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September 21, 2007

Pathfinder 2300 Offshore

This venerable builder of bay and flats boats sets its sights on blue water.

The 2300 Offshore is Pathfinder's initial foray into the world of blue-water fishing, and no one familiar with the tradition at Pathfinder (and its parent company, Maverick) of thinking and rethinking minute details to serve the most demanding anglers will be surprised by the quality of this boat. The 2300 represents advanced technology on a couple of counts. First, it appears to be designed from the bottom up to accommodate the new four-stroke engines, in this case the Yamaha 225. Second, the construction process is strictly cutting edge.

All four components - the hull, stringer grillage, cockpit and deck cap - are vacuum-infused. The result is a laminate with no voids, no excess resin and a remarkably efficient mat-to-resin ratio. That means maximum strength and minimum weight.

The performance stats, gathered by Yamaha technicians, are telling. The 2300 shows a range of 450 miles at a cruising speed of 27 mph at 3600 rpm, while burning 6.4 gph. Top speed, at 6000 rpm, scratches 50 mph.

Our initial test at the Miami Boat Show was hurried. We slammed the 2300 through a tough shakedown and found nary a soft spot. Running down Government Cut through a nasty mixed chop, the paired, full-length strakes and slight reverse chine kept the hull flat and dry. Once offshore, the more predictable but still-sloppy two- to four-footers provided another angle on seaworthiness. It was not a day we would have chosen to go fishing, yet we were perfectly comfortable. And more importantly, we felt entirely secure. You get the feeling this little boat can handle a lot more than you can. Even when the hull failed to bridge the wavetops to remain level, the landing was uneventful - sudden, but soft.

Pathfinder 2300 OffshoreTo prove another point, Pathfinder designer Paul Ellig grabbed the throttle and slammed us full bore into reverse. We didn't take a drop of water, and control remained excellent while backing both to port and starboard. You could handle a big fish in heavier seas than you'd care to in this boat, and stay dry and safe doing it.

Our second run a week later gave us a chance to really fish the 2300. Outside of Ft. Pierce Inlet we met a 12-foot ground swell blanketed by a steady chop. No problem. And while the cobia we were seeking failed to materialize, dolphin, sharks and jacks let us put the 2300 through its paces.

It would have taken a lot more baits than we had to crowd the 45-gallon live well mounted aft of the driver's seat. This is a bait hotel. The lid seals tight when closed, and once full, the well neither sloshes nor leaks. Nor does it beat up delicate baits. It's filled by a 2700-gph pump located in the transom bulkhead, and there is easy access to the pumps, the through-hull fittings and other equipment housed in the transom.

Especially cool are the twin pitch-bait wells in the transom corners. Fed by a pair of 360-gph pumps, they let you keep rigged baits alive and ready. Clear Lucite lids let you make sure the baits are ready to go to work.

To port and starboard are twin 60-inch fishboxes that drain to a macerator pump. Amidships, a storage box at the transom can be rigged as an additional live well if desired. All told, there are six in-deck storage compartments on this boat.

All pump switches are recessed above the live-well lid, where they can be operated from the cockpit. Raw and fresh water hose bibbs are located in the transom corners. The entire cockpit is deeply guttered, very dry, and the fit and finish of the deck hatches is reminiscent of flats-boat detail. All hinges and latches are Gemlux stainless.

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SPECIFICATIONS

LOA: 23' 6"
Beam: 8' 6"
Draft: 16"
Weight: 2,300 lbs.
Deadrise: 20 ¿
Fuel: 110 gals. std.
140 gals. opt.
Max. hp: 300
Base price w/ Yamaha 225
4-stroke outboard: $44,660

A roomy console features standard hydraulic steering and plenty of room for electronics and vertical rod racks, five on each side. The sub-console compartment, accessed via a two-piece locking door at the front, provides access to electronics and storage, and has room for a porta potty.

The optional T-top fastens to the console - and this console isn't going anywhere. It's methacrylate-glued to a deck collar, then lag-bolted into aluminum plates molded into the stringers. Sitting atop the sunshade, an optional observation seat provides a ride that's rock-solid, even at speed.

Evenly spaced around the gunwales are nine flush-mounted rod holders. The bow features pop-up lights and a pop-up cleat ahead of the anchor locker, where exceptionally wide covering boards provide a steady platform for throwing a castnet or fighting a fish. Under-gunwale racks built into the covering-board gussets hold more rods, a gaff and a tagging stick.

Space aboard the 2300 is maximized, and with two or three anglers working the floor, things are just about where they should be. It's remarkably efficient for a small offshore boat. In an arena where size is usually everything, smart design - and pedigree - count for a lot.

Pathfinder, Ft. Pierce, FL; (561) 465-0631; www.pathfinderboats.com.