Scout 350 AbacoBy Capt. Grant Rafter
The 350 Abaco is the biggest boat Scout has ever built, and because of that you'd assume that the builder would keep it simple—create a vessel with time-tested features that would subtly introduce the brand to the 30-foot-plus market without risking the pitfalls associated with new engineering. Well, the company didn't choose that path, and I say it built a better boat as a result. With at least 15 smart innovations, woodless construction, a reverse-shoebox hull-to-deck joint, and 50-mph-plus speeds, the 350 is more than ready to compete in this popular size range.
But moving up to it took a while: Scout spent four years developing the 350. According to company founder and owner Steve Potts, the majority of that time was spent on research. "We looked at all these boats this size...they didn't feel custom. They felt like large trailable boats." He continued, "We also spent time on larger sportfishermen and saw their custom feel and tried to duplicate that."
As soon as I boarded the 350 at Sea Isle Marina in Miami, I found features that were not only reminiscent of a custom build, but also innovative. Set in the aft gunwale are freshwater-flush valves that allow you to clean the salt out of the twin 350-hp Yamaha V8 outboards with a simple twist of the levers—a giant step up from tilting the motors and attaching a hose. The flushing system pulls directly from the 60-gallon freshwater tank aboard, as does the washdown station on the foredeck, so your only job will be to unravel the dockside hose to fill the water tank. Below the valves is a benchseat covered in Ultraleather that folds down from the aft bulwark. Although a flip-down bench is nothing new, it's a space saver that leaves the whole cockpit in play while you're fighting fish. My test boat did not have a fighting chair, but the sole is reinforced with a backing plate for anyone who wants to mount one.
There were other innovations near the front of the cockpit that make hooking the big one easier as well. Instead of mounting rod holders across the aft portion of the overhead or in a centerline leaning post, Scout placed four to port and four to starboard at hand level just aft of the helm area to ensure that there'll be no delay between getting a yank and grabbing the rod. Just below the port-side rod holders is a bait-prep station that can hold three handmade trays up top. And underneath is a custom, molded-in bait freezer with integrated cooling coils just large enough to fit a day's worth of ballyhoo.
There are other conveniences quite literally in every direction. Besides the rod holders aft, optional manual teaser reels are inset into the overhead within reach of the helmsman sitting in the Pompanette chair. Against the port wall is a benchseat with a middle section that tilts down, creating two seats and allowing guests to sit facing one another. To starboard, a single seat in the aft corner comes with a tray table—complete with cupholder—that lifts out of the stowage cupboard in the bulwark.
Forward, the helm station is appointed with standard twin Raymarine E120s, a 14-inch Edson wheel, and Yamaha electronic engine readouts. According to Potts, Scout designed the helm to resemble the instrument panel of an automobile, with the gauges centered above the wheel in an easy-to-read display. But the feature that sets this one apart from your car's is the flip-down dashboard. After unhooking a few stainless steel clasps, you can lower the entire face of the helm and rest it against the Pompanette chair, giving you direct access to all the wiring. This significantly reduces the hassle for maintenance and replacement of helm components. Another labor-saver is found below, in the systems room. Much more common on larger boats, it has a finished interior, clean layout, clear labeling, and full access to almost every component.
Inside, the features Scout spent years planning are both practical and stylish. At the head of the floor-level berth under the stairs, for example, there's a carbon-monoxide detector. The woodwork is all grain-matched cherry veneer backed with balsa, courtesy of a company in Massachusetts that specializes in aircraft interiors.
The seams and joinery were smartly finished, but not everything on this prototype had reached that level of refinement. For instance, the frosted skylight over the MSD should be replaced with a hatch to let steam escape from the shower. (A similar hatch is already over the Origo two-burner electric cooktop that lets any smoke-alarm-reliant cook know when dinner's done.) Scout does plan on installing exhaust fans in both the shower and over the stove.
After I'd examined all of these details that both set the 350 Abaco apart from other boats in her size class and give her some of the amenities of larger sportfishermen, we dropped the docklines and took her out to the protected waters of the Biscayne Bay Aquatic Preserve, just outside Sea Isle Marina. The wind was blowing out of the southwest at about 15 to 20 mph, yet even with a headwind, her speed was an exhilarating 52 mph, thanks in part to a Michael Peters-designed hull bottom—a stepped hull that helps her plane quickly, as you can see in the acceleration curve on the opposite page.
Although the speed was impressive, the boat's steering could be tightened up a bit. It's not an issue at high speeds, where she tracked like a needle on a turntable, nor when performing gunwale-wetting tight circles at 20 mph in little more than two boat lengths. It's the slow-speed maneuvering that could be better: Lock to lock took nine turns. Scout says its intent was to make a wheel that was easy to turn, but it's currently contemplating reducing maximum wheel rotation to seven. When the winds whipped up as a squall line approached, I attempted to back her up straight, but she required significant helm correction—still not an uncommon feature on outboard-powered vessels. After realizing that the closely mounted outboards make the 350 operate more like a single-screw than a twin, I soon felt comfortable moving her around.
As we headed back in, the squall line darkened, and I handed the controls over to Scout's Capt. Mike Tierney to let him back her in the tight slip, with 25-mph-plus gusts pushing him off the dock. With the ease of a helsman who knows his vessel, he snuck her in stern-to with the aid of the standard 6-hp Lewmar bow thruster.
All of the innovative features on the 350 Abaco are designed to let you to live, work, and fish aboard with minimal hassle. The polished interior and smart layout, with access to everything you need to keep her in prime operating condition, seem to have fulfilled Potts' goal: She's definitely much more than a big trailable boat.
For more information on Scout Boats, including contact information, click here.
In its effort to create the feeling of a custom sportfisherman, Scout employed renowned marine artist Guy Harvey to create a special etching for the 350 Abaco. Harvey decided on a sailfish leaping, an image he believed would inspire fishermen.
Scout then took Harvey's design to South Carolinian Lex Melfi, who specializes in sand-carved glass. Melfi creates his three-dimensional look with a combination of techniques that include blasting an array of sand-grit against special glass at varying pressures.
The result is a beautiful panel that Scout backlights with LEDs that change color. This touch of designer class is standard in the 350.—G.R.
This article originally appeared in the May 2008 issue of Power & Motoryacht magazine.