Steiger craft

Wellcraft’s Aquasport division specializes in 16- to 28-ft. outboard-powered fiberglass boats for serious saltwater fishermen. What makes Aquasport unique is that these comparatively small, trailerable boats are fully capable of going way offshore, outspeeding million-dollar sport fishermen to where the big fish roam.
For 2001, Aquasport has two intriguing new models. Most unusual is the 230 Tournament Catamaran. From abeam, this boat looks like a typical center-console monohull. From the bow, however, you can see that the hull has been split down the middle to accommodate a wide tunnel. The tunnel itself is carefully contoured, while the outside of each catamaran hull is molded with bold longitudinal strakes.

At trolling speeds, the entire hull settles into the water. With a length/beam ratio of 2.5:1, the stubby 23-ft. hull provides a stable and roomy fishing platform. Just off plane in heavy seas, the contoured tunnel seems to knock down waves for a remarkably smooth ride. At high speeds, the 230 Tournament dances across the swells on the tiptoes of the twin catamaran hulls. Powered by a pair of 135-hp OMC Ficht outboards, with a full load of fuel and two aboard, I saw over 50 mph in light chop off Florida’s Duck Key. That’s a terrific performance for over 2 tons of boat pushed by 270 hp.

The 230 Tournament is not just about performance. Because it’s designed for fishermen, it features built-in fish boxes, lockable rod boxes, a watertight tackle locker, insulated live baitwell and gunwale-mounted rod holders. The center console conceals a self-contained head, while the transom has both a door and full-width dive platform. All hardware is stainless steel. List price is around $55,000 with the twin OMC 135s.
Aquasport’s very capable 275 Explorer is a more conventional monohull cruiser that retails for $90,000 equipped with twin OMC 200s. Like all Aquasports, this 28-footer is set up for serious fishing. There are two insulated fish boxes, a rigging station with sink, insulated baitwell for live bait, swim platform with transom door and a huge cockpit that can take a fish fighting chair.

Fully Loaded
But this is no stripped-out fishing machine. The 275 Explorer sleeps four in a forward V-berth and midcabin berth. Standing headroom is 6 ft. 4 in. There’s a galley with sink, refrigerator and stove, plus a head with toilet, sink, vanity and shower.

With twin OMC 200s but no fuel or water, the 275 Explorer weighs a hefty 7000 pounds. Fully equipped plus trailer, you’re talking close to 5 tons—about the limit of what most of us want to trailer behind a dualie pickup. On the other hand, this luxurious cruiser pops onto plane in less than 4 seconds and can easily top 50 mph. I saw 54 mph in testing off the island of Marathon in the Florida Keys. The 275 Explorer cruises at 40 mph, faster than the top speed of many sport-fishing gold-platers.

I spent a full day aboard each of these Aquasports, in a remarkable variety of conditions. That’s because Wellcraft’s Bob Black wisely chose to introduce me to these new models at Hawk Cay, the nicest resort between Miami and Key West. Located on Deer Key, halfway between Islamorada and Marathon islands, Hawk Cay had everything I needed from gas docks and mooring space to easy access to both the Gulf and Atlantic. How varied was the boating? Well, in the 275 Explorer, I left Hawk Cay in midmorning, and headed south-southwest toward the lighthouse at Delta Shoals that marks a favorite dive spot on the Outer Reef. Seas were running 2 to 3 ft., but the Aquasport barely noticed.

Then I headed west-northwest toward Bahia Honda Channel, slipped under the bridge and cruised up the comparatively calm Gulf side in water that was so clear and shallow I could easily see any danger. The 275 Explorer draws 34 in., which means you have to be cautious in the thin water off the Keys.

I went back through the channel, up the bouncy Atlantic side and back under the highway at Tom’s Harbor Channel. Up at Long Key on the Gulf side, both wind and current had shifted. Seas were now running 3 ft. or more. It was time to head back under the highway and down to Deer Key, then through the long, narrow channel to Hawk Cay.

From 3 ft. on the depth sounder to 60 ft., from flat calm to jarring 3-ft. seas, from a no wake! 5 mph to 54 mph, I tried the 275 Explorer and 230 Tournament in just about every combination of wind and water that offshore fishermen would face, except a full-blown storm. Both boats remained imperturbable no matter what, and at the end of the day I was relaxed and ready for more. You can’t ask for better than that.

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