The 2600 Offshore is the top of the lineup in Carolina Skiff's new Offshore series. The company plans to build out to over 30 feet eventually, but for 2003 this 26-footer is the biggest offshore boat available. Our test boat was waiting at Jekyll Island, Georgia, rigged with twin Yamaha F225s. Seas were big and bumpy heading out to the ocean against a stiff wind. We were loaded like a family-and-friends weekend trip, with six passengers. This would be quite a crowd for a day of offshore fishing, but it is no problem for this versatile boat. Two hundred gallons of fuel rounded out the load.
Despite the big seas and heavy load, the 2600 moved along nicely, with the twin four-stoke outboards pushing us at 57.5 mph at 6000 rpm. On the other end, we were able to maintain plane below 25 mph, and it began to fall off below 2500 rpm. Turning was tight and secure, with half a turn of the wheel giving us a smooth right angle. The standard electric Lenco 9-by-12-inch trim tabs are sized just about right for the weight of the hull. Rigged with twins, as ours was, it's possible to get the hull up and out of the hole on one motor alone, which can sure shorten a limp-home trip if you happen to spin a prop or lose an engine far from port.
The fold-down bench at the transom provides a cushy ride in the most comfortable part of the boat - especially when the going is bumpy, as it was on our test day. In the starboard corner, a 30-gallon live well is fed by a 700-gph pump, tricked out with both an interior light and a high-speed pickup. A screw-in standpipe lets you adjust the overflow and completely drain the well for cleaning. The recirculating design of the live well is augmented by an aerator spray at the top of the tank to keep baits healthy. A transom door on the port corner provides access to the roomy Euro-transom, which provides good space for servicing the outboards. A full-length gasketed hatch on the transom platform provides a large opening for access to the interior of the platform and bilge. The transom door is equipped with a stainless slam latch that offers a lot of security. When it's open, it's open. When it's closed, it's latched.
Beneath the cockpit sole are twin fishboxes, port and starboard that drain out the back, overboard, so there are no pumps and nothing running into the bilge. This keeps things simple when you're dealing with the inevitable gurry and scales. Additionally, a 6 1/2-foot fishbox in the bow deck provides abundant space for just about anything you want to ice down. Matched port and starboard rod racks beneath the covering boards in the cockpit hold a total of six rods, and another four flush-mounts on the gunwales allow the boat to carry a full arsenal.
The low-profile console makes visibility all around easy and safe. The helm is nicely laid out with rocker switches for all accessories and pumps on the starboard, a well-placed throttle with good clear throw all the way forward, and a Gemlux stainless wheel that's standard.
The full-width bench helm seat features a fold-down footrest when you choose to cruise sitting down, and flips up out of the way for stand-up driving. The seat assembly includes four vertical rod holders along the rear of the backrest, a cutting board surface and a gasketed storage box with slide-out tackle trays. There's ample room underneath for a cooler. Inside the console is room for a portable head, and of course there's plenty of storage space for both personal gear and tackle. The forward side of the cockpit has a fold-down jumpseat, convenient for passengers and gear, but out of the way when you need the fishing space. It's sturdy too. Two large adults stayed put through pounding head seas, and its safe to say the seat can bear anything the occupants are able to withstand.
Fitted out for fishing, with plenty of options available, and priced in the 20s, the 2600 will definitely find a home with anglers looking to push their horizons beyond the back bays.
Carolina Skiff, Waycross, GA; (800) 422-7282;