From my vantage point across the marina, Wellcraft’s new 352 Fisherman appeared every bit a serious angling machine, replete with a tower, outriggers and abundant rod holders. Yet, as I drew closer on this September morning and boarded from the inward-opening port dive door, luxury emerged in elements like the padded bow seating that serves as a dinette, twin loungers and an inviting sun pad.
That’s just a taste of the amenities that I discovered on my test boat, which featured just about every option available, many of which contributed to both fishability and cruising comfort. For example, the optional Seakeeper 3 gyro-stabilization system results in a deck that’s virtually free of roll, and that pays off in a safer, more comfortable experience whether fishing or cruising.
As we slipped lines, I found the Mercury Joystick Piloting helpful while maneuvering in the tight confines of the marina in Sarasota, Florida. The system’s Heading Adjust, Bow Hook and DriftHook can prove useful for fishing as well.
This boat was a blast to drive. Triple Mercury 400R Verado outboards propelled the big center-console from zero to 30 mph in 8.6 seconds — not bad for a boat displacing 13,510 pounds, plus fuel and water. The Mercury power-steering system made cornering super easy. The 352 carves turns with confidence and precision, and the deep-V hull slices smoothly through waves.
The dash panel featured two Garmin flush-mounted 22-inch multifunction displays for accessing the chirp fish finder, xHD2 open-array radar, FLIR thermal-imaging camera, chart plotter, engine instrumentation and more.
Toggle-switch panels are crafted from machined billet aluminum, not plastic, and the entire helm features a black finish to help reduce glare. My test boat was equipped with a Fusion stereo control head, Seakeeper display and a pair of air-conditioning outlets. An overhead electronics box integrated into the hardtop featured the Mercury VesselView engine display, VHF radio and glove box.
The centrally located tilt steering wheel puts the skipper in the center of the three-across bucket helm seats, each of which features flip-up bolsters and fold-down armrests. The center seat also drops away at the pull of a lever, so I could stand and drive with my back braced against the seat padding.
I gave up the helm to explore other facets of the 352, including the forward console lounger, which accommodates two and conceals an insulated cooler underneath. I found a second portable Orca cooler under the bow seating. My boat also came with snap-in reed matt flooring, which is nice on bare feet, but quickly comes out to reveal the fish-worthy diamond-pattern nonskid.
Across the transom, two flip-up bench seats are great for family excursions, as well as taking a load off during long runs offshore. A transom door in the starboard quarter allows for access to the integral swim platform.
On the port side of the transom is a covered sink with a freshwater faucet for washing up. In the middle resides a 32-gallon covered livewell that, on my boat, was equipped with a 12-volt chiller that minimizes the need for ice, should you decide to the use this compartment instead as a cooler.
A pair of 320-quart insulated fish boxes under the aft deck are macerated to evacuate blood and gruel overboard. While traversing the level deck, I found tilt-out inwale lockers for stowing tackle items, as well as undergunwale racks for fishing rods and gaffs.
Abaft the helm seating is a covered prep station with a cutting board set within the faux-marble countertop, but this can be upgraded to an electric grill. A slide-out fridge for beverages and perishables resides below the countertop.
A 35-gallon livewell built into the port side of the station features a wrap-around tempered-safety-glass window for keeping tabs on your bait.
To check out the console interior, I used the unique portside companionway. The door, tempered-glass side window and a section of the console top open all at once for easy access — no need for me to bend low as I stepped down into the console cabin.
Once inside, I found a freshwater faucet and sink, flushing marine toilet, and a forward berth suitable for the kids or a couple of well-acquainted adults. The optional air-conditioning system, powered by a Westerbeke 3.5 kW marine gas generator, kept it comfortable inside. An AC/DC electrical control panel filled the aft bulkhead, while the Seakeeper 3 was installed just under the panel.
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I decided to put the 352 through its paces while piloting from the optional elevated second station. A central ladder leads from the prep station up to the tower. Once aloft, I found virtually all of the functions that exist on the main helm, including a Garmin 12-inch MFD, VesselView display, stereo control, joystick control and more.
Turning Merc Revolution 4 18-inch pitch (19-inch pitch on the center motor) propellers, the triple 400R outboards pushed the 352 to a top speed of 57 mph at 6,800 rpm, where the engines drank 98.2 gph for 0.6 mpg. The best fuel efficiency occurred at 4,000 rpm and 31.1 mph, where the motors burned 26.5 gph for 1.2 mpg. That equates to a range of well over 400 miles, based on the 376-gallon fuel capacity.
The 352 now stands as the largest model in the Wellcraft line, and based on my experience, it is also one of the brand’s best boats ever. With Wellcraft’s 63-year heritage, that’s saying a mouthful.