Princecraft Starfish 16′ DLX SC review #5: After five weeks

August 15, 2012

After five weeks with the new Princecraft, I still find myself going to the lake just to visit it, luxuriate in the comfort of the cushy seats, and touch the key to feel the Merc 40 pop instantly into operation. The long rod locker holds my fishing tackle as well as wallet, keys and sundries. It’s dry in there. The live well is a good fish compartment and it is usually pressed into service as a ballast tank, as well. A clever gasket around the top of the tank keeps all but the most adventurous fish within the well, even when the lid is left open for extended periods when the crappies are biting.

As I mentioned, starting the 4 cycle Mercury is dead simple. Turn the key. The computer does the rest. My casting-off routine is a bit complex: four lines and a power cord need to be released. The bulky but docile Merc gently backs the Princecraft out of her slip and around the end of the dock, then powers up onto plane to clear the weeds which grow close to the water’s surface on this part of Newboro Lake.

The boat and I have become quite practiced at it. I’d have to describe the Starfish DLX as easy to handle, but that’s largely because of the excellent manners of the outboard. You have to watch that the bow doesn’t slide out from under you if you board or depart at the front. That’s because of the triangular shape of bass boats. The bulk of their displacement is at the stern and there isn’t much forefoot to resist sliding out from under a person stepping from boat to shore.

I still remember the soaking I received the first time I tried to step onto the deck of a client’s bass boat.

The Springbok 16 which this boat replaced has become a distant memory. This hull is a considerable improvement in every way, especially in stability. With its 60” beam the Springbok was too narrow for a single, heavy operator. When not on plane it tilted to the starboard side. The 71” transom on the Princecraft Starfish provides lots of displacement at the corners and a hard chine to eliminate tippiness. It’s much easier to move around in the wider, more stable boat.

To handle a chop in the Princecraft I usually fill the live well. Otherwise the boat is too light in the bow, even with a battery and trolling motor up front. On the other hand a large third passenger is no problem as long as he sits up forward on the edge of the casting platform. The trim will lift another 250 lb up onto plane without undue difficulty. To judge by the sound of the engine at speed, its top end seems unaffected by the additional weight.

I joked to a friend that I paid an additional $11,000 so that I wouldn’t have to pick seats up and move them around to fish. The tall 27″ pedestal with the bicycle seat doesn’t interfere with my vision when I am at the controls. The $275. option was worth it to me because it greatly reduces my fatigue while fishing: it provides an endless variety of positions I can use, ranging from sitting on the thing with my feet on the floor, to leaning on it, or perching on the seat while resting my feet on the gunwales. It also makes a good brace for standing on the deck to cast, as well. Just be careful that it doesn’t punt you overboard when you bend down suddenly to grab another worm.

Once or twice I have come close to diving into the drink when scrambling to replace a lost bait: there’s not a whole lot of room to move around on the forward casting platform because of the location of the live well, and the seat reduces the bending space still further. But I would definitely order it again. If forced to sit in a conventional seat to cast I would tire out a lot quicker, and the large and cushy captain’s chairs standard on this model would likely obscure forward visibility if left in place.

Speaking of “left”: for some reason best known to themselves, marine mechanics insist upon installing trolling motors on the port side of the bow. I refused the installation and put it on the way I want it, on the starboard side, diagonally across just aft of the bow light. It bolted on very easily and works quite well for fishing, though admittedly it rubs a bit on the dock now the water levels are very low. But I’m right handed, and that rig goes up and down a dozen times per trip, so it has to be a comfortable lift.

Learning how to use the foot control on the small forward deck was a trial, but now I forget what the problem was… something about the outside of my foot wanting to press on the GO button, rather than the inside. Motor Guide brand loyalty, I guess. Feet are a conservative bunch.

The Minn-Kota Edge (45lb. thrust) does a decent job of moving the boat around, though I still don’t think it delivers the raw torque of the 30 pound Motor Guide I had on the other boat. The Minn-Kota chops through the weeds pretty well, though, doesn’t get impacted with weeds around its drive shaft the way the Motor Guide did, and isn’t hard on the battery.

In all, it’s very easy to get spoiled. I feel safe and comfortable on the boat. It gets around quickly or slowly as I see fit. I don’t miss the smell of 2 cycle exhaust. The Merc has no more exhaust odour than a Toyota. It idles like a good Japanese car, too. I am catching all of the bass and crappie I want because I can put more hours in without discomfort in this well designed hull.

Fuel consumption? I still don’t know, but regular gas bought at a service station provides a significant price advantage over high test mixed with oil at a marine vendor. (This comment earned an admonition from the Princecraft/Mercury dealer Dave Brown, who warned of the dangers of ethanol-rich regular gas. He firmly suggested I switch back to high test fuel because of the lower ethanol levels.)

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It’s about 12 miles around Scott Island, and I would be able to make four of those circuits on a 25 litre tank of fuel, with some reserve, I believe. With the newly-acquired second tank I’ll be able to run each one dry and note the engine hours elapsed for 25 litres, so I should have much better data by the next blog entry.

7.6 hours elapsed since the installation of the meter.

One other thing: two guest fishermen on separate occasions have dumped the contents of their coffee cups on the same small piece of carpet. Each was surprised by the lack of cup holders in the boat and set his mug on the ledge beside the passenger seat. Then the boat popped up onto plane…

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