The Art of Single-Engine Center-Console Boats

An inside look at how architects design outboard-powered fishing boats under 25 feet

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Power and Style in a Small Package
While I can think of great reasons why any offshore angler would gravitate toward purchasing a twin- or triple-engine boat, not everyone can fit such a dream vessel into his budget. On the other hand, some actually prefer the versatility of a single-engine center-console that can also fish somewhat shallow, or they’re simply looking for a good starter boat for themselves or a water-loving teen. But with smaller boats also come construction dilemmas. I wondered: What issues do boatbuilders face when making smaller vessels, balancing the weight and length of the boat with the performance characteristics and ride they desire? I asked four fish-boat builders to talk about the smaller vessels in their lineups. There are far more boats in this category that are worthy of discussion, but space limits the list. The builders’ comments are incorporated on the next eight slides; boats are listed by LOA from the smallest to largest. Check out our gallery of top inshore center consoles.
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Cobia 201CC
"We want to maximize the wetted surface of the hull relative to the overall length of the boat by having a bow entry that's far forward and sharp," says Cobia marketing director Charlie Johnson. "This is especially important on smaller center-consoles like our 201, where limited space topsides means people commonly are going to ride up front." A sharp entry naturally slices through waves, keeping the bow ride smooth. The forward location of the entry pushes spray out and away. The person who buys Cobia’s 201CC wants a boat that’s big enough to feel safe yet easy to manage and haul in and out of the water, Johnson says. That buyer might fish pretty hard, but he also uses the boat to cruise and entertain. “Considering that,” he says, “we also wanted the boat to be relatively stable at rest.” For that purpose, Cobia designed a variable-deadrise hull that terminates at 20 degrees at the transom, which limits the side-to-side rolling. The company also raised the freeboard to provide a feeling of security, yet anglers can still land big fish at the transom. ... continued on the next image.
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Cobia 201CC
On deck, space becomes critical, so creativity kicks in. “We designed the bucket under the starboard bow cushion to double as a fish box. It’s insulated and can be used as a cooler, like the compartment on the port side, but it’s longer and drains overboard,” Johnson says. Cobia built the aft bench seat and its backrest as part of the transom bulkhead, so they don’t take up cockpit space. The bench doubles as an access hatch to the batteries and plumbing. The 201 features a Euro-style-integrated transom that Johnson says works best for a variety of activities, and makes it easy and safe to enter and exit the water. The boat is built with full-composite materials and predominately hand-laid fiberglass. The focus, he says, is on building a boat that feels and runs like a larger vessel yet can efficiently move with a single 150 outboard. Specifications
LOA 20 ft. 1 in.
BEAM 8 ft. 6 in.
DRAFT 18 in.
DEADRISE: 20 deg.
FUEL 60 gal.
MAX HP 150
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Grady-White Fisherman 230
“The center of gravity, float lines and visibility are all established before addressing storage space. The rest is a combination of priority and ingenuity,” says Shelley Tubaugh, Grady-White’s vice president of marketing. “We learn from our customers what is most important to them.” Since space inside the boat and storage are important, Grady-White chose to build a full transom on the 230, and use the space to either side of the engine for a 35-gallon livewell and a 20-quart lift-out box with a lure tray. A notch in the transom allows the outboard to tilt forward. To facilitate reboarding from the water, buyers can order an optional swim platform with a ladder. Ahead of the transom, an optional stowable bench seat lowers for the ride to the fishing grounds, and raises to enlarge the cockpit. Total cockpit area equals 58 square feet, roughly equivalent to an 8-by-7-foot room. ... continued on the next image
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Grady-White Fisherman 230
A pair of 25-gallon insulated fish boxes lies beneath the port and starboard forward bench seats. With an optional insert, the bow becomes a full casting deck or — with a cushion — doubles as a sun pad. Specifications
LOA 22 ft. 8 in.
BEAM 8 ft. 6 in.
DRAFT 20 in.
DEADRISE 21.6 deg.
FUEL 123 gal.
MAX HP 300
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Sea Born SX 239
"We've seen a consistent demand for more speed and less fuel consumption at cruise," says Sean McCoy, director of marketing for Sea Born. "With the SX 239, we increased efficiency through a double-stepped-hull design." At the front step, the hull’s deadrise angle is 25 degrees; it drops to 23 degrees amidships and then to 21 degrees at the transom. That design gives the vessel the speed-to-length and weight ratios Sea Born wanted without sacrificing stability or deck space. To further maximize the roominess topside, the SX 239’s transom design eliminates the splashwell. The transom is angled to 15 degrees and runs the width of the single engine; it’s tied into the stringer system using integrated knees for strength. The rest of the lower-aft section on either side of the engine features slightly less rake as it disappears below the waterline. ... continued on the next image
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Sea Born SX 239
Above the waterline, the aft bulkhead angles slightly forward. A small pocket on centerline allows the engine to tilt forward. To starboard, a transom door leads to a step down and then a ladder, which permits easy boarding and water access to release a large fish. McCoy says that SX 239 buyers are looking for value in the form of fuel economy, performance, storage, seating and fishability. They often comment on the walk-through transom door and the nearly 6 feet of headroom inside the console, because those factors appeal to the family. Specifications
LOA 23 ft. 2 in.
BEAM 8 ft. 7 in.
DRAFT 17 in.
DEADRISE 21 deg.
FUEL 93 gal.
MAX HP 300
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Contender 24 Sport
Contender employs a 22.5-degree transom deadrise angle that transitions to a deeper V forward. A variable-deadrise design "gives the hull the smooth-riding characteristics of a deep-V offshore boat with the efficiency and stability of a modified-V hull," says Contender engineer Chris Becker. "The addition of lifting strakes and reverse-angle chines helps give the 24 a dry, comfortable, stable ride that also happens to be quite fast." In our June 2014 Fish Trial of this boat, powered by a Yamaha F300, we tapped 53.3 mph with a full load of people, fishing gear and ice, and a half-tank of fuel. Yamaha testing showed a top end of 55.7 mph. The full-width fiberglass transom bracket is a hallmark of Contender design. The enclosed transom better protects the interior from waves, and the bracket achieves several important goals. “The bracket gives the motor a good amount of setback from the end of the running surface, providing performance and handling gains,” Becker says. “It’s also designed to -accommodate single- or twin-outboard packages while still providing ample room for entering or exiting the water.” ... continued on the next image
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Contender 24 Sport
On deck, Contender set out to include all of the amenities of a larger boat into the 24. “Once we had the hull design finalized, we moved around and resized the deck components (forward seating, console, fuel tank) until we arrived at the center of gravity we needed to achieve a balanced ride,” he says. That means the 24 comes with 43‑ and 94-gallon fish boxes forward and two 30-gallon boxes aft, a 26-gallon above-deck livewell, and plenty of seating and storage throughout. Specifications
LOA 24 ft. 6 in.
BEAM 8 ft. 6 in.
DRAFT18 in.
DEADRISE 22.5 deg.
FUEL 130 gal.
MAX HP 300