During one of my days down in the Keys. Charlie Johnson of Maverick Boat Co. contacted me and we arranged a short wet test for the new 18 HPX-V. Tony and I met Charlie at the ramp and we proceeded to head out into the midst of brewing thunderstorms to test the capabilites of the 18 HPX-V in real life less then favorable conditions. Upon stepping onto the boat, my first impressions were “Wow, this boat is stable”. The 18 isn’t nearly as tippy as the 17 HPX-V given that the 18 is 6 inches wider, making it much more stable. There was a considerable amount of deck room… the boat had a big boat feel while claiming the capabilities of a poling skiff. The creature comforts were great and I especially liked the deeper cockpit and large storage compartments. I wasn’t too fond of the new console but I can see where some would like it. That would be a personal preference though, but I would probably have a tournament console from a 17HPX-V installed on there. Maverick can cator to your custom needs as far as rigging the boat. The 18 HPX-V we tested today had a Yamaha F150 outboard on it… a true powerhouse motor on this skiff I was going to be poling. I had heard claims of how great this larger HPX poles and of it’s shallow water capabilites even with a 150 horse motor… I was skeptical at first.
We motored out of the channel and I eased on the throttle. 150 horses planted into the water and sent us moving at a good clip into downtown Islamorada. We ran around the basins from one area to another and the 18 handled all chop from big cruising yachts to T-strom wind brewed whitecaps without any problem.. we stayed dry and comfortable in less then favorable conditions. It is tough to find another technical skiff/boat with this type of ride quality… the 18 combined a soft dry ride with big water capability while retaining it’s ability to be poled on the flats. We hit the ocean side and I was able to hold the 18 into the current, pole up-wind, pole through rollers, and all conditions simulating what one would encounter during an average day of tarpon fishing on the ocean. After the tarpon test was passed, it was time to make a move to some shallower flats. We popped back in the backcountry and I was poling on a bonefish flat in no time. We heard the pushpole and flyrods buzzing so it was time to pole off and I was able to pole teh 18 off of this flat with barely anymore effort then I would with my 17HPX. The 18 also spun real well and the main difference between this boat and the 17 while poled is the speed at which you will be able to pole it. You can probably pole the 17 a little faster, given its lighter weight and less displacement. I now do beleive though that the 18HPX-V will for fact float shallower then the 17 HPX-V. I can’t wait to see what an F115 will do on this boat draftwise. Even with a F150 on the ass end, the boat was able to get as shallow as my 17 HPX-V with a F90.
One of the best parts about having a big motor on a poling skiff was after being chased off of a bonefish flat we decided to move far away from the storms and without second thought, we were on the next flat many miles away in no time. The absolute best part was after poling off of a flat near another poling skiff running, we chased down that skiff, sneaking behind them, pinning the throttle, and blowing right by leaving a WTF impression on their faces. The 18 HPX-V claims over 60mph with the F150… I was able to get it up to the upper 50s without hessitation and though I knew I could squeeze more out of it even with 3 passangers, gas, and gear, I was personally hesistant to attempt to break the 60mph my first time on this skiff.
With a fairly shallow draft, big boat feel while retaining it’s technical skiff capabilities; the new 18 HPX-V is in a class all on it’s own. In fact, the last time I was this impressed with a boat was my first time on a 17 HPX-V…and I end up buying one 3 months after that.