One of the most competitive areas in the U.S. boating market is the offshore center console segment, with boats between 32 and 38 feet in length—it’s a slice of the American boating pie that’s been long dominated by names such as Yellowfin, Scout, Jupiter, Regulator, Everglades, and Contender, among others. So when Cobia introduced its biggest-ever center-console boat—the 344 CC—at the Miami International Boat Show, it got me wondering: Can Cobia hit the target in this high-stakes premium powerboat segment?
I got the chance to find out in late July by running the 344 CC off Stuart, FL, during a media event hosted by Maverick Boat Company, which purchased the Cobia brand in 2005. You might recognize the Maverick name from its legendary technical fishing skiffs, or its Hewes and Pathfinder fishing boat brands. The company is known not only for its expertise in lightweight composite boatbuilding techniques, but also for its advanced hull designs and innovative fishing features.
On first glance, the 344 CC is imposing. It has a generous amount of freeboard and a sheer line that rises dramatically to an aggressive bow with plenty of flare. The entry is steep and sharp, but is also graceful and elegant at the same time. A twin-stepped hull improves performance and efficiency, while nearly 22 degrees of transom deadrise provides accurate tracking and a smooth ride, even in a stiff chop. At 8,600 pounds dry, the Cobia 344 CC weighs more than the amazingly light Contender 35 Tournament (6,600 pounds), but it’s not a heavyweight. For comparison, the Boston Whaler 350 Outrage weighs 11,000 pounds, while the Everglades 355cc runs 9,500 pounds.
Build quality and fit and finish on the 344 CC are top-notch, from the sturdy aluminum pipework and high-quality stainless-steel deck hardware, down to the way mechanical systems are installed. Lift up any access panel or hatch and you’ll find electrical wires and hoses bundled and routed with an amazing attention to detail. Fiberglass and gelcoat work are also among the best I’ve seen in a production boat—even the bilges and mechanical spaces are expertly finished.
Speaking of mechanical areas, I really liked how accessible all of these areas were on the 344 CC. For example, it’s great how Cobia mounted the triple fuel filter/water separator assemblies within easy reach at the transom, instead of burying them as I’ve seen some other manufacturers do. You can access them either by opening a small, hinged door, or by using an electric lift switch to elevate the large transom seat panel. Extending the transom seat panel upward also reveals an opening that provides quick access to the bilge/mechanical area at the transom.
Maverick’s obsession with detail even finds its way into the 344 CC’s twin, 42-gallon livewells, both of which are located on the transom. Take a look under a hatch in the aft cockpit sole and you’ll find the heart of an innovative, pressurized system that virtually eliminates all bubbles from the livewell water, even when underway at speed. That helps keep bait alive and swimming longer. The system is comprised of three Rule submersible bilge pumps that are mounted inside a sea chest outside the wells, with one pump serving as a spare.
As long as we’re discussing fishing features, I should mention the Cobia 344 CC’s two 62-gallon fish boxes with macerated overboard discharge drains, copious under-gunwale rod stowage, deck-mounted rod holders, and an amazing rigging station with cutting area, sink, and five stowage drawers. I've seen 50-foot sportfish yachts with smaller rigging stations. There’s more rod stowage under the center console and a plethora of additional places to stow a fishing stick via rocket launchers that are welded into the hardtop pipework.
Cobia included heavy bolstering around the gunwale, which is nice when you have to bend into a big fish. Lastly, there’s an opening topside/tuna door on the aft starboard quarter that provides an easy way to get big fish aboard; it will also make hopping aboard easier when docked side-to. I found the door’s latching mechanisms and two-piece construction a little awkward to use in a rush, but the whole setup is solid-feeling.
But this boat isn’t entirely about fishing—there are also a ton of comfort features, for when casual fun with family and friends takes precedence. The bow features a highly modular seating area that can be used as a sun pad, casting platform, or six-person dinette, thanks to a table that raises and lowers with the flick of a switch. It’s a clever and slick setup, but the electric table mechanism is awfully slow. While it may sound like a first-world problem, I guarantee you’ll start tapping your toes or some other appendage as you wait for the table to get into position.
