We think the most important aspect of any boat is its builder’s top management. The culture, attitude and approach to boat building all starts at the top and rolls downhill – be it positive or negative – no matter what the glowing words on the website and in the brochures say. That's why we are encouraged by the ownership and management structure at Sea Fox. The company was founded in 1995 by Fred Renken, who came from a boat-building family with nearly 50 years of experience.
The Renken family always built affordable boats and that orientation has had a strong influence on the direction of Sea Fox.Now the company is owned by five men in their 30s and 40s, all of whom work every day at the company in key positions. The owners are Fred Renken, President; Jeff DeBar, Senior Vice President of Sales and Marketing; David Brown, Vice President of Finance; Ryan Balderson, Vice President of New Product Development; and Chris Nemeth, Vice President of Operations. Most of these men have been working at the company for 10 years, if not from the beginning. When owners and management alike are deeply involved with the design, construction, sales and service of a brand, it stands to reason that they take the brand's reputation and success in the field quite seriously.
In building the new Sea Fox Pro Series 226CC the company wanted a boat that would address the needs of fishermen and be able to go offshore. Vice President of New Product Development Ryan Balderson told us that he expects to be taking the boat 40 to 50 miles offshore for his weekend fishing. The boat was also designed with the family in mind, so as many comfortable seats as possible were put into the boat with the added bonus of seat cushions as standard equipment. The 226CC also fills out Sea Fox's line of ten center consoles ranging in size from 16’ to 28’. As with all Sea Fox boats the mission was to make the boat durable, dependable and affordable.
It is nearly impossible to find many features on a center console that are unique. When a good new idea comes out, it is usually copied by other builders within weeks, if not days. However, we were impressed by the number of items that are standard equipment on the 226CC. Of course, its biggest unique feature is its low price.
When a price is so much lower than many other boats on the market, consumers quite naturally – and quite rightly – ask themselves what the builder has left out. We put that very question to Ryan Balderson and we were impressed with the straightforward answer. First, Balderson told us, “Sea Fox follows a laminate schedule for the hull that is standard in the industry for the center console type. This boat has seven layers of fiberglass in its bottom." Balderson went on to explain that the bottom was solid fiberglass, but that in the hull sides a foam core material was used with fewer layers of glass.
The first thing we check when we are investigating a new boat is its displacement. That one measurement tells us more about the boat than anything else. In checking other 22' center consoles, we see quite a disparity in dry weight – from about 2,200 lbs. (997 kgs.) to 3,200 lbs. (1,451 kgs.). That is a whopping 45% difference! The dry weight of the Sea Fox 226CC is 2,700 lbs. (1,224 kgs.), which is exactly in the middle between the heaviest and the lightest boat in size and type from well-known brand names.
Because Sea Fox is located in Moncks, South Carolina, it is blessed with a steady workforce, rather than one that is constantly rotating as happens in some parts of the country. The prices also reflect a competitive labor rate found in many locations of the deep South. Sea Fox also does not make a liner for the 226CC inside the head compartment, but instead lines it with ‘monkey fur’. Also, inside the console, the builder uses canvas covers over the back of the instrument panel instead of a more typical fiberglass or plastic hatch. These are a couple of examples of how Sea Fox cuts down on cost without affecting the sea-keeping abilities of the boat.
We are told that all Sea Fox hulls and decks are weighed after lamination to makes sure they are within their weight tolerance.
Perhaps the most important factor of all bearing on the finished price of the boat, according to Balderson, is how the boat is designed in the first place. "Our designer makes CAD drawings of the boat and all of its molded fiberglass parts," Balderson said, "and they are carefully designed to go together easily, without much labor."Once a boat’s lines have been drawn they are sent to Donald L. Blunt and Associates for its scrutiny. Donald L. Blunt and Associates is an internationally-recognized naval architecture, marine engineering, and yacht design firm that is used by many of the country's leading boat builders. It probably has a better handle on the performance characteristics of small boats than nearly any marine design firm. Sea Fox's use of Donald L. Blunt and Associates is reassuring and means their boats are not just something that were designed on a napkin over a few beers after a day of fishing. Donald L. Blunt and Associates also takes the designers, CAD drawings for the boat, feeds them into its own computer software that then directs its five-axis routers to make the plugs for all of Sea Fox's tooling. "The plugs we get from DLB are all so precise," says Balderson, "that our parts fit perfectly, giving us a good fit everywhere."
The 226CC hull features a Carolina Flair and downward progressive strakes that guarantee an extra dry ride in rough seas. The sleek stem rake design in the bow and subtle raise in the sheer line gives the 226CC some of the prettiest lines in its class. This innovative 22-footer promises comfortable and dry blue-water fishing for anglers and their families.
Because the 226CC was intended for use as a fishing and family utility boat you see standard features for both activities. All the basic fisherman friendly options you need are here: a 40-gallon, rounded-blue live well is in the port quarter; there is a fish box under the bench seat across the transom, and another in the bow; there are rod holders in the gunwales, and of course rocket launchers.
In the stern we measured a cockpit depth of 23.5" (59.6 cm).For the family, cushions come as standard equipment for all the seats, including the ones forward in the bow, making this somewhat of a bow rider. The most comfortable seats in the house are across the transom. Underneath them is storage. The ubiquitous cooler which is normally put in front of the center console is instead placed under the helm seating. We like this arrangement because it makes it easier to grab drinks from the ice chest while underway, when most people are sitting or standing at the helm or behind.The helm arrangement and the instrument panel are fairly standard.
The door on the port side to the head compartment is 15.5" (39.3 cm) and 35.5" (90.1 cm) high. That is a bit tight for big guys, but we know one who was able to squeeze inside and measure the headroom – 57" (1.46 m) which provided very comfortable sitting headroom above the portable toilet.
The Sea Fox Pro Series 226CC can be equipped with a Yamaha F150 or F200. A spokesperson for the factory told us that the boat will go 43 miles per hour with the F150. He also said that one of the Sea Fox dealers is selling the 226CC with a F150 for $39,995. Powered by a F200, the boat we saw at the 2011 Miami International Boat Show had a price of $45,995. Typically 22' center consoles are powered by 200-horsepower engines, but we have tested some with 225 and even 250 horsepower.
Pros and Cons
First the cons. ‘Monkey fur’ is the fuzzy white material that low price-point builders used to put inside their cuddies to cover the raw fiberglass inside. It is a 1970s thing that we thought had become extinct. We guess it's just endangered. We understand that making a fiberglass interior liner for the console will drive the cost and the weight up, but there must be a better solution. Perhaps just spraying the inside with gel coat would do the job.
In our opinion the cockpit scuppers are on the small side. We’d like to see large scuppers or a transom door that swings out so that the cockpit can be quickly dewatered in case of swamping. Now the pros. After the price, we were impressed with the bow flare which should keep the cockpit dry in all but the windiest conditions. We also liked the fact that Sea Fox has a five year limited warranty specifically against hull blistering. This is a remarkable warranty and one that many high-end boat builders won't match. Sea Fox also has a limited lifetime warranty on the hull. This is not so unusual, but nevertheless we like to see it because it means the builder has great confidence in their product.
We like the Sea Fox Pro Series 226CC and think that the manufacturer has made the right compromises between high-grade finish and cost (except for the monkey fur). Because of the design process we have confidence in the hull. If you are looking for an affordable center console, you should definitely be looking at the Sea Fox Pro Series 226CC.
Standard and Optional Features
|Washdown: Fresh Water||Optional|
|Washdown: Raw Water||Standard|
|Outlet: 12-Volt Acc||Standard|
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