What is it about 30-plus-foot boats that makes them seem so, I don’t know, big? The answer to that question might seem obvious, but there’s still something almost magical about that longitudinal transition point.
Thirty-plus-foot boats come with larger outboards that feature power steering. They carry enough beam to make them seem solid and stable, and their cockpits start to air out.
Sea Fox’s Ryan Balderson, vice president of product development, and I both marveled at the phenomenon as we ran the new 328 Commander center console south from Mount Pleasant, South Carolina, toward Charleston Harbor in early July. Bigger boats often feel like Cadillacs, we agreed — all luxury and smooth elegance.
Yes, this is a fish boat we’re talking about. But whoever said a sport vessel had to be Spartan?
The moment I stepped aboard the 328, I started to see stylish details and ingenious touches. Balderson says he designed the rakish angle of the black console face to resemble a fighter-plane instrument panel. He adapted drainage channels aft of the pressurized transom livewell from those he saw on a Florida charter vessel. Any water trying to seep from the tank funnels into the splashwell, leaving the transom bench seat dry.
My test boat came with the optional SeaStar Solutions Optimus 360 joystick steering, which Balderson used to efficiently exit the dock. The helm also comes with a standard fiddled catch-all tray next to the joystick, for smartphones, glasses or errant hooks.
We ran out of the harbor and headed south to look for menhaden. Balderson throttled up the twin Yamaha F350s to 33 mph. The 328 easily handled the sloppy swells left from overnight storms. Sea Fox crafted this hull with a partial step from the chines to the first strake (not all the way to the keel), port and starboard.
Whenever the backside of a swell sheered off, forcing the boat to drop, the 328 landed softly. We never took spray into the cockpit.
The overcast day meant bait might not come quite to the surface. Balderson slowed to idle. We scanned for diving birds and began watching the sounder on one of the two 16-inch Garmin GPSMap 7616xsv displays.
Finally, we started hearing pogies flip, and then saw them splashing at the surface nearby. I took the helm to idle into the school, and Balderson hopped up to the deck above the anchor locker to throw the net.
Two throws captured enough pogies to occupy, though certainly not fill, both the 55-gallon transom bulkhead pressurized well and the 35-gallon port cylindrical well with its clear aquarium window into the cockpit.
On the Troll
All the way to the artificial-reef site where we’d fish offshore, I sat in one of the three helm chairs, despite the sometimes challenging run in jumbled seas. After finding the structure, Balderson set the autopilot, took one engine out of gear, and began deploying free-lined live baits on standard kingfish-tournament pogy rigs.
A tackle center abaft the helm unit allowed him to rig the wire leaders and then turn around, fasten them to a rod in one of many gunwale and transom holders (there were 36 vertical holders total aboard the test boat), bait up, and pay out line.
The lid above the tackle center props open on tension hinges; beneath, the unit features a bait box with a ballyhoo grate. Ice placed beneath the grate keeps rigged ballies chilled. The top to that bait box comes with a cutting board on one side and a Corian slab on the other.
Below the tackle area, Sea Fox stowed a Yeti cooler. The cooler slides out electrically, but the clearance above its lid allows you to reach in for a cold drink without having to actuate the switch.
Just as soon as we had four liveys in the water, one rod doubled over. A likely amberjack took Balderson into the reef and broke the line. Next up, I battled a barracuda to boat-side. The coaming pads that rim the entire vessel hit me at the tops of my thighs.
Admittedly, I’m smaller than most anglers. So to release a fish, I’d potentially have to move aft through the transom door on the starboard side to more easily reach the water. That door also offers access to the swim platform, where I could pass a rod more readily over the outboards.
Another option: I could choose to move to port and release a fish using the side-entry door.
As I fought my fish, Balderson moved the rods that he’d stored aft of the livewells up forward to three of the holders that flank the bow seating.
A Place for Everything
While barracuda continued to swarm us, we held out hope for a stray cobia. Balderson had tossed a couple of ice bags into one of the two overboard-draining fish boxes, a cavernous, triple-latched insulated box to starboard in the cockpit sole.
“I did this [box] for the guys on the Gulf Coast,” Balderson said. “They tell me, ‘We catch 100-pound yellowfin tuna here, dude.’”
The 328 features storage and convenient cubbies for all kinds of gear. A door on the side of the helm unit opens to offer two drawers and storage for three tackle boxes. On the inside of that door, Sea Fox affixed two spool holders and knife and pliers holders.
The standard hardtop comes with a special hatch forward for two fire extinguishers and flares. It also features a sunroof and two storage boxes.
At the bow, a two-person lounger opens to reveal dry storage for safety items and tackle. Hatches below the forward cushions open for more gear.
The bow cushions do unsnap, and I removed the center cushion up front so I could stand and cast a butterfly jig while we slow-trolled.
Belowdecks, an ample berth lifts to store more gear and rods.
With limited time to fish, we left the ’cudas biting and headed inshore to run performance numbers. I piloted the boat down-sea all the way home; it displayed absolutely no bow steering and remained dry.
In protected waters, we reached plane in about seven seconds using no tab. We hit 30 mph in 10 seconds. Top speed registered at 52.7 mph, turning 6,000 rpm for 0.7 mpg. Optimum cruise came in at 30.5 mph, turning 3,600 rpm while achieving 1.27 mpg.
Yamaha ran this boat recently as well, with less weight and a clean hull bottom. Those testers found a time to plane of 5.13 seconds and a top speed of 56.3 mph at 6,000 rpm, reaching 0.84 mpg.
Sea Fox designed this boat to handle rough water and gave it 22½ degrees of deadrise at the transom, more than any of its previous hulls. The vessel has a stable feel and carves sharp turns as if on rails.
With the amazing amount of thoughtful details in its design, I’ve decided to call the 328 the “we’ve-thought-of-everything” boat.
Sea Fox 328 Commander Performance Specifications
Power: Twin Yamaha F350s
Load: Three crew, 300 gal. fuel, full water tank
Top Speed: 52.7 mph @ 6,000 rpm
Time to 30 mph: 10 sec.
Best MPG: 1.27 @ 30.5 mph (3,600 rpm)
Sea Fox 328 Commander Hull Specifications
LOA: 32 ft.
Beam: 10 ft. 8 in.
Deadrise: 22.58 deg.
Dry Weight: 8,975 lb.
Draft: 24 in.
Fuel: 311 gal.
Max Power: 700 hp
MSRP: $255,000 (w/ twin Yamaha F350s)
Moncks Corner, South Carolina
To see more, watch the video of the Sea Fox 328 Commander test ride.