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Whether you're into cruising or fishing, Seaswirl's Striper range aims to give you the best of both worlds - and does a damn good job of it. Bernard Clancy put two of the American beauties through their paces on a murderous Melbourne day.
Story: Bernard Clancy Photos: Stuart Grant.
The Seaswirl Striper range of fishing boats will be regarded by many as the perfect "CC" craft - Comfortable Compromise. That's the impression I got after testing a pair of these very desirable American beauties, the 2601 and 2301.
Comfortable because when you go fishing with Seaswirl, you do it in style. Like fully moulded everything, a sink, cooker, bed, head, lovely soft furnishings and even a vanity-mirrored bedhead.
And yet despite these somewhat feminine characteristics, the Stripers really are very macho fishing craft, particularly suitable to serious game and sportsfishing. They are "zoned" beautifully, with all the comforts of home forward of the helm station and very functional fishability built into the cockpit.
Between these zones is another, the helm area, which is also beautifully and pragmatically designed for both skipper and sidekick. Those in colder climes will particularly love the Alaska Pack option, which could almost be described as a very comfortably enclosed "igloo" of huge screens, hardtop and drop curtains behind. Oh, and there's a windscreen demister too.
I was impressed by the relationship each of these zones has to one another. They seem to be perfectly balanced, each just the right size so that the whole package works harmoniously.
Let me explain that: so often with this style of boat one zone dominates another, and usually the cabin size is overly large, stealing cockpit space or fishing room and features. Some manufacturers will go the other way, building a large cockpit for fishability with a cramped cabin sort of thrown in as part of the deal.
Not on the Stripers. The comfort zone is great and fishing room is excellent, with just about every option you could want, like plenty of clean floorspace, overhead rodholders, plumbed livebait tank, padded coamings, and heaps more to make fishing offshore a very pleasant experience indeed.
So when the chequebook comes out, the fisherman in the family is happy and so too is the wife. That's a tremendous achievement in itself!
WALK THIS WAY
The Seaswirl Striper walkaround range of fishing boats is made under the huge Genmar Holdings umbrella in the US. They're the biggest boatbuilders in the world and their boat brands alone number more than 15 with names like Wellcraft, Four Winns and Glastron.
The range is extensive and the options list comprehensive. On this test we looked at two comparable boats - the 2601 powered by a 250hp Evinrude direct-injected two-stroke outboard and the 2301 by a five-litre V8 MerCruiser multi-point injected sterndrive delivering 260hp.
The bigger boat had an LOA of 7.80m and the smaller version 7.37m. This report refers largely to the 2601 as the 2301 is almost identical except for some size compromises, which we'll detail later.
According to Seaswirl, all its boats are designed and built for strength, durability and performance. Hull and decks are constructed with hand-laid fibrecore for an optimal strength-to-weight ratio, especially in the chines and keel, where strength is needed most. The stringer system is also fibrecore.
Decks and hulls are double sealed, and stainless-steel components through-bolted. All Seaswirl boats are designed and built to meet or exceed the applicable requirements of the US Coast Guard.
The models we tested were fitted with the Alaska Pack, which we mentioned earlier. This is a solid 'glass hardtop mounted on an exceptionally high aluminium-framed safetyglass screen and side windows (which slide open for a breeze too). Drop-curtain clears fall from the hardtop's trailing edge to make everything snug on a cold day. Headroom is good, around 6ft (1.83m) and the four-pot gold anodised rod rack on the hardtop's trailing edge was easy to get at and as solid as a rock - although I would have preferred another bar built into it to provide a grabrail for team members three and four when travelling at speed on a rough day.
Centrally mounted on this rail is a cockpit floodlight and there's another light centrally mounted on the hardtop for the helm area.
The Stripers are also available with a lower four-piece wraparound screen with or without a hardtop and clears. Naturally the latter style comes with all sorts of options for biminis, targas and overhead rod racks.
The all-round vision through the huge Alaska Pack screens was brilliant, although perhaps the small windscreen wiper could havecovered more area.
