In an age of multi-purpose gadgets, there are plenty of reasons to love the centre console. For a start, it puts the helm in a central position, exactly where the keen driver wants it. It also keeps plenty of deck space clear for making your way fore and aft and for fishing, handling lines or disembarking - and it tends to employ relatively minimal topside mouldings for reduced weight, less pronounced windage, a more affordable purchase price and improved running economy. Most models of 20 feet and above will provide at least the option of a private heads compartment in the console - but crucially, in addition to looking good and being very easy to live with, a good centre console arrangement ensures that virtually no marine pastime is excluded. Whether you want to fish, cruise, dive, wakeboard, rest up alongside or simply enjoy a sporting drive, the intrinsically non-specialist concept behind the CC layout means your boat should take it in its stride.
See also Doug Logan's alternative guide to buying a centre console boat.
(1) Olympic 580 CC
When your budget is tight and you need a boat to do a little bit of everything, few boats can outdo the 580CC from Greek family boat specialists, Olympic.
For 30 years, this boat builder has been generating small, affordable, do-it-all leisure boats from four to six metres in length - and as the largest of the six hull lengths in that fleet, the flagship 580 is available in three core configurations: the Bow Rider (BR), the Cabin (C) and this, the Centre Console (CC). With a full-beam aft bench, a pair of helm seats, an outboard engine and an open, four-man set-up in the bow, the deck space is much cleaner and more generous than on any other Olympic model. You also get, deep safe freeboards, a proper step-through pulpit at the bow and an elevated guardrail around the forward sections, plus a sturdy screen rim for easy on board movement and all the simple, wash-down, user-friendliness you could want. There are no frills here (and at such modest prices that’s no surprise) but with seating for eight, a five-year warranty and a power band from 100 to 175hp, this 20-footer is an outstanding entry-level leisure boat.
(2) Trophy 2203 CC
While Trophy is most commonly viewed as a small sports fishing specialist, its boats are more accurately defined as do-it-all leisure platforms – and that is nowhere more evident than in the form of the larger of its two very capable centre console boats.
Available in the UK from Bates Wharf, the outboard-powered 2203 comes with the “Trophy Hull System” (THS), which uses relatively acute angles and a generous bow flare for a soft, dry ride. Remarkably, it also uses a 394-litre fuel tank, which means a cruising (or fishing or diving or watersports or sightseeing) range of around 400 nautical miles. Robustly built, with deep coamings and a broad beam, there’s plenty of safe internal space here, plus a selection of fishing-friendly features and a small heads compartment. Of course, if you really want a double berth at the expense of some of that space, there are several equally rewarding walkaround models (with either inboard or outboard propulsion) in the same fleet – and yet with a vast range allied to a proven hull, a broad deck and a reassuring ten-year warranty, the Trophy 2203 CC is an excellent example of its type.
(3) Powercat 525
If any kind of boat is equipped to make the best use of the centre console layout, it has to be the catamaran. Though this little 18-footer is not especially beamy, every inch of available space on this rectangular platform is well used. See my full-length boats.com Powercat 525 review.
You can spec it with a low freeboard for easy beach landing and on-water recovery (handy for commercial applications) or with a high freeboard for extra security at sea. It’s also available with a forward cuddy and walkaround side decks plus a range of consoles, seats and lockers to match your needs. As for that famous catamaran economy, twin 60hp outboards will see it to 30 knots but you can just as easily rig it with a pair of 15hp motors for 18-knot performance and a total consumption of as little as 0.6 litres per mile. It’s a bit pricier than the equivalent monohull but with extra safety, ride softness and rigging versatility, this stable, efficient, seven-man CC runabout does plenty to justify the difference.
(4) Pursuit C230
The smallest of Pursuit’s four centre console models (and in fact the smallest craft in the builder’s 15-strong fleet) is much more boat than you might expect of an entry-level craft.
At more than two metric tonnes with Yamaha’s F250 on the transom, this heavyweight 23-footer offers a huge beam and plenty of deck space plus 43-knot performance and a cruising range approaching 200 nautical miles. It’s also cleverer than it looks, with an integrated cooler in the bow seat plus a second removable one in the leaning post at the helm. You also get a heads compartment in the console and a washdown cockpit hose for cleaning down the deck or cooling off - and in addition to rod racks and holders, a large livewell and plenty of concealed (and usefully compartmentalised) storage spaces, the big C230 also happens to remain trailerable. It’s a class act from Pursuit.
(5) Boston Whaler 420 Outrage
Last but not least, a potent offering from past masters of the centre console configuration, Boston Whaler. See my full-length boats.com Boston Whaler 420 Outrage review.
Equipped with a quadruple rig of 300hp outboards, this vast 43-footer is plainly designed as a hard-core offshore fisher and yet with cleverly convertible seating spaces throughout, plus a beautifully appointed cabin and heads compartment, it could just as easily turn its hand to high-end tender work or multi-purpose family recreation. With a 13-foot beam and seating capacity for 20 people, it’s plainly a huge platform and yet in addition to Boston Whaler’s emphasis on build quality, hard working use of space and practical integrity, you get some very useful dynamic assets like joystick control and automatic trim tabs. Of course, if your budget and requirements are more modest, you could still check out the other end of the scale with a boat like the much-loved 190 Montauk – but as an object lesson in how much can be achieved when a Centre Console design sidesteps the shackles of expense and diffidence, the flagship 420 takes some beating.