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The development of sportfishing boats has a long history. Continued evolution has resulted
in the general growth of the craft to models best described as sportfishing yachts. Design trends for
sportfishing boats and yachts are discussed with emphasis on the dimensional human-factors
characteristics of the cockpit as they influence other design features of the boat. Propulsion
machinery considerations are discussed along with other design factors.

Fishing is the primary purpose for owning a sportfishing boat. This fishing function typically
becomes less important as a craft becomes larger and can be categorized as a fishing "yacht." The
passion for game fishing has existed for some time and boats around the world have evolved to
reflect various configurations. This paper will emphasize inboard-powered sportfishing boats found
on the east coast of the United States.

In 1949 Kip Fanington, Jr. offered this description of fishing boats in his book entitled, S D O ~
Fishing Boats reported to be the "...first book on the very fbndamental subject of the construction
and use of angling boats."

"What makes a fish boat? How does it differ fiom the usual motorboat?
Answer number one to these questions is that it must have a long, low cockpit in the
stem with no covering or awning overhead. The angler must be beyond the cover
and have nothing above him to bother the action of the pumping of the rod. Number
two is that it must be a boat which steers and handles exceptionally well and usually
must have a mast upon which must rest a good lookout. It must also have the wide
visibility for the helmsman, and it is also advisable to have the helmsman really near
the angler, which all the good fish boats do. If the man at the wheel is away fiom
him, both parties are at a very decided disadvantage."

I describe a sportfishing boat simply as a fishing cockpit to which is

integrated a boat to support the fishing functions.


It is djfiicult to trace the history of sportfishing boats as they have evolved. In the past, game
fishing from dories, skiffs and rowboats were acceptable platforms. Sometime in the 19201s,
inboard-powered launches and commercial fishing craft were configured for rod and reel game
fishing. In 1936, PATSY (See Figure l), became the first sportfishing cruiser to be fitted with
diesel engines. In 1948, Rybovich built MISS CHEVY I1 ( Figure Z), which is often recognized as
the prototype for modem sportfishing boats.

The design and operation of a soccesshl sportfishing boat is the result of well-integrated
systems. Many features and characteristicsof the modern boats have evolved through trial and error
based upon the arrangements and components defhed since the 1920's. There are several examples
of the features which have been adopted and are now incorporated in modem boats.

Brinnina Fish Aboard

In the 1930fs,three methods were used to bring large fish aboard a boat; king postfgin pole
with block and tackle,roller at the transom covering board, and through the transom door. The noted
author and fisherman, Ernest Hemingway chose a stem roller for his boat, PILAR, (Figure 3).
Currently, the preferred method for boarding large fish is through the transom door.

Helm Station
Early helm stations were located in the deckhouse, on top of the deckhouse and in the
cockpa. LADY GRACE (circa 1936) was an example of a fishing boat configured with a stand-up
helm in the cockpit which could be operated with the captain facing either forward or aft (Figure 4).
Take note in Figure 4 that LADY GRACE also had a stem roller and fighting chair. Over time, the
most functional location for the helm station has proven to be the flybridge since it provides both
forward and aft cockpit visibility.

The modifications made in Rybovich's sportfishing boats are a good example of the evolution
of these craft. Comparing the high-speed vessel CHARMER, hull 9311993, (Figure 5) with MISS
CHEVY II (Figure 2) is particularly instructive.


Several marine publications conduct and report test results of various craft. Having compiled
data fiom these published test results for ninety-five sportfishing boats, from 25 feet to 92 feet, with
twin-screw, diesel-propulsion engines several interesting trends become apparent. However, it is
important to note that these published data have been accepted as reported; the accuracy of the
information may not always be correct.

As the length of a sportfishing boat increases beyond 75 feet, the vessel's primary use is
likely to be that of a yacht with a fishing cockpit. However, whether a boat is a sportfishing "boat"
or a sportsshing "yacht" is best determined by its utilization. The boat test data used here generally
represents vessels which are sized to be fbnctional fishing boats. However, in order to extend
geometric trends of hulls to the proportions of large sportfishing yachts, it is necessary to include
data for boat sizes for which there is no published test data.