As a fishing platform, the Stripers compare with the best in their size range. Walkarounds to the bow are quite wide, non-slip, but only ankle deep. The anchor is carried on a large bowsprit and fairlead, which is so long that the pick might be a little awkward to get at. In this regard the high, one-piece, aftermarket and Australian-made bowrail - though formed around the peak - gets in the way a bit.
I'd prefer a split rail and one that feels a lot more solid than this one did. Flimsiness is not conducive to confidence in a decent sea. Thank heavens for the handrail on the hardtop.
Mounted on the bowsprit is a stainless-steel-covered navigation-light module longitudinally mounted cleat, rather than a post, but I suppose it would do the same job. The rope locker is not large enough for another anchor. The raised foredeck has a cushioned recess seat for bow fishing in comfort. Behind that is a circular ventilation hatch with a flyscreen fitted internally.
Getting onto the walkaround is simple via a step arrangement from the cockpit, which incorporates cushioned "dicky" seats behind the helm and passenger bucket seats. These would be ideal for the crew to sit and watch a spread of lures.
From a fishing point of view, the Striper is right on the money. The cockpit certainly doesn't have cavernous space but as a workspace it's very efficient indeed. And it's large enough for some heavy, offshore stand-up work on the best and biggest pelagics.
It has four rubber-lined stainless-steel rodholders in the wide, flat gunwales - top-quality gear, but I'd like to see another two. There are no sidepockets as such, but two rubber "boot" pairs hold rods, gaffs or tagpoles on either side.
The cockpit sole is non-slip moulded 'glass and features twin plumbed (overboard) fish-storage bins on either side beside the centrally mounted fuel tank, which holds a huge 600lt of fuel on the 2601. The bins are great but you'll need very long and very strong fingernails to get your digits under the flush-mounted lift-up tabs to get the lids open. Coamings are padded very stylishly and there are recessed self-draining holes in either corner.
The transom on the 2601 is well designed with a large 114lt elliptical livebait tank in the centre with a Teflon cutting board built into the lid, which is mounted on a gas strut. The livebait tank is the heart of a fishing workstation and it needs to work well, be easy to get at but not be in the way. Seaswirl have got this one right.
On the port side is the transom door plus a rear-access cupboard and deckwash fittings. On the starboard side a cupboard door gives access to oil bottle and batteries. The oil filler is, sensibly, on top of the transom. A telescopic boarding ladder folds down into its own recess in the engine-mount platform.
The boarding platform on which the Evinrude 250 DI outboard is mounted is not as deep as some, which means it's easier to fish over the stern - and that's a good thing when you've got a short rod and a green fish that's running you all over the shop.
As a workstation, the cockpit is first class. All coamings are generously padded and at thigh height and nothing protrudes into the work space. Lovely
IN THE ZONE
Moving into the central zone, the helm station and its twin navigator's chairs is a step up from the cockpit. That step is the lid of a cavernous underfloor bin which, on my knees, I could just touch the bottom.
Everything on the boat is moulded fibreglass, of course, and beautifully finished. The helm station is no different. Fully adjustable bucket seats are made of impact-resistant materials and the frames, backs and bases and are covered with durable, stain-resistant 30oz marine vinyl. They have fold-down footrests and are mounted on fully moulded and lidded storage boxes.
The wheel is a six-spoke Seastar stainless-steel number with compass in front, while a quality Faria instrument cluster is fitted in a panel to the left front beside a comprehensive switch panel.
Right of the helm is a recess for mounting electronics - which were yet to be installed on the test rig - and radios could be mounted behind the helm within easy reach. Or you could install them in an electronics box on the hardtop - an optional extra. There's a switch for the cockpit floodlight too.
Engine controls are mounted to the side on a vinyl-covered and cushioned panel. Beneath that is a small odds-and-ends tray, a two-tray tackle drawer (complete with trays) and a drinkholder. I really liked these finishing touches.
To get to the cabin you take three steps down into very classy quarters featuring a vee-berth (with that mirrored bedhead), stylish cushioning in various fawn tones with matching headliner on the walls and ceiling. Interestingly - and practically - there is no carpet on the moulded, non-slip deck. Naturally there is dry storage under everything.
