BOAT TEST CAROLINA CLASSIC 25
The Carolina Classic 25 is as American as apple pie, Old Glory, and “The Boss” Bruce Springsteen, whose song <I>Glory Days</I> just keeps revolving in JOHN WILLIS’S head whenever he thinks about this Yankee Doodle Dandy!
Those that know me personally will testify to my long held belief that shaftdriven boats should hold a much larger percentage of the small-boat market. Their power transmission is far more efficient and the maintenance factor is so much lower than intricate outboard and sterndrive configurations. They transmit power directly to the propeller, and as the engine can be mid mounted within the hull it allows unrestricted access to the transom, a major benefit for fishing.
Professional fishermen have used tunnel-hull shaftdriven trailerboats for many years, mostly homemade craft, but there are limited production alternatives such as South Australia's Nereus and Clayton. Arvor have had a good try but in my opinion haven't quite hit the mark in dedicated designs to suit the offshore sportsfishing market.
I am pleased to say that Carolina Classic Boats have! Testing the Classic 25 confirmed my beliefs to the point where I consider it one of the most appealing offshore packages in a highly competitive world.
The mid-mount shaftdrive setup blends well with a heavier, fuel-efficient diesel, and having the engine weight forward and low in the hull creates an opportunity to incorporate the smooth-riding benefits of a much deeper 24-degree vee. This amount of deadrise is reminiscent of the famous offshore racers like Cigarette, Formula, Scarab and the Moppies. But unlike finely balanced raceboats the length-to-beam ratio of the Carolina Classic hull combined with the engine positioning differs by supplying excellent stability at rest.
Topping all this off is one of the nicest looking Carolina flared bows and a gorgeous dropping sheerline - simply, one of the sweetest hulls I have seen. And although the model we tested is a basic white boat with minimal graphics or bling, she presents with a truly superior demeanour. Now that's class!
The deck layout is reasonably simple and even quite traditional in appearance, with a squarish transom design that maximises the huge work platform. The cockpit has thickly padded coamings all round for comfort, and although the interior freeboard is a little low due to the extra height of the non-skid self-draining deck, there should be no splashback through the large scuppers with the good clearance from the loaded waterline.
The transom has three massive enclosed tanks that can all be plumbed for live bait, or in this case one was plumbed, one was for a big baitbox/esky and one as a killtank. There are plenty of stainless steel rodholders and the gunwale hawsepipes leading to recessed bollards are a nice touch for a 25-footer. The demo boat was conveniently fitted with a series of mounting points on the cockpit sides for gaffs, boat hooks etc.
There is only a small step up to the helm deck that pivots on hydraulic rams for easy access to an engine compartment that is big enough to have a party in. Mechanics will love the access, not that they should need to go there often other than for servicing the 300hp Volvo Penta D4-300 four-cylinder turbo-diesel.
Other engine options include an 8.1lt petrol V8, Yanmar 315 or 8LV diesel and twin-rig outboards. I was more than happy with the performance of the D4, which gave a top-end speed of 28kts at 3600rpm and 57lt/h, and a satisfying fast cruise of 25.4kts at 3360 rpm for a miserly 48lt/h. As you would expect with a diesel, she's a little bit slow off the starting blocks but any serious seaman will look well past this.
In the helm area are extended fibreglass seat boxes either side. The helm is protected from the weather by a canvas cabin divider with clears and a zippered walkway. In addition to the pedestal seat, the portside box has a handy set of drawers and storage compartments for knickknacks. The starboard driver's seat box has storage under, and a large icebox to keep refreshments cool. Both seat boxes have removable cushions at the rear allowing seating for four people. The helm seats are comfortable, nicely upholstered and feature adjustable foldup armrests, plus a rear stainless steel handle for passengers.
The dashboard is a beauty! It has plenty of room for big electronics that face directly at you for convenient access to information and navigation. This one was fitted with a Furuno NavNet MFD12 colour multifunction display as well as an MFD8 that we used primarily for the depthsounder. There is also a Volvo Penta electronic display for instantaneous engine readouts and diagnostics.
I really liked the feel of the single binnacle control and found all other instruments, including the trim tab and bowthruster controls, were conveniently laid out, although the top-mounted compass obstructed vision through the safety glass windscreen just a little! The driving position is comfortable seated or standing, and the big dashboard allowed plenty of room for the Australian Carolina Classic distributor Ric Martin to show off one his other products, the Sea Sucker with four detachable cupholders.
