Test: Caribbean 24 Flybridge Sports Fisher

By: Matthew Jones, Photography by: Matthew Jones

Caribbean 24 Flybridge Sports Fisher Caribbean 24 Flybridge Sports Fisher
Caribbean 24 Flybridge Sports Fisher MerCruiser diesel will appeal to both game-fishermen and cruisers, offering good fuel economy with impressive performance. Abundance of torque gets her on the plane quick-smart. Caribbean 24 Flybridge Sports Fisher
Caribbean 24 Flybridge Sports Fisher Flybridge helm offers 360� bird’s-eye views and a comfortable bench seat for two. Good storage under helm station and seat. Bimini top provides some shade with all-round clears included. Caribbean 24 Flybridge Sports Fisher
Caribbean 24 Flybridge Sports Fisher Stove ready for bacon and eggs and sink with 100 litres of freshwater. Aftermarket fridge can be fitted beneath helm seat. Caribbean 24 Flybridge Sports Fisher
Caribbean 24 Flybridge Sports Fisher With 2.7 metres of beam, there are 4.5 square metres of cockpit space (minus engine box). Good toeholds, high gunwales. Bait board can be mounted on transom or engine box. Caribbean 24 Flybridge Sports Fisher
Caribbean 24 Flybridge Sports Fisher Quiet, heavyweight hull makes light work of chop and swell. The flared bow pushes spray well clear. Caribbean 24 Flybridge Sports Fisher
Caribbean 24 Flybridge Sports Fisher Ride is solid, predictable and comfortable in one of the smallest flybridge boats available Caribbean 24 Flybridge Sports Fisher
Caribbean 24 Flybridge Sports Fisher A great weekender, the 24 FBSF is a comfortable family boat ready for serious sports fishing Caribbean 24 Flybridge Sports Fisher
Caribbean 24 Flybridge Sports Fisher Caribbean 24 Flybridge Sports Fisher
Caribbean 24 Flybridge Sports Fisher Caribbean 24 Flybridge Sports Fisher
Caribbean 24 Flybridge Sports Fisher Caribbean 24 Flybridge Sports Fisher

Looking for launch-like characteristics without the marina fees? Caribbean Boats may have just the answer in its 24 FBSF — one of the smallest flybridge models on the market. It fits on a trailer, has a great sports fishing pedigree and will keep the family more than happy for years to come.

Bigger isn't always better, especially when capital outlay and the on-going cost of sitting in saltwater are concerned. If you've got a big enough driveway, tow vehicle and suitable local ramp, you can forget about antifoul, marina fees and haul-out costs with Caribbean's new 24 Flybridge Sports Fisher (FBSF).

Based in Melbourne, International Marine has been around for over fifty years producing in excess of 50,000 boats under its own Caribbean (and previously Bertram) brand. Local dealer Caribbean Boats (NZ) Ltd is owned and operated by Scott and Paul White who've been in business together for over two decades.

Bad-news skies

I met Scott and his son Dylan on a changeable and choppy spring morning at Tauranga's Sulphur Point boat ramp with bad-news skies in the distance. Greg and his friendly bunch of local fishos kindly delayed their fishing trip to help out as a photo boat. We cast the lines and raced through the choppy harbour into open water to take shelter in the lee of Mount Maunganui.

The lack of a transom door hints at this boat's design pedigree — bluewater sports fishing. The step over into the cockpit is easy thanks to the removable transom seats — they are white but can be simply removed when the bait comes out to keep them clean — and allow anglers access into the stern quarters.

With 2.7 metres of beam, the business end offers a decent 4.5 square metres of cockpit space, although some of that is relinquished to the engine box. There are good toeholds along each side for a secure footing, with high gunwales for bracing against while hooked up. Large, lined side pockets will keep the nets and gaffs safely stored and a rocket launcher mounted behind the flybridge allows accessible storage for five rods.

An optional bait board can be mounted either on the transom or on the engine box. Scott has specifically set up the four through-gunwale rod holders so he can chase marlin without needing game poles, but they can be easily added if desired. While there's no underfloor storage, there's ample real estate on offer for a decent chilly bin.

The dirty work is taken care of by remote control with a Quick capstan (operated by both helm stations) and a 20lb Manson anchor.

