THE OFFSHORE LIFE IN ANY WATERS
March 6, 2018
As told by Tim Ford, Regulator Marine Sales Representative
Looking for a center console is exciting – but it can also be challenging due to the overwhelming variety of products and manufacturers out there. Testing the ride for yourself, determining elements that are important for your lifestyle, and researching product attributes and quality will go a long way in in your search for the best center console. To help break things down, we turned to Regulator Marine Sales Representative Tim Ford, who has over 35 years of experience with brands including Regulator Marine, Northstar Electronics, and Lee’s Tackle.
While it’s not the first step in the process, it’s arguable the most important. Contact your dealer and plan a sea trial. But don’t go out on a gorgeous, calm day. Go for a ride on a day when sea conditions are a little rough – in fact, go out in every condition you think you’ll encounter on your waterway. And make sure you test all center consoles in the same conditions! That’s the only way to truly get a sense for what the boats can handle and the level of safety they can provide for you and whoever you have onboard. All boats ride nicely on beautiful days, but not all owners have the luxury of boating on beautiful days. You want a center console that will safely get you out, and bring you home, in any condition.
The importance of quality cannot be stressed enough. Do your research, visit the factory, and talk to the people who engineer, design, and build your boat. To help determine the level of quality behind the build, find out if the manufacturer is NMMA-certified. This is a baseline check that tells you if the boat has been tested against critical build and safety standards.
Look at the fit & finish of the center console. Do all doors and compartments close perfectly, with ease? Are there any rough edges or is everything smooth to the touch? Find out if the tuna door was part of the initial hull design to create a seamless addition, or if it was cut out of the hull during the build, for example.
In the long run, owning a boat built by a manufacturer that places quality above all can make a world of difference. After using your boat in a variety of conditions – some more strenuous than others – you’ll eventually need to fix something. Whether you do the work yourself or have it done professionally, ease of use is essential. Is everything readily accessible? Do you have access to your batteries, fuel filters, and wiring harnesses? Take time to look into all nooks and crannies! The quality of build will make a difference.
Don’t forget about customer service. If you have a question or need help replacing a part, you want a direct line to your manufacturer and build team. Find out about the manufacturer’s Customer Service Index (CSI), a program designed to measure and improve customer service satisfaction. A good rating is unique to the best of the best! You should also take the warranty into account – what is it and how is it handled? On top of this, scheduling and taking a factory tour also gives insight into the manufacturer’s dedication to quality and commitment to customer satisfaction – plus, it’s a lot of fun!
Down the line, when you’re ready to sell your boat, you need to know that each detail was designed to last. Buying a boat is an investment, so having one with good resale value is key! Going online and comparing used center console values, as well as depreciation values, will give you a good idea of what to expect.
Determining what size boat is best for you and your lifestyle is one of the first things to think about. Two main factors that come into play are where you do your boating and who you plan to have on board. Do you want a deep vee hull, a stepped hull, or a flatter hull? Are you going offshore fishing, cruising in the bay, or a combination of both? Do you plan to have friends and family on board? These are all questions that will help when deciding between different center consoles.
If you’re a serious angler, you’ll need to consider what fishing amenities are available onboard. Does the boat have a good amount of rod holders and does it have outrigger capability? What is the fish and tackle storage capacity? Is there a livewell and is it separate from the fishbox? What’s its capacity? Is there a big fish locker, and is it insulated? Is there fresh water on board?
Fuel Capacity & Power
You will also want to consider fuel capacity. Going offshore and fishing the canyons can often mean running over 100 miles offshore. Generally, the smaller the boat, the smaller the fuel tank, and the larger the boat, the larger the fuel tank. Traditionally, smaller boats might have a 50-60-gallon tank, whereas true offshore sportfishers that are 23 to 25 feet have a 150-gallon capacity, or more – meaning they have a range of over 300 miles. You also need to ask yourself, are the engines fuel-efficient for the boat size and range expected?
Of course, power goes hand in hand with fuel efficiency. Outboard engines not only allow for easier maintenance and more overall cockpit space, they are great for handling both low and high speeds, all while being fuel efficient. That being said – you don’t want your boat to be underpowered. When you’re offshore in four-to-six-foot chop, the last thing you’ll want is for your engines to work too hard. Today, engines are a lot more efficient than ever. Four-stroke engines are quieter, you don’t have the oil mix, and you don’t have to deal with the noise or smell! That’s great when you’re offshore fishing with buddies, but it’s also a plus when you’re entertaining on the water.
If you know you’ll have your friends and family onboard, you’ll need to make sure your boat is equipped with the necessary creature comforts and has enough deck space. Is there a head? Are there any entertainment electronics? How much seating is on board and does the boat have a table? Be sure to also check the coast guard rating for weight and capacity. These are all factors that may be more or less relevant, depending on how you plan to use your boat.
Overall, it’s a lot to think about. Sometimes, it helps to make a check list: what you have to have, what you want to have, and what you’d like to have. From there, you can determine what size boat makes the most sense. Then, of course, it comes down to the learning more about the manufacturer and testing the ride for yourself.
Happy shopping and see you offshore!