Hang around marinas or boat ramps long enough, and invariably you'll hear statements like "Every boat is a compromise" or "one boat can't do it all." The best evidence to counter this argument is the bay boat design. This popular style offers a minimal draft for the bays and flats without sacrificing freeboard and deadrise, which allow it to run safely offshore when seas are favorable. Bay boats are the marine equivalent of sport utility vehicles.
Georgia-based Sundance Boats, a well-established builder, recently added another wrinkle to the bay boat's design evolution with its SV or Shallow V-hull series. We put the SV23, the largest model in the lineup, through the paces during squally conditions near Saint Marks, Florida. I came away impressed by how well it performed.
Sundance SV hulls are distinguished by a sharp bow entry with a 17-degree deadrise at the transom, two lifting strakes and wide reverse chines. A notch called an Air Keel Step is directly below the console. It ventilates the wetted surface and reduces running draft before transitioning to an aft planing pad. The ultimate result is a dry and comfortable ride. As we ran past the lighthouse into a choppy Gulf of Mexico, the wind-blown spray deflected harmlessly off the bow.
During a drift, we maintained a stable attitude even in beam-to waves, and running back up the river gave us a chance to test the overall handling. In tight maneuvers the stern bit and stayed hooked up without hesitation. There was no pounding or porpoising whatsoever. The standard hydraulic steering is smooth and responsive, which made the sprints between channel markers seem like a slalom course.
Although the 23 is rated for a 250-horsepower outboard, the 200 HO Evinrude E-TEC V-6 on our test boat had power to spare. The boat jumped on plane within its own length, and the bow settled immediately, so sightlines were never hindered. Those are appreciable traits when it's time to scoot to deeper water on falling tides or run narrow tidal creeks.
With two big guys aboard, light gear and a half-tank of fuel, we easily eclipsed the 50-mile-per-hour mark. Subsequent performance tests by Evinrude engineers showed that at a cruising speed of 4,000 rpm the boat did 35.6 miles per hour. Matched with a 9.45-gallon-per-hour fuel burn rate and the 72-gallon fuel tank, that equates to a range of 241 miles under normal conditions, which is a lot of shoreline to cover in a day's fishing.
Sundance rigs their boats with Evinrude or Yamaha engines and includes stainless-steel propellers and Faria instruments in the package. Lenco electric trim tabs are available as a factory option, and I'd recommend adding them. Tabs help to get on plane in shallow water and allow adjustments to various loads or sea conditions. I wouldn't own a boat without tabs, regardless of how well the hull performs on its own bottom.
In the angling department, the SV23 is loaded with standard features, starting at the bow. All hatches are insulated and lock, including the twin side compartments leading to the forward casting deck. They're large enough to stash rods overnight at the marina. The step to this deck has a built-in tackle box, while the extra-large bow compartment will keep safety equipment and life jackets dry and easily accessible. The bow is pre-wired for a trolling motor, and flush-mount cleats keep the deck free for casting. During a short foray before the rains increased, my colleague Darren Shepard and I were joined by Sundance president Wally Bell on a hunt for trout. The spacious layout offered plenty of room to fan-cast without ever crossing rod tips, and the boat floated easily in just over a foot of water. The aggressive non-skid provided good traction in wet conditions. With the bite slow, I took the opportunity to check out the 23's other features.
A 32-quart livewell is housed under the forward console seat, and another 36-gallon well is located on the stern centerline. It has a Plexiglas lid for quick bait checks. At 22 gallons, the insulated fish box in the port transom corner will hold a sizable catch. In addition to four stainless-steel rod holders in the gunwales, there are three vertical racks down each side of the console. All rod holders, along with the drink holders, are equipped with tubes, so any liquid drains overboard.
The leaning post comes with a 94-quart cooler below and has a four-rod rocket launcher on the seat back. The tall console compensates for the 22 inches of cockpit freeboard and is outfitted with a windshield and grab rail. It has room for the necessary radio and electronics, plus Sundance makes it easy to add accessories by running an extra electrical harness. A power jack and locking glove box are also standard console equipment. A T-top with or without a companion electronics box is the most significant option available.
Sundance builds their boats to last, and they back them with a 10-year transferable warranty. The stringer system is foam-injected fiberglass, and the liners are cored with Airex. All hatch lids are vacuum-bagged with resin transfer molding for a higher strength-to-weight ratio. Hulls are hand-laid using woven roving and premium gel coats. All hardware is stainless steel, except for the bronze aerator seacock. The boat's wiring is tinned copper with Deutsch connectors, and the console electrical panel is rigged with circuit breakers.
The Sundance SV23 may not be the perfect boat for everyone. But for those anglers who like to chase whatever is biting in the near-shore and coastal waters and who want to do so without breaking the family budget, this well-built craft deserves a long and careful look.
LOA: 23'1" BEAM: 8'2" DRAFT: 1'2"
DEADRISE: 17° WEIGHT: 2,300lbs. MAX. HP: 250hp
WATER: n/a FUEL: 72gals. PRICE: $31,950
W/200 HP DHX EVINRUDE E-TEC OUTBOARD AND STAINLESS-STEEL PROP.
Sundance Boats ? 912.449.0033 ? sundanceboats.com