The fully enclosed head is small but adequate at the end of the starboard bunk, and opposite is a small sink, workbench and swing-down single burner stove. A mesh hold-all above the sink will come in handy too.
While natural light was adequate, I reckon the elliptical windows either side of the hull could have been a little bigger. The stereo system is mounted above the head door adjacent to the interior light.
The take-away impression of the cabin was of neatness, practicality and panache with lots of super-soft padding, tasteful cloths and vinyls.
The 2301 was almost identical to its bigger sister except for a few changes to accommodate the hull's smaller size and alternate powerplant. For example, the head was a simple under-bunk arrangement rather than being enclosed. The interior mirror was at the foot end of the starboard berth, and the fire extinguisher was positioned in a coaming recess behind the passenger seat.
This boat was also equipped with a removable cabin table with recessed cupholders in the corners. Another nice touch.
The 2301 was powered by a MerCruiser 5lt MPI so the stern treatment was a little different too. The engine box, which had a brilliant two-piece lid which opened on rams from the centre, encroached only about 30cm into the cockpit. Either side of that were removable rear-quarter seats on short pedestals. The livebait tank, still more than adequate but reduced to 109lt, was on the starboard side while a smaller transom door remained on the port.
Both hulls featured very broad shoulders, extremely wide chines and huge strakes. With this design, stability is excellent and if you're working a fish in a heavy sea, these attributes are very important.
As I suspected, the Stripers handled the vicious 1.5m Port Phillip Bay chop well at speed except into a headsea, when the full bow and big chines tended to create some solid slaps - but there were few hard "falls" at sensible speeds and the ride was generally smooth in the messy conditions.
Finding the right speed to balance the boats was quite easy, and then they ate up the miles. Despite the awful conditions, we managed to get both boats flying fairly well at 5000rpm down and across sea.
Unfortunately we couldn't record effective speed figures for the 2601 because of prop slippage, particularly in turns, but rectifying this problem is just a matter of a little fiddling with the prop setup and outboard mounting height.
The 2301 - fitted with the MerCruiser - never missed a beat and felt very solid indeed. In fact, the weight and size of both boats was clearly evident throughout the tests. You feel safe and secure even in rough conditions.
This brace of American beauties is mighty impressive. They're not perfect, but the Stripers do provide a good compromise between a cruiser and a fisher - boats that can genuinely claim to have something for everyone in the family.
As a maxi trailerable boat (more than 3000kg on the trailer depending on fuel load and an over-width beam) the 2601 is about as big as you'd want to tow on the highway - but whatever stress that might create will be washed away when you hit the water. After all, isn't that what boats are for?
Boat Test: Seaswirl 2101 Source: Trailer Boat Issue: 180 2004
Stars & Stripers
The Seaswirl Striper 2101 Dual Console is much more than an average family bowrider. There are enough fishy inclusions as standard to make it a serious inshore contender, and all without having to forego the comforts of home.
What we know as a bowrider with the lot, Americans call a "dual console". They're usually very nice, to understate the situation somewhat. The Seaswirl Striper 2101 Dual Console is a case in point.
It has a toilet to keep mum and the kids happy and a livebait tank to convince dad that what he's just bought is a real fishing boat as well as a family runabout. Yep, the 2101 is a compromise, but a darn good one.
Sure enough, the bow section has an open lounge for the kids to play in and the cockpit is big enough and set up to dangle a line when the fisherfolk in the family want to catch dinner.
But the really neat bit is in the middle - the consoles either side of the walkthrough windscreen. These are more than a metre wide (or deep, depending on your viewpoint) and include the comforts of home.
The console in front of the passenger bucket seat contains the head. Open the bi-fold doors and squeeze in (yeah, it's a fairly tight fit but it does the job). It's fully lined and carpeted in matching fawns and browns, equipped with a light, but no window, which could be a little claustrophobic - but hey, when you gotta go...
