Pioneer Boats are head-turning boats. It's very clear the folks who build them take a personal interest in every boat they build--almost as if they are building each one for themselves.
The lines get your attention first--graceful, swooping, sexy curves. The traditional elements like bow flare and a very effective modified V hull design are all there, but it's the fit and finish that you notice next. The stainless rubrails are fitted perfectly, the bilge walls have the same gloss finish as the exterior gel coat and the heavy stainless hardware is through bolted where it needs to be. It all feels solid and heavily built. The real test, however, is when you put one on the water. That's when it all comes together and the impression is of a rock-solid boat with an exceptional ride. In fact, the ride convinced me to run a Pioneer 197 Sportfish as my demo boat, and believe me, as a boat dealer I have a lot of choices.
Pioneer Boats' current model lineup consists of three boats. The 175 Baysport and 175 Venture (dual console version), the 186 Cape Island (formerly known as the "Bone Boat") and the 197 Sportfish. More models are on the way as this young company grows, including a 21-foot deep V and a 22-foot bay boat. Their plan is to concentrate on smaller hulls for the near future and do them well. The hulls are designed by Greg Seaward using a CAD system where he tweaks and analyzes them not just to perform, but look great as well. Co-owners Roy McSwain and Mike Holmes insisted upon the combined design elements which resulted in hulls unique to Pioneer.
The company may be young but their experience level is not. Mike and Roy have been involved in the South Carolina boat building community for over 15 years each, with experience at Key West boats and Scout Boats. Roy and Mike wanted to build their own boats and the way they achieved this was by building fiberglass parts like swim platforms and radio boxes and eventually complete boats on a contract basis for other boat builders under the business name "Carolina Composites." That allowed them to build the manufacturing facility they needed to make Pioneer Boats a reality. After much personal financial sacrifice, combined with plain old hard work, they distilled this facility and their knowledge and experience into a brand that is growing steadily and will become a name more and more boaters will recognize as a top manufacturer.
175 Baysport and Venture The model lineup includes the 175 (17'10") platform. It is a surprisingly dry and comfortable hull. There is the center console version "175 Baysport" as well as a dual console model called the "175 Venture." They work well with just 90hp, but with a 115hp motor, they'll get into the mid-40s and ride better than a lot of bigger boats. The hull's spray pattern is low and far behind the driver when on plane and it's very unlikely you'll get wet unless the conditions are severe. The modified V affords exceptional control even in quite bouncy conditions.
186 Cape Island The most visually striking boat in the lineup is the "186 Cape Island." It has a Carolina flare bow design like a miniature offshore sportfisher, and is designed to cut through the bay chop in comfort and style. The interior layout is more akin to a flats boat with its rear deck seating and small pod console. Rod lockers are incorporated in the wide walkable gunnels and there is ample storage, a 30-gallon lighted livewell and a 48-gallon fuel tank. This is a great inshore fishing boat with a reasonable draft, an exceptional ride and a very distinctive look.
Dealer's Choice: The 197 Sportfish The 197 (19'10") platform is a taller hull, slightly deeper in deadrise at 18 degrees and has a higher shear and freeboard than the other models. This hull is capable of handling demanding conditions and will be available very soon as a dual console boat as well. The Sportfish has a very strong and well-designed leaning post/livewell, rear seating with back rests, recessed bow rails, cockpit toe rails and coaming pads that all combine to make this boat unique in its class. The factory T-top is mounted to the sides of the console, conserving deck space for scampering anglers. A lot of thought went into this well-equipped and compact, multi-purpose boat.
Boat designs always involve choices and or compromise. I believe there is no perfect boat. We would all like one boat that could do it all or to be able to afford one for each task. My feeling is that one should choose a boat by considering what kind of boating you do the most. My personal choice of a Pioneer 197 Sportfish is based on the fact that I do mostly inshore fishing and scallop diving in the bays around Apalachicola, Carrabelle and St. Joe. And occasionally, when the conditions are nice, I like to go out to the Gulf reefs.
I needed something that fits these criteria:
The Pioneer 197 fits the bill for me. I am looking forward to watching this company grow by continuing to produce high caliber products in the future. Their concern for quality and design sets them apart from a sea of look-alike boats in today's market. Not many boats look as good on the inside (under the decks) as they do on the outside. Pioneer Boats definitely do.