The “family fishing” boat category has many followers in the saltwater world, with dozens of brands promising the best of both designs. Some boats are more family oriented, with token fishing features. Others are designed for legitimate sport-fishermen, with a few seats or Porta-Potti added for the non-anglers in the family.
The Southport 33 FE (Family Edition) is one of the few designs that has been meticulously thought out to accommodate the interests of everyone on board. Features like fold-down lounges in the cockpit allow that space to be used for family cruises or as an unobstructed fish-fighting space when trolling. In the bow, the pedestal table can be raised for alfresco dining or lowered to form a casting platform.
“What drew me to the Southport 33 is its versatility,” says Captain T.J. Shea, who runs a charter fishing business in the Tampa Bay area. He purchased a new 33 FE last fall and, within three months, had put 500 hours on it. O’Shea also installed a dive door for both his family and charter business.
“I did a lot of research to find a boat that would work well both ways,” says Shea. “Honestly, I couldn’t find a lot of center consoles out there that could compare with the fishing features and great offshore hull. I can take six hardcore fishermen out on Saturday and then bring my family for a cruise on Sunday.”
Despite the Family Edition name, the Southport 33 is a serious fishing boat. There is a 35-gallon lighted livewell in the transom, four 6-foot-long insulated fish boxes in the cockpit, outrigger plates on the T-Top, a standard tackle and rigging center, with rod stowage in the helm console and cabin. The rigging center can also be outfitted with a refrigerator and grill.
The cabin is a legitimate hideaway with a six-foot-long berth, toilet, sink and even a mirror. “My family loves it,” says Shea. “At the end of a dive trip, we use the cabin as a changing room to get out of the wetsuits. I store my fishing rods down there. My son read a book down there on a recent trip. It’s hard to beat all the options this center console has.”
Going beyond the family/fisherman debate, the Southport 33 FE has one of the best bluewater hulls on the water. The variable-deadrise hull form, designed by C. Raymond Hunt & Associates, was designed for rough ocean passages. Powered by twin 300 hp four-stroke Yamahas, the 33 FE tops 52.3 mph. With the optional 350 hp Yamahas, it reaches 55 mph. “We’ve been out in some hairy stuff,” says Shea. “The 33 always gets us back without a problem. My Southport 29 also has 6,500 hours on it since I bought it in 2009. It’s performed great in tough conditions. Family or fishing trips, these Southports are some of the safest center consoles on the water.”