local Regulator dealership, Sovereign Marine, had brought the wrong model. It looked more like a 28-footer.
The boat measures a full 23 feet, 5 inches from bow to transom, but it also features an Armstrong outboard bracket, giving it a length overall of 27½ feet.
It’s beefy too, weighing in at approximately 6,200 pounds dry with a single Yamaha F300 outboard. Regulator builds boats to last with its signature grillage system, which results in an extremely durable molded-fiberglass stringer grid below deck. The grillage is bonded to the inner hull with a polybond adhesive and compressed into place. Biaxial fiberglass further secures the edges, and then foam is injected to reduce noise and add even more strength. This adds a bit of mass, a fact I soon came to appreciate as we ran into steep, tightly spaced 3- to 4-foot seas piled up by the nor’easter.
Built for Action
As we cleared St. Lucie Inlet, Ross pushed the Yamaha F300 to about 4,000 rpm, and the 23 met the head sea on plane at around 25 mph. The Regulator 23 — which boasts 24 degrees of deadrise at the transom and a deeply angled V at the cutwater — sliced through the capping waves to deliver a surprisingly smooth ride. As we launched off the occasional wave top, I braced myself, but I found there was no need, because the 23 landed softly each time.
Also impressive was the -performance of the 23’s Carolina-flare bow, which cast the seas aside, knocking down spray and keeping the interior surprisingly dry. We took nary a drop as we worked our way up- and down-sea, but even when we turned beam-to, the Carolina flare did a remarkable job in -minimizing spray. Standard Lenco trim tabs help you even out the ride and, when both are deployed downward, improve acceleration out of the hole.
Our first stop was a bell buoy about a mile outside the inlet to catch bait. Chew manned the helm while Ross and I jigged sabiki rigs for blue runners from the aft cockpit. Standard digital electronic throttle and shift, and optional SeaStar Solutions power-assist hydraulic steering ($3,395) allowed Chew to easily maneuver the 23 around the buoy, even with wicked seas and a powerful incoming tide.
Each bait went directly into the -standard, 23-gallon transom livewell on the starboard side, which did a great job: We experienced zero bait loss for an entire day of fishing. A similar compartment on the port side of the transom bulkhead serves as an insulated fish box, though some customers opt to have this plumbed by the dealer to serve as a second livewell, according to Ross. Both transom compartments come with latching hatches.
Prepare for Battle
Within 30 minutes we were tanked up with bait and once again tackling a head sea as we searched for signs of life farther offshore. About 10 miles off the coast, we found a healthy weed line, where we stopped to slow-troll the live blue runners.
To rig the wire leaders (in case we found king mackerel or wahoo in the area), Ross folded out the bench seat from the transom interior so he could comfortably sit and use the -tackle-storage drawers and pliers, knife, and hook holders integrated into the optional 2X Deluxe Tackle Center seating module ($6,195). With the tackle center just 32 inches from the transom, it’s easy to reach drawers and compartments from the bench seat, which also serves as a great place to take a load off between fishing spots.
The seating module also includes a rack of four angled rod holders, as well as five stainless-steel drink holders. On the forward side of the optional seating module, thickly padded, high-back captain and companion seats feature individual flip-up bolsters with a fold-out footrest below and an aluminum grab rail surrounding the seats. I liked using the angled footrest on the console to brace myself in the rough seas. Underneath is a convenient dry-storage compartment. Forward of the console is thickly padded seating for two, and underneath is a 55-quart -insulated cooler for beverages and other provisions.
Working the Weeds
With the transom bench seat quickly restowed to make room for fishing, we dropped back three live baits — two short lines from the gunwale rod holders (there are two on each side) and one long line on high from a rod holder in the optional rocket launcher ($1,495) at the aft edge of the optional fiberglass T-top ($11,995).
The hardtop is big. At 81 inches wide and 109 inches long, it provided plenty of shade from the hot sun. You can order it factory equipped with Lee Sidewinder 16-foot telescoping outriggers ($2,995). The top also features molded-in LED spreader and dome lights, which we used while getting the boat ready in the early-morning darkness.
The Yamaha F300 idled low enough to keep the baits swimming enticingly on a slow-troll along the weed line, and when turning to a down-sea course, we could coast with the engine out of gear, since the 23 tends to drift bow first.
