- … let’s retain our optimism at the arrival of an exciting boat from an exciting builder – and look forward to finding out what she can really do.
- Put the throttle down and after a bit of bow-up posturing, the pace increases quite rapidly.
- The moment you step on board the 242 Scarab, it feels very much like a premium platform.
Wellcraft 242 Scarab Offshore
Alex Smith looks at a brazen new American contender in the UK’s fast fisher race.
When news arrived that American sports fishing brand Wellcraft was to enter the UK at the hands of new importer Sea Ventures, I don’t mind admitting we got quite excited at PBR. After all, this is the company that furnished Crockett and Tubbs with a Wellcraft Scarab to pursue criminals in the 80s TV show Miami Vice. It’s become the stuff of legend for those of us growing up at the time – and happily, since French boating giant Beneteau acquired the brand, Wellcraft have remained true to their classical Floridian roots.
For 60 years now, the company has been involved in the design and construction of fast offshore fishers, and its modern range continues to reflect that. It comprises 20 boats from 18 to 35 feet, encompassing Walkaround, Dual Console and Centre Console variants. It goes from the affordable 180 Fisherman to the flagship 35 Scarab Offshore Tournament, and it offers every form of outboard propulsion from a modest mid-range unit to a triple rig of 350s. To this day, Wellcraft boats are still designed in Florida, and while their most modern craft have been tweaked in a bid to make them more appealing to the family boater, the basic recipe remains the same …
You take a deep, soft-riding hull, you equip it with sufficient power to engage the keen driver and sufficient practicalities to equip the keen angler, and then you add to its pronounced spray rails and offshore bow flare with a robust T-top and a memorable paint job. Throw in the famous ‘Scarab Offshore’ treatment and there you have it – a boat designed, now as always, to embody the feel-good vibe of the American dream.
The new UK importers, Sea Ventures, are no doubt keenly aware of Wellcraft’s enduring mystique. After all, they have already invested in three craft from the builder’s most classical and prolific Centre Console line (the 222, the 242 and the 262), and it’s no coincidence that these boats also happen to be three of only four craft in the entire fleet that are available as Scarab Offshore platforms. With its fusion of style and open-deck versatility, they obviously believe that Wellcraft’s formula is tailor-made for the British boater, and they might well be right about that: ‘What caught our eye with this brand is the rugged quality of the build, combined with the attention to detail and the quality of fittings. In either their standard or famous “Scarab Offshore” livery, these are very handsome boats for the discerning owner.’ The company has even gone as far as to describe its three stock craft as ‘very credible alternatives to RIBs’, with the added advantage of ‘great storage, a heads compartment and a dry ride’. It’s high time we stepped on board for a closer look.
A Premium Family Fisher
The moment you step on board the 242 Scarab, it feels very much like a premium platform. There’s a Boston Whaler-style permanence to the fit-out that feels very satisfying, and when you look behind the external gloss, the good signs continue. For instance, the storage spaces here are all drained and lined, and they also come with ram assistance and rubber seals to minimise vibration and water ingress underway. The T-top frame, the lavishly upholstered low-profile cushions, and the recessed and sunken steelwork all offer the same gratifying sense that this is a boat built by people who care.
In terms of layout, the long forward seating area looks impressively versatile. With the right options in place, you can gather around the table for lunch or you can face aft with your feet up. You can plug the gap to make a sun pad or you can fit a pair of forward-facing backrests, one on either side, and recline with a view over the bow. Whichever way you choose to configure it, it’s good to see some common sense applied to the bow infill – in this case, a lightweight grid with rectangular cut-outs, making it much easier to lift and manipulate than the unwieldy, heavyweight platforms so often used on family boats.
Just aft of this, the forward face of the helm console provides full-height access to a deep-set heads compartment. This recess doubles as a useful storage space, as well as a handy point of access to the wiring on the back of the dash. It’s not the most spacious example of its type, and if you have the forward-facing backrests fitted, the heads door makes contact with the upper edges of the cushions on its long vertical arc of travel. It would also be good to see some small windows fitted to the console sides to generate a more comfortable feeling of light and space, but however imperfect its execution, there’s no doubting the value of a heads compartment as an asset for the family boater.
