Testing boats during the Miami International Boat Show poses more challenges than usual. When I attempted to sea-trial Sea Chaser’s new 27 HFC demo model at this year’s show in February, I had to plan around potential buyers.
Luckily, I was able to steal away one afternoon with Pat Lanius, application engineer for Suzuki Marine. Built by Carolina Skiff, this boat sported a single, new Suzuki DF350A outboard, which has twin contra-rotating propellers, among other advanced features.
A throng of demo boats idled in and out of the show’s temporary marina on Virginia Key as we departed — the heavy traffic indicative of the Southeast’s booming saltwater-boat market. As Lanius manned the wheel during the long putt through the no-wake zone, I took the opportunity to check out key features, starting with the 40-gallon livewell in the leaning post abaft the helm seating. There’s also a 30-gallon livewell in the port quarter for separating bait species.
A sink and freshwater faucet in the middle of the full transom lets you clean up after rigging baits, chopping up chunks or filleting the day’s catch. You can spritz off a dirty deck with the undergunwale retractable washdown hose.
Twin bench seats fold out from the transom, but then quickly fold away when you need to clear the aft cockpit. A lift-up transom hatch offers access to rigging. An insulated 52-gallon fish box under the aft deck lets you ice down table fare.
A transom door in the starboard quarter leads to a swim platform and foldout boarding ladder. A beefy inward-opening door on the port side eases boarding or sliding a big tuna or swordfish into the cockpit.
Room to Roam
The 9½-foot beam grants stability while fishing. Twenty-five-inch-wide walkways aside the console help when you’re racing to keep up with a hooked fish, and coaming pads encircling the interior cushion your legs during a fight. A level deck throughout should also prove easy for anglers to traverse. The stanchions for the hardtop attach to the top of the console, not the deck, eliminating trip points.
I found versatile cabinets for tackle stowage in both backrest modules for the bow seating, plus more stowage in a foldout compartment along the starboard inwale. Four rod holders behind the helm seating, four more in the hardtop, and 12 gunwale rod holders offer plenty of vertical rod stowage.
A unique seating system forward of the console folds up and out of the way to create extra foredeck space. Perhaps less practical from an angler’s point of view is the elevated U-shaped bow pod that converts to loungers with the addition of snap-on pads. A removable pedestal table in the middle lets the crew enjoy snacks and drinks on pleasure cruises. Sea Chaser packed 100 gallons of stowage space under the pods, and you can step atop them to fight a big fish around the bow or man the anchor.
The roomy anchor locker of my tester concealed a windlass. A starboard-side entry to the step-down center console interior leads to more than 5 feet of headroom and more stowage space, as well as an electric-flushing marine toilet.
The boat show’s no-wake zone finally ended, and we emerged on the other side of the Rickenbacker Causeway into the expanse of Biscayne Bay. I took the wheel to put the 27 HFC through its paces. The helm seats, which feature flip-up bolsters and fold-down armrests, felt supportive and comfortable. There’s a fold-down footrest on the seating module and an angled footrest at the base of the console.
The helm panel measures 37 inches wide — plenty of room to flush-mount a pair 15-inch electronics displays. A Suzuki C-10 4-inch color display provided all necessary engine data for testing. The Suzuki electronic throttle control made shifting and accelerating fingertip easy. I could feel the props instantly hook up as the 27 HFC burst out of the hole, planing in just 4 seconds and reaching 30 mph in 8.1 seconds.
I wrung out a top speed of 47.2 mph at 6,200 rpm, where the 350 burned 30.2 gph for 1.56 mpg. Throttling back, I found that the best mileage occurred at 4,000 rpm and 27 mph, where the Suzuki burned 14.1 gph for 2.46 mpg. That equates to a cruising range of well over 400 miles based on the 181-gallon fuel capacity.
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Despite mild winds, finding choppy water was no problem, as the steady parade of boat-show vessels churned the surface water into a lumpy field of confused seas. The Sea Chaser took it in stride, its single-step hull knifing through the washing-machine waves. The 100 percent composite construction felt solid, free of creaks and rattles, no matter how hard I pushed it into the chop. Cornering at speed was predictable and confident, the props refusing to relinquish their bite, no matter how tightly I turned.
This Sea Chaser shows just how many features you can integrate into a 27-foot center console. The 27 HFC presents boat buyers who are serious about bluewater angling with a highly functional fishing machine, yet one that can also shine on the occasional fun cruise with family and friends.
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