No longer simply for hardcore fishing boats, the centre console is exploding in popularity on all sizes of boats.

By Steven Bull

There was a time, and in some people’s minds it still remains this way, that a centre console boat was strictly the realm of the avid angler. It was utilitarian to keep all sides of the boat free for fishing, but for family runabouts or larger cruisers it was the tried-and-tested starboard-hugging helm design. Not any more.

It’s one of the trends I’ve noticed in recent years. The boating industry has its share of unique offerings and one-of-a-kind styles but generally you can see generational shifts in design if you watch long enough.

The express cruiser has undergone a transformation in the last decade from open cockpit to almost exclusively designed with a fully enclosed, main level salon and a small aft-cockpit.

PWCs, too, have undergone a change; in a sense it’s a modern step backwards. The Sea-Doo Spark and the Yamaha EX WaveRunner are smaller and lighter (read: less expensive) and are a return to the fun roots of personal watercraft. For 2017, Kawasaki is even bringing back the stand-up JetSki that had entirely disappeared in commercial production.

Wandering the 2017 Miami International Boat Show you could be mistaken that it was the Miami International Centre Console Show.

Sure you have the classics like Boston Whaler and Scout and MAKO, but in 2017 you can buy a centre console pontoon (like the Harris V270) or find a small centre console deck boat or find a massive, luxurious, powerhouse. So we decided to take a closer look. For a good cross section we chose two of the smallest and two of the largest options and they include some brand new offerings: Starcraft MDX 211 CC, Hurricane 21CC, MAKO 414 CC and the Boston Whaler 420 Outrage.

For George Poveromo, host of “George Poveromo’s World of Saltwater Fishing,” the 414 CC that was unveiled at MIBS 2017 has a true wow factor as the largest and most powerful MAKO ever.

“This fast, comfortable and impeccably laid-out boat debuted at the 2017 Miami Boat show,” Poveromo said. “Offshore anglers and bluewater families alike lauded it as one of the most impressive highlights of the biggest boat show in the world.”

Arguably the biggest name in offshore fishing for decades has been Boston Whaler and the flagship 420 Outrage is the largest in their family.

Six figures and jaw dropping luxury aside, there are affordable entry-level options as well.

The Hurricane 19CC was so cleverly designed we selected it as one of PowerBoat Television’s Power Profiles for 2016, so I was eager to check out the 21 CC.  And, for the first time in years, Starcraft is back in the centre console game with the MDX 211 CC.

“Affordable boating and stat surveys show us that 19’, 20’, and 21’ are the best-selling size deck boats in the industry,” says Starcraft’s Steve Huber. “This MDX 211 CC OB is perfect for the family, fishing, and overall boating.”

In fact, the prototype looked so great we “hijacked” it on its way back from Miami and splashed it in a small lake in Winter Haven, Florida to be the first ones to check it out in the water. It did not disappoint.

MAKO 414 CC

Introduced at MIBS 2017, but listed as a 2018 model, the 414 CC is the largest, most powerful MAKO ever. Like the Starcraft, we couldn’t wait to get our hands on this one so we arranged to get a few hours with it immediately after the show closed.

The particular boat we tested was a Bluewater Family Edition, featuring a deluxe leaning post with cooktop, six-foot SureShade that extends over the aft cockpit and bow seating.

MAKO has a fish-first mentality. Whatever edition you get, you’re set for serious offshore work. The aft cockpit has solid, plush foldout seats that can be folded away when you’re ready to drop the lines. There’s also a tuna door/dive door on the port side for the monster catches.

A storage compartment and bait-prep station between the dual livewells/bait wells flanking the transom is a clever touch. That, unto itself isn’t noteworthy, but the fact the starboard cutting board can easily be replaced by undoing two screws is. You don’t have to worry about putting mats down to save it from getting chewed up.

The helm has air conditioning vents and a solid hard top above so you’re concealed from the elements. While here you’ll see the dual 17-inch Garmin displays that can show boat data, digital switches for lights and adjustable helm seat, or cameras which help solo docking in tight slips. You’ll also find the controls for the Seakeeper gyrostabilizer here.

There’s a good size lounger in front of the console that isn’t overly massive but conceals storage beneath on criss-crossed gas shocks to allow access from all three sides.  Within the console is the air-conditioned head with small, but functional, fold out berth.

The front bow seating has removable cushions and backrests to convert into raised casting platform or, by putting in the removable table, it could be prime dining.

The in-floor storage has thicker hatches than previous generation offshore offerings from MAKO. This adds stability and insulation.

Underway, the quad Mercury Verados have the best estimated range at 35 mph/4,000 rpm, but we found we ran more often around 4,400 rpm (40 mph).

