REVIEW: ROBALO R302 CENTRE CONSOLE

By: JOHN WILLIS, Photography by: JOHN WILLIS

Presented by
  • Trade-A-Boat

The unyielding might of Robalo’s latest centre console hides a versatile performer that easily transitions from pelagic predator to luxe entertainer.

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When faced with a prime example of a big, gutsy American centre console, suddenly your own maritime experience, wealth, or current vessel can begin to seem less important.

Any true sea dog with saltwater in their veins will forget everything else and be unable to resist leaping into the Robalo R302 to open up the throttle.

In fact, if you don’t get at least a little excited by the Robalo R302 sportsfisher, or the ever-increasing offerings of similar US-built consoles, then perhaps you’re reading the wrong magazine!

The all-new 2017 Robalo R302 isn’t just a gun fisher; it’s a terrific entertainer and sportsboat, too.

This is perhaps every angler’s dream boat – but one with plenty of other attractions aside from just solid fishing.

At just a touch under 30ft overall, 3.2m wide and with a big deep hull, she’s got plenty of volume to carry the masses safely and securely on inshore or offshore romps in the briny.

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The big American company Robalo/Chaparral Boats has spent almost 50 successful years perfecting its Hydro Lift deep-vee hull, whereby well defined strakes and big reverse chines assist a variable degree deadrise hull.

These boats rise quickly from rest to plane, softly and efficiently, with minimal spray and terrific handling.

So it was unsurprising to discover this particular example was very stable at rest and has an even attitude at trolling speeds, which combines well with the might of the twin Honda BF250 Silver Bullet four-stroke outboards to produce frisky performance and terrific handling – even in reverse.

Perhaps best of all, the R302 is ready for some serious fun with an enticing interior featuring soft, yet practical moldings, beautiful upholstery and trim and comfortable seating options.

Add in tonnes of storage, tackle and wet box options, and she’s a driver’s delight.

BULLETPROOF

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Robalo incorporate Kevlar reinforcing into all of its larger hulls, supplying almost-bulletproof construction and maximising the strength-to-weight.

This big self-draining hull is foam filled, adding to the enormous construction strength while assisting noise reduction.

Robalo has learnt to cater to its very dedicated fishing fraternity with a feature filled layout, but also balances the fact that boats have to be inviting enough to attract the whole party, and the family as well.

The R302 is therefore built for both speed and comfort. The twin Silver Bullets rocket this flagship of the Robalo fleet up to a very swift 42kt.

She’s one of those boats that beckon you to drive harder, faster and further, while simply enjoying the thrill of the ride.

Back her off to 27kt at 4500rpm and the twin Hondas drink only 58L/hr which should have you travelling briskly and comfortably for a whopping 475nm range to those wide canyons, courtesy of a huge 1360L fuel tank.

The 26L holding tank and 114L freshwater capacity further ensures you can plan some truly extended sojourns to remote locations.

Now, while I have always enjoyed playing with these big Yankee centre consoles, there are only a few that cater to my style of fishing. 

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My main criticism is often the small volume of deck space, with centre consoles located way too far back, while transom mouldings and rear seats extend way too far forward – but not this Robalo.

There’s a tonne of workable deck space and a very sensible transom layout that will assist all styles of fishing, from fighting a giant black marlin, to bread-and-butter bottom bashing at anchor.

The workplace is exceptionally comfortable and practical with deep gunwale lines featuring padded coamings, recessed rod racks, rod holders and drink holders in all of the right places,

You’ll also find a walkthrough door leading to a boarding platform with telescopic ladder, a terrific retractable rear lounge that folds flush for fishing, and a very large plumbed/pressurised livebait tank in the port corner.

All of the decks have non-skid finish and under the workspace is a pair of large wet box/kill tanks, plus a large central compartment where the four batteries are neatly retained and easily accessed.

There’s even a pull-out shower in the rear corner for washing off the salt, sand and mud or just to cool down on a hot, steamy day.

Robalo has been perfecting fishing platforms for many years and the company’s experience shows throughout this R302. 

The centre console, T-top and bolster seating unit is one of the best combinations I have come across.

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The T-top is fully moulded, both above and below, and is nearly as wide as the boat itself providing terrific protection from the beating sun.

There’s a stack of room up top for all the aerials, rocket launchers and outriggers you could desire, and perhaps also a liferaft or watersports toys – it’s your choice.

