Pro-Line 26 XP

A foul-weather friend.

When you hear "express," you think of raked windshields and aerodynamic lines. When you hear "pilothouse," you think of commercial boats with reverse-rake windshields and butt-ugly lines. Pro-Line's new 26 XP is neither of those, even though it melds an express with a pilothouse.

On the express side, the 26 XP has a forward cabin with a hideaway commode under the starboard berth, a freshwater sink, and a 12-volt air conditioner. On the pilothouse side, you'll discover a roomy helm station with full protection on both sides and from above, thanks to a tall tempered-glass windshield and a sunroof-equipped hardtop. In fact, there's enough space for five guys to enjoy the protection on bad weather days. A pair of windshield wipers makes foul-weather operation even easier, and you can roll down the canvas to seal the aft end of the helm deck. The windshield's rake is extremely slight, and when matched with the forward express-style cabin top, the combination looks stylish, almost sleek.

Thanks to all that protection, the 26 XP makes a nifty cruiser, but its main purpose is to serve as an all-weather fishboat. And serve it does, with standards such as a circular baby-blue livewell, raw-water washdown, integrated, insulated fishboxes, triple tackleboxes, and a foldaway transom seat that opens the cockpit for angling. The fish-killing platform is backed with standard Pro-Line construction, including closed-cell, foam-filled fiberglass stringers, 3610 knitted fiberglass, a 3-ounce skin coat, and 32-ounce outdoor vinyl on all the seat cushions. Working on wires, gauges, and electronics at the helm will be easy, because the entire dash tilts back for access.

If you plan to hunt fish in snotty weather, you'll appreciate this boat's performance. Why? For starters, with a 51.3-mph top end, you may be able to outrun some big, black clouds. Now picture horizontal rain, flying spray, big waves, and mechanical problems-not a fun mix. But on the 26 XP I tested, equipped with twin 200-hp Honda four-strokes, when we tried to run with one engine shut down, the boat popped right up onto plane and made 28 mph. That's a pretty astonishing single-engine get-home speed. One that will allow you to pilot yourself home in an express.