Outboard power and weekending ability combine on a family- and angler-friendly 50+ mph platform.
As the proverbial needle edged past 50 mph — it was really the GPS readout on the Garmin GPSMap 7616 multifunction display — I began to think we really might get airborne. That’s the word Capt. Dago Gonzalez had used in our discussion at the dock, when the Belzona 32 Walkaround was calmly bobbing in the water near the Shelter Island Boat Launch in San Diego. I figured he said it a bit hyperbolically, as in it’s going to feel like we get airborne. Then he spotted the ferry.
Now, I can’t say for sure the lower unit of both Mercury Verado 350 hp outboards came out of the water, but I’m pretty certain the boat did. Not the first time I’d been in a boat that did that, obviously, but I always wait for the landing. Is it going to be hard? Likely. But is it going to last? Meaning will the hull absorb the landing at once and move on, or will the landing reverberate through the hull for a few seconds as the boat regains its speed? Think of any slow-motion video of a big-bellied dude taking a fist to the gut, where the ripples continue for a bit.
In this case, the reverberation didn’t appear to continue. The landing was hard but solid and the props on the 350s kept spinning, biting and propelling. And then Capt. Gonzalez saw the U.S. Navy amphibious transport dock vessel USS Anchorage…
Sharing a hull with the 32 Center Console, the 32 Walkaround platform combines fishing ability with family friendliness and weekending prowess for a couple. The builder wanted to strike a balance and make the boat versatile enough to accommodate active anglers and their family members who are definitely more into the recreational aspect of recreational boating.
The cockpit is a prime example of the melding of fishing and recreation. Along the transom to starboard is a 31-gallon livewell, and beside it is a comfortable bench seat that folds up and secures out of the way to open up fishing real estate. Rod holders are built into the gunwale on both sides, and the hardtop can hold more, if an owner so chooses. But when it’s time to relax and maybe prepare the catch on the optional galley’s grill, an electronic SureShade awning extends from the hardtop to blanket the cockpit in shade.
Under the cockpit sole — clad in optional SeaDek nonskid flooring the same sea foam green as the boat’s hull — are two 254-quart insulated fishboxes with a macerator, which are made possible because this is an outboard boat. A transom door to port provides access to the swim platform, where another boarding ladder resides.
Perhaps the boat’s signature feature is to starboard. Called the Easy Open Sliding Gunnel Door, it’s composed of the aft four or five feet of the hullside and it slides rearward to create an opening for boarding or landing a really big fish. A fully retractable boarding ladder makes it a dive door too.
Below & Forward
What really makes the 32 Walkaround an all-day, or even all-weekend, boat is the cabin belowdecks. Accessed via a sliding door immediately to starboard of the helm, the cabin boasts a Corian countertop, a stainless steel microwave, a V-shaped dinette that converts to a berth with an option filler cushion, a 32-inch TV (optional), and a head with an electric-flush toilet (11-gallon holding tank) and a separate shower. Air conditioning is optional in the cabin, and with or without it, the space is provides a welcome spot for bathroom breaks, naps and general respites from the sun.
To provide headroom in the cabin, the forward deck is elevated, so seating, which abounds on the center console version, is limited to a two-person sun lounge with headrests that raise and lower independently. Sidedecks, which give the Walkaround its walkaround, are wide enough that nobody should have trouble transiting fore and aft, including anglers who might be engaged in a fight with a pelagic foe.
A round tinted-glass hatch near the foot of the sun lounge and three vertical windows on each side of the cabin walls provide light and air below.
Beneath a low-profile composite hardtop — low profile but just tall enough for my 6-foot, 6-inch frame to stand up under — is the helm. Twin seats share a small console between them with a bit of storage and cupholders, and their occupants sit behind an acrylic windshield; buyers can opt for a full acrylic enclosure. Our boat featured a single Garmin 7616 MFD, but a second is an option. A few DC switches are near the steering wheel — hydraulic steering is standard — and a few more are forward of the engine throttles and a Mercury joystick for outboards. Buyers who don’t want a joystick can opt for a bow thruster. Either option makes docking much easier.
It was from here we conducted the sea trial, with four men aboard and about 60 percent fuel. With twin Mercury Verado 350 outboards growling at the back of the swim platform, the Belzona 32 Walkaround reached a top speed of 52 mph. While exhilarating, at that speed the twin Mercs are going to burn close to 70 gph. We found a much more reasonable speed on test day at 39 mph, at which point the props were spinning at 4750 rpm and the Verados were burning 40 gph — darn near 1 mpg at nearly 40 mph, for a range of about 220 miles. At about 4450 rpm, the Mercs were burning 26 gph at 34 mph.
Gonzalez didn’t hesitate to pull hard turns at any speed, after of course warning everyone aboard, and the boat handled every turn without skidding or shuddering or sliding. Twenty-two degrees of deadrise help with its turning ability, as do chines and lifting strakes that run the length of the hull, giving it the grip to hold tight when physics says it should probably slip and slide a bit. The sportboat lean is fun, too, giving passengers a look at the water from above it at interesting angles.
The boat handled the only “rough” water we could find on test day — ferry and Navy ship wakes — with aplomb, but Gonzalez and others said they have taken the 32WA out in 6-footers and not had any issues, even staying mostly dry thanks to the hard chine and a bit of flare at the bow. Such performance makes sense considering the hull was designed for the 32 Center Console, in Florida, for anglers who like to go way offshore in all kinds of conditions.
A peek at the options list reveals why the Belzona folks like to say no two Belzona boats are exactly the same. The hull color and SeaDek flooring can be customized. In the cockpit, a jumpseat to port, starboard or both are options, as is an aft-facing folddown seat instead of the galley. Available fishing features include hardtop rod holders and outriggers, a tackle box and a portside livewell. Comfort touches range from a forward awning to cabin AC to a Seakeeper gyro stabilizer.
As a harbor cruiser or an island hopper, the Belzona 32 Walkaround provides a versatile platform owners can outfit to their taste. And with a 295-mile range at 34 mph, the 32WA can take a couple around the San Juans or Gulf Islands for many days without worrying about fuel; that’s several fast trips to Catalina and back, too.