By: Norman Holtzhausen

The best way to test a product is to put it to the use for which it is intended. Thus it was that our official test of the Wellcraft 252 Coastal commenced at 6am with fishing rods, bait and burley. Norman Holtzhausen from Trade-A-Boat New Zealand reports


Peter Carlson, managing director of Family Boats in Pakuranga, NZ, was happy to oblige and we set off from Half Moon Bay Marina on a somewhat windy and choppy morning.
This is a seriously big boat. American boats tend to be very ‘tall’ with huge amounts of freeboard, and this boat’s no exception. On the trailer, it’s almost impossible to reach up over the side to put gear on the cockpit floor. But thanks to the heavy-duty stainless steel diving ladder and a large through-transom door, climbing aboard is easy.
The feeling of size and space is even more apparent stepping into the boat: huge cockpit space, helped by the boat’s 2.66m beam – enough for half a dozen anglers to fish with ease. The broad beam puts the boat into the oversized category for towing and a check will be needed with your local road authority as to its trailerable status. The hardtop provides more than enough head room for an All-Black front rower, and large windows give excellent view all round.

Finish is typically American – very good, with no sharp edges, loose bits or rough workmanship. Absolutely everything shows touches of stylish pragmatism, like the metal rubbing strip set into a molded recess in the fibreglass. Clearly this design has been refined over thousands of production models.
The helm position, which opens directly into the cockpit, has two pedestal seats that can be adjusted forward and back. Behind them are bench seats – not quite wide enough for two people. One bench seat conceals a sizeable insulated cold storage area, while the other contains an equally large dry storage compartment. A bench seat along the transom easily accommodates a further three people in comfort, and discretely folds away when not needed.
The cockpit is superbly set up for fishing – flush-mounted rod holders in the gunwales, more alongside the stainless steel baitboard holder, and a rocket launcher along the hard top. The gunwales have vinyl-covered padding just above knee-height – comfortable for leaning against. These pads are removable for cleaning, as are all the vinyl sections on the boat. The port side of the transom has a built-in livebait tank, with new water pumped in at the flick of a switch. Its cover is very sturdy (you can sit or stand on it), and a gas strut assists in lifting it.
Stepping through to the main cabin to stow the gear, the fanfold cabin door clips neatly out the way. Cabin space is generous. A seal ensures the door is completely watertight when closed. Stepping inside the cabin, the floor seems a long way down, and the steps are not immediately obvious. Care must be taken when stepping in, although there are good handholds just inside the door.
The bunks are large, and an infill board and squab creates a huge triple berth. A flush toilet is discretely hidden under one squab, and it empties into a holding tank. On the port side of the cabin a sink with running water and a work surface – ideal for food preparation. It’s complemented by a small pack-away gas cooker – making the boat a useful overnighter.
Small windows above either bunk provide light, while a large hatch in the ceiling adds fresh air. A nice touch is the removable insect netting over the hatch, allowing fresh air in and keeping annoying mosquitoes or sand flies out.
With all the gear stowed it was time to launch the beast, which proved to be pretty easy. A good selection of cleats, including one amidships, made it easy to tie off to the dock.

