As I wrote in a previous post I recently changed my ride from a very reliable Action Craft flats boat to a custom-built Young Gulfshore 20. I’ve been using the boat now for several months and wanted to do my best to talk about the boat. Ordinarily when I’m doing a review I try and consider how I would change the product; that’s a problem here because there literally is nothing I would change about this boat. I decided to get one of these boats after spending some time in my friend Doug Barrett’s Gulfshore. I was not in the market for a bay boat; in fact, I wanted something that could run at least as shallow as my Action Craft but with more features and especially a more spacious and comfortable ride. The Gulfshore is 20 feet long, with a low freeboard and a tunnel hull. With trim tabs down and jack plate all the way up, I have taken off in around a foot and half of water. The balance of the boat is excellent. The 40 gallon gas tank is midship; trolling motor batteries in the front hatch help keep the bow down on takeoff. I decided on newly designed Mercury 150 four stroke, the lightest four stroke made. My home marina, the Sea Hag, is a Mercury warranty station and that made the decision easy, actually. Doug’s boat has an Etec 130, a modern two-stroke motor that drives the boat well. I expected more power with mine and in fact, I have to careful taking off to not overdo it because when the boat pops up on plane it will take off like a rocket if I use full throttle for takeoff. We’ve had a lot of floating grass recently, and tunnel hull boats have a tendency to collect grass while running and clog the intake ports, but one tremendous advantage of a jackplate is the ability to raise the lower the motor while running which has cleared the grass every time. The boat is very maneuverable, although running at high speed with the motor jacked up to the maximum can lead to some sliding around corners. I never run the boat with the motor jacked all the way up except for takeoff when needed. The boat seems to cruise best with the jackplate at around 2 or 3 inches up. The ride is, without being too gushing, spectacular. With the recent spells of wind and rain, this is a very very dry boat that rides much better than my old flats boat. The boat is easily pushed by my 80 pound thrust iPilot trolling motor.
In terms of comfort, it’s hard to describe how much more comfortable it is to run a boat from the elevated helm station as opposed to sitting low behind a console or windshield. The helm station seat and back rest are based on my measurements. You can use the seat as a leaning post, sit on it with your back against the backrest which is attached to the poling platform, or flip the seat up and out of the way if you want to fish from the back of the boat. The cockpit space is huge compared to most center console boats, in spite of the fact that I ordered the front fishing platform extended back a foot and a half to provide more space to fish from the front. Essentially, it’s much easier to move around in than any center console boat I’ve ever owned.
This picture gives a good idea of the cockpit space. Notice the under gunnel rod holders, pop-up cleats, pop-down pushpole holders, and deck rodholders. The hatch layouts are very functional, with a large storage area which included the trolling motor batteries, a separate anchor lock, and three storage areas in the rear, all the same size. Under the feet of the driver is the livewell, with a dry storage area starboard that lifts out and provides access to seacocks. The port storage hatch covers an insulated box that can be used as a fishbox, or sealed for additional dry storage. Access to the bilge is via a pop-out cover directly in front of the motor, and access to the cranking battery and charger is through a small hatch directly under the helm station.
The helm station is extremely well laid out. The steering wheel is adjustable, trim tab and jackplate controls are front and center, along with the PowerPole controller. A very handy storage area is seen below the station, for storage of frequently used items, phones, and other items. I keep my binoculars in there. I also added a 12 volt charging port in the box, and that’s where the power on/off switch resides as well. Having a visual display for the level of the jack plate and the trim tabs is a great luxury I never had on my other boat. Because of the elevation I can also stay behind the helm station and using the iPilot remote, control the trolling motor so a client can fish the front of the boat without me in the way.
Some particular additions that I really love: the Garmin 740S is by far the best GPS I’ve ever had. With NMEA connections, I can see water temp, depth, water pressure and speed in the corners of the navigation screen. The touchscreen is excellent. I added an “emergency” ladder which is made by Bob’s and attached directly to their jack plate. This has been amazingly functional. Tommy Thompson got out of the boat to take some of these pics and easily climbed back in. It also provides an easy way into the boat when it’s stored on a rack. It is held in place by a pin; when the pin is pulled out an inch, the ladder slides down into the water.
There are a lot of other creature comforts that go with the boat, and some limitations. Like all boats, there are trade-offs. It’s a fishing boat, not a cruising powerboat, so it’s not made with a lot of built in seating. One passenger can ride up on the helm station with the captain, and two can sit on the cooler seat/backrest (depending on the size of their posteriors). Two rodholders on either side of the helm station make casting from the helm station challenging so I intend to keep almost all rods under the gunnels. There are two additional holders on the poling platform so there’s plenty of rod storage available. In summary, this is by far the most functional, most comfortable and best-riding shallow water fishing boat I’ve ever seen or ridden. The flexibility of the rigging, the custom options available, make it a once-in-a-lifetime boat and I am very fortunate to have one.