As we waited for a bite, I explored the interior further and found that no matter where you move on the 23, there’s an aluminum grab rail handy, including rails around the 2X Deluxe Tackle Center, the frame for the T-top, and the recessed bow rails that extend from amidships forward. That’s something you notice more acutely when lso featured the optional powder-coat package ($2,595) for all of the aluminum rails and rod holders, a touch that makes this classy boat even classier.
In addition, I noticed that all of the bolt heads are isolated from the aluminum with nylon washers — a touch that eliminates chipping the powder coating during installation, and also helps to prevent galvanic corrosion in years ahead.
Bit and Bit Again
It did not take long for our first bite, but somehow the fish got the bait and missed the hooks, including the treble stinger. As Ross was deploying a fresh bait, a second fish bit right behind the boat. As Chew picked up the rod and set the hook, a small mahimahi went airborne next to the weeds.
While he fought the fish, I noted that the padded coaming bolsters on the 25-inch-high gunwales in the aft cockpit met his legs just above the knees. He also had plenty of room to walk forward, thanks to an 18-inch-wide walkway next to the center console. A 15-inch-high U-shaped step-up in the bow lets you easily work a fish around the forepeak. Snap-on vinyl pads can convert this U-shaped area to seating for those days when fishing is not a priority.
Ross deftly gaffed the mahi, and after a few pictures, we iced the fish in the transom fish box (which, like every box on the 23, drains directly overboard) and used the raw-water with slinky-style hose to clean up the diamond nonskid sole. The 23 also features a freshwater washdown hose and a transom shower as standard equipment.
The center console houses a head compartment (accessible from a companionway on the starboard side) with 5 feet, 10 inches of headroom. A portable marine toilet comes standard, but you can order the 23 from the factory with a permanent head plus holding tank ($2,495). I stowed my camera gear inside, but there are plenty of dry-storage lockers elsewhere, including two under the elevated U-shaped bow deck. There’s also lockable storage for six fishing rods in a deep, forward undersole compartment.
The helm panel measures 33 inches wide and 15 inches tall — enough to accommodate a pair of Raymarine e125 multifunction displays, a Ray 55 VHF radio and an Evolution EV-200 autopilot control. These, plus a Raymarine RD 424 4 kW digital radome and B60 transducer, are included in the factory-installed Raymarine Premium Fish Package ($23,895). Atop the console is a frameless tempered-glass -windshield, but you can also get the optional three-sided spray curtain enclosure ($2,995) to block the wind blast while underway.
Wring It Out
The fish stopped biting around 1 p.m., so we headed back inside St. Lucie Inlet to see what kind of performance we could wring out of the new Regulator 23 in protected waters. Turning a 15½-by-17-inch stainless-steel three-blade Yamaha Saltwater Series II propeller, the 23 climbed on plane in 7 seconds and reached 30 mph in 13 en route to a top speed of 47.5 mph at 5,900 rpm.
We found the best fuel economy at 4,000 rpm, where the 23 achieved 2.3 mpg at 29 mph — remarkable efficiency given the weight of this boat. The optimum mileage figure translates to a cruising range of more than 342 miles based on the 149-gallon fuel capacity.
So if you’re looking for a -center-console fishing boat that’s small enough to trailer yet displays the seakeeping ability of a 28-footer, take a serious look at the Regulator 23. On a day when the sea conditions were less than favorable, I found that it ranks as one of the biggest small boats on the market.
POWER Yamaha F300 outboard
LOAD Three adults, 60 gallons of fuel, fishing gear, ice, full livewell, 20 gallons of fresh water
TOP SPEED 47.5 mph @ 5,900 rpm
TIME TO 30 MPH 13 seconds*
BEST MPG 2.3 @ 29 mph (4,000 rpm)
* In Yamaha performance tests, the 23 reached 30 mph in 10.08 seconds.
LOA 23 ft. 5 in. (27 ft. 6 in. with Armstrong outboard bracket)
BEAM 8 ft. 6 in.
DEADRISE 24 deg.
WEIGHT 6,200 lb. (dry)
DRAFT 34 in. (motor down)
FUEL 149 gal.
MAX POWER 300 hp
MSRP AS TESTED $124,940
Edenton, North Carolina