Ahead of the center console unit is a long, padded seating area that has two separate cooler compartments and just enough space for two people to stretch out or lie down. Additional seating is available at the stern via a fold-down bench that can accommodate three. So there are plenty of places to catch a snooze or relax with a cold one.
The center-console unit on the 344 CC is huge in just about every way. The dash has enough room to swallow up double multifunction displays, an autopilot, trim tab switches, engine controls, Yamaha Command Link system, stereo, electric switch panel, and more. Underneath the dash are four stowage areas with closeable fronts and a wide footrest that runs the width of the console. Behind the center console are twin fixed seats that can be converted quickly to a leaning post setup. I really liked the console between the seats, which had room for wallets, cell phone, keys, etc.
|Test conditions: calm seas, winds 5-10 mph, 2 POB. Performance data courtesy of Yamaha.|
|Power||Triple Yamaha F300 four-stroke outboards, swinging 14.75" x 23" three-bladed stainless-steel props.|
The area beneath the center console is accessed through a door on the port side. Underneath you’ll find not only a head and sink, but also access to battery control switches, a breaker panel, two pullout stowage drawers, and a panel that flips down behind the dash to allow easy access to electronics at the helm. There’s a padded berth up forward for Bohemian overnighting, and a clever rod stowage area underneath can swallow up and protect six rods. Two opening ports provide light and good ventilation.
Our test boat was equipped with three, 300-horsepower Yamaha F300 outboards. You can also opt for twin F300s or two of Yamaha’s beefy, 350-horsepower F350 outboards. Performance on the Cobia 344 CC was spirited and exhilarating, as you’d expect from a boat with 900-horsepower strapped to its stern.
What’s most impressive, however, is how well the boat handles with all of this power, especially at high speed. I’ve been on plenty of fishing boats of this type tipped with lots of horsepower, and not all of them behave nicely at high speeds. In fact, some of them were downright scary.
Not so with the Cobia 344 CC. Even at close to 70 mph with a light chop, the boat never once felt even slightly out of control. There was no chine walk or loss of steering feedback, or any of the other undesirable handling maladies that can befall boats at such speeds.
In fact the only thing that’s scary about the 344 CC at this speed is the force with which the wind can rip off jackets, sunglasses, or anything else not firmly strapped down. I can attest to this firsthand.
At lower, more typical speeds out through the St. Lucie Inlet and into the ocean, the 344 CC behaved admirably, splitting waves with authority, with almost no pounding.
|Fuel capacity||320 gal.|
Despite having three thirsty outboards, fuel efficiency and range on the Cobia 344 CC are quite impressive. Cruise speeds settle in around 31 mph, where the three F300s consume about 21 gallons per hour. That provides a theoretical range of 479 miles with the 320-gallon fuel tank—plenty to blast out to the canyons and back with lots of fuel to spare. Bump the speed up to around 45 mph and that range dips only slightly, to just under 400 miles. Open the 344 CC all the way up and in the right conditions you’ll blow past 70 mph—while sucking down 78 gallons per hour, or more, along the way.
Besides the quirky latching mechanism for the starboard topside door and the slow speed with which the forward electric table raises and lowers, I found it difficult to be critical of much on the 344 CC. In fact, I mentioned to a colleague at the media event that when I complain about an electric table and door latching mechanism, the rest of the boat must be awfully good. There's no doubt—Cobia's big-boy center console is ready to compete for that premium slice of the American boating pie.
Other Choices: Other capable center-console choices in this size range include the Everglades 355 T, Boston Whaler 350 Outrage, and the Wellcraft 35 Scarab Offshore Sport.
See all listings for Cobia 344 CC powerboats.
For more information, visit Cobia Boats.