Time was when center-console boats were pretty small and had single engines, and the only things under the consoles themselves were engine batteries, wiring, a soggy towel or two, and a rusty fish-hook. Times have changed, and it’s amazing what you can find under consoles these days. On some boats it’s like the wardrobe leading to Narnia — look in and a whole new world opens up.
Part of the change has come simply because center-console boats have gotten bigger and bigger, with twin, triple, and even quadruple outboards, air-conditioning, and a host of other amenities that would have been unheard of even a decade ago. With the increase in size comes an increase in space under the console, and that has given boatbuilders some great ideas on how to use all that space.Without further ado, here are five console spaces that have grabbed the attention of the reviewers at boats.com and BoatTrader.com in recent months.
The first and most obvious use of a console space big enough big enough for a person to sit in is as a head compartment. Sure, most fishermen have no problem using a bucket in the cockpit, but when you add more family and friends (now that you have a bigger boat), the urgencies of a long day of fishing on a headless, heaving platform can take some of the fun out of the program. So porta-potties and even toilets plumbed to holding tanks are now commonplace. One of the best head compartments in a small center-console is on the Cobia 296. For a boat just under 30 feet, this one really rolls out the welcome mat. There’s full standing headroom, a plumbed-through toilet, and a small vanity with a sink, pressure water, and stowage drawers underneath. Very importantly there are also opening ports in each side of the console for light and ventilation.
On the Doug Zurn-designed Vanquish 24, when you unlock the console and tilt it forward you get… the engine. (Options are a Crusader 330-hp or 375-hp gas engine, or a Yanmar 260-hp diesel.) The Vanquish is one of those rare center-consoles with straight inboard power and a good-looking, outboard-free transom. The advantages, aside from aesthetics, are fuel efficiency, simplicity, easier wiring and rigging runs, and especially a low center of gravity, concentrated amidships.
The Vanquish is also made with modern materials and methods — vinylester resin and closed-cell foam, vacuum-bagged to achieve a tight, light laminate. With that engine low and inside, the boat will cruise efficiently at about 28 knots.
The bigger the center-console, the smaller the problem of headroom under the console itself. Still, Hydrasports really addresses the subject well in their 4200 Siesta, a big, beefy offshore boat that can be powered by a bunch of different outboard configurations. There’s well over six feet of headroom (more like seven) and a nice aesthetic touch is the two big side-by-side opening ports in the starboard side of the console, opposite the door. They’re oriented vertically instead of being stacked, which is a great look both inside and out, and probably lets in more light than two stacked ports would. The designers also added plenty of warm-looking wood surfaces to relieve the sterile, glossy white gelcoat look that’s common under most consoles.
A Studio Apartment
Once a boat gets big enough you can put just about anything you want inside. When Everglades pushed the center-console envelope wih their new 435 CC they went to an LOA of almost 45 feet, including the quad Yamaha 300- or 350-hp engines. They built in 570 gallons of fuel tankage to run those engines.
Then they added quite a bit of premium-quality kit in terms of hardware, fishability, and navigation gear. And when it was time to fit out the space under the console they really went to town, with a full convertible queen-sized bunk, a galley, and a head with a shower and a lighted partition. To cherry-pick just a few of the items in the standards list, there’s air-conditioning, a 19″ flat-screen TV with DVD, a porcelain toilet, a refrigerator, hot and cold running water, and a microwave. And living conditions aren’t even the main focus of this boat — fishing is. (For another example of belowdecks amenities that can be dialed up once a center-console gets seriously big, also see the new Boston Whaler 420 Outrage.)
Lux and Luxury
Chris-Craft has been making some really gorgeous boats in recent years, including their line of Catalina center-consoles, which represent a bit of a departure from the “fish-or-die” mentality of most center-console builders and buyers. The Catalinas can fish just fine, but you’ll be angling in higher style and luxury than most, and it’s safe to say you won’t see many of them spattered with fish guts.
The biggest boat in the line is the Catalina 34. Many of the conditions and functions under the 34′s console are on a par with those in boats over 40 feet, but where the Chris-Craft really shines is in the light, the lux, the lumens let in. There’s a large window opposite the console door and an opening port at the foot of the queen-sized bunk, but the best move was the inclusion of a wide, narrow window low in the forward face of the console, right above the sunpad outboard and the bunk inboard. That the sort of clever, unusual design move that keeps Chris-Craft styling at the front of the pack.
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