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September 21, 2007

Panga 32

The Panga 32 introduces an international star to American shores.
The Panga 32 features a soft, dry ride.

Go almost anywhere along the Mexican coast or in Central America and you are sure to find rugged outboard-powered fishing boats with a distinctive, upswept bow. More than 30 years ago, Yamaha introduced the panga hull to these areas to help boost outboard-motor sales. Using the simple, sturdy design, local boatbuilders began producing the hulls, and now pangas are almost as numerous as fishing opportunities in developing nations.

This design is even making inroads in the United States. Based in Miami, Panga Fishing Boats builds a full line of pangas for American anglers, and I recently fished its 32-foot center console off Key West, Florida.

SPECIFICATIONS
LOA 32'
Beam 8' 3"
Draft 12"
Hull Weight 3,499 lbs.
Deadrise 12 ¿
Fuel 160 gals.
Base Price $76,862
With twin 200-hp Evinrude E-TEC outboards

The 32-footer provided an impressive demonstration of fishability for fellow angler Gary Austin and me. With Captain Steve Impallomeni as our local guide, we left Stock Island and paused briefly to load up on bait. After we deposited three dozen castnetted ballyhoo in the 45-gallon live well aft of the standard leaning post, we ran through the "Lakes" toward a sunken submarine 22 miles southwest of Key West. Blustery winds, scattered rain and confused seas greeted us, but the 32 easily handled the adverse conditions. The chop increased with our approach, yet the ride remained soft and dry in the following seas.

Despite its modest eight-foot, three-inch beam, the 32 was surprinsingly stable while drifting over the wreck. A jig-and-ballyhoo combo on 30-pound spinning gear produced a seesaw battle with an amberjack for me, but my efforts were aided by the optional coaming bolsters and the deck's aggressive non-skid. During that standoff, Austin and Impallomeni were having their own fun with a pack of dolphin. Multiple hookups forced us to scurry around cockpit and console, made easy by the roominess of the boat.

Various optional twin-outboard packages provide power and confidence.

With seas building steadily to six feet and a few fish on ice, we set off for Key West. In the strong head sea, the bow had a tendency to bounce, but trimming the motors smoothed the ride out considerably - optional electric trim tabs would have corrected this situation as well.

Our test boat was equipped with a pair of 200-horsepower Evinrude E-TEC outboards, which provided plenty of power for the narrow-beamed hull. At a 4,000 rpm cruise, the boat moved along at 38.2 miles per hour with a sound reading of 96 dB-A at the helm. At wide open throttle, or 5,500 rpm, my GPS read 54.3 miles per hour (with a sound level of 102) with three passengers, gear and 95 gallons of fuel onboard in a moderate chop with winds gusting to 15 knots. Factory tests with a single 250-horsepower Evinrude E-TEC outboard produced speeds close to 50 miles per hour. For those who want the peace of mind of twin engines, a pair of 150-horsepower outboards provides both economy and performance.

The boat's 55-degree bow entry transitions aft with a wedge-shaped, flat panel called a center-placket keel that incorporates a slight downward hook to reduce bow rise. The placket also adds stability to the boat's narrow beam and gives it a shallow draft. The sweeping bow flare does a good job of reducing spray - we stayed dry, even in quarter turns into the wind. The stern bit well and held in tight maneuvers.

Impallomeni and Austin tested the fishing features of the Panga 32.

The hulls are built in Colombia to strict specifications using Japanese resins and gelcoat. The stringer system is closed-cell foam. The wood-free hull is one-inch thick throughout, offers positive flotation and includes an internal 160-gallon fuel tank beneath the console. The factory also builds vessels for the U.S. Navy and U.S. Coast Guard as well as regional governments, according to Carlos Prio, president of Panga Fishing Boats.

"We believe in low-cost boat ownership without compromising quality," Prio says. "Our pangas are affordable, low-maintenance, hard-core fishing boats. We water-test each one so they are 100-percent turnkey." After lamination, the hulls are shipped to Florida for final factory rigging where engines, consoles, hardware and options are added. A glance at the boat's wiring is a good indicator of Panga's attention to detail.

Hydraulic steering is standard, along with a stainless-steel wheel, rod holders, dual batteries, automatic bilge pumps and an Igloo cooler. The big console has a locking electronics mounting panel and room in the head compartment for a porta-potty. The forward casting deck includes a large compartment for dry storage. Notable options include a Frigid Rigid coffin box, console tackle compartment, a removable stern seat and a T-top with rocket launcher and integrated crow's nest.

If you like fancy boats, the Panga 32 probably isn't your ideal choice. But if you want an affordable, no-nonsense fish boat, it's definitely worth consideration. Panga Fishing Boats; (305) 971-7485; www.panga.com.