A little less than 8 months ago, I was strolling along the eastern tip of Dog Island with my wife, Trina, and our two children when, out of the corner of my eye, I noticed an unusual boat speeding through the water. It was the speed and color that caught my attention. I couldn't guess its length or maker, but ripping past the tip of the island was a solid orange center console with fat twins on the back that appeared to be doing close to 60 mph! Caught off guard by its appearance in this tranquil little setting, I decided, if I could find out who owned it, I needed to do a review of it.
Time slipped by and quite honestly I'd forgotten about the mystery boat and my initial intentions. Then, I received a call from a boat manufacturer called Seminole Marine. Located in Cairo, Georgia, it was only thirty miles from the GAFF offices in Tallahassee. Denny Warren, the VP of sales and marketing, told me about their hot, new SKA tournament-ready, 23 footer. As soon as I realized these were the folks that made Sailfish boats, I decided to pay them a visit.
As with most manufacturers placing quality ahead of quantity, Seminole Marine is not a massive operation. It is clean and orderly and the employees were so focused that they hardly noticed Denny and me as we toured the departments. While weaving our way through the hulls and molds, I suddenly caught a glimpse of a boat that took me back in time. "There it is!" I exclaimed. "That's the orange boat I saw blazing past Dog Island."
"And it's the reason I brought you here," remarked Denny. "Let me introduce you to its owner." Greg Holmstrom is a passionate SKA competitor who heads up the product development department--that is, when he isn't out chasing kings. He's the guy who looks at a boat and says, "Man, there's got to be a better way to use this space," and then creates something that shows up on next year's model as a standard feature.
I told Greg about the day at Dog Island and he remembered it. That day, he was testing some of the tweaks he made to last year's 238. While that boat was hot, the one I was checking out in front of me was smokin' with every improvement he could envision added to the new '04, 238. It was apparent that this boat was designed to win kingfish tournaments. The bright orange hull was solid as a rock, and with a water line length of 22'-5", it easily qualifies for the Southern Kingfish Association's 23-foot class, regardless of the fact that the 238 measures in at 26 feet overall. Even though previous tests show this boat performs outstandingly with a pair of twin 200's, Greg couldn't resist mounting the maximum allowable horse power on the back of this one--twin 250 hp Yamaha HPDI's with custom cowlings and paint to match the hull. To help control this kind of power, Sailfish 238's come with high speed, heavy duty, Lenco trim tabs.
It soon became obvious that no expense was spared in making the 238. Once on board, the first thing I noticed was the massive, 60-gallon live well incorporated into the back of the leaning post. Round and deep, it's plumbed with a 1,100 gallon-per-hour pump that provides complete water exchange every 5 minutes. This boat was made with serious fishermen in mind. From the heavy duty, stainless steel, pop-up hardware and the inset toe rails, to the recessed grab rails and the console foot brace, this boat was made to fish. I especially liked the slough of rod holders across the transom that included places for beverages. Greg even installed a waterproof remote control for the Sirius satellite stereo beside the custom boarding ladder so that he and his team could operate the stereo from the water if they decided to go for a swim.
As much as I was enjoying the tour, I really wanted to experience this boat out on the ocean. Greg was more than happy to oblige, so the next day we found ourselves at a public boat ramp on Timber Island. To say this boat turns heads is an understatement. Nobody has a boat that color orange, and very few people throw 500 horses on the back of a 23-footer. The winds were blowing out of the South at 10-15 knots, creating a one-foot chop on the protected waters between the Carrabelle River mouth and the cut between Dog and St. George Islands. These were perfect conditions for burying the throttles. Pinned to the leaning post and loving it, I noticed the GPS had our speed at 61.5 mph. I can't think of a reason why I would ever want to go any faster than that on the water. Greg backed off just a tad as we entered the cut and encountered the unorganized 3-footers refracting off the beaches to either side of us. This is where the 238's 22- to 24-degree variable deadrise hull showed off as it cut through the tricky conditions. Unlike a lot of the other boats in its class, the Sailfish 238 has a generous bow flare to keep its occupants as dry as possible.
To further get a feel for this tournament rig, I had Greg run her due south for about ten minutes in the sloppy 2- to 3-foot seas. At 50 mph, it was easy to see how a team of anglers could travel great distances in a short amount of time in their efforts to get to the most productive fishing grounds. And with 185 gallons of fuel and twin 5-gallon oil reservoirs, refueling and adding oil during a two-day tournament is now a thing of the past.
Although we made no attempt to wet any hooks, you could see by the layout that this boat would be a breeze to fish from. Efficiency and functionality are always on Greg's mind when he implements a new feature--like the tackle and storage compartments in and around the 238. My favorite feature is the large, recessed, waterproof bin on top of the console. After all, isn't that where all of your junk gets thrown anyway?
I had hoped to learn more about the boat's handling characteristics on our way back to port, especially in a following sea. Unfortunately, at those speeds, there really is no such thing as a following sea.
So what it all boils down to is this: if you are interested in competing on the kingfish tournament circuit in the 23-foot class, you need to check out the Sailfish 238 CC Tournament Edition. I experienced Greg's slightly tricked-out version, but right out of the box, the 238 rocks. Keep in mind that even though this boat was designed for serious king fishermen, those same features make it a great choice for other offshore fishing missions.