Quality tooling and a high level of fit and finish are immediately evident on the Cape Island 18 Bay Boat from Bone Boats. The design is classic, with lines seldom seen in a boat this size. The wide, Carolina-style bow flare flows gracefully into the sheer, making a slight drop amidships and creating a look that is both stylish and functional. The extra width up front proved its worth, adding dryness and comfort in a heavy mixed chop on our test run. Overall, this hull exemplifies the great seakeeping ability and performance of its Carolina-design legacy.
The hull weighs in at 1,600 pounds, and features a cored, foam-filled two-piece construction that incorporates a cut-out transom, which easily accommodates a jackplate. With two planing strakes and a hard chine, all running the full length of the bottom, this boat holds well in the turns and feels remarkably solid. In mixed conditions or smooth cruising, it responds quickly, remains dry and does not bounce.
Handling is tight, solid and very nimble, and the hull is heavy enough to stay put in a sizeable chop. As we put the 18 through its paces, nothing was quite so notable as the way it stuck to the water. There was no slack or slip in the turns, whether executed in confused chop or big-boat wakes. This is a buoyant hull. It sits, rides and remains high, with an ability to hug the water in all conditions and at all speeds that is a bit uncanny. There is no slop whatsoever in the response, and this is evident at all speeds and directions. It's just plain fun to drive.
In reverse, the hull catches at once and turns quickly to both port and starboard. There's none of the guesswork often associated with smaller hulls, where prop torque and hull design often make maneuvering in tight quarters a bit of a wait-and-see proposition. Our test boat was rigged with a 140-hp Suzuki four-stroke, though the 18 is available with a choice of engines up to 150 hp. It exhibited great low-speed handling, staying on plane down to 3000 rpm and topping out at just under 50 mph wide open.
At rest, the bay boat is stable and solid. Even with three men standing on one side, the hull stayed relatively level, with no uncomfortable or surprising list. A non-skid pattern is molded into all topside surfaces, providing solid footing when you walk the covering boards and deck areas. At the bow, everything is recessed, including lights, cleats and the fuel-fill cap. A big, open bin beneath the bow deck provides plenty of room for wet or dry storage, and is plumbed to drain overboard. The interior of the bin is fully molded and gelcoated.
The console is distinctive, and reminiscent of a Rybovich design. Height and binnacle placement demand some tweaking here, as builder Jean-Marc Tuleu pointed out. He explained the configuration was undergoing some revision, but that's about the only element of this remarkable bay boat that needs modification. On our test boat, the reach was a bit long for a tall driver to two-block the throttle while standing. When seated, it required an uncomfortable reach around the steering wheel to adjust the speed. The console is also available in a larger model that features a windshield to meet the demands of Northeast boaters who face harsher conditions than those in southern climes.
Hydraulic steering and a tilt wheel are both standard. Tilt and trim-tab switches are set underneath the rear overhang of the console, where they are handy and out of the weather. Courtesy lights at your feet illuminate the deck for safety and efficiency at night, without the glare of a bulb in your eyes, which can ruin your night vision. The console is fitted with a convenient grab bar, and electrical access lies inside the console, behind a lockable tip-out storage bin to port.
Inside the gunwales, beneath hinged lids in the covering boards, wide and deep rod-storage racks are fitted with tip tubes to protect long rods. All hardware and latches are electropolished stainless by Gemlux.
Beneath the rear platform, storage is abundant. To starboard, a hatch holds batteries and other utility items. A matching compartment to port serves as a dry box or optional live well. The oval center live well is fed via 5/8-inch plumbing for quick fill and water exchange, and features a high-speed pickup, as well as a pump. The forward edge of the rear platform raises to reveal a seven-foot fishbox that runs the width of the boat and drains overboard. The interior is molded and gelcoated for easy cleanup.
Rod holders are numerous and well located. There are four flush-mounts on the rear platform and two more up front, in the covering boards, where they are handily placed to hold a rod when you are fishing from the bow. Right out of the factory, the Cape Island 18 Bay Boat is set up to fish efficiently - and to get you there in comfort and style.
Bone Boats, Metairie, LA; (504) 828-5089;