The Southern California-based Manroe family hit February's Miami International Boat Show to see 18-year-old Kyle receive The Billfish Foundation's Junior Angler Award. When you see Kyle's fishing record, you understand why he received it. The Manroes-Kyle fishes on a team with his father Bob-won the Auto Exotica-Bisbee's East Cape Offshore Tournament in 2004 with a 386-pound blue marlin and a 197.7-pound yellowfin. The year before, Kyle took the dorado division with a 50-plus pounder. The list of catches goes on, like the half-dozen striped marlin the pair caught on Christmas morning while fun fishing. No wonder this family put 2,600 hours on their two-year-old 43-foot sportfisherman. These guys use their boat.
So when Jim Sculley, Jr. of Sculley Boatbuilders said the Manroes had noticed his cold-molded 60-footer, Water Witch, the day before my scheduled test of her and were coming along for a ride, I thought it'd be a great chance to learn what West Coasters think of East Coast custom boatbuilding.
The South Florida morning air was warm, and the sun's rays were piercing the optional three-side Strataglass enclosure. The Manroes arrived shortly after I did and, being avid boaters, moved directly to the flying bridge, as the standard Caterpillar 1,650-mhp diesels warmed up (1,825-mhp Cat 32As are optional). There was plenty of room for Kyle, Bob, Sculley Jr., and me to spread out, even with my obtrusive Pelican case full of batteries, an inclinometer, a computer, a radar gun, and other assorted test paraphernalia sprawled about. The lounge seating forward of the helm, which is fitted with custom Release seats, could easily seat six or eight adults. Underneath the seating is some serious fish-gear stowage for rods, gaffs, and the like. If that's not enough room, my test boat had rod stowage in the custom Bausch hardtop, an area that's not usually used. Talk about making the most of available space. In fact, this boat holds 64 big-game rods and reels and you don't see one in plain view.
While looking over the helm, I noticed the ram-assisted console, which is a great feature that offers protection for the optional Furuno, Northstar, and Simrad electronics onboard. All displays were easily readable from the stool-type helm chair. I'd want one with a cushioned and supportive back, like Water Witch's companion seat, as I do a lot of 200-plus-mile, troll-all-day trips. But this boat was actually Jim Sculley, Sr.'s personal battlewagon, and he likes this chair.
Sculley Jr. opted to stand on the helm's raised teak platform as he engaged the single-lever Glendinning electronic controls, and Water Witch easily motored out of her berth at about 6 knots. She's equipped with trolling valves, which can reduce speed to about 2 knots; this is a nice feature for calm-water, close-quarter handling or, in the case of the Manroes, live-bait fishing for big marlin.
Once in open water, this lightweight, jig-built hull, comprised of okume plywood impregnated with epoxy resin, took it to the three- to four footers the Atlantic offered up. Water Witch's sharp entry skewered the seas as her diesels served up a top hop of 46.1 mph, while the Cats turned 2250 rpm and burned 175 gph. That's about 50 rpm short their rating, which along with a dirty hull bottom probably cost the boat about a knot on the top end. At a 2000 rpm cruise, the boat made 39.6 mph and burned 131.6 gph. Taking into account Water Witch's 1,650-gallon fuel capacity, she can easily run 447 statute miles at cruise.
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