Captain's Log

Fly Boatworks Debuts their 18' Backwater Tiller at Wrightsville Beach, NC

11/28/2012

"Exceptional. That's how I would describe the experience..."

                                                                                                                             Capt. Seth Vernon



 Specs:
Fly Boatworks Backwater 18 Tiller 

LOA: 17' 8"   Weight: 650 LBS.  Fuel: 19 gal              
Beam: 5' 10"   *Draft:  6"             HP Rating: 60HP

*Draft was measured with 17 gal of fuel, Two adults, full gear, camera gear/tripod, anchor, safety equipment trolling motor and optima batteries. Real gear payload draft while being poled!


      Fly Boatworks new Backwater 18' may look familiar but rest assured this is a completely new boat, company and design philosophy than many of the boats on the market today. At first glance and in pictures I thought I was looking at a boat with similar design characteristics to the skiff I own but once up close and especially on the water I could clearly see and feel the differences.
     The Layout of this particular model is a tiller with custom Carbon Marine Platforms and a custom Carbon Marine grab bar with instrument panel. A Yeti 45 QT cooler keeps things chilled and doubles for seating or as a place to stand and fish from. The skiff was custom made, factory direct for my angler and friend Larry Rushin here in NC. The idea was to have a minimalist design while having some practical features. Included standard are locking rod boxes which double as convenient and cavernous dry storage space, (openings measure 69.75" L by 12" W), I assumed these would be a drawback in accessing rods but I quickly became fond of the security and safety for keeping rods out of harms way.There is a front hatch on the bow measuring 17" L by 28" W with access to 8 cubic feet of dry compartment space, a rear hatch opening to either a 22 gallon release/live well or extra dry storage, push pole holders, diamond grid non skid deck on all surfaces, a trolling motor package, 60 HP Etec mounted to an electric Jack Plate and switch panel for nav lights, bilge pump, livewell pump etc.

     I was impressed to see how much room there really is in this boat's cockpit considering the gunnels are 16" wide. I measured the interior of the cockpit at 38" W and 89" L. With the Yeti cooler installed there's 33" of space from the front of the cooler to the front bulkhead... You could tote NBA Basketball stars with legroom like that!
     Larry chose not to have cushions; and in key seating areas, (Yeti Cooler, Rear Deck & Platforms) instead opted for Aqua Traction Deck padding in a ribbed gray color. After riding in the boat for several days I came to the conclusion that the ride was smooth enough that the boat really didn't need cushions. Larry incorporated some new technology in this rig. He wanted a depth finder, ram mounted on the starboard side of the Grab Bar helm and for navigation and ease of use he will be piloting using Navionics on an iPad fitted to a ram mount on the port side and secured in a LifeProof case. Talk about a big wide touch screen for navigation. And if he wants to capture the action on the bow he can leave the iPad on in it's mount and record or take still images. It's a really clean setup.
What is truly important when you get over the sexy lines, cool colors and smell of fresh fiberglass is Performance.
     I can honestly say after four days of  testing this boat on the water that I am impressed not only with the fit and finish, (all the 316 stainless Phillips head screws are in line on axis) and attention to detail but the dry comfortable ride, maneuverability, hole shot, stealth, lack of hull slap, ease of poling and performance exceeded my expectations. While under power the boat launches out of the hole with no perceptible bow rise and you are quickly up to speed on a smooth pad with the water vacating the hull aft of  the seating area for the driver which keeps the boat fast and the occupants dry. While turning vigorously I was thrilled at the skiff's ability to turn inside it's own radius and try as I might I couldn't get the boat to slide. Those of you who've been brave enough to ride with me know what this means. This boat has some sticky grip and corners like a Lotus Elise on Methamphetamine! I was also fortunate to test the boats' rough water capabilities. On Monday Jim and I ran the boat in a 2-2.5 foot plus chop in the Cape Fear River channel traveling back and forth from Southport. I have made that rough water passage in my skiff an innumerable amount of times... I couldn't believe how well the boat diffused the chop while keeping us dry. One other  feature I noticed while running the River channel was the lack of  bow steer coming down sea which is common on many small flats skiffs including mine. I kept remarking that the Fly Boatworks Backwater 18 is the little boat with a big boat attitude! The Backwater 18 is not so light that you get a jarring ride in rough water and not so heavy that you sacrifice speed or poleability; which is where you need the boat to be nimble.
     Speaking of poling, the draft on this rig is remarkable at six inches and due to the square stern the Backwater 18 floats high and spins quickly on the pole! The boat is stealthy and stable as well. Quiet in a chop, the hull made no perceptable "slap" mostly due to the highly elevated chine and spray rail. On a few occasions we  were able to pole up to numerous redfish unnoticed, a true mark of the skiffs stealth on the water.
     I am happy to report that the boat exceeded my expectations and my angler Larry Rushin is the proud owner of one very fine skiff indeed. For more information on Fly Boatworks visit their website or Facebook Page, or contact Capt. Jim Dismore at (512) 663-5636.

Happy Holidays,
Captain Seth Vernon