Back in the cockpit, the use of a folding aft bench pays testament to this boat’s fishing heritage. When folded up, it preserves the entire cockpit for easy movement, and even when deployed it still retains the space for a broad walkway to starboard, easy access to the swim platforms and a pair of deep bait wells, one on either side. Directly ahead of the bench, there’s some substantial overhead storage built into the underside of the T-top, and there’s also a space for a cool box in a dedicated bracket beneath the helm seats.
However, the helm station itself is not as sophisticated as the boat’s sporting aesthetic might lead you to expect. For instance, the lumbar support is set too far back to be useful; the trailing edge of the console moulding comes too close to your knees for comfort; the foot brace is too cramped, shallow and shiny to get any purchase; and the screen is too low, too narrow and too curved to block out the elements. It’s certainly not ideal, but with plenty of quality materials, heavyweight build and attractive finish on display, the 242 still boasts an internal environment of an impressive calibre.
The Acid Test Postponed…
Put the throttle down and after a bit of bow-up posturing, the pace increases quite rapidly. However, it’s plain from the off that there’s a bit of a rigging issue on the test boat. The seas are quite lumpy and the breeze is picking up as the Mediterranean sun bakes the land, so to keep ourselves dry and smooth, we need to work the trim a bit. The trouble is, every time we attempt to elevate the leg, the prop slips, preventing us from lifting the bow to the degree the seas demand. It makes a following sea very difficult to navigate in comfort, and it also means that in a beam sea with a stiff wind blowing, the ploughing bow kicks up water, which then finds its way inboard.
In fact, we repeatedly fail to free up the hull and shift the waterline further aft – and that’s a great shame because, given the shape of those flared forward quarters and that relatively fine entry (not to mention Wellcraft’s enviable heritage in offshore fishers), I don’t believe that this behaviour is a natural trait of the hull. On the contrary, knowing how fast, dry, soft-riding and capable these craft are supposed to be, it seems unfair (if not downright speculative) to assess its sea manners on the basis of the test boat’s rather clumsy and uncomfortable performance. So rather than go on, I will simply assert that I fully expect the guys at Sea Ventures to put a far more dextrous and capable boat on the water – one that rewards the keen driver for his/her input and one that does far greater justice to the Wellcraft name.
I had hoped that Wellcraft would present us with a more affordable route into the virtually untouchable world of the Boston Whaler – where heavyweight build, offshore ability and easy driving dynamics define the boating experience. I had hoped it would do all of that while adding a refreshing dash of youthful flare, and I still believe the 242 might have the ability to achieve these things. But with its flawed helm ergonomics and its awkward running attitude, the test boat undoubtedly fell short. I’ve discussed this with the guys at Sea Ventures and they’ve assured me that once they have rigged their imported stock boat, we will be first in line for a closer look. So for now, let’s retain our optimism at the arrival of an exciting boat from an exciting builder – and look forward to finding out what she can really do.
- Lovely looks
- Versatile bow space
- Big cruising range
- Quality feel
- Slip at the prop
- Persistently low bow
- Compromised helm ergonomics
- Imperfect heads compartment
RPM Speed (kn) Fuel flow (L/h) Range (nm @ 90%)
500 (idle) 1.5 1.1 733.9
1000 3.7 2.6 765.9
1500 5.8 5.4 578.1
2000 7.0 10.6 355.4
2500 8.2 20.5 215.3
3000 9.8 26.2 201.3
3500 11.2 34.0 177.3
4000 20.8 37.2 300.9
4500 29.9 47.5 338.8
5000 33.8 60.3 301.7
5500 38.8 77.1 270.8
5800 42.0 91.0 248.4
Fuel capacity: 598 litres
People capacity: 10
Power: < 400hp
Engine: Evinrude G2 300