These Boats Won’t Break the Bank
Looking for a new outboard-powered boat to hit the water this summer? Check out these options from Robalo, Pair Marine and Skeeter.
When Robalo introduced the R230 center console into its 2020 model lineup, the company wanted a boat to cover what it calls the Three Fs: family, fishing and fun. They nailed it with this boat. You could even add another F … functionality.
You can easily change the seating configurations in this boat to suit any on-water activity. The back bench folds flat to create a nonskid casting platform. There’s also a standard telescoping ladder with a grab handle that stows under a lid on the swim step to avoid any tripping hazards. The storage under the back bench includes room for a fish box, a compartment to hold a 5-gallon bucket and a small bait well. When you’re ready to get back to cruising, the bench quickly converts back to seating.
The stout leaning post has a backrest and footrest, which is much appreciated on long runs. It comes with four rod holders and a 72-quart cooler that slides underneath. The console offers more rod storage, a glove box, two stainless cup holders, grab rails and room for a head inside. The helm is well designed with the steering wheel on center, switches along each side and plenty of room for two MFDs.
Moving to the bow, you’ll find what I think is the coolest feature on the boat. What at first looks like your basic bow seating can be quickly converted to a dinette with the optional table. The table does not mount into the floor; it connects to the bulkhead. This means there’s no little hole in the deck to gather water and dirt. There are two table legs. Use the short one to create a forward casting deck, or place cushions on it for a cozy V-berth. The longer leg makes a table, perfect for entertaining. The boat is rated for 12 passengers, which sounds like too many, but with all this seating, you can likely accommodate nine guests without stepping on toes.
Powered with a 250-hp Yamaha, the R230 cruises at 28 knots and gets a very economical 3 miles to the gallon. Hammer down the throttle and you’ll max out in the 45 knot range. It’s easy to see the Robalo 230 can do everything you’d want out of a center console in this size range. —Charlie Levine
Price: $59,990 (w/ 200-hp); $64,496 (w/ 250-hp)
You’ll find many bay boats that cater to families and throw in a few fishing features. The Skeeter SX240 flips the script. This is a performance fishing boat with some family amenities thrown in. After all, it’s easier to cruise a fishing boat than fish a cruising boat.
The 24-foot, 1-inch hull has a 15-inch draft and was designed to skip across the backwater bays and marshes. The boat runs dry and soft. You won’t crack your teeth motoring through some wind chop on this storied hull.
While Skeeter hasn’t changed the hull shape (why would they?), the company continually updated the console and deck layout to meet the changing needs of its customers. The large dash accommodates bigger electronics and the leaning post seating offers bolsters that can be moved to either sit on top or lean against.
One thing Skeeter really excels at is maximizing storage. The bow casting deck offers a big anchor locker, rod storage to port and a fish box to starboard that drains over the side. A center hatch provides enough room to stow all your safety gear, towels and tackle. An optional large cushion converts the bow platform into a sunbathing lounging pad. Another family-friendly option is the comfort console, with a front hatch that opens up vertically and comes with a curtain for changing or using a Porta-Pottie.
With 17 rod holders, even the biggest pack rat should have plenty of room for all of their rods. A standard 42-gallon livewell in the stern and a smaller well in front of the console will keep a day’s worth of baits kicking. The aft deck offers more casting space and seating. There are two flip-up rear seats with grab handles, and a recently added center cushion sits atop the livewell with a backrest that slides into the aft rod holders. The rear flip-up seats are a great spot to park the kids in bumpy water. They’re safe and dry.
The boat holds 72 gallons of fuel and tops out in the low 50s with a Yamaha F300 outboard. She’s efficient, too. If you can’t squeeze three trips out of a full tank, you’re doing something wrong. Being a Yamaha-owned company, Skeeter understands what its owners want and offers a long list of options to outfit the SX240 however you’d like. Rest assured, whatever you throw at this boat, she’ll handle it. —Charlie Levine
Price: $69,220 (with 300-hp Yamaha F300XA)
Pair Marine 24
Bryan Pair began building boats in 2015. He got his start under the company name Sea Oxe but recently rebranded with a name that hit a little closer to home: Pair Marine.
With a southern drawl and a heavy amount of humility, Pair speaks with pride about how he “started small” and was able to grow his business to a team of 12 and an order book that is growing exponentially each year.
“We built 50 boats last year,” says Pair. “Before that we were only doin around 27.”
The two boats in Pair’s stable included a 21 and 24 center console that could be considered—excuse the pun—paired down, yet also strong and affordable, ideally suited to chase the inshore bite.
As the demand of his client base grew, aspirations wandered out to the Gulf Stream, and Pair created the 24 Center Console Deep Vee, a model with a 22-degree deadrise that would be better suited for offshore conditions.
“Our substructure is robust; our weight is about 1,000 pounds heavier than the competition,” says Pair. The 24 displaces 4,300 pounds. “I’d rather it be a bit too heavy than too light. I don’t want any rattling or shaking.”
Besides the focus he puts on his boat’s internal grid system of 2-inch stringers, another point of pride on his boats are the fuel tanks. “I spend extra money on my fuel tanks through Best Fabrication; they’re the same company Viking uses.”
When it comes to his boat’s internal integrity, Pair is uncompromising, but he still allows for customer input. “The way I build boats is kind of a la cart. I can build to however simple or complicated someone wants it.”
“What’s it like to be a relative newcomer in one of the most crowded parts of the market?” I ask.
“My concentration is on clean, simple and classic. Those three elements make up our boats. Usable square footage is where I think our boats stand apart. Everyone else is trying to see how complicated they can make their boats. I’m trying to do the exact opposite.”
Simplicity can certainly be attractive, but so is the pricing Pair is offering. With a standard 250-hp Suzuki, the 24 Deep Vee can roll out the door and into your driveway for just $70,000. The boat is rated for 400-hp for those with larger wallets and a need for speed.
Hull number one of the Deep Vee had its first sea trial on February 23rd, and by the end of March he sold five of them; it seems word of this humble North Carolina builder and his boats is starting to get out. —Daniel Harding Jr.
Price: $70,000 w/ 250-hp Suzuki