Large, husky fibreglass sportfishers are a style of boat Americans do extremely well.
In the US, hundreds of manufacturers produce walk-around and cuddy-cabin sportfishers to roughly the same formula, but Wellcraft is a brand with a reputation for superior quality and performance.
The Wellcraft 232 Coastal we reviewed has been imported by Family Boats in Auckland. It’s not Wellcraft’s largest trailerable model (in fact, it’s the smallest in the Coastal series), but weighing around 2.5 tonnes dry on the trailer, it’s still a lot of boat to tow around. However, there’s no need to go to the expense of purchasing a dedicated tow vehicle such as a Dodge Ram or a light truck – a large, conventional four-wheel-drive will do the job.
Family Boats has sold larger Wellcraft models and believes the 232 should prove equally popular with Kiwi boaters.
Wellcraft is part of the Genmar family of boatbuilding companies. Based in Sarasota Florida, Wellcraft builds sportfishers exclusively, so knows a fair bit about what makes a good sportfishing boat.
The Coastal series is optimised for fishing, but includes a range of accessories and design features for family-friendly boating. These include: a highly practical accommodation layout in the forward cabin; a rudimentary galley with pressurised freshwater from a 30-litre tank; removable dinette table; chemical toilet; transom shower; lockable cabin; cockpit lighting; drop-down transom lounger; and good quality clears with full-length backdrop to enclose the wheelhouse for all-weather boating.
From the moment we stepped aboard the Wellcraft Coastal 232 we were impressed by its build quality. It feels solid and Wellcraft has used top quality fittings and components. It hasn’t skimped where it matters: there are plenty of grab-rails and stainless-steel cleats (seven in total, including amidships), and the through-hull fittings are also stainless, not plastic. Railings are welded, not sleeved.
The layout is thoroughly sorted as well, which only becomes more apparent when you fish from the boat. Unlike some American boats, the 232 doesn’t overwhelm with gadgets and overly complex, unnecessary features that eventually get in the way, stop working or break with hard use. Everything appears well considered and eminently functional.
Unlike many boats in Genmar’s stable, Wellcrafts are hand laid. This makes them heavier, but that’s not a bad thing in an offshore fishing boat. According to Family Boat’s Tony Singe, who accompanied us for the review, Wellcraft is taking advantage of Genmar’s leading Virtual Engineered Composite (VEC) closed-moulding technology to fashion deck moulds and hull liners. But the hulls are still manufactured using traditional fibreglass boatbuilding techniques.
A glance under the floor of the 232 reveals massive top-hat bearers running the full length of the hull. No wood is used in the boat’s construction – Americans appear to have a phobia about wood in fibreglass boats – and the stringers, bearers and transom all contain composite materials.
The plumbing visible in the bilge is also reassuringly heavy duty. There’s a large-capacity bilge pump with float switch, a decent seawater wash-down and a high capacity pump feeding the boat’s large live-well on the transom’s portside. Surfaces inside the live-well are smooth, the sides are curved to enhance water circulation and minimise bait stress, and there’s an internal light for night fishing.
The 232 Coastal we reviewed was matched with a 250hp Yamaha four-stroke outboard, ex-factory, as is the Raymarine electronics’ package. All Family Boats has to do is fit the propeller and the boat is ready to go.
And go it does. The big Yamaha has ample low-down grunt to get the big Coastal onto the plane smartly. The ride is serene and dry; the flared bow ensures that any spray gets directed a long way from the boat’s occupants. Nevertheless, Wellcraft fits a pair of windscreen wipers to the outside of the toughened glass windscreen as standard.
The hull is a variable deadrise design with strakes and a reverse chine. The entry is reasonably fine, flattening to a moderate 20° deadrise at the transom. Trim-tabs are fitted and would probably be useful in a crosswind, especially with clears enclosing the wheelhouse.
Conditions on the water were as flat as it gets on the Waitemata Harbour, so it was difficult to get a feel for the boat’s rough water abilities.
The few wakes we sought out revealed that the big Wellcraft went where it was pointed and landed softly with a whoosh rather than a thump. There was some hull noise as the boat’s strakes did their work, and the boat is quite sensitive to engine trim: it likes it just so, no more and no less. Too much in-trim caused the 232 to push down on its strakes, which would push it away again, causing the boat to porpoise ever so slightly. This reaction is almost perverse, considering porpoising is usually a function of too much engine out-trim. With the Wellcraft, too much out-trim causes porpoising too, though the propeller is nearly breaking out of the water before there’s any noticeable bow-up attitude. Keep the trim within a narrow range – somewhere near one-quarter on the gauge – and the boat rides solid as a rock.
In general the boat feels stable. It rides on its strakes, sitting fairly flat and turns securely without the need to tuck the outboard in to prevent propeller ventilation. There is a feeling of mass and solidity, which would be reassuring in a big sea.
