Issue: January/February 2006
Catch Some Fun – here’s a purpose-built fishing battlewagon that makes no compromises.
WORDS IAN MACRAE PHOTOS IAN MACRAE & KARL IBRAHIM
You’ve gotta hand it to the Americans when it comes to turning out full-on, purpose built fishing platforms – they win hands down.
Every fishing boat I’ve owned has started out as a bare shell I’ve had to fit-out over time to suit my fishing needs. But here’s a 36-footer I felt right at home in from the moment I stepped onboard. The Wellcraft 360 Coastal is the answer to every sportfisherman’s dreams.
The aft cockpit is enormous and uncluttered. Plus, her 13′ 8″ beam makes it one of the beamiest boats in her class. The padded gunwales are high enough to brace against while fighting a big fish and there’s nothing on the floor to trip over. The fish fighting area is well away from the bait prep and clean-up station.
The aft cockpit is self-draining and has a raw-water deck wash to clean any blood and slime away before anyone slips over. There are two, large plumbed kill tanks in the cockpit floor and a big live-bait tank behind the helm station. And the good thing about this bait tank is you don’t have to bend over to get the baits out. Opposite, to port, is a sink and freezer unit which you can also use without bending.
Another big plus is all of the tackle boxes and storage draws scattered around the cockpit. All your tackle and rigs can be stowed, but they remain at your fingertips when required ? great for fishermen.
The hardtop over the main cockpit is a ripper. It’s supported by a solid aluminium frame and is strong enough to stand on. The hardtop frame also acts as the grab rails for when things get a bit rough.
A set of custom clears enclose the helm cockpit, but there’s an opening ‘mini’ window in the centre of the windscreen and hatches above the skipper and navigator’s position, which keeps this area well ventilated. The top section of the clears can also be removed for even more air circulation. But if it gets too hot you can always go below to the air-conditioned comfort of the main saloon.
The tilt-steering wheel is a stainless steel affair with a knob for quick directional changes, which is great when backing down on a fish. There are six rod holders (three per side) in the hardtop supports, two in each gunwale and another two in the transom.
About the only extra a fisho will have to add is a set of outriggers. A far cry from my early days setting up fishing boats.
Those not locked into a good fish, or guests out for a weekend cruise, can relax out of the elements on the L-shaped lounge in the helm cockpit. It can seat four adults in comfort. There’s also another dicky seat behind the adjustable skipper’s chair. This is a good place for a crewmember to sit out of the sun and watch the lures from.
The test boat was fitted with the latest Raymarine GPS chart plotter/sounder and radar. A compass, VHF radio, Autopilot, two forward-facing spotlights and two aft – cockpit floodlights are part of the package. An 8kVa genset is standard.
Being fitted with twin Volvo D6 370hp shaft drives means engine instrumentation takes the form of twin, multi-gauge displays; one for each engine. These indicate RPM, temp, and fuel flow among others in either a numerical readout, or simulated gauges. Personally, I prefer the simulated gauges, because the readout is much easier to interpret quickly. The shaft drives are also supplied with silky smooth electronic gear and throttle levers, which make this boat extremely easy to manoeuvre, even in tight spaces.
In front on the navigator’s seat is a small chart holder with a clear Perspex lid. For night operation, red lights illuminate the dash and chart holder, so the skipper’s night vision isn’t affected by white light.
The wide walkway around the cabin make accessing the bow easy and the hardtop supports offer plenty of grab holds along the way.
The bow rail is sturdy and will support the weight of an adult. There are foot controls for the windlass at the bow.
At the end of a hard day’s fishing it’s only a few steps down into the air-conditioned comfort of the main saloon. There’s a forward island bed with an innerspring mattress and an L-shaped lounge and dinette that converts into a double bed. Plus, there’s a roomy head and shower to wash off the perspiration, before preparing the evening meal in the fully functional galley. As a matter of fact, this boat is an ideal vessel for a couple, or a couple with two children, to spend an extended weekend onboard.
Storage has been well catered for with under bed areas and draws, hanging lockers on each side of the main bed and plenty of cupboards in the galley. All the cabinetry in the saloon is finished in cherrywood and the roof is lined.
Even though there are no portholes in the main saloon, there’s a big hatch above the main bed and two smaller ones above the galley and dinette. But the main saloon also holds other surprises. There is a large underfloor locker down the centre of the cabin, which holds two Tupperware food trays, suspended above four purpose-build rod holders. Everything has a place and everything fits in its place.
PERFORMANCE & HANDLING
The twin D6 Volvos give this boat plenty of stick. She gets out of the hole and onto the plane quickly. The boat is fitted with trim tabs, but under normal circumstances, except for lateral trim, they aren’t needed, because the hull rides with a slight bow-up attitude. Any more trim causes forward vision problems.
The hull has a sharp entry and a good flare, but it’s her extra wide beam that contributes more to delivering her soft, dry ride. It also helps in a following sea. During this test, in a 2m swell, she showed no tendencies to want to broach.
She’s also a quiet boat through the water, no doubt because of her extra thick hull, and she doesn’t bang or crash, even into a head sea. Throw her into a tight turn and she comes around quickly, straighten up and she tracks dead ahead and doesn’t try to move off line.
Having put together plenty of fishing boats over the years, this is one of the first boats I’ve been onboard where I felt comfortable with her layout from the start. As a sportfishing platform, she’s near on perfect and her sea-handling abilities are second to none. She’s quiet, dry, soft riding and handles the rough stuff with ease.
With a fuel capacity of 1500lt, and burning only 18 gallons per hour at 20mph, the 360 has a cruising range of around 400 nautical miles. Pull the throttles back to a 7-knot trolling speed and she burns only 0.9 gallons per hour, per engine. Not bad, not bad at all.
Engine access also blew the team away. The entire helm cockpit floor rises on hydraulic struts. There’s enough room in there to hold a party, so daily checks and routine servicing are a breeze.
Prices start at $559,219, or $589,029 as tested with all the goodies.
Luxury cruiser or a serious bluewater fishing boat? Some boats may force you to decide, but the impeccably setup Wellcraft 360 Coastal, with its time proven C. Raymond Hunt designed hull, offers buyers the best of both worlds. From the pedestal helm seating you get total 360-degree views to all quarters, a must when fishing.
The raised helm station floor may not offer as much height as a flybridge, but it certainly places the skipper high enough to easily see and orchestrate the action in the aft cockpit. She’s a total fishing package and comfortable cruiser.
The Wellcraft 360 Coastal was powered by twin D6 370hp Volvo shaftdrives. Other engine options are twin 450hp Cummins, but the cost goes up with the horsepower.
With three adults onboard and a full load of fuel, the 360 Coastal produced the following performance figures.
MPH – RPM
5.5 – 1000
10 – 1500
11.2 – 1800
13 – 2000
19.1 – 2400
4.4 – 2600
32 – 3380
LOA: 40′ 9″
HULL: 36′ 6″
BEAM: 13′ 8″
+ Excellent fishability; Top dry & soft ride
– No portholes