WELL­CRAFT 352 FISH­ER­MAN

Flag­ship 35-Footer Keeps Fish­ing First with a Nod to Com­fort

Sport Fishing - - BOATS -

FFrom my van­tage point across the ma­rina, Well­craft’s new 352 Fish­er­man ap­peared ev­ery bit a se­ri­ous an­gling ma­chine, re­plete with a tower, out­rig­gers and abun­dant rod hold­ers. Yet, as I drew closer on this Septem­ber morn­ing and boarded from the in­ward-open­ing port dive door, lux­ury emerged in el­e­ments like the padded bow seat­ing that serves as a dinette, twin loungers and an invit­ing sun pad.

That’s just a taste of the ameni­ties that I dis­cov­ered on my test boat, which fea­tured just about ev­ery op­tion avail­able, many of which con­trib­uted to both fisha­bil­ity and cruis­ing com­fort. For ex­am­ple, the op­tional Sea­keeper 3 gyro-sta­bi­liza­tion sys­tem re­sults in a deck that’s vir­tu­ally free of roll, and that pays off in a safer, more com­fort­able ex­pe­ri­ence whether fish­ing or cruis­ing.

IN COM­MAND

As we slipped lines, I found the Mer­cury Joy­stick Pi­lot­ing help­ful while ma­neu­ver­ing in the tight con­fines of the ma­rina in Sara­sota, Florida. The sys­tem’s Head­ing Ad­just, Bow Hook and DriftHook can prove use­ful for fish­ing as well.

This boat was a blast to drive. Triple Mer­cury 400R Ver­ado out­boards pro­pelled the big cen­ter-con­sole from zero to 30 mph in 8.6 sec­onds — not bad for a boat dis­plac­ing 13,510 pounds, plus fuel and wa­ter. The Mer­cury pow­er­steer­ing sys­tem made cor­ner­ing su­per easy. The 352 carves turns with con­fi­dence and pre­ci­sion, and the deep-V hull slices smoothly through waves.

The dash panel fea­tured two Garmin flush-mounted 22-inch mul­ti­func­tion dis­plays for ac­cess­ing the chirp fish fin­der, xHD2 open-ar­ray radar, FLIR ther­mal-imag­ing cam­era, chart plot­ter, en­gine in­stru­men­ta­tion and more.

Tog­gle-switch pan­els are crafted from ma­chined bil­let alu­minum, not plas­tic, and the en­tire helm fea­tures a black fin­ish to help re­duce glare. My test boat was equipped with a Fu­sion stereo con­trol head, Sea­keeper dis­play and a pair of air-con­di­tion­ing out­lets. An over­head elec­tron­ics box in­te­grated into the hard­top fea­tured the Mer­cury Ves­selView en­gine dis­play, VHF ra­dio and glove box.

The cen­trally lo­cated tilt steer­ing wheel puts the skip­per in the cen­ter of the three-across bucket helm seats, each of which fea­tures flip-up bol­sters and fold-down arm­rests. The cen­ter seat also drops away at the pull of a lever, so I could stand and drive with my back braced against the seat pad­ding.

SOFTER SIDE

I gave up the helm to ex­plore other facets of the 352, in­clud­ing the for­ward con­sole lounger, which ac­com­mo­dates two and conceals an in­su­lated cooler un­der­neath. I found a sec­ond por­ta­ble Orca cooler un­der the bow seat­ing. My boat also came with snap-in reed matt floor­ing, which is nice on bare feet, but quickly comes out to re­veal the fish-wor­thy di­a­mond-pat­tern non­skid.

Across the tran­som, two flip-up bench seats are great for fam­ily ex­cur­sions, as well as tak­ing a load off dur­ing long runs off­shore. A tran­som door in the star­board quar­ter al­lows for ac­cess to the in­te­gral swim plat­form.

On the port side of the tran­som is a cov­ered sink with a fresh­wa­ter faucet for wash­ing up. In the mid­dle re­sides a 32-gal­lon cov­ered livewell that, on my boat, was equipped with a 12-volt chiller that min­i­mizes the need for ice, should you de­cide to the use this com­part­ment in­stead as a cooler.

GET­TING FISHY

A pair of 320-quart in­su­lated fish boxes un­der the aft deck are mac­er­ated to evac­u­ate blood and gruel over­board. While travers­ing the level deck, I found tilt-out in­wale lock­ers for stow­ing tackle items, as well as un­der­gun­wale racks for fish­ing rods and gaffs.

Abaft the helm seat­ing is a cov­ered prep sta­tion with a cut­ting board set within the faux-mar­ble coun­ter­top, but this can be up­graded to an elec­tric grill. A slide-out fridge for bev­er­ages and per­ish­ables re­sides be­low the coun­ter­top.

A 35-gal­lon livewell built into the port side of the sta­tion fea­tures a wrap­around tem­pered-safety-glass win­dow for keep­ing tabs on your bait.

To check out the con­sole in­te­rior, I used the unique port­side com­pan­ion­way. The door, tem­pered-glass side win­dow and a sec­tion of the con­sole top open all at once for easy ac­cess — no need for me to bend low as I stepped down into the con­sole cabin.

Once in­side, I found a fresh­wa­ter faucet and sink, flush­ing ma­rine toi­let, and a for­ward berth suit­able for the kids or a cou­ple of well-ac­quainted adults. The op­tional air-con­di­tion­ing sys­tem, pow­ered by a Wester­beke 3.5 kW ma­rine gas gen­er­a­tor, kept it com­fort­able in­side. An AC/DC elec­tri­cal con­trol panel filled the aft bulk­head, while the Sea­keeper 3 was in­stalled just un­der the panel.

EL­E­VATED PER­FOR­MANCE

I de­cided to put the 352 through its paces while pi­lot­ing from the op­tional el­e­vated sec­ond sta­tion. A cen­tral lad­der leads from the prep sta­tion up to the tower. Once aloft, I found vir­tu­ally all of the func­tions that ex­ist on the main helm, in­clud­ing a Garmin 12-inch MFD, Ves­selView dis­play, stereo con­trol, joy­stick con­trol and more.

Turn­ing Merc Rev­o­lu­tion 4 18-inch pitch (19-inch pitch on the cen­ter mo­tor) pro­pel­lers, the triple 400R out­boards pushed the 352 to a top speed of 57 mph at 6,800 rpm, where the en­gines drank 98.2 gph for 0.6 mpg. The best fuel ef­fi­ciency oc­curred at 4,000 rpm and 31.1 mph, where the mo­tors burned 26.5 gph for 1.2 mpg. That equates to a range of well over 400 miles, based on the 376-gal­lon fuel ca­pac­ity.

The 352 now stands as the largest model in the Well­craft line, and based on my ex­pe­ri­ence, it is also one of the brand’s best boats ever. With Well­craft’s 63-year her­itage, that’s say­ing a mouth­ful.

Well­craft’s new, smooth-rid­ing 352 Fish­er­man runs in the high-50-mph range with triple Mer­cury 400R Ver­a­dos.

Lux­ury touches in­clude bow seat­ing that con­verts to twin loungers, a din­ing area and a sun pad. The el­e­vated bow pods also al­low for easy ac­cess to the an­chor locker.

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