Remember a few years ago during the height of the Great Recession, when even the one percent were feeling a little frugal? Talking to people in the boating world, particularly guys who are into sportfishing, it seemed like everyone was looking to downsize from a 50- or 60-foot convertible to a smaller center console. Revenue streams were down, gas prices were up, and ostentation was most decidedly out. The boats got smaller, leaner, and easier to take care of. And the center console market boomed.
But now, what’s going on? Everywhere you look the center consoles are getting bigger. At the 2014 Ft. Lauderdale boat show both Everglades and Boston Whaler debuted their largest center consoles to date, the 45-foot 435 CC and the 42-foot 420 Outrage, respectively. And in Stuart, Florida, custom center console builder Larry Bonadeo is working on some of the largest boats he’s ever built too. Really, everywhere you go at the major boat shows, the center consoles are getting bigger and badder—and indeed, some of the accommodations onboard the very largest are approaching, dare I say it, almost what you might call true-blue saloons.
It’s a funny little development. You’ve still got boaters playing the Yeah we’re just keeping it simple in a center console-card, but then they’re pulling up in a 47-foot yacht with multiple monster engines bolted on the back and a queen-size berth and full galley below. It ain’t exactly that 17-foot Montauk you used to knock around the bay on as a kid.
But maybe I’m being overly critical. Maybe the rise of the giant center console has more to do with the style of boating than the length of the hull. After all, no matter how big you go, or how much you pay, the center console is still an open boat. It’s easy to wash down. And it’s easier to maintain outboards than it is to crawl down into a hot engine room and tinker around with a set of monolithic diesels. And yeah, a center console will always give that wind-in-the-hair feel and a certain connectedness to the water that you’ll never get way up on top of a convertible’s flying bridge. They’re simply a hell of a lot of fun to drive. Maybe that’s the whole point.
This article originally appeared in the February 2015 issue of Power & Motoryacht magazine.