The Conch 27 is a thoroughbred in the world of center consoles, the type of boat that always ends up on the final list of those looking at the best the market has to offer. Key West guides helped design the boat, so the layout is one that serious fishermen have admired since its introduction.
We reviewed the outboard model several years back and found it impressive, but a newer inboard model has since been released, and many guides and high-end aficionados of the sport have embraced the new setup. We tested the personal boat of Captain John Stark of Key West, one of those who swear by the inboard.
Efficient Diesel Setup
Stark's 27, aptly named Therapy, is powered by a single 315-hp Cummins B-Series diesel engine, coupled to a straight inboard shaft and propeller system. With a full load of fuel and three guys aboard, the Cummins pushed the boat 24 knots at 2200 rpm. The 315-hp B-Series should burn somewhere around 12 to 14 gallons per hour at that rpm, so it's easy to see the attraction of the single diesel. You'll save quite a bit of fuel over a twin-outboard rig, and still have respectable speed. Wide-open, the 27 reached 2800 rpm and 30.3 knots. The extra weight the diesel provides seems to help the ride, too. The Conch 27 has always had a great (and dry) ride, but the new boat feels even more solid and beefier.
As we said before, the 27 is a model of fishing efficiency when it comes to layout. Take the bow area, for example. Conch uses pop-up lights and cleats to keep the area snag-free, and there are coaming pads 360 degrees around the boat. There's an in-deck anchor locker just aft of the bow, and a locker under the bow that holds the lifejackets.
A very large above-deck fishbox, or coffin box, is the center of attention forward. The coffin can be used as a single, large fishbox, or you can divide it into several smaller compartments, as Stark has done. The coffin box makes great sense for those who fish hard because it is always handy, drains overboard, and can hold a lot of little fish, or a few really big ones. It's also a great place to sit when in the bow.
This coffin is hinged so the whole box can tilt to one side, revealing a cavernous storage area beneath it. Therapy has its fresh water tank mounted down there, but you can use the space for storing just about anything. The boat's live well was located in-deck, between the coffin box and the console. Two wing boxes outboard of the well extend forward beneath the deck and will hold lots of loose gear.
The engine is accessed by swinging the front console seat out (you lose the insulated icebox beneath the seat in the inboard version). The front of the engine is entirely exposed, and the rear part can be reached through the back of the console. Everything is easy to get to, including the batteries, which are installed in a heavy-duty tray above the engine, along with a toolbox. The tray can be removed for complete engine access.
Most boats now come with adequate room for mounting electronics, but the Conch has an electronics space that dwarfs most of them. This is a boat for those of you who are serious about electronics. For instance, our test boat had a ten-inch radar and a ten-inch sounder, a loran, a large water-temperature readout (all Furuno equipment), plus a Simrad ADF and a Northstar 952X GPS/plotter. That's a lot of equipment for a 27-foot boat.
Another benefit of the inboard design is the lack of an outboard motor well or engine bracket to deal with. The roomy cockpit has absolutely nothing to get in your way. Four hatches in the cockpit offer inner-hull access, one to reach the shaft log and three spread out just forward of the transom.
The inboard 27 still comes with all of the good stuff that made the Conch famous, including a rugged foam-core, composite stringer system with five transverse frames, along with an impressive amount of rod storage. If you're the type of fisherman who appreciates economy over high speed, or if engine longevity sounds good, this new version of the Conch 27 may be just up your alley.
Edey and Duff, Ltd., Mattapoisett, MA; (508) 758-2743; www.conch27.com.