A 24-degree deadrise and that 41-foot length meant the wake of our camera boat was almost non-existent in terms of movement as we cut softly through.

The biggest boat in MAKO’s 50-year history, the 414 CC will surely make a big splash.

TEST BOAT ENGINE
Quad Mercury Verado 350, 2.6-L, 350-hp EFI, inline six-cylinder, supercharged with charge air cooling and electronic boost pressure control

ACCELERATION (mph/sec)
0 to plane / 4.1; 0-30 / 8.6
TOP SPEED (mph/rpm)
60.3 / 6,500
CRUISING SPEED (mph/rpm)
35 / 4,000

DETAILS
Length: 41 ft / 12.5 m
Beam: 11 ft 11 in / 3.63 m
Weight: 16,840 lbs / 7,638 kg
Fuel Capacity: 566* gals / 2,142 L
Water Capacity: 50 gals / 189 L
Waste Capacity: 22 gals / 83 L

*464 gal (1,756 L) with optional Seakeeper gyrostabilizer

Speed Testing by MAKO

Starcraft MDX 211 OB CC

Seeing the blue-hulled Starcraft MDX 211 on display at MIBS you could overlook the centre console if you just glanced at it. Instead of sticking out, it seems perfectly in place on the deck boat as if it was designed that way from the hull up.

It wasn’t—at least as far as anyone has told me.

Starcraft built upon their popular MDX hull. It’s nearly 22 feet long and features stepped sponsons that really kick up the handling to a level entirely unexpected for a deck boat.

At idle those sponsons add stability, but at speed you’re running primarily on the centre-line V-hull so there isn’t much drag to contend with. Wrench the wheel one way or the other, and those sponsons make a big difference. They bite the water and, thanks to the stepped design to reduce drag, drop slightly so mid-apex of the turn is even tighter than the beginning.

The family-fun features are similar to the other MDX OBs. The bow lounge is the same and there’s the forward swim platform, but the cushions can come out and a filler section can go in to create a forward casting platform.

There are three slots and holders on each side of the cockpit for secure rod storage, and there are built-in gunwale rod holders including two great trolling positions aft.

Here too you’ll find another casting platform along with the lower swim platform that flips up to a three-quarter-bench seat that covers a large storage compartment and battery access.

The console itself has a high bench seat with lighted livewell beneath and a full-size cooler secured at the floor. There is a lot of room on the dash for custom rigs including a lot of space on top for ram mounts.

We spent a day on the prototype that was still being tested with a variety of power and prop options, so the performance might improve still from already impressive levels.

It seems Starcraft missed being in the centre console market, because for 2018 they are adding a 23-foot MDX centre console to the lineup.

TEST BOAT ENGINE
Yamaha F200, 2.8-L, 200-hp, EFI (DOHC), inline four-cylinder with thermostatic control cooling

ACCELERATION (mph/sec)
0-plane / 4
TOP SPEED
46.4 mph
CRUISING SPEED
25-30 mph

DETAILS
Length: 21 ft 10 in / 6.65 m
Beam: 8 ft 6 in / 2.59 m
Weight: 2,715 lbs / 1,231 kg
Fuel Capacity: 44 gals / 166 L

Speed Testing by Apple GPS

Hurricane CC 21 OB

Hurricane is synonymous with deck boats to many. They pioneered the deck boat in 1974 and have stayed dedicated to it, only building the wider and fun runabouts and holding their spot at the top of the number one seller’s list. But that doesn’t mean a deck boat is a deck boat is a deck boat. The range of Hurricanes is impressive but the CC 21 OB stands out to us.

Fitting nicely between the 19-footer and the 23-footer, this offers the perfect mix of compact size for trailering while adding a little more room midship than the smaller option.

The cleverness of the design, I can’t stress enough. The seating along the transom has four high backrests on sturdy supports. When you slide them out, they fit together in pairs and have dedicated positions on either side of the boat to be secured and out of the way.

The seat cushions also come off which transforms the stern into a large, raised casting platform. Underneath, in the centre, is a 30-gallon livewell and storage on either side—impressive for this size boat. There’s also another at the bow.

The bow can be bow-lounge seating or, using the fill-in platform and cushions, a large sun pad. The backrests here can be moved into lower, shoulder-rest positions or removed altogether. Of course, cushions out, you have a forward casting platform.

The helm is right in the middle of the boat and allows for a larger, side-entry head compartment in the centre console. If you don’t go for the optional port-a-potty you have massive storage. That extra space also means there’s room for in-floor storage compartments that you can upgrade to fish boxes.