Length/Beam R a t i ~
Lengthheam ratio increases in a linear manner as the overall length increases (Figure 6).
The larger vessels, over 75 feet, (where the lengthheam ratio data are more scattered in the graph)
tend to operate primarily as yachts. As a result these vessels may reflect selection of the beam to
suit arrangement requirements rather than optimize the hull for fishing.
The trend is for the shortest boats to have the least draft and for draft to increase in a linear
manner until it is six feet at a boat length of approximately 70 feet (Figure 7). When the
fishing/operational waters are taken into account the operating drafl should be no more than six feet.
As seen in Figure 7, many of the larger sportfishing boats report their operating draft to be six feet
or less.

Fuel Capacity
The design fbel capacity increases with boat length raised to an exponent of 2.5 (Figure 8).
However, fbel capacity is not an independent variable since cruise speed and range are typically
design requirements controlled by the fishing areas in which a boat will operate.

Water Ca~acity
The design water capacity increases in a linear manner as the overall boat length increases
up to approximately 75 feet (Figure 9). The design water capacity for larger boats has become a
trade-off between tank capacity, water-maker capacity and minimizing weight for improved
performance. The choice between carrying self-sufficient water capacity and/or relying on
supplementalwater-making equipment may depend upon the duration of operation in remote fishing
areas and willingness to rely on reverse-osmosis equipment.

Brake Horse~owerand Propeller Diameter Relationship

The reported data show no consistency or clear design trend concerning installed power,
propeller diameter and the ultimate speed of the vessel. In Figure 10, the data represent rated brake
horsepower divided by propeller diameter in inches cubed in relation to the reported maximum trial
speed. There are several factors other than engine power and propeller diameter which influence
boat speed; boat displacement and LCG and the presence or absence of a tower. The air drag of a
tower consumes 8 to 10 percent of propulsive power and can slow a 3 0 t knot boat by 2 to 3 knots
in comparison to a boat having no tower.
However, these factors only have a secondary affect on the data in Figure 10 whose primary
focus was intended to document the importance of the technical relationship between power and the
appropriate reduction ratio for the optimum propeller diameter. Although a slight trend is indicated
for BHP/DA3 to increase with maximum boat speed (reducing propeller diameter for increasing
power for boats operating at planing speeds), there is the strong probability that propulsion system
design is often left to chance or previous experience rather than relying upon existing technology.

Displacement to Brake Horsepower Relationship

True performance comparisons between various boats cannot be technically evaluated
without accurate knowledge of the weight of the vessels being considered. The published test results
of vessels typically report the builder's data for displacement as "dry," "half-load," "wet" or
"displacement." Figure 11 contains adjusted data of the published displacement information
converted to that of a "dry" condition, defined as a light-ship condition. To properly interpret the
data in Figure 11 the following definitions apply:

LBS - dry displacement in pounds (most likely not the displacement for the test
HP - total rated brake horsepower of the two diesel engines installed for the test
SPEED- maximum reported speed of the boat during the test at an undefined
displacement without information concemhg presence of a tower

The resulting data in Figure 11 are scattered due in part to the lack of accuracy of the data
collection and the builder-provided displacement information. It is likely, however, that much of
the scatter is asociated with poor attention to detail concerning the underwater appendages and the
inappropriate longitudinal center of gravity resulting fiom poor weight distribution.

Visualize a line connecting the upper left (60 lbs./hp) and lower right (45 knots) comers of
Figure 11. This line represents the trend line for the boats having the most efficient performance.
A sportfishing boat having a full-load calm-water speed of 35 knots with a tower installed can be
seen to be a signdicant achievement.
Range versus Speed and Ran e versus Length
The total fuel-tank capacity and reported test speed and he1 rate data have been used to
calculate the range for maximum boat speed (Figures 12 and 13). The range has a relatively non-
varying, horizontal slope with maximum speed. The range at maximum speed typically varies
between 250 and 400 nautical miles. Figure 13 demonstrates that maximum speed range increases
with boat length since the he1 capacity also increases with length (Figure 8).

The vessel with a range of approximately 1,300 nautical miles is worthy of comment. This
vessel has both twin diesel engines driving controllable-pitch propellers and a gas turbine driving
a waterjet. Only the speed performance with diesel engines is included in this paper. However, the
fbll fuel-tank capacity which is unusually large for gas turbine operation has been considered to be
available for extended range with diesel engines.

