Among the most versatile and adaptable boat designs ever created, center-consoles are rightly well loved among boaters around the world. The design is so versatile, in fact, that we’re seeing models scaled up to beyond 50 feet in length. Unfortunately, however, those boats are way beyond most boaters’ means.
With that in mind we present you with three small but scrappy center-consoles, built for the masses. They may not be the biggest entries in the market, but all of them are highly accessible to a wide range of budgets and interests.
Bayliner Element F18
Based on Bayliner’s successful Element hull, the Element F18 combines spacious deck-boat qualities with the utility of a center-console. The result turns out to be a good marriage of function and form. The best part is that The F18 starts at around $20,000 with boat, motor, and trailer—within reach of many family budgets, and a relative rarity in today’s boating market.
But just because the Element F18 is inexpensive doesn’t mean it’s cheap, or lacking in features. In fact, the F18 is loaded with all sorts of goodies that make it a pretty darned good fishing boat. In the bow is an expansive casting platform with tons of tackle stowage cleverly hidden beneath, a molded base for a trolling motor, and a fishing chair mount. The console unit is bordered on both sides by plenty of rod holders and there’s additional under-gunwale rod stowage both to port and starboard. A proper livewell at the stern rounds out the F18’s fishing functionality.
Moving aft from the casting deck there’s a bench seat ahead of the console unit with a stowage compartment beneath it. The console itself is a bit narrow, but there’s enough room at the helm to accommodate a basic array of electronics, such as a binnacle-mount fishfinder and a bracket-mount VHF radio. There’s additional stowage under the console that’s accessed via a hinged panel below the helm. Behind the console is a helm bench that serves double duty as a cooler. A swinging seat back provides forward- or aft-facing seating.
The aft deck has some bayboat-like features including two fold-down jump seats with under-seat stowage and a proper livewell between them. With the jump seats folded down there’s plenty of room back here for an angler to stretch out and fish.
The F18 is based on Bayliner’s M-shaped Element hull, which has qualities like that of a cathedral hull, but handling characteristics that are more predictable and friendly for folks new to boating. Strap on a 90-horsepower Mercury FourStroke outboard and you’ll cruise in the mid-20 mph range with a top end in the mid 30s. A 115-horsepower Mercury FourStroke outboard is an $1,143 upcharge. All in all, the Bayliner Element F18 represents a lot of bang for your boating buck in a package that’s simple and utilitarian, yet loaded with lots of fishing features.
- Length: 18’2”
- Beam: 7’5”
- Displacement: 1,607 lbs.
- Fuel Capacity: 30 gal.
Hurricane CC 21 OB
Like the Bayliner Element F18, the Hurricane CC 21 OB is another small center-console that uses the on-deck roominess of a deck boat and the utility of the center-console design to its advantage. We took an hour or so to inspect and then run this interesting new offering on Biscayne Bay during this year’s Miami International Boat Show.
The first thing we noticed when we stepped aboard was how plush and ample the interior accommodations were, especially for a 21-footer. There’s a heavily upholstered U-shaped seating area in the bow, replete with seatback inserts that form twin forward-facing lounges. A cushy bench seat sits forward of the console, while a thick, cushioned vinyl bolster surrounds the cockpit along the gunwale. The helm seat is a leaning post affair with a cooler beneath it, but it’s plenty comfortable and nicely upholstered. Aft is a full-width vinyl bench with stowage underneath and a set of four seatbacks that can be removed or installed as needed.
We especially liked the large center console, which is roomy enough below to accommodate an enclosed head compartment with porta-potty. The larger size also means you’ll have the ability to flush-mount lots of great electronics gear into the dash, including smaller multifunction displays and perhaps a VHF radio. Hurricane’s own engine gauges are included, but we’d personally go for Yamaha’s much more space-efficient and easy-to-read Command Link display. Especially nice are the high-quality lighted rocker control switches—mounted in just the right spot above the steering wheel, not hidden far below and out of reach.
