Mixing Angling Features and Family Comfort with an Affordable Price
The Florida sun shone bright and warm on the late-winter day that I met Martin Rusin, marketing director for Robalo Boats, and Chris Erickson, of Erickson Marine, for a test run of the new Robalo R302 on Sarasota Bay.
Even before stepping aboard, I found myself intrigued with this 29-foot-2-inch center console. The $148,895 base price piqued my curiosity, as that’s well below many other boats in this size range. What could I expect at such a price? I was determined to find out.
The R302 runs on the Robalo HydroLift hull of its predecessor, the R300, but with a fresh interior, including a new hardtop that integrates with a redesigned console. Striding along the 22-inch-wide walkways beside the helm, I noticed that the powder-coated aluminum uprights for the hardtop recess into the console to create more foot room.
Once at the helm, I appreciated the fullheight tempered bonded-glass windshield and optional bonded-glass side windows. On this warm day, I opened the motorized vent at the top of the windshield for fresh air. I found the optional twin flat-mounted Simrad NSS evo2 12-inch multifunction displays were ideally positioned for viewing. My tester came with power-assist hydraulic steering; the wheel was
positioned on the starboard side, giving me ample elbowroom, even with a companion sharing the seating. The twin helm seats offer individual flip-up bolsters and fold-down armrests.
READY FOR BATTLE
My inspection revealed abundant angling features along the backside of the seating module, including a covered 20-gallon livewell and a stainless-steel prep sink with a freshwater nozzle. Tackle drawers are built into both sides, and a 72-quart cooler slides from underneath.
My measurements revealed an aft cockpit that’s 8 feet wide and 5 feet long. With six gunwale rod holders (two on each side and two across the transom), a 25-gallon covered livewell in the port quarter, two huge insole fish lockers, under-gunwale rod racks, stainless-steel toe rails and a transom door in the starboard quarter, the R302 is ready for battle. The diamond nonskid helped me keep a solid footing as I continued my inspection.
I raised the transom hatch upward and was pleased with the access to pumps, hoses, valves, wiring and other rigging. Moving to the bow, I checked out the R302’s anchor locker, which conceals an electric windlass and a freshwater washdown to rinse the anchor.
I thought of my family as I flipped up the 5-foot-wide transom bench seat. They also would appreciate the stepdown head compartment, accessible via a front entry on the center console. The fully lined interior featured more than 6 feet of headroom, an electric porcelain marine toilet, a shower, and a vanity with sink and faux-granite countertop and freshwater faucet.
The U-shaped seating in the bow converts to forward-facing loungers thanks to molded-in pods that serve as backrests. Extract a table from the massive locker under the bow deck to transform bow seating to a dining area. Three fish lockers (two 40-gallon and one 50-gallon) reside under the bow seating.
SMOOTH AND POWERFUL
Twin Yamaha F300s popped the R302 onto plane in 4 seconds and propelled it to 30 mph in 7.5 seconds. The Kevlarreinforced hull deftly carved turns at speed. The wave-taming hull put a smile on my face as we smoothly traversed rollers. The R302 remained pleasingly stable, both underway and at rest, thanks to the 10½-foot beam. With three crew and 80 gallons of fuel on board, I was able to achieve a top speed of 54.5 mph at 5,700 rpm during my test. The most efficient cruising speed occurred at 3,000 rpm, where the Robalo posted 1.8 mpg at 25 mph with the twin F300s burning 13.6 gallons per hour.
Now I know what to expect for a boat of this size and price. If someone asks, I’ll tell them to expect a lot of performance, fishing features, comfort, and quality. You can pay more, but I’ve found few other boats beat the Robalo R302 when it comes to value.
Robalo’s R302 offers superb performance and a smooth ride. The 10½-foot beam results in excellent lateral stability.
Above: An integral tempered bonded-glass windshield features a motorized vent at the top. Below: The versatile bow area offers abundant stowage and converts to U-shaped seating with a snack table in the center.