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2019 Duckworth 30 Offshore XL
BY PATRICK MCGANN
So what exactly is the Ford F450 Platinum Super Duty of the water? You know, the vee-hickle that is just so much more than merely adequate that guys look at it and sigh and just wonder why in the heck they didn’t go to medical school (and then specialize) or start their own construction company … but not in a Mercedes or Lexus kind of way?
This is not a hard question. We all know the answer.
It’s a Duck. The only reason we don’t call it a Panzer is because it’s a Duck.
Specifically, it’s the spanking new Duckworth 30 Offshore XL introduced for the first time at the Seattle Boat Show in January.
This last April I hitched a ride with KIRO-FM Outdoor Radio Host Tom “Nellie” Nelson who is running said beast. Setting this blackmouth trip up, we talked on the phone and he made the point (with verbal exclamation marks) that the 9 ½-foot beam (hence the XL designation) would surprise me. I normally believe every thing anyone tells me, of course, but I’ve been splashing around in 8 ½-foot beams now for 30 years, so that’s just six inches more per side.
He was right, though. That is your first impression when you step aboard this monster, that and there was virtually no movement when this hippo stepped foot on the diamond-plate swim step at the Everett Marina.
We’re rigging 10 ½-foot rods on the downrigger clips off Point No Point in central Puget Sound and I’m dough-balling the rod around the deck to get my hands on the line at the rod tip —I’m sure you’ve seen this act. Not a problem. You can play pickle ball on this deck. It is big enough and that’s almost never true.
The other thing is just what you always see when you look at a Duckworth Offshore and that’s the sheer graceful massiveness of it, the heavy aluminum, masculine paint job and gnarly welds bent and shaped into sweeping, salty lines that defies the metal boat epithet “floating tool box.” This is a damn pretty boat. Biggest piece of jewelry I’ve ever seen.
I’m not going to mince words here. This is as good as it gets in a PNW salmonwagon. I mean, we can quibble about designs, like how you can run all the way around a center console or tiller drive open, fighting three Moby Dicks at a time, but in the class of “Big Richard” pilot house or sport cabin salmon fishing boats, Duckworth Offshores live at top of the food chain—not alone, mind you, but definitely there at the top.
We caught three blackmouth, and released one. We each took one home and scarfed it. Tasty.
The fishing was straight by the book for Puget Sound blackmouth: Cannon downrigger balls in the dirt, trolling against the current with an anchovy on one side and a spoon on the other. The three fish we caught were on the anchovy, rigged on a luxuriously large bait table. The spoon got hit once and I missed it while playing with Tom’s dog.
The amount of working space in that cockpit was nothing short of ridiculous. You can back away from the gunnel and bring that fish right up to the side of the boat. Easy.
You can drop a heavy pair of cutters on the deck without having a gelcoat heart attack. You can mount downriggers just about anywhere you want without having to disassemble the boat. I’ve never seen Burnewiin gunnel mounts on a metal boat before. Sweet. The aft steering station controls both big outboards and kicker motor, aft Raymarine monitor tied into main electronics suite, and Raymarine autopilot managing the trolling motor. One guy can fish this boat no problem. One guy can control the boat anda gaggle of Boy Scouts or buddies.
The bait table on the transom is enormous and sturdy. (I’m jealous.) And I’d guess the main thing I’d say about it is that for a big graceful, elegant, grown-up contraption, I was very happy to see the river-boat-like storage trays and boxes all over the place where you can see stuff and get at it. Yes, this is an expensive piece of equipment, but it is still a tool for catching fish. Duckworth hasn’t forgotten that. Cool.
And it is towable as in no, you don’t need an F-450 to get over the spine of Vancouver Island without dragging a train of unhappy hockey fans. A three-quarter ton is more than adequate. A Tahoe or Expedition will do fine, even though it will make your rig look like a SmartCar. This 30-footer is only a smidge heavier than my 25-foot Grady center console. Why do I consider this a matter of fishability? Because towability isfishability in this age of micro-managed area closures.
Also, one guy can launch this boat. It’s aluminum. You can move it. So, if you launch like I do, pretty much doing everything while your lovely assistant gives you instructions in Burundi or some other language, nobody gets red in the face.
