Fish Trial: Barker 26 Calibogue Bay

The new Barker 26 Calibogue Bay combines thoughtful design and quality fit and finish.

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Stepping Up

A late-February morning of fishing off Sarasota, Florida, aboard the new 26 Calibogue Bay from Barker Boatworks turned from relaxed to raucous when a powerful fish exploded on a topwater lure I was working along the shallow edge of a channel. “That fish has girth!” exclaimed Todd Koehler, who had showed Kevin Barker (owner of Barker Boatworks) and me this part of Sarasota Bay known as Buttonwood. “Looks like a big snook to me,” Koehler observed, as the fish burned line off the light spinning reel and then began a series of violent head shakes. Unfortunately, that’s when it ended. My heart sank when the fish sliced through the perfection loop above the MirrOlure Top Dog, leaving me disappointed but far from finished. “Snook have no teeth, but those gill plates, they’re as sharp as razors,” Koehler reminded me. Photo courtesy Barker BoatworksCourtesy Barker Boatworks
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Riding on Air

With a pair of steps (seen here) to usher a cushion of air under the running surface to boost speed and efficiency, the boat lifts nicely and displays very ­little bow rise. I’ve been on other stepped hulls designed by Michael Peters, and they display the same favorable launch characteristics. I also tried some hard-over turns, knowing that some stepped hulls can be unpredictable during lateral acceleration, sometimes tripping on a chine and swapping ends. Not so with the Calibogue Bay. It exhibits outstanding directional stability at speed. Photo by Jim HendricksJim Hendricks
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Wide-Open Spaces

With the engine tilted up and a draft of 14 to 16 inches, the Calibogue Bay drifted across surprisingly shallow water. The bow will easily accept the installation of a trolling motor. Measuring 92 inches wide and 69 inches down the centerline, the elevated forward casting deck offered gobs of room for Barker and Koehler to cast side by side. A 2-inch-high toe rail offers a measure of safety. Photo by Jim HendricksJim Hendricks
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Stowage Galore

Under the 12-inch-high foredeck is one massive locker, accessible via three locking hatches, all supported by stainless-steel gas-assist struts. We used this locker for lifejackets, backpacks and camera cases. On each side are four tubes for stowing fishing rods. The sole sports EVA-foam nonskid, as do the sides for protecting reels from scratches. There’s dedicated space underneath for three 31-series ­batteries to power the trolling motor. Photo by Jim HendricksJim Hendricks
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Tight and Dry

Barker takes a different approach to sealing deck hatches. Instead of installing a relatively thin gasket around the hatch rim, he covers the entire underside of the hatch with closed-cell EVA foam. Not only does this form a seal when the hatch is battened with a compression latch, but it also serves as sound insulation. Making theses hatches even more watertight are deep gutters around the rims with stainless-steel-screened ­scuppers drain collectively to a ­through-hull fitting in trim-tab pockets. Photo by Jim HendricksJim Hendricks
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Comfortable Run

Our morning began at sunrise from the launch ramp at Centennial Park. Barker piloted the Calibogue, powered by a Mercury 300 Verado Pro, northward across Sarasota Bay to an area known as Long Bar, where Koehler and Barker planned to target redfish on the incoming tide. With air temps in the low 50s, the run felt a bit chilly, though the flaring bow kept us completely dry. Rather than stand in the wind, I opened the backrest to the two-person bench seat that tucks into the aft casting deck and kicked back, seated below the wind. “I wish airline seats were this comfortable,” I shouted to Barker, who turned back and smiled. Photo by Jim HendricksJim Hendricks
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Innovative Touches

The Barker 26 Calibogue Bay offer great innovation. For example, the ­foldout bench seat, for example, is more than just a place to rest. Like a Russian ­nesting doll, the seat bottom lifts up to reveal a dry-storage box underneath for dock lines and fenders. Lift out that box to access the fully lined bilge ­compartment, pumps, fuel filter and other rigging. Photo by Jim HendricksJim Hendricks
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Immaculate Fit and Finish

The Barker 26 Calibogue Bay features outstanding craftsmanship and superb fit and fish. The bilge rigging is clean and simple with plenty of room to service any components below deck. Photo by Jim HendricksJim Hendricks
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Ample Helm Space

This Calibogue Bay was equipped with CZone digital switching for all accessories. The switch panel also included LED readouts to monitor the voltage of the engine and house batteries, as well as the combined voltage of the trolling-motor batteries. Using the Garmin GMM 190 19-inch monitor with chart plotting and sonar, flush-mounted in the 31-inch-wide helm panel, I ran a course southward to the Buttonwood area of Sarasota Bay — one of Koehler’s go-to spots. Photo by Jim HendricksJim Hendricks
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Running Strong

With the 300 Verado turning a Mercury 21-inch-pitch Revolution 4 stainless-steel propeller and carrying 45 gallons of fuel, the 4,250-pound boat jumped on plane in 5.8 seconds, cresting 30 mph in 8.3 seconds, en route to a top speed of 61.2 mph at 6,200 rpm. At wide-open throttle, the outboard burned 30 gallons per hour, resulting in 2.04 mpg. The most economical cruise speed proved to be at 3,500 rpm and 29.3 mph, with a burn rate of 8.4 gallons per hour for 3.49 mpg, and a maximum cruising range of 314 miles based on the 90-­gallon fuel capacity. You can push the speed up to 38.5 mph at 4,000 without much of a penalty in fuel economy — the burn rate is 11.2 gallons per hour for 3.44 mpg. If you want to slow down in rough seas, the boat will plane at speeds as low as 14 mph. Photo courtesy Barker BoatworksCourtesy Barker Boatworks
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Fishing Machine

After two hours of nonstop angling action, I was convinced this boat is great for catching fish. It was also ­comfortable and easy to drive. It is clear that Kevin Barker has poured his heart, soul, and years of fishing and boatbuilding experience into one of the most well-thought-out and well-built bay boats on the market today. If this is the way he builds his first one, I can’t wait to see what comes next. Photo by Jim HendricksJim Hendricks