Princecraft Starfish 16′ DLX SC Review #X: A possible deal-breaker

June 5, 2015

I generally fish alone, on quiet evenings on small lakes.  The Princecraft Starfish 16′ DLX SC fulfills this role very well.

But a couple of days ago my wife and I needed to make our way across two miles of choppy water into a strong headwind. The Princecraft’s hull design was not up to the job.

Fore-and-aft balance is always an issue on this boat.  The bow is too light, even after I have added a trolling motor and battery, as well as a “bicycle seat” for fishing in the forward position.  Normally I fill the live well for ballast and proceed.  On Saturday when we emerged from behind an island into whitecaps and a moderate chop (waves 1 1/2′, crest to trough) the hull pounded fiercely with both of us in the passenger seats.  I suggested my wife move forward to balance the boat.  She quickly had to move back to the cushy seat for fear she break a vertebrae from the unpadded impact of the floor.  I lowered the throttle to a troll and immediately took a wave over the bow.

Using the raised bow to bludgeon our way through the waves, we had a slow, rough and wet trip from Newboro to Scott Island this day.  When we arrived at the cottage I commented upon the whitecaps to our host, who had made the same trip moments before in his 16′ Lund side-console.  He hadn’t noticed the rough water as a particular problem.  His American Lund has a surprisingly deep V for an aluminum utility hull, with a generous flair forward to provide lift in a chop.

The Princecraft’s failing this day, in my opinion, was in its lack of displacement forward.  The dynamic of this boat is stability through a triangular structure, damping pitch and yaw through leverage against the mass of its broad transom, and a bottom which is flat at the stern.  But you don’t want initial stability in rough water.

It’s a trade-off:  the flat bottom means easy planing, great fuel efficiency, and excellent initial stability.  The downside is poor performance in rough water.

I kept thinking of my salad years, when I spent hours downrigging for splake in my 8 1/2′ Herreschoff/Gardiner pram.  Its design  was the opposite of the current Princecraft, with virtually no initial stability, but tremendous secondary stability.  It would bob like a cork in the huge swells from passing cruisers, causing the occupant no particular anxiety.  The pram would have been fine in Saturday’s chop, though at 5 mph with its 3 hp motor, it would have been a long trip to Scott Island.


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