Jeremy went to Rhode Island for a wedding and, before the evening reception, he wandered down to the beach in his tux, rod in hand, to check things out. What he saw in the frothing waters prompted a frantic call on his cell. "I've never seen anything like this in my life," he shouted. "Get up here, now." What Jeremy had never seen before were acres of bluefish ripping up bait inshore, while offshore lurked the real targets of our desire, busting schools of juvenile bluefin tuna. The only way to reach them was by boat - mine.
This left me with two choices: Wait to hear other people's stories about epic fishing, or hitch the boat, an Angler 204FX sitting on a Performance trailer, to a Chevrolet Avalanche LT and head out on the highway. There was really only one choice. So before sunrise the next day I backed the Avalanche to the trailer's hitch, connected the lights, and hit the interstate. Four hours later, I pulled in at the ramp. Jeremy was waiting to hop in, and we headed after the tuna.
But this turned out to be about more than tuna. We could also attempt to solve one of the great dilemmas of boating: Whether shopping for a used boat or a new one, is it better to buy a big boat and go places via water, or buy a small boat and tow vehicle and get there by asphalt?
Each has its pros and cons, but which one wins out in the end? We had a lot of fun finding out.
The classic argument in favor of a big boat is its extended cruising range. A larger boat also is more immune to weather, carries more fuel, and can wander far beyond the inlet. If you're comparing apples to apples, with both large and small boats sitting in slips at a marina, that rings true. But when you take the smaller boat and throw it on a trailer, suddenly its range increases-bound only by the limits of paved roads.
Consider that even the most fuel-efficient boats over 30' achieve about 2 mpg at cruise; the Avalanche truck towing a 2,200-pound 204FX on a 2,000-pound trailer averaged 13 mpg. The 30-footer's fuel tank may hold about 200 gallons, giving it a theoretical range of 400 miles. The truck's 31-gallon tank gives it about the same. But it does this traveling at about twice the speed as the boat. All numbers that would seem to give the trailering option an advantage. But how does it stack up in the real world?
To find out, I did a head-to-head test against a larger sister boat, an Angler 2900 CC powered with twin 225-hp Yamaha F225 outboards, our project boat from a few seasons ago.
I pulled out at 6 a.m., hoping to avoid the crush of rush-hour traffic. The thought of getting caught in bumper-to-bumper gridlock with a boat in tow is an excellent motivator. But I immediately encountered my first negative in the trailering category. Certain roads are for cars only, meaning I couldn't take the most direct route to reach the interstate. This added just enough time to get me caught in rush hour.
Around 8 a.m. my stomach began to grumble. I eased my way to the next exit and performed a maneuver that, as far as I know, is impossible offshore: ordering at a drive-through window. Until someone comes up with a way for me to get an Egg McMuffin, hash browns, and a large coffee when I'm in bluewater, I'll score this as a major advantage for the trailer.
Once my stomach settled and the traffic cleared, I made steady time northward, the Avalanche pulling the boat along at a 60-to-65-mph clip. Compare that to the top speed of 53.2 mph for the 2900 CC, or its optimal cruising speed of 30 mph (which gives it a range of about 386 miles).
At around 10 a.m. I pulled into the launch ramp in Point Judith, Rhode Island, where Jeremy stood waiting with fishing gear and a giant thermos of coffee. I made the approximately 200-mile trip in about four hours, and that's with detours on local roads, rush-hour traffic, and a stop for food. Keeping the 2900 CC at its optimal cruising speed for four hours would mean I would have covered only two-thirds of that distance. And that's if the seas were reasonably calm.
"You won't believe what's going on out there," Jeremy repeated. "Let's get after them." And we did.