After a lengthy hiatus, SeaCraft debuted two new boats on the show circuit this spring, and fans of this cult classic won't be disappointed. The SC26 Master Angler and the SC23 Tournament Edition (the kingfish version) both retain the variable stepped-hull design made famous by Carl Moesly, but slight tweaks have made a great running boat - and fishing machine - even better. I had a chance to see the evolution myself during a recent shakedown cruise across Florida's Biscayne Bay.
As I made my way from the anchor locker to the integrated engine bracket taking notes, design engineers Mark Biddison and John Bower explained the rationale behind the long-awaited project. For starters, they wanted to modify the hull slightly to reduce spray and improve handling at higher speeds. They also wanted to simplify systems to make the boats as serviceable and dependable as possible. And finally, they wanted a hardcore fish boat that would qualify for the under-23-foot category on the kingfish tour (the 23 TE) as well as a family center console for weekend fun (the 26 MA). With the SeaCraft reputation in mind, the two industry veterans were given a carte-blanche budget to reach their objectives.
While idling out the no-wake zone into the bay, Bower told me they had been refining the hull design over the past couple of years by experimenting with a running plug. The original design - with three longitudinal panels, or steps - was modified slightly. The running strakes were lengthened to improve speed and handling at wide-open throttle and reduce spray without sacrificing the brand's famous soft entry and stability at rest. The result is a variable deadrise hull with 20.5 degrees at the transom. In more practical terms, it's a hot rod of a boat that likes to jump on top and stay there with a devil-may-care attitude.
Our test boat was rigged with a pair of 200 hp Mercury Verado four-strokes, and it popped on plane within a couple boat lengths. It ran a respectable 50.5 miles per hour with a normal load. The boat was dry regardless of the heading in a moderate chop and cut through the waves like a bullet. Power-assisted hydraulic steering gave effortless control, and the hull handled tight turns without hesitation. Serious speed demons will probably want to up the horsepower to the maximum 500 rating. With those ponies, the 26 will easily eclipse the 60-mile-per-hour mark, Bower told me. At rest in a beam-to sea, the boat was rock solid even when I leaned over the wraparound cockpit coaming pads.
This boat also earns high marks for simplicity and rugged construction, which should mean more dependable operation in the long run. For example, the electrical system, always a problem child in the salt water environment, was streamlined considerably. Expensive military-grade switches wired to a bus bar inside the console reduce troublesome electrical connections by half. Indicator lights are used only when needed, although LED red and white courtesy lighting under the cap and T-top provide the necessary illumination. Triple spreader lights (two aft and one forward) also come standard.
The new boats are built using four major components, including the hull, integrated fiberglass stringer grid system, cockpit liner and ring cap. The four longitudinal stringers extend beyond the transom to intersect between each engine for structural integrity. Five horizontal stringers tie in to the anchor locker, transom and ring cap to minimize flex.
SeaCraft uses a combination of knit and woven roving fiberglass mat with a vinylester topcoat. Wood-free Airlite coring material and aluminum molded into the transom laminate add strength. Bonding of the parts is accomplished with chemical adhesives and through-bolting. The 26 hull is backed by a non-prorated, transferable seven-year warranty.
The gas tank is another sign of SeaCraft's commitment to durability. It is made of 14-inch aluminum coated with a coal-tar epoxy. It rests on neoprene pads on aluminum mounts so it can be rinsed off occasionally. The main capacity is 179 gallons, although an additional 38 gallons can be added for a safety reserve.
SeaCraft also devoted special attention to the boat's livewell system. An integrated raw-water sea chest in the aft-cockpit compartment provides pump redundancy and prevents air locks to keep bait fully aerated and lively. Since the pumps are always submerged, they should run cooler and last longer, too.
A molded flush-mount pickup panel maintains hull integrity, and all through-hull fittings are stainless steel below the waterline and bronze above. The sea chest's labeled acrylic cover quickly identifies the pump arrangement. The boat has as total of three livewells - a 40-gallon pressurized well located aft of the leaning post, another 20-gallon backup in the deck forward of the console seat and a handy 5.5-gallon pitch well in the starboard transom corner. A walkthrough transom door is located to port.
All four fish boxes - two each in the bow and cockpit - are fully insulated and equipped with gravity drains and macerators. A 155-quart Frigid Rigid bow coffin box with an electric ram is an available option.
The beefy T-top with 2-inch pipe has a six-rod rocket launcher and an electronics box. The 26 MA also has four gunwale rod holders and horizontal racks, along with numerous storage compartments. The console includes a Porta-Potty and easy access to the helm wiring and flush-mount or hatch-mount electronics panel.
Both the 26 and 23 Tournament Edition include a flip-back, bolster-style leaning post at the helm, with a tempered-glass windshield. Weather enclosures, a stowaway transom bench seat and a powder-coating package are additional options.
As the saying goes, "Good things come to those who wait." For anglers who appreciate classic styling with noticeable improvements, that wait is now over.
SEACRAFT 26 MASTER ANGLER
MAX. HP......500 hp
w/ twin 200 hp Mercury Verado outboards
SeaCraft Boats ? 888.732.2723 ? seacraft-boats.com