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Center Console Boats - Article

Tips and tricks on setting up your boat, particularly center console boats, for a run to the islands - Bimini, Grand Bahama, Walkers Cay etc.

 

The Author's Personal Center Console Boat

At heart I'm a frustrated boat-builder. I like to spec out the entire rigging of my boats down to the smallest detail such as the type and brand of hose clamp (ok, so I'm a tad obsessive). By definition, however, this is not possible with a production boat as much of the rigging is done at the factory. So to get the flexibility I wanted, I would have to go with a semi-custom boat. After much searching I chose an Ocean Master 27 center console boat.

 

Here is the website for Ocean Master boats:

Center Console Boats

 

A Tough Ass Hull

Ocean Master is located in Riviera Beach, Florida where they build a limited number of boats each year, basically to order. The company started back in the early 70’s with the launch of the Ocean Master 31, a boat that many consider to be the first true 30+ foot outboard powered sportfisherman. They’re known as being some of the toughest boats on the market and with 14 layers of fiberglass in the hull, the 27 lives up to that reputation. I've personally witnessed a demonstration in which a 9 mm bullet is fired into the hull from 6 feet away. It didn’t even come close to penetrating. So that's my first piece of advice – it's always good to start with a solid hull.

 

Center Console Boats - Ocean Master 27

Ocean Master 27 Center Console boat

 

Hull Design

She is a 20° constant deadrise vee-bottom center console boat design. 20 degrees is considered borderline deep-vee and a good compromise between rough water running and stability while fishing. Deep-vees are nice in that they allow you to run faster in rough seas, helpful when the Gulf Stream decides to kick up. But don't rule out flatter bottomed boats for a trip to Bimini. In calm seas they are perfectly acceptable and I've made the crossing on such boats many times. Just remember that if the seas kick up you will have to slow down more than deep-vee to avoid slamming. Another alternative gaining favor are catamarans. Having owned one myself I can attest to their ability to provide a smooth ride in rough conditions.

A Center Console With Twin Engines for Redundancy

Because we often head to Bimini in rough winter seas, and without other boats, twin outboards were chosen for redundancy. We verified the hull will plane off of one engine though I don't recommend this unless absolutely necessary – it puts tremendous strain on the remaining motor and prop. If you lose an engine it's better to slow down to trolling speed and take your time. It once took us about 8 hours to get back from Bimini when we lost an engine. We slowed down, fished the entire way and landed a nice marlin in the process.

 

Ahhhhhhhhhh, Bimonee!                         

 

Monitoring Fuel Flow

To help monitor fuel flow, Racor water seps with clear bowls were added. These allow you to quickly see any water that is building up in your fuel system. Unlike most boaters, I had the engines mounted slightly lower to maximize bite in rough water, in my opinion more important than top speed. In addition the stainless steel props were custom tuned by Ocean Master. With 212 gallons of fuel in two tanks, range is more than adequate for trips to the islands.

 

Over the years I've never had a problem with bad fuel in Bimini, nor have any of my friends. But if you're really concerned about this and have an auxiliary tank you can do the following. Fill the aux tank with fuel in the U.S. but while you’re in the islands run off the main tanks (and fill only the main with Bahamian fuel). That way if you get a bad load of fuel you can switch to your aux tank that has the clean fuel from the U.S.

 

Communications

Communications consists of 3 VHF radios – a commercial ICOM M127 and a redundant ICOM M502, each with its own 8-foot antenna. I also carry a handheld VHF with an antenna adapter that allows it to be connected to either of the main antennas. A cell phone provides near-shore backup. For navigation she features a fixed mount chartplotter / depthsounder with Bahamas chip and handheld GPS as backup. In addition, there is a large fixed mount compass and a smaller handheld one for taking fixes.

 

Safety Gear

Safety gear consists of 25MM flare kit with both meteor and parachute flares, personal strobes, type 1 offshore PFDs, compressed air horn, drift fishing anchor, extra rope for towing, two anchors (plow and fluke), spotlight, flashlights and plenty of fresh batteries for all electronics. Safety gear is stored in a Pelican watertight box located in an easily accessible spot inside the console – not buried away in some compartment. In case of emergency, there is a 406 EPIRB interfaced to the fixed mount GPS. All thru-hulls have appropriate sized wooden plugs in case of failure.

 

 

 

Offshore Safety Gear List

1. Type I offshore lifejackets

2. Fixed mount VHF radio

3. 406 EPIRB

4. Fire Extinguishers

5. Wooden thru-hull plugs

6. Back-up handheld GPS

7. Offshore flares

8. Drift fishing anchor

9. Handheld compass

10. Strobes

 

 

11. Whistles

12. Compressed air horn

13. Handheld spotlight

14. Back-up handheld VHF

15. Alkaline batteries

16. Watertight storage box

17. Sat-phone (optional)

18. Life Raft (optional)

19. Cell phone (optional)

20. Ipod with Buffett tunes...

 

 

Electrical & Plumbing

I personally rigged the electrical and plumbing systems with an eye to absolute dependability. All wiring is oversized, all connections are heat shrunk, everything is labeled, neatly loomed and supported every 12-18 inches. Captive ring terminals are used instead of the more common push-in types that have a tendency to vibrate loose. The battery bank consists of 4 batteries (2 starting, 2 deep-cycle house) and a back-up battery jumpstarter. A high quality battery charger is hardwired to the system to make sure everything remains fully juiced. Batteries are securely mounted to the floor with heavy-duty GIL hold down brackets – not the cheap plastic boxes that you find on most boats.

 

 

The plumbing received similar treatment – again oversized with the most rugged components I could find. The bilge system features 3 bilge pumps with 7,500 GPH of stated capacity and two different types of float switches. Thru-hulls are bronze and seacocks are oversized Groco units. Reinforced smooth wall hose and 100% 316 stainless clamps are employed throughout. Wherever possible, hoses are double clamped for safety.

 

Once rigging was up to snuff, I made diagrams of all wiring and plumbing and laminated them in plastic. This is a great way to learn the systems on your boat, even if you don't actually change anything. I've learned the hard way that it's next to impossible to trouble shoot a problem while offshore if you don't have a good grasp of your systems prior to leaving the dock.

 

Spares

Of course we always carry a full complement of normal spares, tools, first aid kit and all manuals. See separate sections on Tools and First Aid kit for more detail.

 

Another thing I do is make sure everything is securely held in place and that all hatches are dogged down. In more than a few places on my boat you will find permanently mounted hold downs for loose items, even inside the storage compartments. Bungee cords – a boater's best friend.

 

In Sum

So there you have it. One man's dedicated Bimini boat. Hopefully this provides you with some ideas to improve your own vessel.

     

 

 

 

 

 

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