TEST RUNS

Mix­ing An­gling Fea­tures and Fam­ily Com­fort with an Af­ford­able Price

Sport Fishing - - CONTENTS - BY JIM HEN­DRICKS

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.

NEW IN­TE­RIOR

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.

FAM­ILY COM­FORT

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.

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