Can a leopard change its spots? Can a zebra change its stripes? Can a Seaswirl Striper 1851 change its layout to create three different fishing boats on a single hull? Hmmm.
That was the buzz at the OMC product roll out in Dallas. According to the spin meisters, the 2001 Striper 1851 is not only a good entry-level, saltwater fishing boat, but a shape-shifter that's available in three distinct models: center console, dual console and walkaround.
Well, I've heard this claim before and was skeptical. Typically, when a boat is asked to perform multiple functions, it doesn't do any one of them particularly well.
But curiosity got the better of me and the only thing to do was go to the lake for a buzz test, I mean boat test.
The marina was crowded at Joe Poole Lake, near Dallas. As a result, the Striper 1851s were scattered around the docks. I came upon a short waiting line for the 1851 Dual Console and decided to jump in.
It turned out to be a good choice. Despite its modest size — 18-feet, 6-inches long and 7-feet, 6-inches wide — the layout was unobstructed and open, making the boat feel larger than its dimensions.
This was especially true in the aft cockpit. Anglers will appreciate the uncluttered fish-fighting space. Families will appreciate a layout that can accommodate four adult passengers: two in helm seats amidships and two in jump seats. (The dual console version is also available with a back-to-back jumper seat on the port side.)
A forward area allows two kids to lounge in the bow, but adults will find it snug. Optional snap-on cushions help make it comfy. The bow area also contains a mount for a pedestal seat that can be used while casting or as a fish-fighting chair.
Selected standard features include:
- Sandpaper-pattern non-skid decking
- Two swim steps on either side of the splashwell
- Three-step boarding ladder and raw-water washdown to port
- In-transom, 25-gallon baitwell with aerator
- Built-in tackle box in port console with two removable trays
- 12/24-volt receptacle for a trolling motor located in bow
- Three stowage compartments and an anchor locker in bow
- Dual batteries
- Walk-through windshield
- Sunbrella Bimini top
- Flush-mounted rod holders in gunwales
- Hydraulic-assisted steering
Although rated to handle a Johnson or Evinrude 175-hp engine, the test Striper 1851 was equipped with an Evinrude 135. Base engine is a 115 Johnson or Evinrude. (Note that Evinrude engines come with advanced, clean-burning Ficht technology.)
Time to plane was nearly instantaneous. There was so little bow rise that I suspected the boat was propped to favor hole-shot performance. As proof, acceleration time 0-25 mph turned out to be a lightning 4.8 seconds. This is quick by any standard.
Further proof came during top-end runs. Here, the boat turned in a speed of 41.5 mph at 5400 rpm. Typically, a prop that is geared for acceleration reduces top-end speed. Evidence of this can be seen in the rpm reading, which was below the 5500-5700 rpm range that most boats target.
Allowing the engine to spool up to a higher rpm would have pushed top speed into the mid-40s, but at the same time it probably would have trimmed hole-shot time. Pick your poison. It's always a trade off.
Max speed of 41.5 mph might seem slow to some, but it may not be for how this boat will be used. Most fishermen will launch within 10-15 miles of where they intend to fish, and the difference between running at 40 mph and 50 mph is just a few minutes at that distance. Families, of course, will find the speed perfectly acceptable. However, serious fishermen will probably want to spend more money and upgrade to the 150-horse engine.
Nominal top-end speed with the 135-horse outboard raises the question about how the boat will run with the base 115-horse engine. Asking price for the base boat ($24,516 MSRP with Evinrude 115) is lower than the test boat ($24,888 MSRP with similar engine), but performance will be lower, too. I'd probably upgrade.
Aside from raw speed, the Striper 1851 was a pleasure to drive. Its 18-degree deadrise felt comfortable in wind-whipped chop and nasty wakes thrown from bigger boats. Not a drop of spray was blown back into the cockpit, and the hull tracked like it was on rails while racing through wheel-lock turns.
(Note: Test data was gathered by making multiple runs in opposing directions with three adults aboard, half a tank of fuel and minimal gear. All speeds were recorded on the dash speedometer and checked by GPS. Conditions were windy with at least a foot of chop.)
After hopping out of the Striper 1851 Dual Console I strolled the marina until I found the center console and walkaround siblings. All three are good-looking craft. Fit and finish is smooth and precise. Construction features wood-free, composite stringers.
The center console design is intended for more serious fishermen. The emphasis is on an unobstructed, fish-fighting cockpit and a wide-open bow casting area. As such, it will be an ideal platform for stalking bays and inlets and even near-shore waters on relatively calm days. Price with the base engine is $23,842.
To many East Coast and Gulf Coast anglers, the walkaround edition of the 1851 will probably appear strange. Why eat up so much deck space with a cabin that's too small for overnighting?
Well, if truth be told, the same question could be put to owners of most walkarounds. Few anglers I've known have ever overnighted on walkarounds up to 24-feet long. Maybe once or twice a long time ago, but not recently and probably not any time soon.
So, why did they buy them? Basically, for dry-storage capacity and protection from the elements. In the cool Pacific Northwest, where Seaswirl is based, dryness and shelter are highly prized qualities. So, while the 1851 Walkaround may not suit everyone, it clearly has its place. Suggested retail price with the base engine is $25,775.
The buzz this time around proved to be mostly on target. The hull of the 1851 is well designed and can handle multiple configurations. However, its greatest appeal will probably be in the center console and dual console models, especially when equipped with a135-horse or larger engine.
The Seaswirl Striper 1851 is an overachiever, especially for its size. Without doubt, it will find a niche — or should I say "niches?" — among anglers and family boaters looking for multi-use, affordably priced, saltwater fishing boats. At least that's the buzz.
|Draft (drive down)||30"|
|Weight||2,290 lbs.(with 115-hp outboard)|
|Max persons||7/1,245 lbs.|
|Max load||1,900 lbs.|
|Fuel capacity||62 gals.|
|Engine as tested||Evinrude 135|
|Top speed||41.5 mph at 5,400 rpm|
|0-25 mph||4.8 sec.|
|Price as tested||$24,888|
25-gal. aerated baitwell, swivel driver seat, anchor locker, compass, composite stringers, flush-mounted rod holders in gunwales, full dash instrumentation, Sunbrella Bimini top, hydraulic-assisted steering, dual batteries, walk-through windshield, 3-step boarding ladder, raw-water washdown, built-in tackle box with two removable drawers, two aft jump seats
Snap-on cushions that create bow sunpad, trailer, canvas cover
Up to 175-hp Johnson/Evinrude
Contact: Seaswirl Boats, P.O. Box 167, Culver, OR 97734; (888)921-4662;