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May 27, 2014

Boat Review: Sea Chaser 210 LX

The Bay Runner offers an affordable option for ­nearshore enthusiasts.

It’s a simple case of Economics 101. As demand for the popular bay-boat style increased in recent years, so did the sticker prices for most brands. Sea Chaser, a product brand of Carolina Skiff LLC, chose instead to sell boats at lower price points, and its latest offering, the 210 LX Bay Runner, continues that marketing strategy. This new boat’s improved finish and long list of features set a new standard. I tested one earlier this spring and came away pleasantly surprised. For the money, features and overall performance, this is a sweet ride.

Before starting the redesign of this 21-footer, Carolina Skiff listened to dealers like Antonietti Marine in Hudson, Florida, and incorporated their valuable input into the final product. The result: a fully finished liner with ­injected-foam flotation, two-part finished locking hatch lids with gas shocks throughout, and all-composite ­construction without a hint of wood. The distinctive splatter-pattern nonskid assures sound footing when wet, yet it remains soft on bare feet and easy to clean. If you look into the neatly ­organized bilge compartment, you’ll find a lack of any rough fiberglass, and actually enough room to get two hands inside to change out a pump or open a ­seacock if you have to.

The redesigned compact console sports a removable windshield for trailering and storage, an angled dash with room to flush-mount an electronic display and radio, an easy-access switch panel, and a comfortable toe-kick around the base. Analog gauges display engine functions. Vertical rod racks, plumbed to drain onto the deck, hold three rods apiece, straddling the console. The console door provides access to the trolling-motor batteries and wiring. Our test boat was equipped with the standard flip-back helm seat with a 70-quart Coleman cooler underneath. The four-position backrest allows for leaning-post-style operation for greater comfort when fishing off the stern. The Ultra leaning post with rod and cup holders is an available option. Twin ­folding jump-seats on the aft casting platform are standard, with storage ­compartments underneath.

Recessed horizontal rod racks on the gunwales represent another new design element. The set-back below the cap increases usable deck space by keeping tackle away from passing shins. Thick coaming pads add to the comfort. The insulated aft livewell, identified by its clear-acrylic lid, incorporates aeration, a high-speed pickup and LED lighting. A second 10-gallon baitwell, also with aeration and LED lighting, lies forward of the console.

The roomy forward casting platform transitions quickly by the side steps to the locking rod lockers port and starboard. Each box handles three combos with rod lengths up to 71/2 feet. A dedicated receptacle in the insulated centerline box holds a five-gallon bucket and cast net.

The 210 LX is prewired for a ­trolling motor with a port bow panel for the plug, an engine tilt and trim switch, and a 12-volt power port, with a second power point on the helm dash. Major upgrades for the LX include a hydraulic jack plate, raw-water washdown and electric trim tabs with indicator. One of the noteworthy standard features is LED lighting throughout. This package includes underwater stern lights, livewell illumination, courtesy and cup-holder lights, and the very cool stealth-navigation lights mounted in the rub rail.

The Sea Chaser boasts equally notable performance. Though pictured here with a Suzuki 200, our test craft was powered by a Mercury 150 FourStroke. It popped up on plane with little bow rise with power to spare to lope along easily at 4,500 rpm, making nearly 36 miles per hour. At wide-open throttle (5,800 rpm), the GPS read 47.5 miles per hour, with a fuel burn of just under 14 miles per gallon. With a soft and comfortable ride, the 210 LX skimmed over the wind-blown chop, with a solid feel and no shakes or shimmies. In a beam-to sea running in the troughs, we didn’t catch a drop of spray. The stern bit in and held in tight turns with no surprises in handling, always a welcome trait.

There’s no question you can spend more on other bay-boat brands and get your money’s worth. But for value and performance, the Sea Chaser   210 LX Bay Runner offers a good option, especially for first-time buyers. The dollars saved buy a lot of tackle and bait. And that always makes good economic sense.