Crowd pleaser

John Heselwood | VOLUME 30, ISSUE 6

The smallest in Sea Fox’s centre console range boasts polished features that will please fishing fans and cruising families alike.

Nearly 20 years ago, American-based Sea Fox Boat Company began with a clear governing philosophy at heart: to develop and build quality, handcrafted saltwater boats that are affordable. Their boats are designed inside and out for durability and dependability and are renowned for their rugged construction.

The latest release into Australia is the Sea Fox 186 Commander, an all-new 18-footer (5.6m), which is designed as a great family boat and serious fishing boat all in one.

“There is no timber whatsoever in any of the design of the boat, which is the same for all of the Sea Fox range,” explains Jason Hedges, Boat Sales Manager for JSW Powersports, the Australian Sea Fox distributor.

“The standout thing about these boats is that they have the big Carolina flared hull, which is a very good feature for our Australian conditions. The raised sheerlines give the boat an aggressive stance and dry ride. It just carves up any conditions, no problem at all,” Hedges adds.

A quick run out through the Gold Coast Seaway soon confirmed that claim. It was not an overly rough day and I was impressed. I soon forgot that I was in an 18ft open centre console as it carved its way through the bumpy swells. With its smooth and dry ride, the 186 Commander is certainly as much at home in the open sea as it is in protected waters.

The test boat was fitted with an optional 150hp Evinrude E-TEC HO (High Output) outboard, the maximum rating for the 186. It performed perfectly and just flew out of the hole. The boats are shipped standard into Australia with a 115hp Yamaha outboard and the buyer has the upgrade option of a 135hp or the 150hp HO. If the budget allows, you’d do yourself a favour by going with the 150hp.

SEATING AND STORAGE

The 186 Commander is rated for seven people onboard. The big attraction is its comfortable seating configuration that includes quite comfy seating with curved backrest and bolsters in the bow. By removing the seat cushion in this area, it converts to a forward casting platform. Under the seat is an ideal storage spot for life jackets, ropes and other necessities. It can also be used as an icebox as it’s fully insulated.

There is also a forward-facing seat with padded backrest in front of the centre console, with another insulated storage box underneath that can double as an additional esky for food and drinks, or there’s the option to use it as a second livebait well.

There’s more seating at the transom, with two flip-up jump seats which, when down, create the aft casting platform. A 75lt aerated livebait tank takes up the space between the seats. Aft of the tank are the raw water and freshwater wash downs. Freshwater is an option.

Then there’s the seating at the helm. The standard seating here is a leaning post with backrest, which provides a surprisingly comfortable driving position. Underneath is a 45lt removable esky. There is an option for two swivel pedestal seats, which allows for a little extra room aft, but they have no room underneath for an esky.

COMMANDING CONSOLE

The 186 comes with an oversized centre console with enough room to satisfy electronics enthusiasts. Filling the centre are the Evinrude I-Command Digital one-touch engine gauges and two rows of heavy-duty switches – no cheap rocker switches, only high-end toggles. The compass is positioned above.

To the right is the optional Infinity stereo system with MP3 adapter, which feeds the four waterproof speakers and a VHF radio. To the left is another option – a Lowrance HDS-9 Gen2 touchscreen and, just to demonstrate how much room you really have, a Lowrance HDS-12 Gen2 sits on the top right.

The steering is SeaStar hydraulic and the fully adjustable wheel has a neat turning knob. The Pro Package option includes a Sea Fox cushioned foot mat for the skipper.

Other features include a glovebox with 12V outlet and USB charger, two stainless steel drinkholders (six in all throughout the boat), dual battery switch, wrap-around screen with a very solid grab rail, and several rodholders. For those harsh summer days, the optional bimini top would be worth a look.

The centre console disguises a small cabin area capable of storing loads of gear, while alternately providing space for the standard Porta Potti and the batteries. The area is accessed from a secure bi-fold door on the port side. And there is room inside to stand up.

ATTENTION TO DETAIL

Among the options for the 186 Commander are pre-rigged dual batteries and built-in wiring and plugs for a Minn Kota electric motor.

The stainless steel deck hardware is another impressive feature. A foldup boarding ladder is standard, all cleats are pull-up (five in total), the bow rails are recessed so they don’t get in the way when fishing, and the four rodholders are also flush. All rodholders and cupholders are plumbed, so there’s no need for black caps on the rodholders to keep water out.

Fully self-draining decks means that nothing goes down through the bilge system. The standard fitment system is all automatic, with two 1100gph (70lt/h) bilge pumps on separate floats.

There are aft rod lockers or boxes up under the gunwales, which are optional. Coaming pads along both sides give that extra comfort when offshore fishing.

The anchor locker has another impressive feature – it’s pre-moulded to hold a Danforth anchor, locking it in place to stop it bouncing about when the going gets rough.

The Sea Fox 186 Commander centre console offers a lot of amenities and good looks for the price, which starts at $57,763 (with 115hp motor) and $67,338 as tested (but not including the added electronics or the Minn Kota). A trailer will add another $5600.

Sea Fox boats are built to last, both above-and below-deck, and the limited lifetime warranty shows the strong confidence the company has in its product.

With its optional colourful hull stripe and custom wrap, the Sea Fox 186 Commander really is a top-looking fishing boat disguised as a family bay boat. The fishermen will appreciate the cockpit space, rod storage and fish boxes, while the family will enjoy the bow cushion package, forward seating bolsters, coaming pads and the ease of walking around an uncluttered deck.

A happy family and a happy fisherman – what more could you want!

SEA FOX 186 COMMANDER CENTRE CONSOLE

Length: 5.6m

Beam: 2.4m

Draft: 35m

Deadrise: 19 degrees

Dry weight: 1997kg

Power standard: 115hp Yamaha

Power as tested: 150hp Evinrude E-TEC HO

Fuel capacity: 189lt

Priced from: $57,763

Boat as tested: $67,338 (not including electronics)

More information: JSW Powersports, tel: (07) 5529 2616. Web: jswpowersports.com.au.


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