Overhead is a welcome and extremely solid fibreglass hardtop, supported by a strong, fully welded aluminium tube frame that didn't move, shake or vibrate no matter the speed or sea conditions. The hardtop was fitted with a good set of detachable clears to the front and sides, as well as the cockpit divider. The hardtop also supplied the mountings for the outriggers, teaser reels, rocket launcher and aerials.
In front of the portside navigator seat is the companionway to the cabin. The cabin entry, via a lockable door, is reasonably large and the fibreglass liner steps lead down to the deep vee-berth area, where there is plenty of room for an overnighter, as well as a stack of storage. To keep the head disguised the Carolina Classic has an ingenious swing-out toilet that resides behind a bulkhead hatch, under the cockpit sole when not in use. Full points for inventiveness guys!
A strong stainless steel bowrail encloses the large, flat foredeck and our demo boat was fitted with an optional winch and bow fitting for the plough anchor. It's also nice to see a Yankee boat with a reasonably sized anchor well and plenty of large mooring cleats.
We travelled the long run from the Yarra River to Queenscliff quickly and comfortably with five people onboard. Quite noticeable is when you plant the throttle on this big deep-vee there is virtually no bow rise and minimal transition to plane, as well as extremely low hull noise through the thick fibreglass. Such is the nature of shaftdriven boats; they take off evenly with the lower prop angle.
We spent the whole day aboard the Classic 25, and even played in the surf with the board riders at Quarantines, a break just inside Port Phillip Heads. Then out to sea we went, through what is commonly considered as one of the most dangerous pieces of water in the world, The Rip. It was like a walk in the park for the Carolina Classic, confirming its credible offshore capabilities to all. I must say it's a funny feeling leaving the water on the back of a wave in a shaftdriven boat - not that it happened often but we certainly got some air in the steeper swells. Grouse fun!
Back inside the bay, we encountered 18-knot southerly winds as we came past Fawkner Beacon, so I nosed her into the metre-high slop to see how she handled these nasty conditions. To my amazement, it was nearly as smooth and dry as it was when travelling in a following sea.
The only real drawback with a shaftdrive boat is the minimal manoeuvrability in reverse - it requires a different approach. However, the bowthrusters help the boat, and the operator, as well as being a great aid in positioning while fighting and tracing a big fish. I loved being able to reposition the boats angle without engaging the drive.
Ric Martin tells me that all Carolina Classics are constructed in North Carolina, USA by Mac Privott who founded Albemarle. They are constructed using the highest quality marine timber, resins and time-tested handlaid laminating techniques. They come with a 10-year international warranty on the hull and two-year international warranty on the engine. The boatbuilder claims that in 44 years of construction there has never been a structural warranty claim.
The Classics also come with automatic fire suppression systems, fully sealed cockpit and forward cabins, airtight chambers and a long list of standard and optional extras.
In my opinion the Carolina Classic 25 is exceptionally good value for money; in fact, it will make many Aussie competitors feel like trading in their chopper guns! Springsteen's song <I>Glory Days</I> is all about enjoying life before it passes you by - you will certainly enjoy your life with a Carolina Classic 25.
CAROLINA CLASSIC 25
PRICE AS TESTED
300hp Volvo Penta D4, five people aboard
RPM SPEED FUEL BURN
1770 8.2kts 14lt/h
2500 12kts n/a
3000 18.5kts n/a
3360 25.4kts 48lt/h
3500 26.8kts 57lt/h
3600 28kts 57lt/h
Rocket launcher, Lee's Outriggers, battery charger, shorepower, ducted heating cockpit and cabin, windlass with bowroller, power steering, stereo with four speakers and remote, bowthruster, and Furuno Nav Net MFD12 and MFD8 multifunction displays
TYPE: Deep-vee monohull
LENGTH: 7.67 m
WEIGHT (BMT): 3500kg (dry)
REC. HP: 300
REC. MAX HP: 700 (twin outboards)
MAKE/MODEL: 300hp Volvo Penta D4-300
TYPE: Four-cylinder turbo-diesel with common rail fuel injection
GEARBOX (MAKE/RATIO): ZF/2.04
Carolina Classic Boats,
P.O. Box 968,
Edenton, NC, 27932, USA
Carolina Classic Boats Australia,
1a Salisbury Ave,
Moonee Ponds, Vic, 3039
Phone: (03) 93704835: 0419 828 180
From Trade-a-Boat Issue 425, March-Apr, 2012. Photos by Ellen Dewar
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