Duckworth thinks people buy their boats for the box girder engineering, custom-build layout flexibility and their true reverse chine performance. Maybe. But I know guys who have Ducks and they buy them because they want to go into the way-out gnarly and they want to have confidence in a machine that will bring them home again. It’s that simple.
The aluminum on the bottom of this boat is an honest quarter-inch thick and the sides are just a skosh under 3/16ths. That’s what they put on 45-foot trawlers and commercial fishing boats. The welds aren’t ground off. You can see them. They’re art and they’re honest. Everywhere you look, inside and out, there is massive aluminum structure staring at you, telling you, relax, it’s going to be fine.
The reverse chine is kind of a geeky thing some boat makers do after the fact with welded-on plates. It is an integral part of all Offshores. The Offshores have a big fat chine that pops it up on plane and minimizes drag on plane. It is about efficiency, maximizes range and minimizes operating costs. It works. What they’re doing here is maximizing the advantage of aluminum to its fullest, and seriously offsetting the main disadvantage (cost). When marina gas spurts into $5 a gallon territory, efficiency adds up fast. (And don’t forget resale value. Go ahead, prowl Craigslist for used Ducks.)
This hull with cabin, seats, galley, fridge, head, etc. has a dry weight a tad over 7,000 pounds. That’s crazy. Twin Yamaha 300s (total a bit over 1,100 pounds) get it up on plane immediately, smoothly and quietly out of the hole. In smooth water off Everett, Tom throttled up to 46.8 miles per hour a bit below wide open but at that speed she gulps about a gallon per mile. The sweet spot is around 27 miles per hour which is where most guys run at in normal saltwater conditions and that’s an economical 16 gallons per hour.
The 30 Offshore XL doesn’t feel like a hotrod. It will top 46 mph and that’s more than plenty. Where this boat wants to go, you’ll rarely go that fast. But when you do, it doesn’t feel like it’s going to shake the bolts loose. It does fall off plane fast if you kill it, though, but on the opposite, taking off, it’s very well behaved.
We didn’t have rough water to play in, but we did have the wake of a ferry. Meh. With the suspension seats, it was easier to see the wake than feel it. But I will say one thing, this boat does not bounce.
Turning was solid and sure, those sharp chines biting the water. Sometimes when you lean over into a turn you all of a sudden feel the chop on the chine more and it’s a little unnerving but in this hull, it wasn’t even there. And in close quarters I noticed something pretty cool about that extra width: the motors are a little wider set for better slow speed maneuvering. Very helpful around city docks.
Comfort in salmon boats is a practical matter for two important reasons:
One, they are expensive — this model, as outfitted, was offered at the Boat Show for $279,995.00 — and kidding aside, not everyone who buys one is a lotto winner. Legit salmonwagons are a major lifestyle choice requiring for most people significant compromises elsewhere in their finances. For that reason, they must be appropriate for everyone in the family sharing in those compromises. That is just plain reality.
Secondly, comfort serves range, time on target and flexibility and that means fish. If you have a place to get warm and dry you can stay out longer, go when others have to stay home and fish in places that scare the lesser equipped away.
What 10 yards of Duckworth gives you is not only a massive fishing platform, but also a standup head/shower, a convertible booth, an elegant helm station, not one but two big seats up front on the port side, and a highly functional galley with sink, two burner range top, fridge and drawer storage and a big, roomy V-berth forward.
As an aside, if I had a six-pack license, a Sitka gig and a line on Dakota oil dudes, I’d think long and hard about this rig.
Here’s a good example of the intense kind of attention to detail you’ll find in this boat. Before we took off Tom said, “Feel the dash.” It’s texture painted aluminum, like a two-inch flat ridge behind which was compartmentalized built in tray storage. Yeah, so? Later that day before I found my gloves, back in the cabin between runs, my corpse-like hands felt the dash again. Aaaahhhh. Warm. Cool. The structure of the dash itself is the air conduit to the port side heat vent. So automatically you hold on to that ridge right in front of you, of course, and it warms your hands.
First, let me admit that I am a glass boat guy. I have loved a metal boat, a Wooldridge, as a matter of fact, and I am sure I will be seduced again at some point, but glossy white and heavy is where I’m at right now. But I also have to admit that once upon a time in crazy big water, in the rainy scary dark and fog, I was in a salty Grady heading west from the edge of the world following another boat for safety. It was a Duckworth Offshore.