MIAMI — Sales figures show that consumers are hungry for saltwater outboard boats and builders responded on the opening day of the Progressive Miami International Boat Show with an onslaught of new vessels ranging from 19 to 41 feet.
Four of the five new-boat press conferences I covered on Thursday were for center-console boats.
The day started with a bang: Mako unveiled its largest center console ever, the Mako 334 CC, powered with twin Mercury Verado 400R outboards that the builder says can push the boat to speeds greater than 60 mph. We’ll see. I am scheduled to sea-trial the boat this afternoon.
“We had a few key customers who were hot for a bigger center console and we were ready to deliver it to them,” Mako Boats senior project engineer Chuck Mooney said.
The 334 CC is a heavily built, rugged fish boat that can also serve as a family day boat. Mako also debuted two smaller center consoles — the Pro 19 (with Mercury’s new 115 Pro XS FourStroke) and the Pro 21 Skiff.
Next up was the Cobia 261 CC, which replaces the first Cobia ever built under the ownership of the Maverick Boat Co. — the 256 CC. Maverick acquired the Cobia brand in 2005. The 261 will join the rest of the second-generation Cobia fleet, which includes the most recently introduced 296, 344 and 277 models. The 261 CC features a forward console head door and deluxe twin helm seats, and it can be powered with twin Yamaha F150s or F200s.
The Chris-Craft Capri 25 is the second member of the Capri "Vertical Bow" family, following on the heels of the Capri 21, which hit the water in 2013. Similar to the 21, the Capri 25 includes design elements from the brand's original DNA and harks back to the Chris-Craft vertical bow models of the 1930s.
During the press introduction, Chris-Craft president and CEO Stephen Hess demonstrated one of the boat’s many innovative features — the portside stern walkway, which cleverly rises to become part of the aft sunpad that spans the beam of the boat.
Pursuit Boats introduced its S 408 Sport center console — the largest Pursuit ever built — and the DC 295 dual console. Pursuit retail sales are up 36 percent from last year, said Tom Slikkers, president of S2 Yachts, Pursuit’s parent company.
“That’s affirmation that our new product is aligning with what customers want and how they want to use their boats,” he told a crowd of 100 people at the outdoor Pursuit display.
He also said Pursuit has upgraded the interior of its SC 365i sport coupe with new upholstery and other improvements. “We’re going to have a lot of happy new customers very soon,” Slikkers said.
Boston Whaler continued its lengthy run of annual new-boat introductions with the debut of the 280 Outrage center console. With more flare at the bow, increased freeboard and a deeper cockpit, the 280 Outrage better fulfills its mission as an offshore center console, said sales and marketing vice president Jeff Vaughn.
Last year the company introduced two other Outrages — the 330 and 250.
With the Outrage fleet, Boston Whaler aims to present boats that are simple, comfortable and fishable, as well as having the look and performance of a durable offshore platform, said Vaughn. The 280 carries a distinctly different profile from the previous 280 Outrage, which was launched in 2008. The bow is taller, and the rubrail traces the sheer line closely instead of dropping aft.
On Wednesday before the show opened I had an opportunity to test another new center console, a 31-footer from one of the fastest-growing builders in the business — Sportsman Boats, of Summerville, S.C.
With twin Yamaha F350s, the 312 Open rocketed out of the hole and easily exceeded 60 mph. This boat, which has a deep-vee bottom, was built for slicing through tough head seas, but it also has a softer side, with luxurious interior accommodations and plentiful upholstered seating.