We shot a First Look video of McKee Craft and Aegis models at the Fort Lauderdale Boat Show, but since these boats were sitting in the convention center, going for a sea trial and writing a full-blown boat review wasn't an option. Fast forward to the Miami Boat Show—here, Aegis had one of their new 18CC center console fishing boats in the water, and ready to roll. How could we possibly resist?
A quick history: McKee Craft was a well known manufacturer for many years, recognized for building unsinkable boats with pressurized foam sandwiched between fiberglass skins. Their line consisted of boats featuring cathedral-style hulls with squared bows, which both enjoyed and suffered from the common cathedral hull traits: excellent stability and a roomy interior, but a wet and rather bumpy ride in rough waters. Before going bust during the dark economic days of the Great Recession, McKee Craft introduced a line of V-hull boats that were built with the same outstanding construction method as the cathedrals. The Aegis line-up is based on these V-hulls.
The first thing that struck me about the 18CC was that it’s no skiff. This is a full-blown center console, and it has the brawn of many 20-footers. Thigh-high gunwales, wide forward side-decks, a sturdy stainless-steel recessed bow grab-rail, a stainless-steel rubrail, and six-inch stainless-steel cleats—including a pair of spring cleats, a rarity on 18-footers—make it clear that the Aegis 18CC is built for heavy-duty use. Even the cupholders are stainless-steel, and as I stomped my way across the deck of this boat, there was no doubt in my mind it could take the abuse dished out by a die-hard angler who fishes in the brine on a daily basis.
Speaking of fishing: the 18CC has a pair of 11-gallon aft livewells, one in either corner of the transom. Eleven gallons is minimal for a livewell, but pretty common for a boat of this size. Until, that is, you remember that you get a pair of them. On most 18-footers you’ll have a dozen or so gallons of livewell capacity in total, but here you get a healthy 22 gallons. Fuel capacity is similarly healthy, at 65 gallons. Most boats in this class top-out at 50, and plenty have even less.
Other fishing features include a big integrated overboard-draining fishbox in the foredeck, a 65-quart Engel cooler/seat in front of the console, four stainless-steel gunwale-mounted rodholders, vertical console rodholders, and a raw water washdown. If you opt for the leaning post instead of the flip-back cooler helm seat, you also can get four rocket launchers. When considering fish-stowage capacity remember that the foredeck fishbox will hold ice and chill your catch abnormally well, since everything under the fiberglass skin is foamed and the entire boat is essentially insulated. Room for improvement can be found in the plastic vertical console rodholders, which in my experience tend to break after a decade or so in the sun and should be stainless-steel to match the rest of this boat’s ruggedness. The good news is that Aegis builds every boat on a semi-custom basis, and if you agree that stainless-steel rodholders are in order, all you have to do is speak up.
What about fit and finish? Again, the 18CC looks and feels like a bigger boat. As far as I could see no corners had been cut, and every hatch, seam, and seat cushion looked fantastic. Thoughtful touches include colored stitching in the cushions, the use of a pop-up cleat on the bow, and colored hullsides.
|Fuel capacity||65 gal.|
If your LOA is going to be constrained by slip size, storage facilities, or other factors, but you want the biggest-feeling 18-footer you can find, the Aegis is definitely one you’ll want to check out. Do so, and there will only be one question left: can you resist the temptation?
Other Choices: The Robalo R180 will be a natural comparison to the 18CC, since it’s another model that looks, feels, and acts like a much larger boat. It shares the same LOA and beam but has 15 gallons less fuel capacity, and seven gallons less livewell capacity. It also costs less, at $26,220 with a 115-hp Yamaha outboard and a trailer.
For more information, visit Aegis.