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September 21, 2007

High-Grade Everglades

Innovative design and fishing functionality earn the Everglades 290 CC a serious look.


The Everglades 290 CC sports an integrated windshield.

Everglades Boats continues to flourish, unlike the struggling River of Grass that is its namesake. Following the successful launch of its largest model yet - the 290 Pilot - this Florida-based company has introduced a center console that will appeal to anglers who would gladly trade the shelter of a pilothouse for fishing room. I had the chance to run the 290 CC last fall and the boat made a lasting impression.

We try to test boats by fishing on them whenever possible, but extreme weather conditions forced us to make other plans. An approaching storm was still hundreds of miles away, but the building seas were jacked as high as monster trucks when we approached Ponce Inlet. We motored past the semi-submerged rock jetties and then through the cascading eight-footers. The bow never stuffed and, when we came off the backside of each wave, the landing was as soft as a down pillow. My sunglasses did mist once from spray blown by the steady wind, but otherwise I remained completely dry.

SPECIFICATIONS
Length 28' 7"
Beam 9' 9"
Draft 1' 8"
Fuel 200 gals.
Price $162,308
w/ twin 225-hp four-stroke Honda outboards

After that eye-opening day at the inlet, I'm confident the 290 CC will perform equally as well under normal fishing conditions. It has an aggressive hull design - the deadrise averages 37 degrees and makes the transition to 21 at the transom - so it's very sea-kindly. I didn't feel any shimmers or shakes while underway and the hull bites well and holds under hard turns. It is really a pleasure to drive.

Despite its weight - approximately 4,800 pounds - the 290 CC can also scoot right along, as I found out once we returned to calmer water. With a pair of 225-horsepower four-stroke Honda outboards strapped on the back, the center console registered a top speed on the GPS of 49.4 miles per hour with five people and 110 gallons of fuel onboard. When pulling the throttles back to a cruising pace of 4,500 rpm, the boat made 37.6 miles per hour while burning a miserly 21.5 gallons per hour. At that rate, you can expect a 275-nautical-mile range. That's a lot of water to fish.

Like all Everglades Boats, the 290 CC is built using the Rapid Molded Core Assembly Process construction, otherwise known as RAMCAP. With this technique, pre-formed closed-cell structural foam is chemically bonded to the hull and deck, and then everything is fused together under extreme pressure. Not only does this in effect create a super-strong one-piece boat that is unsinkable according to the manufacturer, the process also eliminates air voids between the hull and deck, allowing for more interior room. With RAMCAP, the company offers a limited, transferable ten-year hull warranty on all its models.

Everglades has put plenty of fishing features into this sturdy hull, starting with 1181/2 square feet of cockpit room. The combination leaning post and bait station includes a huge 66-gallon live well, a bait-prep area with a sink, fresh water and convenient tackle storage. A rocket launcher on the hardtop combines with several rod holders in the gunwales and transom to keep plenty of outfits at the ready, while the twin lockers in the bow stow rods up to seven feet long and lock for security. A deep storage compartment in the bow deck has a macerated drain.

Just like the pilothouse version, the 290 CC is loaded with innovations. The integrated hardtop and windshield have supports that are built into the console to allow more room to move around without banging elbows. Those supports and the handrails are powder-coated for a sleek, fresh look and corrosion protection. The windshield is actually tall enough to block the wind without hindering vision, and is equipped with a windshield wiper and washer and built-in vents to circulate air. The console houses an enclosed head. All of these features are standard, as the company includes almost everything in the base price. On the 290 CC, for example, the option list is limited to Taco outriggers, console heat, a stereo system and an auxiliary fuel tank.

The integrated cooler compartment is another thoughtful addition on this boat. Located in the port corner of the transom, the vertical cooler slides out on tracks into the cockpit. The cooler can be removed, so it's easy to load at home or at the dock. Right next to it is a stowaway bench seat that flips up and does double duty as an aft bolster, as well as opening to allow access to the bilge. A pair of wraparound bolster-style seats mounted in front of the console, coupled with a beefy leaning post, mean the 290 CC can handle a sizable crew.

Everglades Boats has plans to introduce two new boats per year in the next five years. If those models are anything like the 290 CC, expect to see more solid hulls with innovative designs from this builder in the future. Everglades Boats; (386) 409-2202; www.evergladesboats.com