The helm position is good and the boat’s large swivelling bucket seats will accommodate the biggest of backsides. They’re adjustable fore and aft – and for height – but the flat cushion and back don’t offer much lateral support.
The seat bases feature aft-facing pad seats, which lift off to reveal large, insulated lockers with sealed lids. These are watertight and can be used as additional live-bait tanks, fish boxes, iceboxes, food or bait stowage, or general dry stowage. Bungs drain into the bilge for the port locker or directly overboard on the starboard side, which is logically the fish or ice locker.
The 232’s cockpit benefits from the generous interior volume. It’s fishing oriented, with high gunwales (padded for angler comfort) and plenty of toe room. Built-in tackle drawers either side should prove useful, as should the mandatory drink holders strategically positioned around the cockpit.
We fished three anglers in comfort, appreciating the space and the boat’s stability at rest. We were fishing soft plastics, where casting is an integral part of the technique. The moulded-fibreglass Bimini top doesn’t get in the way, hardly encroaching on the cockpit area, and the rocket launcher is nicely upright so stored rods don’t interfere with the rods of anglers in the cockpit.
Brushed-aluminium tube supports the hardtop. It’s large diameter, heavy-duty stuff, so the bimini top is rock solid with no discernable vibration or movement. Flats moulded into the bimini’s underside accept electronics, and it houses incandescent and spreader lights. It also looks pretty good, complementing the boat’s handsome lines and radical sheer.
The 232’s fibreglass cockpit liner has a moulded non-slip surface and is self-draining through corner drains that direct water overboard. Under-gunwale lighting, plus lights on the seat bases and hardtop, help ensure plenty of illumination for night fishing or enjoying a social evening in the cockpit. The rear bench seat folds right out of the way when not in use, its cushion becoming a useful padded thigh brace for anglers standing at the transom. Alternatively, it can be removed.
The transom area works well. A PVC transom door is fitted on the starboard side above a shallow moulded sink with pullout freshwater shower. The door gives access to the swim-step and chunky, removable, stainless steel and rubber dive ladder, which clips into holders across the back of the transom when not in use. The bait-station drains overboard and has two sturdy rodholders to complement four through-gunwale holders and four rod positions in the smart, gold-anodised-aluminium rocket launcher. Kilwell game poles are also fitted.
In keeping with its serious sportfishing intensions, the Wellcraft Coastal 232 carries plenty of fuel: 435.5 litres underfloor. Overnight or multi-day expeditions would be quite feasible aboard this boat. The accommodation forward is relatively spacious and well lit for night use. There’s no fitted cooker, but portable single-burner canister stoves are popular and practical as well as safe. A marine barbecue is another option.
I really liked the arrangement below decks, which allows the squabs to be removed for hosing down the cabin interior – it’s all moulded fibreglass and drains into the bilge via a bung in the footwell. This makes cleaning up at the end of a serious expedition – or after the kids have spread potato chips from one end of the cabin to the other – a snip.
The rig’s twin batteries are housed under the cockpit floor, accessed via a hatch in the steps leading down into the forward cabin. A forward hatch, with bug screen, gives access to the foredeck, and there’s also reasonable access around the outside of the bimini top, which has rails to provide secure handholds. The bow rail extends well back, almost to the cockpit.
Wellcraft uses a fully automatic Maxwell winch, operated from the helm, with access to the anchor locker via a hatch in the forward cabin bulkhead. Unlike some imported boats, there’s ample space in the anchor locker, and the fairlead, roller and cleat appear to be up to the task. There’s no bowsprit.
On our run from Half Moon Bay around the back of Motuihe and Rangitoto Islands, we cruised comfortably at around 26 knots, with the big Yamaha turning at 4200rpm. At 5000rpm, the Raymarine C80 GPS-chartplotter indicated a speed of 35 knots, and approached 40 knots flat out, which is reasonable for a beamy boat weighing close to two tonnes when full of fuel, water, people and gear. The boat certainly feels comfortable at 30 knots, but 22-25 knots would doubtless furnish better fuel economy.
The Wellcraft Coastal 232 is supplied on a Voyager, multi-roller, tandem-axle trailer with Sens-a-brake electric-over-hydraulic braking system acting on both axles.
As reviewed, the Wellcraft Coastal 232 retails for $138,500. Although it may not be the style of boat for everyone, the Coastal is versatile enough to tick plenty of boxes. When its solid build and high level of specification are also taken into account, it should interest plenty of Kiwi boaters.
Model: Wellcraft 232 Coastal
Designer: Wellcraft Boats Inc
Builder: Wellcraft Boats Inc
Horsepower range: 300hp max
Engine options: outboard
Max speed: 40kts
Fuel capacity: 435.5L
Trailerable weight: 2.5t approx.
Price as tested: $138,500
Packages from $95,000.
Type: variable camshaft timing four-stroke outboard
This article is reproduced with permission of
New Zealand Fishing News
by Sam Mossman
Re-publishing elsewhere is prohibited