I don’t usually relish boat tests when a strong wind warning is current but I can honestly say I was sorry when this one came to an end. The US-built Sea Fox 226 Centre Console surprised me with its brilliance.
This boat had an outstanding finish, bucketloads of bling, ample fishing room and features, comfortable and thoughtful layout, top-shelf ride, plenty of storage below decks and in the console and genuine blue-water capability.
These boats from South Carolina come with a limited lifetime warranty on their hand-laid fibreglass hulls with glass-covered foam stringers and glass-over-aluminium transom plates – a genuine ‘no timber’ build.
Powered by a 225hp Mercury Verado supercharged four-stroke, the Sea Fox 226 was fast and nimble for a big boat, jumping onto the plane in its own length and turning smartly without prop ventilation. Even in the really blustery conditions the ride was feather-soft and remarkably dry, courtesy of that high bow and sides.
The quiet, foam-filled hull features a well-formed entry with plenty of flare to kick spray down. The 19° transom deadrise, full-length strakes and 30cm wide reversed chines contribute to stability under way and at rest.
Naturally, the hull weight of almost 1.6 tonnes enhances the ride and stability.
Freeboard was 81cm in the cockpit with non-skid decks and coamings all around.
The goodies for skipper and crew easily matched the performance.
A heavy-duty bowsprit leads to a lockable side hatch, where a winch attends to all the tough anchoring work.
Bow seating, with backrests and handy grab rails, caters for up to four and under the well-upholstered seats are big storage bins. There is a large plumbed storage locker in the forward cockpit sole.
Comfy seating for another two is at the front of the centre console, while a door on the starboard side opens to a marine toilet.
The optional alloy-framed T-top has four rocket launchers fitted aft.
In the usual US style, the Sea Fox features the helm to port.
On the console top were a compass and GPS aerial. A Garmin 4208 GPS/sounder provided plenty of info and Mercury SmartCraft gauges monitor the big Verado.
A bank of nine rocker switches was clearly labelled and the Lowrance VHF radio was easy to reach.
Grab handles either side of the console and the framework of the T top offer ample handholds when under way or moving about.
The stainless wheel, engine controls, 12V outlet, Bennett trim tab switches and anchor winch controls all fall easily to hand.
In the lockable glove box below was the Jensen sound system, its speakers mounted overhead in the T-top.
The dash layout was so simple that familiarisation took around 30 seconds.
The two very comfortable pedestal seats have slide adjustment so one can stand or sit to drive. At the transom a three-person lounge is mounted atop another large insulated box.
The cockpit features pop-up gunwale cleats, a 150L plumbed livewell to port lit by LEDs and there is a cutting board next to it.
The self-draining floor has very grippy non-skid and there are horizontal racks for two rods under each gunwale and two angled rod holders in the gunwale caps.
There is a raw-water deck hose and in the transom two more rod holders, a freshwater hose and, to starboard, a boarding ladder.
Driving the big 22-footer was a totally relaxed business. The 2.6L 225hp Verado – top power is 250hp – ran silently at idle and made little noise unless pushed to nearly full power. It provided real performance.
Mercury’s Digital Throttle and Shift system made for smooth gear shifting and the Verado’s finger-light power steering meant the Sea Fox was a treat to drive.
With three aboard in some fierce wind, the big boat planed at a surprisingly low 13 knots (24.2kmh) at 2800rpm. At 3000rpm we read 18 knots (33.3kmh) on the Garmin; at 4000rpm 31.6 knots (58.6kmh) and at 5000rpm we were doing 43.4 knots (80.4kmh).
A burst of wide open throttle had the Verado spinning at 5400rpm at a feisty 45.7 knots or 84.8kmh.
Cruise revs of 4000rpm to 4500rpm were ideal, begging the question how far could the Fox roam with 383L of fuel under the floor?
This craft has a dry ride, is easily manoeuvred into or with the wind and has one of the softest rides one could hope for.
The Seaway was closed but big swells coming between the breakwalls offered a chance to test stability at rest and low speed handling. It tracked straight and true and showed no tendency to wallow or broach.
I’m the first to extol the merits of buying Australian-made products but the quality, performance and handling of the Sea Fox 226 Pro Series Centre Console are hard to overlook. Supplied by JSW Powersports of 3 Ereton Drive, Arundel, on the Gold Coast, the Sea Fox as tested would come home on a Magic Tilt alloy tandem trailer for around $91,430.
Dropping a couple of options and fitting a 200 Verado would bring the price closer to $80,000. Contact JSW Powersports on 07 55292616 or visit www.jswpowersports.com.au.
SEA FOX 226 PRO SERIES CENTRE CONSOLE
|Length on trailer||8m|
|Height on trailer||3.3m|
|Engines||175hp to 250hp|
|Engine fitted||225hp Mercury Verado|