EASTPOINT, Fla. — In the shallow waters of the Gulf of Mexico off the Florida Panhandle, flats boats and bay boats account for a healthy chunk of the recreational craft on the water.
These boats do the job in the skinny water that blankets the coast in areas such as Apalachicola, Fla. But a totally different kind of craft — one found chiefly in colder climates — also can be found plying the waters here.
Wefing’s Marine in Eastpoint, Fla., just a few miles from Apalachicola, has made its mark with pilothouse boats with origins in the Northeast and on the West Coast. I had a chance earlier this month to spend the day with Wefing’s co-owner Marc Grove and Bruce Perkins of Eastern Boats, the New Hampshire company that builds Eastern, Seaway and Rosborough boats. I was there to test the new Rosborough RF-246 pocket cruiser.
This pilothouse’s shallow draft (24 inches with the outboard down) and air-conditioned deckhouse attract Southern boaters, said Grove, who has owned Wefing’s with a silent partner since November 1999.
Compared with other high-powered small boats under 30 feet with upwards of 700 hp, the single-outboard-powered Rosborough sips fuel. The RF-246 typically is powered with a four-cylinder 200-hp outboard mounted to an Armstrong bracket. They run just fine with a 150, said Grove, and can be powered with twins, too — 115s, or 150s.
“Since they’re economical, they’re popular among former sailors who no longer have the time for sailing,” said Grove, who also sells a wide variety of bay boats. “I call them recovering sailors.”
A single Yamaha F150 gives the boat a top speed of 25 mph. She gets 4 mpg at about 16 mph. With a Yamaha F200, our test boat hit a top speed of about 35 mph and cruised comfortably from 20 to 25 mph.
Grove said Rosboroughs are “built like tanks” and described their interiors as “not fancy for the sake of flashiness, but nice.”
Several years ago, New Hampshire-based Eastern Boats purchased the tooling and molds for the Rosborough RF-246 from its original builder in Nova Scotia and launched a redesigned version (first shown at the 2014 Newport International Boat Show). Rosborough sales manager Peter Brown said the interior layouts have been “dressed up” and given some yacht-like characteristics.
“We gave it a little bit of ‘bling,’” added Perkins. “The previous boat was utilitarian and everything was kind of bland.”
Since Eastern took over, Wefing’s has sold five Rosborough RF-246s, said Grove. “The interest seems to be increasing on a regular basis,” said Grove, who started his career in California working for West Marine.
Eastern has upgraded the Rosborough’s interior, added a teak high-low articulating table, replaced the halogen lighting with LEDs and added teak trim to the pilothouse interior.
Also the boat is now offered with three interior arrangements, each with its own name — Halifax, Yarmouth and Digby. The Halifax and Yarmouth models keep the head in the forward V-berth; on the Digby it’s in the aft starboard area of the pilothouse.
The Halifax has a full-size convertible settee to port (with a dinette table that can also be used in the cockpit), and the Yarmouth features a four-person dinette. Both have larger galleys than the Digby. The V-berth has been extended from about 6 feet, 2 inches, to 7 feet on the Digby and Halifax. On all models the hull, deck and pilothouse structure remain the same.
She’s an enclosed boat, allowing owners to escape the sun. The large windows pull in plenty of natural light, and owners like the two sliding deckhouse side doors for quick deck access and ventilation, said Grove.
In addition to Eastern and the Rosborough boats from Eastern, Wefing’s carries a slew of other brands, including Twin Vee, Rossiter, C-Dory, SeaSport, Osprey, CapeCraft, Clearwater and Outcast skiffs.
Grove sells and services Yamaha, Suzuki, Honda and Tohatsu outboards. Wefing’s employs four full-time technicians.
The Halifax and Yarmouth models are $122,000 with a 150, and the Digby is $129,900. Add about $3,500 for the 200-hp engine. Both test boats were from $145,000 to $150,000 with their options. With a Float-On trailer the boat would cost about $152,000.