We were running the boat wide-open across a tight two- to three-foot chop without getting beaten up; I didn’t hear a single rattle or creak; and I could relax my white-knuckled grip on the pipe work without being thrown across the deck — one rough-water ride on Southport Boats’ new 29 Tournament Edition was all it took to realize that this is a fiberglass fishing fortress.
With 600 horsepower on the transom, the Southport 29 TE has the hustle to match its muscle. Sure, part of the credit goes to pure power. But don’t forget to consider the C. Raymond Hunt variable-degree deadrise hull, which was designed specifically for this Yamaha four-stroke power. That’s an important item to note, since many hull designs currently in production were intended to carry a pair of lighter two-strokes. The result? At a 4,500 rpm cruise, the 29 ran at 40.6 mph while burning 28.7 gallons per hour. That shakes out to a respectable 1.4 mpg cruise. When I slammed down the throttles and let those horses run free, the boat averaged 58.2 mph, and running downwind, nipped at the 60 mph barrier. Sweet.
No matter what speed we ran the craft, the landings were solid and the boat bulled waves out of the way. Again, tip your hat to the hull design, but note that the Southport’s stout construction also plays a huge role — more on this later. First, we need to examine one other performance perk: how dry this boat runs. Since it was a chilly 40-something-degree morning when we tested the 29 TE, I wasn’t too thrilled about the thought of getting hit in the face with a blast of cold brine. But it never happened. A glance at the bow explains why. This boat has a tremendous amount of flare — as much as or more than any other center console you’ll see on the water — and spray gets knocked down before it even comes close to flying up over the gunwales. Northern winter anglers, rejoice.
Unlike with some other top-shelf center consoles, there’s no mistaking this boat for a creature of leisure. When Southports first hit the water, one of their standout features was a tackle and rigging station that went well beyond the norm, and on the 29 TE, it’s taken to yet another level. Sure, it has all of the usual goodies: bulk storage compartments, grab rails, four rocket launchers, a sink, a livewell and dedicated tackle stowage. But look a little closer, and you’ll discover that the sink offers both fresh and raw water. You’ll note that the livewell holds a whopping 45 gallons and is lighted. You’ll realize that the tackle stowage compartments have built-in rig hanger bars to make both stowing and accessing pre-tied rigs that much faster and easier. And you’ll find another sweet touch when you swing up any of the hatches or lids covering these areas, which stay up thanks to magnetic catches.
All of these details add up to better fishability, but the folks at Southport didn’t just plan a better tackle station; they also added a lot of perks you won’t find on other boats. There are LED lights mounted in the station so you can rig in the dark while running for the canyons. A dedicated compartment holds a three-gallon bucket; the port side houses a full complement of six tackle trays; and there are additional rig hangers mounted all over the exterior of the unit.
OK, so you can run fast and far in this boat, and its tackle station will help you catch fish more effectively. Then what? On most boats of this size, you’d be hauling a fish bag because the in-deck fish boxes are sized like the 38-gallon macerated box in the Southport 29’s cockpit sole. That’s fine for stripers and chicken dolphin but won’t cut it when you score big offshore. No problem. Southport also molded a massive insulated 157-gallon box into the front of the console.
The old saying “a man’s home is his castle” has got it all wrong — it’s on his boat where a man feels like a king. And like in any good castle, on the 29 TE, it seems as though there’s solid granite underfoot. The hull and deck are vacuum-infused; the resins are vinylester; the hardware is through-bolted instead of screwed; and the foam-filled composite stringer system is chemically bonded to the hull and deck with Plexus adhesive.
Of course, when you’re looking at a top-end boat, you expect it to be built tough. But Southport adds a few more touches that separate the 29 TE from the pack. Consider the fuel tank, for example. It’s a polyethylene cell, which is common on boats of this size. But Southport encases it in a fiberglass chamber to give you an added level of protection.
Another example is the strakes, which are composite-filled and beefed up with twin layers of 45-degree-bias knit fiberglass. And the transom, where high-density PXc.385 structural foam is reinforced with multiple layers of fiberglass. The list goes on, but you get the point — when we call the Southport 29 TE a fortress, we mean it.
Southport Boats 29 TE
Southport Boats: 207-620-7998 / www.southportboats.com