More than a few big center-consoles carry their bows really high, obscuring vision, especially while attaining plane or running in following seas. But Southport’s 33 FE gets up and runs while maintaining a very level aspect.
The 33 FE, designed by C. Raymond Hunt and Associates, has loads of great running attributes. It proved responsive to helm and throttle during maneuvering and acceleration trials. At 40 mph, I purposely cut a wake as sinuous as a snake, alternately leaning and carving on first one and then the other chine. Unlike so many boats, the Southport 33 FE exhibited no abrupt drop during the transition as the boat rolled on its centerline into each of the S-turns I commanded of it.
With its throttle hit, the 33 FE jumped from 40 mph to wide open, the twin F300 Yamahas belting out a husky, operatic note and hurtling us to nearly 50. Even at that speed, it cleaved chop and wakes with manageable fuss, and throttling down to 40 mph once again, the ride was like silk.
Drifting, the 33 FE provided a motion more comfortable than that of many outboard-powered boats when I lay beam-to wind and wave. In a world where triples and quads seem the norm, and more and more boats boast stepped hulls and speeds north of 55 mph, the twin-engine, straight V-hull Southport 33 FE delivers the balanced and predictable performance sure to garner the quiet smiles and subtle nods of experienced boatmen.
Another boat that gets much the same reaction — for many of the same reasons — is Regulator’s 34. It retails for a base price of $274,995 powered by twin 350 hp Yamaha F350 outboards. For another $5,000, you can get behind the helm of an “SS” version, decidedly more heavily weighted to the cruising end of the spectrum.
The Southport 33 FE not only runs, but it can also fish and entertain. From the illuminated 35-gallon livewell in the transom to the four insulated fish boxes, to the vertical rod stowage in the console, to the outrigger plates built into the T-top, the core fishing accouterments are present. An optional leaning-post livewell integrates with the standard tackle and rigging center, itself complete with rig-hanging bars and a warren of stowage built into the deluxe cabinet.
That same rigging center can alternatively be optioned with a refrigerator and/or a grill, in which case it’s called the entertainment center. A folding transom bench deploys when needed for seating. In the forward cockpit, U-shaped seating and a table create a dinette — or drop the table and transform the bow into a giant sun pad. A windlass resides under the foredeck: Drop the hook and enjoy. The center-console layout allows a crowd to spread farther apart than they could in the cockpit of even the very biggest express or walk-around boat. Two couples might find more conversational intimacy in that one pair could recline in the forward lounge while the second pair could consider the view from the transom. Another scenario versus a cabin boat: You can man the grill aft, keeping your crew out of the smoke — and out of your hair. Once you stop thinking of a center-console as purely a fish boat, you can start considering that 360 degrees of hip-deep freeboard all on level aboard a 33-foot-long boat presents a lot of different opportunities, and not all of them involve bait.
Swinging back to the fishy side, I was able to hop atop the foredeck and confidently cast lures with little regard for my footing. As I did so, I couldn’t help but think that the ease of gaining this perch, and the ability to feel confident and sure-footed while here, would serve a skipper well should drama relating to docking or anchoring arise.
Inside the console is a cork-sole mini cabin. I discovered a 7-foot-long berth — with next to no headroom up forward, but it’s perfectly serviceable, if needed, for sleeping two, even if they happen to be a pair of tournament fishing anglers who lost their hotel reservations and need to crash. A freshwater, flush head, a Corian vanity with sink and a shower are provided, and in this area, near to the cabin entry, headroom is aplenty. Ditto for room to swing your elbows while wrangling a bar of soap.
Resin-infused, and with its hull and deck made firm with both through-fastenings and a methacrylate adhesive, the 33 FE is built for the long haul. Construction as robust as this boat sports also provides a couple of immediate and tangible benefits: It’s quiet. The creaks and groans and squeaks and rattles one hears aboard boats not put together in as meticulous a fashion are noticeably absent running the Southport 33 FE. Combined with this low-slung design’s ideally positioned longitudinal center of gravity, you’ll feel particularly as one with the sea when running this boat.
The Southport 33 FE also exhibits excellent service access to its pumps, plumbing, electrical system and electronics. I consider such access a must-have feature aboard a boat expected to run in open water. Like many of the attributes I discovered during my day aboard, the 33 FE’s serviceability will prove important to anglers, day cruisers and that biggest group of all: boaters who enjoy both.