Princecraft Starfish DLX SC Review #1: Why I gave up my old boat

June 17, 2012

For many years I have fished with considerable success from the bow of a 1982 Springbok 16’ equipped with a 35 Mercury two cycle outboard and a 30 lb. thrust MotorGuide trolling motor.

Built by Alcan in the early eighties as a response to the boom in fiberglass bass boats, this hull is still in perfect condition, though I had to rebuild the decks when I bought it twelve years ago. The carpet had rotted the originals, and the second deck wasn’t well done. I spent evenings over a winter building new fir plywood panels, rounding the edges, then glassing each piece to the standard I applied to the same job years earlier on my antique cabin cruiser. This was a surprisingly expensive and time-consuming job – especially eliminating the voids in the plywood around the hatch openings — but it provided a weatherproof deck for a boat which would spend half of the year tied to a dock and exposed to sun and weather.

Time took a toll on a series of swivel seats, but they were easily replaced through trips to Walmart or Princess Auto for new ones. The front live well holds only ten gallons, but it has kept many, many bass in good health, and because it is mounted to the port side I used it to trim the hull when I was in the boat alone. The rear live well is huge, but because it is located at the aft starboard corner of the vessel, it isn’t usable because it ruins the boat’s weight distribution. I stored life jackets in it.

At 60” at the widest point, the Springbok was too narrow for me at this time of life. While the boat was remarkably efficient on fuel, and even though it routinely outran the other boats in the fleet, the Springbok demanded of its operator and passengers the balance and co-ordination of a canoeist.

So my friends and family put increasing pressure on me to upgrade. Apparently the sight of a heavy, arthritic geezer perched on that narrow bow platform disturbed the serenity of others, (especially when this boat beat all comers in last year’s bass tournament).

A month of obsessive Internet searches and wild-goose chases occurred in pursuit of a wider boat. Every potential candidate I viewed was in much worse condition than the Springbok. Any idea how ratty that old blue carpet looks after twenty or thirty years, and how those rotten floorboards smell?

My search for a restorable hulk took me to Dave Brown’s establishment in Chaffey’s Locks, where I found no promising wreck, but spotted a bright red Princecraft, still without a motor, on his lot. Tentatively I asked Dave for a price. He vanished upstairs and returned in a few minutes with a printed page containing a graphic of the boat and a price not much greater than what I had been thinking of paying for a used glass centre-console on Kijiji.

“How much is the motor?”

“The 40 hp Mercury 4 stroke with EFI and tilt is included in the package.”

I don’t recall saying anything at that point. Numbers were racing around in my head, but I spent a good deal of time looking over the hull.

The thing that grabbed my attention first was the floorboards. Covered with a textured vinyl, they fasten down with exposed, stainless steel screws. The biggest problem I had with the Springbok’s glass deck was my unsuccessful attempt to build a coping which would join the deck to the aluminum sides. The walnut moulding on which I lavished hours wouldn’t stay on when the hull flexed in a chop. That loose coping remained my biggest disappointment with the rebuild of the boat.

Princecraft designers solved the same problem by creating a bead of the vinyl flooring material and sliding it between the floorboards and the hull sides, a simple and elegant solution which had eluded me over many hours of trying. (After a look at the new boat I thought I could fix the trim on the old one, and I did. I hope the new owner enjoys the old girl as much as I did.)

The new hatches are aluminum, also covered with vinyl. The latches look primitive, but seem to work well, won’t break from a misstep, and won’t trip anyone.

The swivel seats are comfortable and quite elegant in comparison to the Spartan ones which tormented my back for the last couple of years in the Springbok until I replaced them a month ago. On a first look the large seats seem to be placed too close together. The port seat looks as though it should be set to the left about three inches to balance the boat. Turns out that’s an illusion. As I discovered on the shakedown runs, the seats make optimal use of the hull’s width just the way they are.

There’s not much storage space in the new boat. Gas tank, battery box and pumps are exposed. The stern side bulkheads enclose foam only. The 7’ rod locker is just about it, if like me you plan to use the live well for fish and the forward locker for a battery. But I soon discovered that the side console (under the steering wheel) is much deeper than on the old one (I had to crawl in there after my wallet) and it’s the logical repository for a stack of life jackets.

The transom’s 71” wide and 20” high, so the light boat can take a 40 hp motor. With a butt that wide it will need it, too.

I asked Dave to order a matching “bicycle seat” to mount on a tall post at the bow. This should provide a more comfortable fishing position because I can either perch on it or use it as a brace while standing.


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