There is an odds-and-ends tray and a drinkholder below a grabhandle on the port coaming within easy reach of the seat, which has removable cushions and backrests. The skipper's chair is the same but has a rubber footrest recess in the moulded bulkhead.
This console has a small tackle drawer complete with two trays, which is moulded into the walkthrough side, and under that is a side-opening storage area for lifejackets and other gear. It's quite large and easy to access.
Beside the hatch is a recess for the fire extinguisher. These convenient features make life aboard more comfortable.
CENTRE OF ATTENTION
The Seastar six-spoke stainless helm looks the part with a compass on the left front, instruments in a panel to the left but still within the flick of an eye.
Right of the helm is a recess for mounting electronics and there's plenty of room for radios behind the helm. Oh, and I almost forgot to mention the switch for the macerator.
The skipper's control box is mounted on the coaming on a vinyl-covered and cushioned panel with a small odds-and-ends tray and a moulded drinkholder nearby.
I liked the solid-framed screen with supports either side of the centre panel, which opens to give access to the bow section. These are often the weakest parts of a bowrider (they should be the strongest) simply because people insist on using the windscreen as a handhold when moving about .
This five-piece wraparound number has a substantial aluminium frame. The central section is also fitted with a strong rubber stopper so that, when open, it doesn't crash back onto the panel on the port side. This is important because kids will be kids.
On the cockpit sole between the consoles is a terrifically huge bin for ski storage and wet gear. It's one of the best I've seen. The deck is fully non-slip, moulded over the huge 400lt fuel tank.
The bow section is set up in typical bowrider fashion with an anchor-carrying bowsprit and fairlead, a cleat behind that rather than a post, and a large rope locker with a small lid. The forward navigation lights are mounted on a short post, which appears to be susceptible to knocking. Additional cleats amidships either side will be handy, as will the short grabrails for bow passengers.
BACK TO THE FUTURE
The cockpit is not overly large, but still, four people could fish from it if you remove the two rear quarter seats. That's very good for this style of boat.
These seats are mounted on their own poles and are easily removable to get at the batteries and oil bottle under the transom. A nice touch is two wrist straps built into the coamings for the rear-seat passengers.
There are four rubber-insert stainless rodholders in the wide, thigh-height, fully non-slip gunwales. The coamings are thickly padded in quite tasteful fawn and cream panels.
Medium-sized sidepockets for rod storage are fully enclosed behind swing-down lockable doors. Great idea!
Next to the port seat are switches and connections for freshwater and saltwater washdowns. Centrally mounted in the transom, the 11the equipment.4lt elliptical livebait tank is huge. The lid, on a gas strut, incorporates a Teflon cutting board. A transom boarding ladder completes the equipment.
The boat comes on a US-style EZ Loader dual-axle drive-on trailer, which features a hydraulic braking system with twin discs and breakaway. On trailer with a half-full fuel tank, the tow weight is around 2000kg.
The test boat was fitted with bimini and clears but there are other options, including a hardtop. Actually, the range of options for the Seaswirl Stripers is very comprehensive. We had the outboard-powered version (an Evinrude DFI 200), but this boat also comes with a sterndrive.
The hull features chunky shoulders to maximise interior space, very wide chines and twin strakes from tip to toe. With this style of hull, stability was excellent - at the expense of rough-water performance - but that's really immaterial because this style of boat is unlikely to be used in the sorts of seas we had to contend with on our test day.
In fact, it was so rough that we couldn't get reliable performance figures, but we did manage to achieve 45kmh at 3500rpm in a messy headsea. I reckon that's on the better side of very good. We copped a bit of spray, but that's inevitable in a bowrider in rough water at speed.
These boats will be popular, but the $72,000 pricetag is nothing to be sneezed at and may prove somewhat discouraging for more than a few buyers. But if you're after a comfortable, stylish and well-finished family boat that's more substantial and versatile than your average wakeboarding bowrider, you should definitely check this one out.
Great underfloor wet storage bin
Setup of consoles
Standard features and finish
Positioning of the forward navigation lights
Price is towards the upper end of the market
Hull has better stability than ride