However, there isn’t easy access up there, other than standing on the side coamings.

There is a good array of both drop and spot lighting moulded into the undersides of the T-top, as well as a large communications and storage cabinet over the helm.

The powder coated alloy tower construction looks terrific and gives plenty of support when underway or when moving around the boat in a big sea.

The structure blends beautifully into the fibreglass console that features a big black dashboard fascia, housing twin Garmin GPS Map 7416xsv 16in widescreen chartplotter/sonar combos.

There’s also a full array of switchgear, stainless steel spoked steering wheel, autopilot, Lenco trim tab controls, remote sound system control, enclosed glovebox, refreshment holders and the twin binnacle Honda controls.

I loved the vision and the dash layout, however an automated windscreen vent was the piece de resistance that really tickled my fancy!

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The console seating unit is a beaut. The seats are upholstered with premium marine vinyl and triple French stitched.

The combination fibreglass moulding has another pressurised livewell, plus a sink with pull-out shower/handset and a cavity for a large portable icebox secured underneath.

This all works very well, leaving the large rear deck area as a fully functional fishing space.
The wide beam allows wide walkways either side of the console, complete with plenty of stainless hand holds, and even toe rails.

You could absolutely line up a full squadron of fishos, all individually fighting marauding pelagics on either side of this package.

Yet the surprises just keep on coming, with a toilet/vanity lying behind the comfy seating up front.

This terrific design features over six feet of headroom and turns the whole vessel into a very smart cruiser to suit all-comers.

Up in front is where the real party begins, with convertible bow seating and a drop-down table with removable cushions that turn the party zone into a serious casting platform.

I can imagine a group of anglers popper-casting to giant trevally on a distant coral atoll, shortly followed by a dinner party with the champagne flowing on arrival back at the moorings at dusk.

The shapely mouldings form a backrest for the bowrider and have a convenient tilt-out bin on one side and a tackle locker on the other.

There is a wet box storage beneath every seat, as well as a gigantic storage locker underfloor that goes deep into the bow.

FEEL THE POWER

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Melbourne-based Robalo Australia is a devoted Honda dealer, hence the fitting of the mighty BF250 Silver Bullets to this display boat.

Each Bullet is a single overhead cam (SOHC) 60˚, 24-valve V6 of just more than 3.5L (3583cc) developing 250hp at 5800rpm.

Yet in reality, the operating range extends from 5300-6300rpm, so the actual horsepower rating is underestimated.

Each outboard features Programmed Fuel Injection with a 60amp (756W) charging circuit and a gutsy 2.00:1 gear ratio for increased torque.

The BF250 is Honda’s flagship engine developed with a blend of automotive and marine engine technologies.

Honda has introduced a unique dual air induction system, a variable idle charging system, and Intelligent Shift and Throttle control for precise control throughout the rev range, plus engine Sync function, and VTEC for instant and efficient power when you want it.

WRAP IT UP

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The Australian boating fraternity has firmly embraced the might of American centre console sportsfishing machines and Robalo is one of the biggest names in the game, with a long history of success in this hugely competitive international market.

This R302 is a fine example of Robalo’s state-of-the-art fishing and offshore technology that combines the appeal of a stately sportsboat with offshore performance that will rock your pants off.

SPECIFICATIONS

PRICED FROM

A$260,000 (with 2x 300hp Mercurys)

OPTIONS FITTED

Twin Honda BF250 outboards; casting deck infill and cushion; glass side console windscreen panes; twin 16in Garmin MFDs with autopilot; 24nm radar; SideVu and 1kW transducer

PRICE AS TESTED

A$325,000

GENERAL

TYPE Monohull sportsfisher

MATERIAL Foam filled, Kevlar/fibreglass composite

TYPE Offshore deep-vee centre console

LENGTH 8.89m

BEAM 3.2m

WEIGHT 4100kg (dry with engines) DEADRISE 21˚

DRAFT 53cm (up); 810 (down)

MAX HP 700

CAPACITIES

PEOPLE 16

FUEL 1136L

WATER 114L

HOLDING TANK 23L

SUPPLIED BY

Robalo Australia

266 Nelson Pl, Williamstown VIC 3016

PHONE 03 9397 6977; 0417 511 340

WEB www.chaparralaustralia.com.au

 


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