Author: Matt Gurnsey
I”m thinking about the various jokes with that punchline as Bob Meng of Islands Marine Center is telling me, with a smile on his face, that they are 40 minutes from America.
For the record, Lopez Island is located in the San Juan Islands, in Washington state. But it is off the beaten path; a 40-minute ferry ride or float plane trip from the mainland. It is also a picturesque location where Meng has had his shop since 1972.
As we walk down the dock, I can see almost a dozen Ocean Sports, either 30s, as we are here to see, or its bigger brother the 33, a stretched version of the 30 with a bigger aft deck and even larger fish hold.
Our test boat has the sweeping sheerline of all the Ocean Sport Roamers, as well as the forward angled windshield. It looks like a fishboat. And then we got up close. The glasswork is almost too nice; details almost too good to have blood and scales dragged across them.
“While the Roamer is certainly a well-equipped sportfishing boat, we are beginning to see more buyers who want it just for cruising”Sales Manager Brian Krantz told me. “There isn”t any other boat like this on the market. At 6 knots, you could cruise to Hawaii and still have a quarter of a tank of fuel left when you get there.
Stepping aboard, I can see why buyers who will never have fish on board, except what they buy at the store, like the boat. The fiberglass surfaces gleam. Corian countertops in the galley and the head are more upscale than what one initially would expect.
The teak and holly cabinet door and drawer faces as well as the dinette table have a deep finish that look like dozens of coats of varnish have been painstakingly applied. Only they haven”t. The finish is a gelcoat-like material that is applied with a gun. It protects the wood from UV rays and is repairable should it be badly chipped. The good news is it”s more durable and scratch resistant too.
The deck inside is finished in a heavy-duty vinyl material. It”s textured for traction, it cleans up easily and it”s extremely durable. For a more upscale look teak decks are available, either just in the V-berth area or throughout the boat.
Under the deck is what Meng calls the utility room. Lift a hatch, and you”ll find an area as long as the cabin and almost as wide. The compressor for the refrigerator is here, there”s more room and it runs a lot quieter. There”s also a 2,000-watt inverter, pumps and access to the holding tank clean-out. And with all that, there is room to crawl in there and lie down to work on these systems. Or store fenders, lines and even a roll-up inflatable.
Outboard on the starboard side, accessed just inside the doorway is the second stateroom. Perfect for guests or kids, if provides more room than it appears at first glance thanks to the raised dinette.
A V-berth is forward as well as the head with a shower. The V-berth is shorter on the starboard side, but with the filler can sleep two comfortably. There are more drawers under the berth and a hanging locker, as well as an optional flat-screen television and 12V DVD player. There is no access to the anchor locker in the V-berth. The access is on deck to avoid odors in the cabin, which is a nice touch and more cruiser-oriented than a fishboat.
The cabin is pleasingly finished with a product called Majelite. It may look like vinyl, but it is significantly stronger, more like the material used in tennis shoes. It adds insulation to the boat, softens the look and it won”t sweat. It”s also very pleasing to the eye as well as functional. These are two themes that came up repeatedly as Meng begins walked me through the stout construction underneath the finish work.
Construction began long before hull number 1 was ever layed up. It began with a CNC routered-hull and deck plugs that were within 5/1,000 of an inch from side to side. An extra-heavy mold was then created so it would not flex during construction, keeping the boat”s shape true.
Keeping the shape true is important because of the vacuum infusion construction where resin is drawn through the glass cloth. This creates a more precise part, with better glass-to-resin ratio. Vinylester resins are used to prevent blistering. Porcelain-like material is used between the gelcoat and glass cloth to prevent print through. Closed cell foam and other synthetic materials are used for coring the hull and deck.
No wood is used in the boat”s structure. Stringers are foam-filled fiberglass. A complete fiberglass liner system is used in the hull. The cabin is one large molded piece, including cabinetry, bulkheads and deck. Everything is cored to save weight and glassed together for strength.
Foam coring also adds insulation to the boat. The fish hold bulkhead has two layers of coring to keep engine room heat from infiltrating the hold. Sole and hardtop are also double cored for additional insulation, making it easier to heat or cool the cabin.
The aft deck is also molded glass with a heavy-duty nonskid surface on the deck and the large hatches. The aft hatches open to provide access to the engine space. Our test boat has twin 260 hp D4 Volvo Diesels driving through Duoprop gearcases. Access is excellent. A single 350 hp D6 is available, providing even more space around the engine, sacrificing only about 5 mph in top end performance, with up to a 20 percent increase in range.
Forward of the engine hatches are another two hatches almost as large. This is the fish hold. Not to be confusd with other boat”s fishboxes, this space runs almost the entire width of the boat, and is as deep as the hull; the space is huge. A drop-in fiberglass box provides storage, and starboard dividers keep things from moving around too much.
Do you want to go after tuna or halibut? There is plenty of space here for catching the big ones. If you”d simply like to cruise and bring your bicycles or a motor scooter with you, they can also fit into this space.
Between the fish hold and cabin is what at first appears to be a dead space. This is where the 330-gallon fuel tanks, are located. All the tanks in the boat, fuel, water and waste are molded-in fiberglass tanks, are an integral part of the hull. They cannot shift, rot corrode or otherwise deteriorate. They use modern resins that are compatible with modern fuels and unharmed by ethanol. All of the tanks are installed low in the boat to maintain the best center of gravity.
We finally left the dock and got to burn up some of that fuel, although not much. The boat jumped onto plane, and at 30 knots was getting just over 2 mpg. Topping out at almost 40 knots, the boat is well behaved. The coring probably helps keep noise levels down. There was never any doubt that two engines are at the back of the boat pushing it along, but the boat was quiet, and conversation in the cabin was easy.
Thanks to the constant 21-degree deadrise and reversed chines, the ride was controlled and comfortable. The boat was responsive to adjustment to tabs and drives, track a straight line with minimal helm input and cut through chop confidently.
The forward dinette seat can be reconfigured to face forward, and the helm seat is at a comfortable level and position. Everything on the dash is within easy reach, and operating the Volvo electronic controls didn”t require raising my forearm from the armrest. A flick of the wrist and the boat does as commanded. Steering is one-finger easy. The power assist helps, but custom-built, low-friction hydraulic lines make this one of the easiest boats in this size to run.
While we had only a few hours with the boat, Islands Marine Center customers can expect a two-or three-day orientation before leaving with their new boat. Meng and Krantz make sure every new owner can take care of the boat from simple maintenance to more serious breakdowns.
They even provide apartments with kitchen units for overnight stays at their facility. When you are 40 minutes from America, you have to work hard to take care of the customers and offer them a bit more.
The Ocean Sport Roamer series certainly offers more than expected, and Bob Meng and his crew provide service and support beyond buyers” expectations. For cruising or fishing, the Roamer is worth a look, and worth the trip. You won”t even need a passport.