Nov 22, 2018

Sister 23Cold, wet and foggy, not the ideal conditions for a sea trial, but not bad enough to stop me tagging along for a ride on a brand-new Fortune Cove Panga 22. Just rigged with a 115 hp Yamaha at Seamasters Services in Dartmouth, we headed out to see what she would do. Onboard was Fortune Cove owner Capt. Hil Shea and Seamasters’ technician Richard Rafuse (AKA, The Prop Whisperer) and your correspondent.

Hil Left and Richard Rafuse







 Hil Shea (left) and Richard Rafuse

Since a Panga style boat is not something we see often in this region (more about that below) we were not sure what to expect. Fairly light for its overall length and with a flatter run aft, the first thing we noticed was how quickly it popped up on the plane with almost no bow rise. Planning easily at about 15 mph and 2,500 RPM. With three of us onboard and very little fuel we saw 40 mph at 6,000 revs. The T-top had not been installed and this might knock a bit of the top speed. That said, the consensus was the boat would run just fine with a 90 hp.

There was little wind, so we turned through our wake a few times to get a feel for the ride. The Panga has a sharp flared bow and parts the waves with little fuss. This is not a deep-v, so you need to keep the boat attached to the water. In rough conditions these type of boats run well a slow planning speed. Running fast in rough water even in a boat built for it never much fun. Some boats force you to slow right down but the Panga is well known for the ability to carry on. The Fortune Cove Panga is nicely finished with lockers fore and aft, hand rails on each side and a nice sized console with room for a plotter and radio.

Centre ConsoleSo just what is a Panga anyway? Basically, it’s a generic term for a type of small open fishing boat which is found through-out Central America, Mexico, the Caribbean and many other parts of the third world. Depending on your source, the design was either originated by Yamaha or at least modified and popularised by the company in cooperation with the World Bank in 1970. For Yamaha it was a way to promote their outboard motors and a way to encourage the use of a safer design than many that were in use at the time. If you look at the upswept and flared bow you see the resemblance to traditional Japanese fishing boats. Other characteristics are a narrow waterline with extra flotation at the gunwale and a flat run aft, which make the boat very easily driven. Pangas are usually 20 to 28 feet long and are well adapted to working off open beaches.

Here is what Capt. Hil has to say about how he became interested in the boats: “My first interest in these boats came while travelling in Central America including fishing on Pangas while living in Costa Rica and other areas, where the more primitive boats are home built. My interest was sparked when I was looking for that functional manufactured center console boat for my cottage that was not at such high cost as we see with all the imports.

No T Top YetMy father was a fisherman, so I was immersed in boats at a young age. After a few years university I entered the maritime industry, eventually achieving Master Mariner and Captained some of the most advanced and costly ships in the world until retirement in Oct 2015. Boats and water will always be in my blood.”

Capt. Shea is still developing his marketing plans for the new boat.

Glen Cairns
Glen Cairns is CYOB’s Eastern Canada Correspondent