Boat Review Date: July 2015
Author: Mike Brown
The flood of American imports has reduced to a trickle, probably influenced by the shrivelling Aussie dollar, and for the most part only the long established brands are turning up. The review boat, a Robalo 222 centre console, is the product of a builder turning out around 6,000 boats a year even in the currently depressed US market. These boats are noted for utterly consistent quality.
The owner of the review boat has fishing firmly in view – he had the boat modified to take a pot winch and tipper. The Robalo, though, is well equipped and big enough for a more versatile life. There is seating for a crowd, but without hampering anglers on the more serious occasions. There is a virtual conversational grouping forward, the U-shaped bow couch facing the seat at the console’s front – which is gas lifted to give access to the toilet. Speakers abound for the top class stereo.
One of the drawbacks of centre consoles – the biggest one according mostly to women – is the lack of a toilet or somewhere to put one. The Robalo R222, despite its modest length of six and a half metres has fixed that. With a Tardis-like conjuring trick the builder has found room for a toilet within a console that, from the outside at least, looks too small.
Although the interior of the console was sacrificed to the toilet the R222 still retains plenty of storage. A lot of this is under the bow seats and easily accessible thanks to gas lifters. There is more below the deck and, due to their length, the side pockets have considerable volume. An overhead console and a bin below the driving seat handle the more precious items.
The fishing fit out is comprehensive. Standing at the rail is about as secure and comfortable as it could be, aided by toe rails and padded gunwales. With the aft settee folded up that padding is usable across the transom. A large live bait tank is located behind the driver’s seat; as well as the usual rod sockets Robalo provides rod racks within the bulwarks; at the transom is a bait tray. All six cleats – the midships pair installed to special order – are retractable.
The toe rails and padding would be futile without enough stability to support the anglers using them. We could not muster the numbers to fill the rail, but three light heavyweights barely listed the Robalo.
Presumably not a lot of anchoring happens in the USA. Trailer boats imported from there usually have an anchoring system no more sophisticated than a cleat. The R222 arrived in WA similarly naked but agents Mansfield Marine themselves tailor made a bowsprit and roller. They complemented it with a power capstan feeding an anchor well with good capacity.
Compared with the typical centre console the R222 pampers its driver. The seat, wide enough for two, is on the sumptuous side of comfortable and has an excellent relationship with throttle and wheel. The latter is adjustable for rake and has a rubber backing that delivers softness and grip. The T-top is expansive, unselfishly spreading its shade. Importantly, it is massively as well as elegantly supported by pipe work able to double as hand holds for standing passengers. Coaming mounted rails provide hand holds for sitting passengers.
The majority of American boats operate on fresh water and some of those imported seem to have been designed to do nothing else; they give a poor ride in WA ocean conditions. The Robalo R222 is not one of them. Our boat was powered by a 250hp Yamaha giving enough speed to rigorously test the ride. It passed the test with room to spare, quiet as well as soft. The 21 degree deadrise was obviously a good starting point, but in hard turns a boat heels and presents a flat surface to waves (the reason why hard turns at speed on the ocean are best avoided). We broke that rule and found the Robalo absorbed the thumping with ease. Definitely an ocean boat.
Price from AUD $115,000
Price as reviewed AUD $135,000
Length overall 6.55m
Fuel capacity 341L
Fresh water 34L
Motor fitted 250hp Yamaha four-stroke