News of the arrival of American sports fishing brand, Wellcraft, was very warmly welcomed on UK shores. After all, this is the company that furnished Crockett and Tubbs with a Wellcraft Scarab to pursue criminals in 80s TV show, Miami Vice. It’s become the stuff of legend for those of us growing up at the time – and happily, since French boating giant, Beneteau, acquired the brand, Wellcraft has remained true to its classical Floridian roots.
Wellcraft has been involved in the design and construction of fast offshore fishers for more than 60 years now and its current range continues to reflect that. It comprises 20 boats from 18 to 35 feet, encompassing Walkaround, Dual Console and Centre Console variants. It goes from the affordable 180 Fisherman to the flagship 35 Scarab Offshore Tournament and it offers every form of outboard propulsion from a modest midrange unit to a triple rig of 350s. To this day, Wellcraft boats are still designed in Florida and, while its latest offerings have been tweaked in a bid to make them more appealing to the family boater, the basic recipe remains the same…
You take a deep, soft-riding hull, you equip it with sufficient power to engage the keen driver and sufficient practicalities to equip the keen angler. Then you add to its pronounced spray rails and offshore bow flare with a robust T-top and a memorable paint job. Throw in the famous ‘Scarab Offshore’ treatment and there you have it - a boat designed, now as always, to embody the feel-good vibe of the American Dream.
The new UK importer, Sea Ventures, has already invested in three craft from the builder’s most classical and prolific Centre Console line and they clearly believe that Wellcraft’s formula is tailor-made for the British boater: “What caught our eye with this brand is the rugged quality of the build, combined with the attention to detail and the quality of fittings. In either their standard or famous ‘Scarab Offshore’ livery, these are very handsome boats for the discerning owner.”
That certainly rings true with the 182, the smallest platform in the Fisherman line. It’s a beautifully thickset and deep-chested boat, with an eight-foot beam that’s carried a long way forward. The modest length of around 18 feet amplifies the charm of the look and with the dynamic black hull, the T-top and the internal mat package, this is a very exciting boat to look at.
The scale of the outboard also strikes a chord. After all, on most 5.5-metre platforms, you might expect a power range of around 70 to 115hp, but here we have Yamaha’s F150 on the transom – and the reason for this impressive wedge of power is that, at 1,247 kg, the 182 is a very heavily built boat. That ought to do good things for ride quality as well as long-term durability and residual values on the used market, so it’s good to see Wellcraft compensate for that not just with plenty of extra grunt, but with an oversized fuel tank capable of swallowing 212 litres – which is around double the size you would expect on the average 20-foot leisure boat.
On the water, that’s ideal for the extended range often required by serious fishermen and it’s also very handy for keen cruisers. The fact that it’s rated to carry a payload of more than 900 kg (or eight people) is another welcome trait – and its performance underway is also very compliant. It feels in no way overpowered or skittish, sticking tight in the turn and staying low through a head sea. Like the larger 242, which we tested on the same day in the same waters, it can struggle to elevate its forward quarters, which means you engage rather than avoid some of the more challenging wave shapes. That in turn makes the boat wetter than I would want it to be in a beam sea at pace. But as regards the solidity, the security and the stoic compliance of the experience, it feels like the work of a much larger boat.
And interestingly, the internal arrangement echoes that. Up in that beamy bow, for instance, the space is very well used, with a flat forward platform that is perfect for lounging and sunbathing or as a forward casting platform. With its permanent central infil, it also provides excellent storage, plus a very attractive live bait well beneath the aft cushion edge. It’s not great if you want to sit down, because there’s no sunken recess to accommodate your legs, but with multi-purpose versatility, allied to big storage, easy movement and a loo compartment behind the leading edge of the helm console, it’s a mightily impressive space on a boat of this size.
Back at the helm, beneath the shelter of the overhead canvas, the recessed, easy-drain non-slip trays on the dash top are ideal for the stowage of small items you need close to hand – and in the absence of any overhead storage on the underside of the T-top roof, that’s a particularly welcome feature. There’s also a 12V point here, alongside a classic stainless steel fishing knob on a wheel that is rigged very much at the traditional near-horizontal angle.
The robust T-top itself provides some excellent grabbing points courtesy of its huge supporting stanchions – but while the two folding seats on either side of the outboard are an excellent feature on a compact sports fisher, there are no grab handles either at the aft end of the Skipper’s leaning post or on the tops of the freeboards. Nonetheless, there is a coolbox strapped down in its purpose-built bracket beneath the skeletal frame of the helm seat, which complements the live bait well in the bow as a second ice box for your beer. And while the ergonomics don’t feel as natural either here or at the helm as I would like, there’s something immensely gratifying about the look, the build, the finish and the modernity of this boat that will see it win plenty of attention from those in the UK who have previously courted the idea of a Boston Whaler.
This is a very cool little boat with lovely looks, a high-class build, deep, safe accommodation, plenty of ‘go’ and some extremely attractive, high-value features. If the centre of gravity could be shifted further aft and the ergonomics at the helm and the aft end could be tidied up a bit, it would be even more impressive. We don’t yet have a price for this boat but if, as we suspect, it undercuts the equivalent Boston Whaler by a significant margin, it may well find itself occupying a UK niche nobody else has yet managed to fill.
Wellcraft 182 specifications
LOA: 5.5 m
Beam: 2.4 m
Weight: 1,247 kg
Fuel capacity: 212 litres
People capacity: eight
Maximum power: 150hp
Test engine: Yamaha F150
Contact: Wellcraft or Sea Ventures.
See our feature on buying fishing boats and Alex's pick of the other sports fishers on the market.