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BOAT SENSE: FAMILY FISHING BOATS

The ideal family fishing boat can go a long way toward building a lifetime of lasting memories, and the latest installment from The Fisherman's 2017 Boat Sense series looks at some family-friendly layouts.
By Capt. John N. Raguso

Modern, next-gen dual console designs have evolved to put every square inch of space onboard to good use. Some DCs include private head and a freshwater sink in the companion console. There’s plenty of deep dry stowage for your safety gear, towels, fun stuff and tackle under the captain’s console. The walk-through area between the consoles typically has a runway that allows unimpeded passage fore-n-aft, a critically important feature if you have small children or grandkids onboard!

A swing-out window and locking companionway lets you button things up tight in rough weather for added protection. Overhead, a Bimini top, radar arch with cover or hardtop adds to the overall crew comfort and weather protection. A gaggle of kids who get too much sun or are getting soaked by a passing shower can totally ruin your family’s good time. The radar arch or hardtop are also great spots to add a few rodholders to get them out of the way, a radio box for additional electronics or dry storage for sundry items, plus a welcome and efficient spot to increase the effective range of your VHF and AM/ FM antennas.

Looking at the cockpit and the seating arrangements, ergonomically designed dual console craft give you plenty of open cockpit space and thigh-high support for a variety of missions, but feature adaptable seating arrangements to entertain a crowd when the moment calls for it. The helm should offer the captain a comfy cushioned swivel chair, with standard or optional swing-up armrests and a back bolster, to allow for driving while standing. Aft of this position is the perfect spot to mount a combo sink/ refrigerator or grill. The portside companion seat should be a classic dual back-to-back cushioned bench with a fold-down arrangement to turn it into a 6-foot sun lounge, with added dry stowage down under.

Some top builders offer electric seats that can be fine-tuned to adjust and extend the length of this sun lounge at the flick of the switch. A fold-away double-wide aft bench seat is a must to complete any entertainment cockpit and once again the best ones are available at a touch when you need them and flip neatly out of the way back into the transom bulkhead when you don’t. A transom gate is a nice touch on the well-appointed dual console of any size, as is a foldup boarding ladder that tucks into the integrated swim platform. These features allow for easy egress and return to the boat when swimming or coming back onboard from the beach.

Moving forward to the bow, some dual consoles feature twin raised bench lounge seats port and starboard, with a table insert in the center for entertaining and casual dining. Some of the more advanced designs feature swing-out armrests or backrests for these twin benches that are a welcome feature when needed, but tuck away or can be removed when it’s time to pursue other activities. Dry storage and/or insulated fishboxes that drain directly overboard (whether underway or at rest) should be located under each bench seat. The forepeak should have a flush anchor locker with hatch. The addition of an electric windlass will make anchoring or retrieving the hook a fingertip operation for anyone onboard.

An additional feature to consider is a dedicated spot to hide a pair of water skis or a wakeboard and their requisite accessories, like life vests, gloves and tow ropes. Some builders will install a flush hatch in the cockpit sole to stow this gear, while others will allow you to keep it under the starboard console.

ALTERNATE FAMILY BOAT LAYOUTS
Although the dual console model maybe the king of the family boat layout, two others have historically been at the core of family fun on the water. Walkaround cabin and flush deck cabin or “cuddies” have allowed many families to enjoy their activities out on the water and each offers certain advantages over the dual console layout. The most obvious of these in the 20- to 24-foot craft is the addition of a quiet and secure spot down below to totally escape from the wind, weather, sun and other hostile elements (like a mosquito swarm). Need a place to change out of wet clothes, jump into a bathing suit or take a catnap?

The cuddy and walkaround cabins each offer you this feature. When you start getting into boats 30 feet and up, that’s when the dual console layout plays catchup with its cuddy cabin competitors, since there’s enough room to install both a private head AND a berth under the twin console areas for taking a nap or overnighting it at your favorite beachside hideaway. I’ve had enough successful family fun trips to the beach on my older 23-, 24- and 26-foot walkarounds to know that these layouts also contribute to quality family time out on the water.

No matter which layout you prefer, the bottom line is the same, go out there with your spouse, kids and grandkids this coming summer and have a great time! If you have any questions about dual consoles, reach out to me at www.marceejay.com.


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