Percent Slip
Slip provides an indication or approximate measure of propeller efficiency. Pitch or
effective pitch as might be influenced by cupping and/or cambering blade sections is necessary to
account for the apparent advance of a boat for each revolution of the propeller. Thus, the accuracy
and dehition of reported pitch, cup and camber affect the calculation of slip. Nominal, published
pitch has been used to calculate the data presented in Figure 14. The scattered data are disappointing
since no clear trend is apparent. If these data are assumed to be representative and accurate, it could
be concluded that there are many poorly-designed propulsion systems in service. Apparent slip
values of 10 percent to 17 percent are achievable in well designed and constructed boats operating
at speeds greater than thirty knots.

The foregoing discussion provides some trend analyses of sportfishing boat tests published
since 1978. One can conclude f?om these data that sigdcant differences in performance exist in
the calm-water performance of various boats.

SuccessfUlly-designed sportfishing boats have characteristics and arrangements which

enhance their "fishability."These features are discussed in the following paragraphs. However, the
development and execution of the design and construction details are critical factors which make
the difference between a merely hnctional boat and a superb fishing platform.

Performance Sustainable Speed in a Seawav;
Performance of a sportfishing boat in a seaway may be its most important characteristic,
especially for tournament fishing. Fast, sustainable speed for the existing sea conditions is critical
relative to positioning the boat for preferred fishing opportunities. Speed also has the advantage
when transiting quickly to other locations where fishing activity may be better. Performance in a
seaway includes good maneuvering and control at all headings, excellent ride quality (low vertical
accelerations) and a dry boat when cruising at high speed.

A well-designed sportfishing boat has excellent handling characteristics. The boat will be
agde, responding positively to throttle commands. From dead-in-the-water the boat will accelerate
to planing speeds without hesitation whenever the throttles are moved forward and will stop in a few
boat lengths whenever the throttles are pulled back. The outstanding boat backs down under fill
and responsive control. At high speeds the boat tracks at all headings to the sea and responds
positively to helm changes for new headings.

Stability & Wake

A fishing boat will operate most fkquently at trolling speeds fiom 2 112 to 9 knots and must
be stable at all headings to the sea. The boat must be designed and constructed to produce a
flat wake and to minimize roll when operating at these displacement speeds.
The operating speed and range requirements for a sportfishing boat will control the fie1 tank
capacity. For example, boats based in Florida, North Carolina and New Jersey have different
operational ranges. However, considering transits to remote locations and fiture resale potential,
fuel capacity should be consistent with other boats of similar size and installed power.

The longitudinal location of fbel tank(s) has a signhcant impact on the design and
optimization of the hull lines with regard to speed and seakeeping. Fuel, being a consumable load,
not only reduces the displacement but also can change the longitudinal center of gravity throughout
the extent of the fishing trip.

Traditionally, the fuel is inappropriately located under the cockpit. As the fbel is consumed,
the loss of weight aft results in a bow-down trimming moment. Returning fiom a fishing trip in
following seas can be hazardous in this condition and use of trim tabs which produce bow-down trim
moments only aggravate the operating circumstances.

The best longitudinal location of &el load considering performance and seakeeping for high-
speed sportfishing boats is for its center of &el weight to be approximately one to two percent of
the LOA forward of the lightship LCG. Often this center of &el weight cannot be achieved in
practice. However, having 25% to 40% he1 tank capacity forward in the engine room and the
remaining capacity in the cockpit can be satisfactory when the forward fuel is consumed on the out-
bound fishing trip.

Flvbridae Features
The following characteristics should be incorporated on the flybridge of a sportfishingboat.

360-degree visibility
Cockpit visibility and communication with the angler
Electronics and navigational equipment easily accessible in console forward of helm
Single lever controls
Power steering
Ladder access to the cockpit
Tower and outriggers - sunshadehardtop over bridge and tower
Rod stowage under seats
The cockpit, regardless of the size of the boat must be suited to the stature of the angler.
Figure 15 depicts some geometric characteristics which can be helpfhl in developing the preliminary
cockpit layout. The height of the covering board at the transom comer above the full load waterline
(H = 0.065 X LOA) provides an aesthetic guideline so that the in profile view of the cockpit does
not look out of proportion on larger vessels. Considering the human factors of the angler and mate,
H, when practical, should be limited to a maximum value of 44 inches for any displacement
condition of the boat relative to working a fish alongside the cockpit.