With a total capacity of 10 people this is a great family-friendly runabout with true deck boat DNA including the wider hull at the bow but with some clever fishing features.

This, like the Starcraft, won’t replace the tournament angler’s ride but for the weekend warrior or the fish-loving family these offer the best of both worlds.

TEST BOAT ENGINE
Yamaha F200, 2.8-L, 200-hp, EFI (DOHC), inline four-cylinder with thermostatic control cooling

ACCELERATION (mph/sec)
0-Plane / 3; 0-30 / 6
TOP SPEED
46 mph
CRUISING SPEED
30 mph

DETAILS
Length: 20 ft 10 in / 6.35 m
Beam: 8 ft 6 in / 2.59 m
Weight: 3,045 lbs / 1,381 kg
Fuel Capacity: 49 gal / 185 L
Price: $44,224 USD

Speed Testing by Hurricane

Boston Whaler 420 Outrage

While at the exclusive, invite-only Yacht Expo in Captiva, Florida, I spent some time talking with a few members of Boston Whaler’s engineering team. I mentioned that it must be difficult to design Whalers as customers expect the best and don’t leave a lot of room for pleasant surprises.

“Absolutely it’s a challenge to check all those boxes people expect of Boston Whaler,” said the engineer. “But don’t get me wrong. It’s a good problem to have!”

Raising their already high bar, the 420 Outrage is considered the flagship model. It’s also the largest in their line-up and this thing is an absolute beast in the best way.

It’s a true Whaler with hardcore, offshore fishing abilities like rocket launchers and rod holders around the boat. The aft cockpit has a ton of space to work and there are outriggers on the hard top.

The helm has triple 15.4-inch Raymarine multifunction displays, SmartCraft VesselView and joystick piloting. And it’s all set behind a large single-pane windshield to keep you protected from the elements. There is a handy vent at the top to get some airflow through as well as air conditioning vents.

The deluxe leaning post is part fishing, with bait prep area and pressurized livewell with viewing window, and part entertainment, with grill, sink and a ton of storage.

The bow has bench seating and also a massive sunpad/lounger right in front of the console while there are hide away aft benches.

Even with all the fish-fighting room around the boat, there is a roomy cabin midship. There is a V-berth that can either be great seating out of the sun or, with a filler cushion, can sleep two comfortably—all with seven feet of headroom.

There’s a small galley with sink, fridge and microwave and a roomy head with separate shower. You also have the option of adding a flybridge.

With the quad Mercs, this big boat gets up to an impressive top speed. The engines are remarkably efficient with an estimated range of 365 miles at 4,500 rpm (35.3 mph), 328 miles at 3,500 rpm (20.2 mph) and 315 miles at 5,500 rpm (45.8 mph).

It’s big, it’s bad, it’s luxurious but it’s also a serious fishing boat. In other words: it’s a Whaler.

TEST BOAT ENGINE
Quad Mercury Verado 350, 2.6-L, 350-hp EFI, inline six-cylinder, supercharged with charge air cooling and electronic boost pressure control

ACCELERATION (mph/sec)
0 to plane / 7.1; 0-30 / 9.9
TOP SPEED (mph/rpm)
53.6 / 6,400
CRUISING SPEED (mph/rpm)
35.3 / 4,500

DETAILS
Length: 42 ft 6 in / 13.0 m
Beam: 13 ft 0 in / 3.96 m
Weight: 22,000 lbs / 13,381 kg
Fuel Capacity: 600 gals / 2,271 L
Water Capacity: 60 gals / 227 L
Waste Capacity: 20 gals / 76 L

Speed Testing by Boston Whaler

This article is featured in the 2017 Spring Issue of Boats&Places.

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Steven Bull is an Associate Producer and Host of PowerBoat Television. He grew up boating on runabouts and PWCs on the lakes around Huntsville, while his wife grew up on cruisers. It only took months after getting married for Steve to adopt that lifestyle. Together, they purchased a Sea Ray 380 Sundancer they keep at the Toronto Islands. A graduate of the University of Windsor’s business school, Steve worked in the front office of OHL and CFL teams before moving to Europe and working as a Ski Guide in the French Alps. He returned to Canada get a Master of Arts in Journalism from Western University (formerly UWO). Steve’s broadcast experience ranges from the BBC World Service in England, to business reporter with NTV in Kenya, and from 2010-2014 as a multi-platform reporter and host with CBC News. In 2014, Steve combined his passion for boating with his skills as a broadcaster by joining Lifestyle Integrated where he contributes to Boats&Places Magazine, BoatTest.ca, BoaterNews.ca, and of course, PowerBoat Television.

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