In the second part of our series on what to look for in a center console boat, we talked with our panel of experts about construction. Here’s what they had to say:
Joan Maxwell, Regulator Boats
“Weight, which to us is fiberglass content, is the most important thing. Heavier boats ride better in rough conditions. The downside to weight is that the boat typically will not be as fast in calm water, but let’s face it, there are more rough days offshore than slick-calm ones!
“Construction should include components that have been tested to hold up in the harsh marine environment: Duetsche wire connectors, so there isn’t corrosion and loss of electrical power; easy access to through-hull fittings, pumps and hoses, so they can periodically be inspected.
“Look out for wood in the transom, stringers and decks. Potential rot is the main culprit, leading to expensive repairs later on.”
Ken Clinton, Intrepid Boats
“It’s important to understand how the fiberglass parts are built. You don’t need to be a chemist to understand how they’re constructed and what materials they’re using. Have the manufacturer explain what they use, how they use it and why they use it.
“Is there any wood in the construction? Are they using pure vinylester resins? Are they infusing or hand-laying everything verses using a chopper gun?
“It’s also important to ask what they’re using to put their individual fiberglass parts together. You can build the strongest parts in the world, but if they aren’t put together properly, they’re useless. Are they prepping each part properly to be sure that what they’re using actually adheres? How all of the major fiberglass pieces come together determines if they stay together.”
Les Stewart, Jr., Contender
“We recommend you ask what kind of resins and fiberglass are used and educate yourself on that, so you understand the broad spectrum. Do they use balsa core or composite core? Wood is superior for hull sides, when things are done correctly. We find it decreases weight and increases the integrity of the hull. You have to use more composite to achieve the same strength.
“Is it a two-piece or three-piece construction? Three-piece construction is very sturdy. Also, ask about the transom and stringers. Composite transoms and stringers keep the weight down and are strong. Our stringer system is built for each boat, so we have the ability to move things around to add features and increase fuel capacity yet maintain an optimal center of gravity.”
Bryan Harris, Everglades Boats
“Another question is do you want an unsinkable boat or not? There are probably only five manufacturers who make unsinkable center consoles. How important is that to you? Because that level of safety and peace of mind costs money.
“We build our boats around pre-molded foam. We take solid pieces of foam that we lay down in the hull bottom and lay the liner around that, then we vacuum it all together. This means our boats end up being solid, one-piece boats. Other boats remain different components, and things tend to twist and flex and move around over time, which can possibly lead to structural problems later in the life of a boat.”
Alan Lang, Scout Boats
“Unsinkability and 100-percent hand-laid construction are important. Both are directly related to safety and reliability. Boats built with chopper guns are more resin-rich and don’t have quite the strength that a 100-percent hand-laid boat would.
“A boat not being NMMA (National Marine Manufacturers Association) certified would raise a red flag. There are several builders who do not build their boats to any ‘standards’. Ours are built to NMMA, Coast Guard, CE and ABYC (American Boat & Yacht Council) certifications.”
John Caballero, SeaVee
“It’s important that the manufacturer use the best materials possible. We use PVC core and urethane transoms, and everything is through-bolted. By doing so, you ensure the longevity of the product. Also, vacuum bagging the lamination can avoid cavities and ensure the proper ratio of resins.
“It’s always a good idea to ask about the engineering, especially these days. We spend a lot of time on the computer before a plug is ever built, seeing how far we can push the design. This makes for a more substantial and balanced finished product. We have some hardcore fishermen, and the boats are throttled up and launched, and they just keep on going.”
Shelley Tubuagh, Grady-White
“Having a completely sealed cockpit with overboard drains, self-draining by gravity, is a very nice feature. This means the whole boat can be evacuated of water without having a bilge pump or anything, which is important if you get caught in a storm offshore or take a wave over the side.”
HOW THEY ARE BUILT:
These semi-custom boats are crafted with hand-laminated solid fiberglass, structural PVC core sandwich construction with balsa coring in the hull sides. Contender’s center console line runs from 21 to 39 feet in length. www.contenderoffshore.com
Everglades’ patented RAMCAP process uses pre-molded, high-density, closed-cell, structural foam floatation to produce unsinkable boats. The company currently has center console models ranging from 21 to 35 feet. www.evergladesboats.com
‘Grady-Built’ means 100-percent hand-laid boats with metered glass-to-resin ratios for precise results. Its nine center console models use no-rot plywood stringers and transoms that are glassed in and carry a limited lifetime warranty. www.gradywhite.com
The Intrepid manufacturing process includes wood-free, vacuum-bagged PVC foam hulls that are crafted on a built-to-order basis. It offers six center console models, plus two tournament editions, ranging from 24 to 40 feet in length. www.intrepidboats.com
At this builder’s North Carolina facility, laminates are hand-laid by professional craftsmen using high quality glass, resins and gelcoats. Regulator currently has six center console models from 24 to 34 feet. www.regulatormarine.com
Scout makes wood-free, hand-laid, unsinkable boats with composite stringers and transoms. Its center console models — from 17 to 35 feet — also feature a reverse-shoebox hull/deck design to ensure durability and prevent water intrusion. www.scoutboats.com
These 29- to 39-foot center consoles are wood-free and made of hand-laid fiberglass, with a four-stringer structural system. Vacuum bagging ensures the resin and fiberglass bind correctly for a hull that performs as one unit. www.seaveeboats.com