Bird's-eye view

It was time to climb the ladder where the prime helm station offers unhindered 360-degree bird's-eye views and a comfortable bench seat for two. The skipper also gets a footrest and there's plenty of storage under the helm station and seat for all manner of refreshments, snacks and whatever else you can think of. A full set of gauges, switches and a neatly flush-mounted Lowrance HDS8 help keep the skipper in the know. The bimini top provides some shade and all-round clears are included for when the weather changes its mind.

The stainless steel steering wheel, throttle and gear stick provide a classic feel befitting the boat's traditional lines, but push the throttle forward and you'll soon realise there's nothing vintage about the power plant — it's modern-day engineering at its best. With the variable geometry turbo there's no discernible turbo-lag, just an abundance of torque which gets the Caribbean 24FBSF on the plane quick-smart. With the turbo engaged there's a fair bit of intake noise so it's not the quietest running installation of this engine that I've experienced, but on the plus side you get excellent access to the engine for servicing.

The engine was still being run in so we had to stick to cruising revs, but factory sea-trials report a top speed of 34.5 knots with six occupants, 225 litres of fuel, 100 litres of water and 100kg of additional ballast. At this engine/hull combination's economical best, the MerCruiser is using around 1.27 litres of diesel per nautical mile at 2800rpm for just over 21 knots. With 300 litres of diesel underfloor, she'll cover plenty of bluewater with the lures out, using around 4.5 litres per hour.

We cruised comfortably at around 24 knots with the quiet, heavyweight hull making light work of the chop and small swell. It gracefully parted the waves while the flared bow pushed spray well clear and the ride was solid, predictable and downright cruisy as we sat enjoying the view from above.

The lower helm station is a standard feature that can be deleted to save around $3500, but it is great to have when the weather takes a turn for the worse. The rain appeared as we were heading in so we simply moved downstairs, flicked on the wipers and enjoyed the comfort and shelter of the cabin. Everything can be controlled from above or below so the choice is yours.

Weekend getaway

To keep the height of the flybridge down and the centre of gravity low, there's a step down into the cabin from the cockpit. This means any water in the cockpit can run forward into the cabin, but the area is self-draining and both areas are equipped with bilge pumps. Headroom is comfortable for anyone six-feet tall and under, and there's plenty of light and ventilation from the large armour-plated windscreens and side sliding windows. A removable rear canvas cover allows the cabin to be enclosed in inclement weather.

Up front the lockable cabin offers privacy while visiting the thru-hull Jabsco toilet. The compact door makes it cosy within and the large V-berths should provide a comfortable night's sleep for two — and the mosquito mesh cover on the hatch will keep unwanted visitors out. The dining table converts into a third large single berth allowing an overnight getaway for three.

Breakfast can be cooked on the stove, which is neatly housed under the lift-up bench, and the ingredients are kept chilled in the insulated icebox beneath the rear seat. An aftermarket fridge can be fitted beneath the helm seat that's otherwise dedicated to storage. Scott's a can-do bloke, so speak to him if you would like a califont or any other add-ons.

No space has been underutilised and there's plenty of storage on board with multiple underseat compartments and side storage pockets throughout the cabins. High quality stainless steel, LED interior lighting and timeless wood finishing nicely complement the clean, pristine fibreglass finish.

The Caribbean 24 FBSF is effectively a trailerable launch and comes on an Australian-made Mackay tandem-axle trailer with Al-Ko Sensabrakes. At 3250kg dry tow weight and over 2.5m in beam, it requires a sizeable tow wagon, over-width flags and a suitable ramp, but there'll be few other limitations to your boating adventures. If you prefer the marina lifestyle the boat will also fit in an eight-metre berth.

The last word

If you're looking for the handling of a launch in a more compact package and like the idea of being able to tow your boat home after an enjoyable getaway on the water, then the Caribbean 24FBSF should tick plenty of boxes. Its well-proven sports fishing pedigree, solid construction and sea-keeping ability mean it's not only a great fishing boat but also a competent all-rounder with enough comforts for the whole family.

Boat supplied by Caribbean Boats (NZ) Limited. Call 027 279 6664, email scott@caribbeanboats.co.nz or visit carribeanboats.co.nz.

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