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September 21, 2007

Century 1800

This versatile center console is ready to fish.

The 1800 from Century is a sprightly little boat with plenty of simplicity, yet comes standard with enough critical details to make it ready to fish in a variety of situations. We had the chance to test the first hull of the new 1800 recently in Panama City, Florida, which offered plenty of back-bay cruising, fishing on the grass flats and some real testing of seaworthiness running out St. Andrews Pass against a steady wind and hard-running tide.

At the bow, recessed cleats stay clear of castnets and toes for a clean platform, if you opt to step up on the bow to net bait or gain a little extra casting distance. The bow casting deck also features a drop-down hatch that leads to the anchor locker. Low bow rails along the covering boards are handy yet out of the way for fishing. The bow casting platform is clean and simple, yet very fishable.

The bow storage compartment is not a fishbox, as it drains into the bilge. Still, it is roomy and useful for holding a variety of things that need to be stored aboard or taken along for a day on the water. An optional insert and overboard drain easily convert it to a fishbox. Two-piece construction makes for easy cleanup and simplified detailing at the end of the day. The cockpit sole sits above the waterline to prevent water from running in, no matter how many anglers you carry, and the scuppers are ball-valved to prevent water from flowing back into the cockpit. A drop-down lid on the transom bulkhead allows access for bilge chores and maintenance. Everything on this boat can be conveniently serviced.

Standard features include a three-tray, built-in tackle box; bait well; console seating with backrest and hinged bottom cushion; full instrumentation (including a Yamaha Multi-Function fuel gauge); a 28-quart insulated cooler in the console; four gunwale-mounted, stainless-steel rod holders and a 13-gallon live well.

The console interior offers abundant dry storage, and this is where the batteries reside as well. Ahead of the console is a 36-quart, built-in cooler topped by a padded seat. Two molded-in rod holders on each side of the console are standard, and there is room to mount an additional one. A standard tackle drawer is built into the console.

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SPECIFICATIONS

LOA: 17' 10"
Beam: 7' 8"
Weight w/o power: 1,500 lbs.
Deadrise: 15 ¿
Fuel: 47 gals.
Max. hp: 130
Base price w/o power: $16,371

Recessed switches prevent those accidental adjustments that happen so easily in a small boat. The bait well is fed by a Shurflo 800-gph pump and fitted with a standpipe overflow. In addition, the filler line has an air inlet to oxygenate the well water to keep the livies frisky.

Our test boat was rigged out with a Yamaha 115 four-stroke that, at 4000 rpm, gave 27 mph. When the engine was pushed to 5000 rpm the boat topped out at 34 mph. We swung into St. Andrews Pass on a busy afternoon. Lots of boat traffic had the water confused, and close and steep three-to-fives were the rule. It made no sense to put the hull through a torture test, so we slowed it down and drove the waves both heading out and coming back in. The power and the hull configuration handled the big stuff nicely. Positive steering control and good acceleration due to the weight and size made it easy to drive the waves and maneuver very comfortably at planing speed. Mechanical steering is standard, but hydraulic, should you prefer it, is available as an option.

The ride in the mixed-up mess was buoyant, stable and sound. The 1800 didn't dive on the downside of the waves and its 18 feet were plenty maneuverable to take it all in stride, until we got back inside and could run onto the grass flats and give it a little fishing test. Transverse bulkheads fore to aft stiffen the hull and make it solid and responsive even when the seas get a bit bigger than you expected. The 1800 rides flat and level, helped along by complete foam filling beneath the decks, and the ribbed hull sides, which also add stiffness without adding weight. Foam filling also allows the hull to float awash should that misfortune ever beset you.

The 1800's shallow draft let us run on the shallow part of the trout flats, and drift with the breeze. We had ample fishing space, and another angler or two aboard would not have been any trouble. (We would have appreciated the seatrout doing their job as well as the 1800 did.) The low deadrise makes for a stable fishing platform and the lack of tenderness belied the fact that we were in an 18-footer. It's a great entry-level boat, a handy fishing boat for protected waters and also makes a good tender for a bigger boat. And, as we found out, if the afternoon breeze kicks up against a hard-running tide, it will keep you feeling in control when the ride home gets interesting.

Century Boats, Panama City, FL; (850) 769-0311; www.centuryboats.com.