Strength, simplicity and seaworthiness are the channel markers of Parker Boats’ success, and the 26 SH (sport hybrid) is the latest model to run that course. The boatbuilder’s legacy goes all the way back to the late 1960s, and the new 26-footer has everything the vintage Parker center-consoles had to offer and more.
In boating, we often talk performance, but Parker focuses on seaworthiness, and performance is a part of it. A good, stable ride comes from a solid, true hull with crisp lines, a well-defined keel and chines, and a deadrise to match the application. The construction must be solid and substantial, and Parker accomplishes that with a proven, lifetime-guaranteed hull with fully encapsulated, rot-proof, treated-wood stringer system that gives the boat its heft and wave-taming durability.
Designed to fish anywhere from shallow bays to offshore waters, the 26 SH boasts a 15-degree deadrise at the transom to balance draft, stability and ride. Aided by a T-H Marine Atlas hydraulic jack plate, standard issue on the Parker, the boat’s hole shot proved more than adequate during our test, and we went from zero to 30 mph in under 11 seconds. At wide-open throttle, with a modest crew and 65 gallons of gas, the Parker clocked 46 mph, and it achieved its best fuel economy at 5,000 rpm, making 43.9 mph and yielding 2.2 miles per gallon.
At speed, the stout hull easily cleaves the waves and wakes. At rest, it slides smoothly over them. The Parker has a higher bow than most bay-boat models, but its heavy build resists movement from a stiff breeze. It’s 97-gallon fuel capacity gives the boat a 190-mile range (leaving 10 percent of the fuel in reserve), more than enough for enjoying a full day of inshore or nearshore fishing, or even a combination of both. For getting the crew off the flats quickly, before the tide falls past the comfort level, the Parker 26 SH boasts a prompt 5.7 second hole shot to plane.
A pair of bucket seats at the helm of the 26-footer, ideally positioned to drive while standing or seated, made the ride comfortable. The fiberglass hardtop structure is designed with steps to the top of the dash, in case the owner wants an upper helm station. The hardtop on the test boat was color-matched to the boat, and the tempered windshield keeps character with Parker’s strength and durability focus.
The nearly 10-foot beam gives the boat stability while on the move and at rest, and allows wide walkways from bow to stern. Extra-wide gunwales make it practical for nimbler anglers to follow fish fore and aft without stepping down into the cockpit. All surfaces were covered with a high-density foam surf mat to minimize foot and back fatigue, and dampen any untimely thuds accidentally caused by falling gear or the crew that could otherwise spook fish in shallow water. The high bow and freeboard offer added safety in open water, and the fore and aft decks provide ample room for casting.
Livewells are generous and equipped with powerful pumps. Located to port and starboard on the transom platform, each has a full-width lid and a smaller acrylic hatch in the center for dipping into the bait. Both livewells are oval-shaped, with a pair of impressions to securely hold 5-gallon buckets inside. There’s a cooler in the front step that can be plumbed to serve as an extra livewell.
We found plenty of tackle storage in the back of the leaning post and gunwales, where lockers held at least six utility boxes. The boat’s immense rod lockers were designed to let air flow from port to starboard through the central storage locker. Dividers could be easily removed, opening the rod lockers to the central storage locker.
Passenger comfort is not forgotten in this hardcore fishing boat. A forward seat accommodates two comfortably, and the foredeck is equipped with removable cushions for sunning. Seat backrests turn the forward deck into a pair of reclining lounges, ideal for sandbar loafing. There’s a lockable head compartment in the console, and a double couch—centered into the swim platform, between the livewells—provides aft seating. Accessing the plumbing in the bilge only requires lifting the couch seat bottom. An even larger access hatch behind the couch offers additional access.
A Ritchie compass, Fusion stereo, Lenco trim tabs, hydraulic steering, coaming bolsters, slide-out cooler, protective reel pads and retractable boarding ladder are also among the boat’s standard features, and the list of optional gear and amenities to choose from is quite extensive.
Strength, simplicity and seaworthiness combined with hardcore fishability, a soft ride, and plenty of passenger comforts and conveniences make the Parker 26 SH an excellent choice for serious anglers and their families.
Length: 26′6″ | Beam: 9′6″ | Draft: 15″ | Fuel: 97 gal. | Weight: 5,073 lb. | Max HP: 400 | Price: $125,751 (base) | Parker Boats: parkerboats.com
Weather: Sunny, 90 degrees | Location: St. Petersburg, Florida | Wind: Moderate| Sea State: 1- to 2-foot chop | Test Load: Three adults, 65 gallons of fuel