Firing up the twin Yamaha 150hp outboards, Carlson says this model can be supplied with single or twin motors, but for power and flexibility, he recommends the twin configuration. Certainly they balanced the boat nicely, and once out in the channel he opened them up.
The boat came out of the ‘hole’ quickly and smoothly, and the GPS soon indicated 40kts. The claimed top speed is just over 45kts (52mph) at 6000rpm. A 20-knot wind on the nose and wind-against-tide had created a nasty chop, so we didn’t test this. We dropped down to the optimum cruising revs of 4000rpm and maintained a comfortable 29kts (34 mph) all the way to Waiheke.
The boat was remarkably dry, despite the swell which had by now built up to close to a metre. The wide, flared hull, plus a stepped chine close to the waterline kept the spray well out from the boat. With a 20 degrees deadrise this hull is not a wave-piercer, yet it was also not excessively hard through the swell. The chine did cause the boat to make a bit of noise when it came down hard over a wave, but the benefit is that it is very stable at speed, even through a quartering sea.
Speed is what this boat loves. The Yamahas come with excellent electronics instrumentation, including fuel flow meters, and the boat seemed to get more economical the faster it went. This reflects the efficiency of the hull and the four-stroke engines at peak operating levels. The boat is a pleasure to drive, even in a beam-on sea. The aluminium steering wheel allows easy handling at speed while the extra "power knob" attached to the wheel allows it to be effortlessly spun for quick maneuvering in tight spaces.
One advantage of buying these American boats is the impressive level of factory-installed options. The electronics are top of the range, with a Raymarine C80 taking prime position in the helm. Sounder and GPS chartplotter options are fitted. This unit is radar-capable as well (it’s an optional extra). We put the unit to good use, navigating around the bottom end of Waiheke looking for fish. A Raymarine Ray54 VHF radio is fitted into the hardtop above the large windscreen, which sadly told us that Channel Island, our original destination, was unfishable because of the wind.
Instead we tried our luck at various spots around Waiheke. The large wipers on the outside of the windscreen were used at several points to clear the spray caused by the wind which was by now fairly strong. Since it was a warm day we did not need to use the warm air blower (a standard item for defrosting the window). The side windows open outwards with a catch configuration that enables fresh air to be forced into the cabin if required, although wind-and-water tight seals also kept it out when it is not required.
The Maxwell winch dropped the suitably-sized Delta anchor, which held us firmly against the strong current and wind. We managed to position ourselves over a pinnacle which resulted in a good kawahai and many blue cod, but sadly no decent fish. In our search, we raised and dropped the anchor several times, a job that would have been exhausting without the fully-automatic anchor.
After the somewhat disappointing fishing we headed home, this time experiencing the boat’s performance in a following sea. With a swell running close to a metre the boat tended to surf at times, turning itself slightly down the wave. However, it was quite comfortable and predictable, and once into the lee of the islands we were able to open the throttles again.
Back at the wharf, clean-up was easy thanks to the built-in washdown pump and hose. Although Carlson has a 5.7 litre American Dodge, which goes well with the boat, he says boat and trailer is easily towed by any reasonably-powered vehicle. Towing weight of the boat, trailer and the twin motors as tested is around 3300kg, so this is comfortably within legal towing requirements.
This is a superbly-finished boat, with space to spare and a level of finish that I could not fault anywhere. Although such a big boat is not for everyone, it handles beautifully and can be launched and retrieved single-handedly. The American styling may not suit everyone’s taste, but the level of specification for the price makes this boat worth a serious look. This is not a rough-and-tough kiwi "bloke’s boat", but for those looking for something sophisticated, especially for those who go boating with the family, this is the boat to buy.

Superb finish
Easy to clean
Singlehanded launch and retrieval
Impressive level of factory-fitted options
Efficient hull
Space to spare
Huge cockpit and cabin space

American styling may not be to everyone’s taste
Care must be taken when stepping down into cabin
Wide beam will likely require a permit to tow


Specifications: Wellcraft 252 Coastal

Price as tested: $179,000
Options fitted: n/a

Material: Fibreglass
Type: Deep-vee
Length overall:  7.42m
Beam: 2.66m
Deadrise:  20o at transom
Weight: 1978kg (dry); approx 3300kg w/ trailer and motors

Fuel: 530lt
Water: 34lt

Make/model:  Yamaha 150 (x 2)
Type:   DOHC-EFI four-cylinder four-stroke
Rated HP:  150 at 5500-6000rpm
Displacement: 2670cm²

Family Boats,
247 Ti Rakau Drive,
Pakuranga, Manukau, NZ

Originally published in TrailerBoat #221


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