Temperatures had dipped into the 40s, and a stiff north wind sent me shivering down the gangway at Harbortown Marina in Fort Pierce, Florida, toward Pursuit’s new S 288 Sport.
David Glenn, marketing director for Pursuit Boats, and his best friend, Sonny Hendrix, welcomed me as I stepped down from the fixed dock to the forward gunwale. I then found a convenient step nestled along the inwale that eased boarding, eliminating the need to jump to the deck. This served as an introduction to the many thoughtful details I would soon discover aboard the S 288.
In the meantime, we faced a grim forecast for the offshore waters — northeast winds of 15 to 20 mph and 4- to 6-foot seas. Glenn proposed a bold plan that would take us out through Fort Pierce Inlet and offshore about 15 miles. We’d then troll our way down-sea for dolphin, sailfish, tuna and wahoo. We’d end our day by cutting back in through St. Lucie Inlet to the south. From there, we would follow the Intracoastal Waterway for about 18 miles back to Fort Pierce.
“I really want to show you how this boat handles big seas,” Glenn said as we cast off. Powered by twin Yamaha F300 outboards, this S 288 came with the optional Yamaha Helm Master system, which includes joystick control, to make easy work of extricating the 30-foot center-console from the marina’s tight confines. Built-in power steering lets you easily rein in the 600 ponies.
Big waves scalloped the distant horizon as we exited the inlet. I bundled up against the chill as Glenn put the S 288 on a due-east heading and advanced the throttles, bringing the engines to 3,500 rpm. The boat ran in the trough at about 30 mph, and its deep-V hull offered a smooth ride free of bumps and thumps.
“This boat is built for the family that wants to do it all — fish, dive, head over to the islands or just take an evening cruise,” Glenn explained from the helm. The hull carries the same entry and deadrise as the discontinued C 280, but with modified chines, transom extensions and sheer line to accommodate this new Pursuit. I first noted the transom extensions during a test of the Pursuit DC 325 dual-console in 2014. These have since become a trademark feature on many Pursuit models, allowing anglers to traverse farther aft, be it to work a fish around the engines or step on and off the boat from a dock.
A pair of optional Garmin 12-inch GPSMap 7612xsv multifunction displays helped guide our way, with one unit set to chart-plotter mode and the other to chirp sonar. This boat was also equipped with the optional Garmin GHP Reactor autopilot that integrates with Helm Master. The mocha-colored helm panel and upholstered brows over the displays minimize glare.
The S 288 features an integrated hardtop with a molded, bonded safety-glass windshield that extends from dash-top to hardtop and wraps around the console, a welcome feature during this cold snap. This boat also comes with an optional enclosure with Strataglass above gunwale height and canvas (choice of Stamoid or Sunbrella) below. An acrylic hardtop hatch can be used to access the topside or usher in fresh air.
The standard two-person helm bench adjusts fore and aft, and it offers individual flip-up bolsters for support when standing. A footrest at the base of the console lets you brace yourself when seated. I was instantly drawn to the use of teak on the armrest supports, backrest and tray abaft the helm seating. This offers a rare touch of richness; a thick urethane finish protects the wood and assures minimal maintenance.
Seating abounds, including two flip-up bench seats in the aft cockpit — one emanating from the transom and another on the backside of the leaning-post module. I folded out each and tested the comfort factor while underway; both passed with flying colors despite the less-than-perfect sea conditions.
Pursuit’s S 288 accommodates live bait in a 24-gallon lighted livewell with a clear acrylic lid in the port quarter. Under the aft deck, I discovered a pair of 45-gallon insulated fish lockers, each discharging overboard with a diaphragm pump. The aft cockpit is served by both raw-water and freshwater hose bibs.
Welcome to the Stream
The real test of this boat’s seakeeping ability began when we reached blue water and steep, capping waves jacked up to 6 feet as the howling wind collided with the northbound Gulf Stream. Glenn reduced the speed slightly, and the boat continued to ride smoothly.
At a depth of about 140 feet, Glenn pulled back to trolling speed, relinquished the wheel, and stepped to the aft cockpit to set out a trolling spread. He extracted rods from the four vertical holders in the transom bulkhead, as well as the six optional rod holders along the aft edge of the hardtop, and retrieved the rigged ballyhoo from the built-in 39-quart transom cooler.
Glenn put out rigged ballyhoo on port and starboard flat lines, as well as on a long line down the middle. He also trolled one ballyhoo on a diving planer for wahoo, and ran a teaser on a short line to help attract fish to the baits.
Twenty-mile-per-hour gusts tend to wreak havoc on trolling spreads, especially in a cross-sea, and that required that Glenn and I constantly tend lines to prevent tangles. Stability in the aft cockpit was remarkable, even when trolling in the trough. The thick coaming pads that surround the cockpit, save for the starboard transom door and port tuna door, served us well as we braced against the transom.
Once we turned down-sea, however, I was able to leave the lines and explore more details of the S 288. A recessed stainless-steel bow rail let me make my way safely forward, where I found facing seats with dry-stowage compartments under both. Backrests swing out from the gunwales, just above those steps I mentioned earlier, to convert each seat to a forward-facing lounger. An optional filler cushion (dedicated stowage for which is inside the console) is available to create an inviting sun pad.
In the forepeak, I discovered a well-equipped anchor locker with an in-stem chute/roller, windlass, compartment light and raw-water washdown. A cavernous stowage locker resides under the foredeck.
A forward console seat with fold‑down armrests offers a comfy perch for two while cruising, but you’ll have to get up and swing open the door that forms the back of the seat to access the surprisingly roomy step-down console interior. Inside I found a vanity, sink, and freshwater faucet and a flushing toilet.
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After three hours of trolling and seas building to 8 feet, it became clear that this would not be our day to catch fish, so we pulled in the lines and set a heading for St. Lucie Inlet. The S 288 continued to perform smoothly while quartering down-sea. Running along the ICW gave me a chance to see how this boat performed in smooth water.
Spinning 19-inch-pitch Yamaha Saltwater Series II propellers, the twin F300s vaulted the S 288 to 30 mph in 7.8 seconds. Top speed was 55.3 mph at 5,800 rpm, where the engines drank 52.3 gallons per hour for 1.06 mpg. Best efficiency occurred at 3,500 rpm and 30.8 mph with a burn rate of 17.6 gph for 1.75 mpg. That translates to a range of 346 miles, based on 90 percent fuel capacity.
If you’re looking for a versatile 30-footer with stability and seaworthiness to handle big offshore seas, put Pursuit’s new S 288 Sport on your short list.
Power: Twin Yamaha F300 outboards | Load: 150 gal. fuel, three crew | Top Speed: 55.3 mph @ 5,800 rpm | Time to 30 mph: 7.8 sec. | Best MPG: 1.75 @ 30.8 mph (3,500 rpm)
LOA: 30 ft. | Beam: 9 ft. 8 in. | Deadrise: 24 deg. | Dry Weight: 8,220 lb. (w/ power) | Draft: 2 ft. (motors up) | Fuel: 230 gal. | Max Power: 600 hp
MSRP: $245,730 (base boat w/ twin Yamaha F300s and Helm Master)
Pursuit Boats – Fort Pierce, Florida; 800-947-8778; pursuitboats.com