The number of North Carolina-built sportfishers defecting to the West Coast seems to be growing at a healthy pace; it's almost as if we're in the middle of a "B" flick called "Invasion of the Flared Bows," which — now that I've written it — would only be funny to people who know about boats (and possibly not even to them). Let's be honest: It probably wouldn't even qualify as a scary movie, because the flared look is attractive and sturdy, the spacious boats cut efficiently through chop, they're often custom- or handcrafted and they're a welcome addition to what's available in the way of sportfishers on the West Coast.
Among the 130-or-so North Carolina boat builders is Parker Marine Enterprises. The company's been around since the late-1960s and specializes in creating "just-the-facts-ma'am" sportfishers, ranging mostly from 18 to 28 feet. We wanted to know more about these zippy little numbers, so on a gorgeous morning in San Diego, I hopped aboard one of the newest models, the Parker 2820 XL Sport Cabin. Don't let her fancy name fool you; she invites you to grab your tackle and come as you are — she'll do the rest.
Rigged and Ready
The 2820 is a production boat, but she can be outfitted to accommodate just about any fishing tastes or needs. In fact, "Parkers are easy to rig," said Bob Forthun of San Diego-based Sundance Marine, who took a break from selling boats to take us out for a spin on Mission Bay. Because they're born on the East Coast, the boats naturally lack some of the rigging and features that are givens for West Coast sportfishing. But Parker is working with Sundance to build even more rigging into the boat. "We don't have to do anything special — the boat's already reinforced." That said, the vessel we were on did have something special, which Sundance had added since her journey from the 200,000-square-foot factory: a full tower with a bench and nice shade from the sun — perfect for spotting kelp beds and catch.
Despite being an all-business sportfisher, I was pleased to find that the helm station and cabin were pretty comfortable; size-wise it was fine, with about 6 feet, 4 inches of head room. Forthun and I really weren't tripping over each other or even nudging shoulders when we traded places at the helm. I also didn't feel like I had to reach or stretch over anything to access the controls; the four single seats were comfortable, the power-assisted steering felt sleek and the all-around windows provided perfect visibility. There's a well-lit forward sleeping/storage area, with a filler cushion that, when in place, hides an optional electric toilet. Trim tabs come standard; electronics, of course, are added later and you can choose just about anything you want, although Sundance recommends Furuno NavNet.
Stepping out from the pilothouse is like entering another world. You almost want to ask, "Would you like a boat with your cockpit?" While for comfort's sake, I wouldn't take the maximum 16 persons the boat is capable of carrying, I would say you could easily fish an entire day with three friends and stay pretty well out of one another's way.
As discussed, your dealer can rig the boat pretty much any way you need, but the 2820 we were on had storage for four rods beneath the gunwale, an aluminum six-rod rocket launcher, a 42-gallon livewell and a plenty of under-seat storage for tackle and other gear. Plus, there's always the enclosed forward space, which — let's face it — is where most stuff ends up on boats.
For safety, drains leading to the bilge are placed throughout the boat, not just in the cockpit.
The boat has two Yamaha engine options — twin F225s or F250s; our test model was powered by the latter, and we were on plane within 8 seconds. The 2820 is a lady of few words — a totally acceptable noise level, about 70 dB with the pilothouse door locked shut. Notorious for "mis-hearing" half of the conversations I have in my life (e.g., shouting at friends across a crowded restaurant table, "What camel?" in a now-famous discussion that I would soon find was about the actress Neve Campbell), I was able to ask Forthun questions and actually hear his answers without straining or constantly saying, "Huh?"
In addition, the vibration was minimal; I left all the gear I'd brought with me on the edge of one of the seats and didn't need to worry about it being shaken off. Now, thrown off when we made several quick and sharp doughnut turns — yes — but I can say with certainty that the 2820 was a smooth ride. It was quite a rush to take our readings at wide-open throttle, or 6,000 rpm, and see 51 mph appear before us; an even greater rush was feeling her control and power when we raced over other boats' wakes at that speed — all without getting any noticeable drops of water on the boat.
I'm fond of the company's laid-back and sensible attitude: "It has never been our intention to become an industry giant, but rather to build boats for that portion of the market (that) can recognize the important qualities in boats dictated by common sense and time-tested design features." To that end, Parker made good on its word, because though the 2820 looked sparse to me when I climbed aboard, we weren't wanting for anything, and I was reminded what sportfishers are intended to do: Fish.
A final thought: The resale value on Parkers tends to be very high, according to Rob Sanford, general manager at Sundance, and they can be tough to find on the used market. "They're very similar to Harley-Davidson," he said, indicating the way the products hold their value as well as the loyal following they command. "People wait in line for these. And once they buy them, they keep them for life."
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Manufacturer Contact Information
Parker Marine Enterprises