Carolina Skiff has long been recognized for building tough, affordable workboat-style flat-bottom skiffs. So when I arrived to test their latest boat, I was surprised to see a very different craft, one that resembled the boats my friends used when we were kids, but this one was much larger. I was curious about the boat's bottom which was reminiscent of cathedral hull designs of days gone by.
I first noticed the capacity plate, which said the boat was rated for 17 people. Surely someone had made a mistake; this boat was 25 feet long and, with 17 people aboard, would have to be more like a cruise ship in scale. However, the placard was correct - the company purposely built this boat to hold that many folks. With nine degrees of transom deadrise, this rig is certainly better suited for inshore work, or offshore duty on calmer days.
In the bow, the boat has an on-deck anchor locker, recessed stainless handrails and pop-up cleats on each side of the forward deck, as well as a large U-shaped seating area with storage under the seats and an optional deck table. An in-deck locker aft of the seating area, in front of the console, is large enough to store the cushions from the forward seating area and the table.
The console has an optional 120-quart cooler seat up front and features a starboard-side door with step-down access to the large head area, which contains a standard porta-potty or an optional electric flushing head with a nine-gallon holding tank. The business end of the console has an ample dash for gauges and flush-mount electronics. A switch panel with rocker switches to control all bait pumps, lights and the like is mounted at the base of the electronics dash, under the steering wheel.
The wheel is positioned left of center, with the binnacle to starboard. There are several leaning-post configurations available, including one with a 70-quart cooler underneath, another one with a 32-gallon livewell and one with a built-in tackle center. Our test boat had the optional T-top with four rod holders along the aft edge and spreader lights forward and aft.
There are rod, mop or gaff storage racks capable of holding 16 items under the gunwales on both the port and starboard sides of the boat. An 85-gallon fuel tank lies beneath the deck aft of the console, and along the transom, there's a full-width aft cushion seat with a livewell to port and battery storage to starboard. Under the center is a 120-quart insulated cooler. There are four backrest rod holders along the transom, and access to the bilge is via the hatch in the engine well.
Our test boat came rigged with a single 225 hp Honda four-stroke outboard and had a very solid feel. It gets on plane with no bow rise and easily slips into a comfortable, loping cruise. We tested the boat on the Intracoastal Waterway in Daytona Beach, Florida, on a chilly winter day with a 10- to 15-knot northwest wind, so we didn't have much of chance to see what it could do in a sea, but we had plenty of big boat wakes to jump and run over.
Two things are for sure - the Honda had plenty of torque, and the boat responded to the horsepower readily when asked. It carved turns with little aft-end skidding or cavitation, and I never felt like the chine would catch and trip the back end of the boat. With all its mass, the 25 Elite SS is not a speed demon, but it is plenty fast when you consider the crowd it can carry.
Carolina Skiff designed this boat to do several distinctly different things well, and the company has reached its goal in that the craft is fully capable of accomplishing any deck-boat task yet also offers easy cleanup due to its fiberglass decks and construction. As a bay boat, the 25 Elite can compete on the long cross-bay runs and still get shallow enough to catch a few. It's no technical shallow-water skiff, but with its 103-inch beam, it is as stable as solid ground when you want to cast and move around the deck while fishing.
When your budget has you sharpening your pencil but you desire a multitude of things from your boat and want to include the whole family and your neighbors, the 25 Elite is ready to roll.
Carolina Skiff 25 Elite SS
Draft......7" to 9"
Carolina Skiff / 800-422-7282 / www.carolinaskiff.com