Though the CC 21 has a high comfort factor, Hurricane has also baked in plenty of fishing-friendly features. The seating does reduce casting platform space a bit, but there’s still enough room both forward and aft to cast a line. Hurricane accomplishes this with filler panels that increase casting space but stow nicely out of the way when not in use. Under each gunwale is full-length rod stowage, and additional deck-mounted rod holders increase the rod stowage capacity significantly. There’s also a livewell, rod stowage boxes, insulated fish boxes forward, and a pre-wired trolling motor harness.
Our test boat was equipped with a 200-horsepower Yamaha F200 four-stroke outboard, which provided plenty of sporty performance. We zipped from zero to 20 mph in just under six seconds with a firm application of throttle, rocketing all the way up to a top end of 46.1 mph at 5,850 rpm across a very choppy Biscayne Bay. Most folks will likely cruise the CC 21 OB in the mid-20 mph range, where this boat/engine combo is most efficient, burning around 5.5 gallons per hour. Though the CC 21 OB’s freeboard is quite low, it handled the choppy conditions well, never getting us wet.
Looking for a zippy center-console with a good combination of comfort and fishing features? The Hurricane CC 21 OB is definitely one you’ll want to add to your shopping list.
- Length: 20’10”
- Beam: 8’6”
- Draft: 1’2
- Displacement: 3,960 lbs.
- Deadrise: 12.5 deg.
- Fuel Capacity: 49 gal.
Value means a lot of things to a lot of different people, especially when it comes to boats. For some folks value is purely a number—a “not to exceed figure” for a boat that may or may not do all the things they need. But for others value might mean a boat that’s equipped so well it exceeds expectations for its given price. The latter is exactly what the Robalo intended when it conceived its R180 center-console. Though the R180 is designed to appeal to somewhat budget-conscious buyers with its $29,395 pre-haggling, boat-motor-trailer price, it’s surprisingly well appointed with lots of high-quality hardware. Instead of plastic fittings you’ll find loads of stainless-steel handholds, deck fills, rod holders, popup cleats, latches, cup holders, hinges, and other high-quality hardware—and in all the right places. The helm leaning post/seat is even made of custom welded aluminum pipework with four rocket launchers for your fishing arsenal. Nothing on this boat screams “cheap,” which is a feat, given its relatively low cost of entry.
Standard power on the Robalo R180 is a 115-horsepower Yamaha F115 four-stroke outboard, though for about three grand you can upgrade to a 150-horsepower Yamaha F150 outboard. Top-end speed with the base power plant is around 40 mph, while an efficient cruise speed settles in around the low-20 mph range.
An 18-degree transom deadrise and a deep forward vee mean the R180 is designed to handle a stiff chop with ease and get you out to the big ones in comfort. Speaking of fishing, the R180 is packed with a bevy of fishing accoutrements for serious anglers. Forward is a casting deck with an insulated fish box beneath, while at the stern another casting platform has twin popup jump seats and a generous livewell. There are 14 rod holders strategically located throughout the boat with additional under-gunwale stowage on both sides. The wide center console means plenty of room for mounting fishfinding electronic goodies.
The R180 also is engineered for comfort and family fun. There’s plenty of seating in this 18-footer, with twin jump seats at the stern, a two-person seat/leaning post at the helm, and a two-person bench ahead of the console. Some might miss having any dedicated bow seating, as some other boats in this class have, but we liked that Robalo dedicated this area strictly to casting. And when nature calls, an enclosed head is neatly tucked away under the center console, and it’s more spacious than you’d expect.
On the hunt for a small center-console with lots of features for the money? The Robalo R180 sneaks in lots of goodies at just the right price.
- Length: 18’4”
- Beam: 8’0”
- Draft: 10”
- Displacement: 2,600 lbs.
- Deadrise: 18 deg.
- Fuel Capacity: 50 gal.
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