If you haven’t heard of Blackshear Boats it’s no small wonder since this builder just went into production, but after running the 2017 Blackshear 220 VSK, we wish they’d started sooner—there’s a shortage of small, simple, but high-end fishing skiffs out there. At one end of the spectrum more and more builders have focused on bigger and fancier models, while at the other end they’ve been rolling out extremely inexpensive models with quality levels that are, shall we say, unimpressive. That makes the Blackshear, with its fully-linered interior and decent level of fit and finish, more than a little bit unusual. So when we got the chance, naturally, we jumped aboard for a closer look.
Perks like the head compartment in the console, friction hinges and gas-assist struts on the hatches, the beefy leaning post with rocket launchers, and the sturdy T-top are what you expect to see in a high-dollar bay boat or offshore center console, not on a skiff. And as a general rule the fit and finish we saw was a cut above the norm. Compartments are lined, the fiberglass and gelcoat work is neat, fabrics are Sunbrella, and fittings like the pull-up cleats and latches are all high quality stainless-steel. That’s not to say it’s perfect—hatches are painted gelcoat on the back instead of being fully-finished and they aren’t gasketed, for example—but so far as skiffs go, you’ll be hard-pressed to find better.
Performance was also un-skiff-like. With the Honda BF150 on the transom the boat can top 40 MPH. And cruising across the bay at speeds in the low to mid 30’s is no problem. Normally on a skiff high speeds like this aren’t practical, since the flat hull bottom pounds your teeth out in any sort of chop. Not so, in this case. While it’s true that the seas were extremely calm during our sea trial, we turned circles and zig-zgged as best we could to create some wakes, then ran back through them. And the 220 VSK did get through the artificial washing-machine much more smoothly than one might expect. That’s in part because of its hull design, which incorporates a V-section in the center of the boat. The outer two-thirds of the bottom are more or less flat and the V tapers moving aft, so the 220 VSK maintains the shallow draft and high stability flat-bottom skiffs offer. But that center section does help chop open the chop.
Another perk of the design is a reduction in spray. Those of us who have owned flat-bottom, square-nosed skiffs in the past are quite familiar with taking spray in the face. Constantly. Even when the waves are little more than mere ripples. But we didn’t get splashed one single time during our test. That’s not to say the VSK 220 is going to be bone-dry—truth be told, no 22-footer is—but at least in relatively calm conditions and when running through series of boat wakes, you’ll stay a whole lot drier than you would in the average skiff.
If you’re worried that a new brand might be inexperienced at boat-building, lay those fears to rest. Blackshears are being constructed by H2O Sports Manufacturing, the same company that builds Clearwater boats, Cape Craft boats, and Outcast skiffs. And since these brands are all fishboats, it’s no shocker that the Blackshear is designed for serious fishing. Along with the triple livewells you get perks like four flush-mount rodholders, fore and aft casting decks, and rocket launchers on the leaning post and T-top. There are rodracks mounted in the forward stowage compartments, but they’re only long enough for two-piece rods and most serious anglers, eschewing break-downs in the first place, will be better served by removing the racks and increasing the stowage volume in the compartments.
Some other things you don’t expect from a skiff which the Blackshear 220 VSK offers include a fold-down aft bench seat, a dedicated anchor locker compartment, and seat cushions that are actually comfortable. When you add up all the un-skiff-like things on this boat, is it still fair to call the Blackshear a skiff? Yes. It maintains the KISS skiff layout and attitude, but in a much more upscale package with improved running characteristics. And that’s why we’re guessing that in the future, you’ll be hearing a lot more about this new builder.
Other Choices: An older and well-established competitor is the Carolina Skiff 218 DLV, which also adds a bit of V into the hull to try to smooth out the ride. Sundance offers a similar option in the 22 DX.
For more information, visit Blackshear.