On the boats: Sea Pro 320 DLX Offshore
By John Page Williams
We are pleased to see the Sea Pro brand relocated to the Chesapeake with two strong, service-oriented dealerships, Tri-State Marine in Deale, Md. and Lynnhaven Marine in Virginia Beach. For those with long memories, the brand started with the Hancock family in South Carolina in 1987. The company built strong, reasonably priced center console and bay boats until the 2000s when the family sold it to Brunswick Corp., which continued building until the Great Recession. Brunswick then closed Sea Pro, along with several other boat brands. About five years ago, Jimmy Hancock and his friend Preston Wrenn, formerly of Tidewater Boats, resurrected the Sea Pro line as the next wave of center console and bay boats.
We had the chance to crawl around several of their models at the United States Powerboat Show and then take a sea trial a few days later with Tri-State Service Crew member Jim Reinoehl. We boarded the company’s flagship 320 DLX Offshore center console, Herring Bay and Chesapeake Open. While we could have wished for rougher seas to let the 320 show off, the day was eventful enough to give us a good idea of its performance at all speeds. Having Jim on board was particularly valuable for his expertise in installing and maintaining the boat’s electronics, wiring, plumbing and mechanical systems. This point of view is important to understand how the boat will behave, not only when new, but in five or 10 years.
One thing that quickly stood out on the 320 DLX was the quality of the accommodations. The bow anchor windlass, for example, is sturdy and securely anchored in a finished compartment under a tight-fitting cover that is finished on both sides. The cockpit side door mounts on massive stainless steel hinges with a strong, positive-locking latch. A folding swim ladder for the door is optional. It stores in a dedicated rack in the lid of the hold. All of the hatch covers and hinges we reviewed were mounted firmly. The swim ladder in the starboard corner of the aft platform is telescopic and stores horizontally in the platform. The grab handles in the hardtop frame are designed for the human hand, with enough depth to get a good grip quickly and finger indentations. Layering is crisp throughout, including the sharp wave edges on the chines and lower strakes.
In the accommodations, the Sea Pro design team is clearly thinking about human dimensions. The 320 DLX console locker room offers easy access with well-placed grab handles and a wide door, 6’2″ headroom inside, porcelain toilet with holding tank, sink with water pressure cooker and counter, and a small bench seat with storage under. A large hatch above the bench allows the technician easy access to the interior of the cockpit and its electronics. In the forward cockpit, an electrically operated table can create a picnic table, sunbathing area or casting/castnet-tossing deck, or back to the sole. Built into the deck in front of the table is an ingenious ‘dry box organizer’ for sunglasses and phones which also includes a pair of 12 volt USB charging sockets. Surrounding it are forward-facing lounges to port and starboard, with comfortable, padded seating for two facing forward from the console, as well as forward-facing stereo speakers in the roof rigid above. Sea Pro manufactures its own distinctive cushions in-house.
The business side of the helm features Optimus EPS steering, tilt helm and stainless steel steering wheel with knob. Sea Pro worked with Boat Fix and Simrad to build a proprietary “Connect” boat control system based on NSO19 EVO3 electronic displays linked to an SS175 M Chirp transducer on a black acrylic glass deck with a row of neatly labeled switches below. A key fob activates the system, but there’s also a master switch on the dash. There is also an Audison audio system, engine data display (Sea Pro rigs with Mercury, Suzuki and Yamaha outboards) and trim controls. Options for the helm include an Optimus 360 joystick with Sea Station, LED floodlight with wireless remote switch, Eskimo refrigerated cup holders and a pair of MarineCool spray outlets. The large pad on the top of the console holds a compass to port and another dry box organizer. The hardtop contains a Simrad RS 40 VHF radio linked to the docking system and a storage box above.
The three-panel glass windshield (front and sides) protects the skipper and a mate, but the only complaint we had with the 320 DLX was that the wiper didn’t sweep the lower third of the front panel. Although no spray came on board during our sea trial, some spitting of rain remained on the glass, obstructing our view of the water just ahead.
The dual helm seats operate electronically, with a control panel for them and the Simrad system in between. They each have folding arms and bolsters. Port and starboard near the helm are a pair of fishboxes steeped in the sole. The rear hardtop legs anchor the rear corners of the helm seat base. Below is an 80-litre cooler on a positive-lock slide, and above is a 36-inch-wide freshwater sink with a hinged lid. The rigid upper ceiling contains a pair of speakers and an overhead shower of fresh water that emanates from a stainless steel grid. The rear edge of the hardtop and the transom each hold a rocket launcher for five fishing rods. The gunwales contain 11 more, and there are two horizontal supports recessed into the starboard top of the aft cockpit, as well as a toe rail. The forward side of the transom contains a flip-up, padded seat for two.
Jim Reinoehl had fun showing off the wedge under the rear cockpit sole. He lifted the large finished hatch to reveal a steel grate to climb down. Grille covers still allow easy access to the boat’s 31 series batteries (12/24/36/48 volt on-board battery charging system is optional). The slipway is coated in frost, showing massive spars. In between is a polished stainless steel sea chest with two Bait Sentry pumps feeding 30 gallon pressurized livewells in the corners of the transom. The overboard locker minimizes the number of thru-hulls needed. The rest of the plumbing and wiring is tidy and easily accessible for maintenance. This includes the pipes connecting the two screened drains from the crowned cockpit sill to the one-way scuppers built into the transom above the waterline. A Sea Pro engineer has clearly thought about the need for the 320 DLX to self-refloat at rest.
Sea Pro 320 DLX Offshore
Max HP: 800
Dry weight: 8,500 pounds
Fuel capacity: 207 gal.
Fresh water capacity: 22 gallon
Deadrise transom: 24.5º
For more information, visit seapromfg.com
So how did this complete boat perform on a moderately cocky day? In a word, good. Reinoehl commented that he took it back to Deale in tougher conditions after the Powerboat Show in Annapolis and was impressed with how solid it felt. It also felt solid to us, with no rattles or jolts as we raced it at all angles and at multiple speeds through the seas, including the wakes of several charter boats returning to port. Handling was crisp, easy and dry, with a smooth ride from the deep-V hull. It was easy to forget that the boat is 32 feet long, although its length and weight clearly contributed to the ride quality. Twin Yamaha 300s on the transom provided solid and efficient performance, including a low cruise of 22 knots. (4,000 rpm), long cruise at 27 kt. (4,500 rpm), and a maximum speed of 42.5 kt. (6000 rpm). We were also impressed that the 320 DLX got into the plane with ease at mid-teen speeds, suggesting a wide range of usable gears to suit conditions. The boat was also very stable adrift, despite its deep-V hull.
Base price for the 320 DLX Offshore with two 300-horsepower Yamaha outboards is $310,668.
CBM An editor, educator, guide and author of three books on the Chesapeake Bay, Captain John Page Williams was named Admiral of Maryland Bay in 2013.