The width of the cockpit is another important factor. Fishing from a centerline fighting chair
requires the tip of the rod to be extended to the beam over the covering board. In longer boats the
width at the cockpit may be too large for fishing fiom a centerline chair. Therefore, consideration
should be given to installation of an off-center chair(s), andlor stand-up fishing. With regard to the
hull, tapering the lines in plan view to reduce the transom beam and incorporating tumblehome into
the sides of the cockpit will minimize the width at the covering board of the cockpit, possibly
allowing the use of a centerline chair on larger boats.

The following characteristics are important in the cockpit of a sportfishing boat:

Solid footing non-skid or teak deck
Fighting chair for heavy tackle with four rod holders
Large insulated fish box
Transom door
Bait preparation area cabinets and sink with fresh water
Round or oval shaped live bait well
Freezer and drink box
Cockpit control station
Outrigger halyards port and starboard
Rod holders in covering board
Rod and/or gastowage port and starboard
Watertight cockpit when backing down on fish
Shaded seating at forward end of cockpit
Flush deck and covering board (no snags)

As spodkhing boats get longer, the aesthetics of blending the cockpit into the profile of the
boat must be considered. Although the sheer height of the forward portion of the hull increases to
suit the interior accommodations, the human factors issues do not pennit the cockpit height to
increase proportionately with that of the foredeck height. Figure 16 depicts three types of sheer
transition often used to connect the offset height of the cockpit with the foredeck.


The modern s p o ~ s h m boat

g configuration dates fiom 1948. The evolution since that period
has been the result of applications of new materials, equipment and engines. The length of boats and
speeds are ever increasing. The quest for greater speeds and cruising range will likely result in boats
with triple shafts with outboard engines driving propellers and a booster waterjet on centerline. In
the future, greater emphasis will be placed on reducing the on-board noise.

I wish to thank and recognize those individuals who provided input and support during the
preparation of this paper. Linda Person, who prepared the test data in spreadsheet format for
analysis and compiled the final paper, and David Carambat who provided graphical support. I am
indebted to Rybovich's master builder, Gary Hilliard, who offered much insight and experience
regarding the features included in modern sportfishing boats. Most of all the best support comes
fiom my chief editor and wife, Dorothy.

Farrington, Jr., S. K., Soort Fishing Boats, W.W. Norton & Company, Inc. 1949

Moss, F . T ., Modem Sportfishing Boats, International Marine Publishing Company, 1981

Yachting Show Number, issues of January 1937 and January 1938

Articles and Boat Test Reports from the following magazines

- B
Motor Boat & Sailinn
Power and Motoryacht
Professional BoatBuilder
Salt Water Sportsman
Sport Fishing
Yacht C a ~ i a
FIGURE 2 - MISS CHEW 11: Prototype for modem sportfihing boats (S
BoaQ Photo by George Sanderson).
FIGURE 3 - PILAR: Noted faherman Ernest Hemingway chose a stern roller to board
large fah (Spgrt Fishing Boats)

FIGURE 4 - LADY GRACE: Stand-up helm in the cockpit which could be operated
facing forward or aft (Yachting 01/37).
FIGURE 5 - -
CHARMER: Rybovich Hull No. 93 A modem (1993) high-
speed sportfuhing boat
0 50 100 150 200

FIGURE 6 - Relationship between LONBOA and boat length

0 50 100 150 200


FIGURE 7 - Relationship between draft and boat length


O $

2 s
5 1 2
iij 5
z I

20 40 60 80 100

FIGURE 8 Relationship between fuel capacity (U.S.gallons) and boat length

-a 500

0 400

g 300
5 200

@ I00
s 0
20 40 60 80 100

FIGURE 9 - Relationship between fresh water (U.S.gallons) and boat length

20 25 30 35 40 45

FIGURE 10 - Relationship between BHP/DA3and boat speed

50 - 0 1
\o 0
- o0

y 30 - 00

20 - \
0 --,
10 A
20 25 30 35 40 45

FIGURE 11 - Relationship between dry displacement/total BHP and boat speed

20 25 30 35 40 45

FIGURE 12 - Range at maximum test speed

20 40 60 80 100

FIGURE 13 - Range relationship with boat length

0 0
20 25 30 35 40 45

FIGURE 14 - Relationship between slip and speed for test data

I FIGURE 15 - Cockpit layout




FIGURE 16 - Cockpit to main deck sheer transition options