The newest release from Robalo, the R200, is a solid and versatile package with a lot of quality and functionality stuffed into its 20 feet. Designed as a fishing boat first and foremost, it also is well suited as tender, a sunset cruiser or a run-down-the-ICW-for-dinner boat. It's solid enough, safe enough and simple enough to turn the kids loose in, too.
This outfit is put together to last. Inside the hull, a box-beam stringer grid provides the structure. Robalo calls it Unitized Construction, and quite simply, the stringer grid is completely covered with roving and glassed solidly to the hull, so everything is essentially one piece. It'sa solid concept and makes for a sound hull.
Stringers are pressure-treated wood - a proven material in boatbuilding, even in this day of all-composite construction, when the manufacturer knows how to use it to his best advantage. Between the weight of the stringer grid and the material required to anchor it, this hull is about 15 percent heavier than comparably sized boats, which can be a good thing. It makes for solid, steady handling and a good, anchored ride when the going gets rough. The foam filling beneath the deck quiets the whole thing down and also provides positive flotation in the event of the worst possible scenario.
Weight is one of the things that determines a good ride; deadrise is another. The R200 has a bottom that's modeled after the blue-water demands met by the larger boats in the Robalo line. There are three distinct deadrise angles between the keel and the hard chine. Robalo calls this Hydro Lift. At the keel, where most of the pressure is, deadrise is 19 degrees. This shifts to 17 degrees on the first dihedral and 15 degrees at the hull side, ending in a three-degree reverse chine.
It is this design, with three progressive angles, that Robalo uses to generate lift. It's an entirely different approach to lift than using strakes or pads to make the hull plane. The strength of this design makes for stability at slow speeds, while trolling and at rest. And up and running, the sharp entry cuts the waves, but not at the expense of stability.
Our test boat was powered by a Yamaha HPDI 200-hp outboard, which pushed it along at just under 50 mph at cruise. The ride proved the theory behind the design, as it was soft and secure. In close quarters, the R200 maneuvered nicely, backing equally well to both sides.
The helm offers good visibility and control, with plenty of foot space molded into the right places. The throttle was a bit cramped, but this might be addressed with adjustment of the mechanism to improve the throw. Between the two built-in vertical rod racks on the console, under-gunwale racks, gunwale-mounted rod holders, and the standard leaning post, there is room for 16 rods. The side of the console also has a tackle-storage compartment with removable boxes.
At the bow, a casting platform/sundeck overlays the 120-quart fishbox that drains overboard. The rope locker forward, molded for a Danforth-style anchor to hang inverted, is easy to reach. In the leaning post, an 80-quart live well is fitted with an overboard drain and a dedicated pump. A separate pump powers the raw-water washdown. Water systems are plumbed with high-pressure, marine-grade hose, eliminating the weak point that often surfaces in lighter, accordion-type water lines.
Jumpseats in the transom corners provide extra seating, and there is storage beneath the cushions. The open-transom design - less and less common these days - is still a safe and effective design, and, in the case of a 20-footer, the additional space is a great benefit. Access to the bilge and pumps is convenient at the transom, while the console offers good access to the two batteries, switches and bus bar. All fittings are through-bolted or tapped into aluminum mounting plates beneath the surface. Wiring is all sized two gauges larger than it needs to be, and everything connects with waterproof terminal plugs.
Overall, the R200 is a versatile boat, fitted out thoughtfully for fishing and reliability. If you can do it in a 20-footer, you can do it well in this one.
Robalo Boats, Nashville, GA; (229) 686-2700;