Boat Review by: Matt Spencer
In quite literally a sea of center console boats, it can be hard to separate yourself from the pack. This becomes quite evident when you walk both the show floor and the docks of the Miami Boat Show - the Mecca of center consoles. However when I approached the Robalo R222 ES at the Miami Show, it immediately stood out to me. I could immediately tell by looking at it that this was a dedicated fishing boat, but it was still geared for the family as well. A true crossover and a boat for all.
Built in Nashville, GA, Robalo has a strong reputation in the industry for building high quality, dependable boats since 1968. Whether it’s one of their 9 center console models, bay boats, dual consoles or full cabin walk arounds, Robalo puts pride and dedication and the best materials into each of their boats.
At 21 and a half feet long with a 8 and a half foot beam, the R222 ES sits nicely in a center console lineup that goes from 16 feet up to 29. What’s more with a dry weight of just 3700 pounds, this boat is easily trailered. This will satisfy both the family trailer boater and the adventurous fishermen alike. Or if you feel it best suited for home waters you can keep it in a 5000 pound lift without issue.
Boarding the R222 ES through the starboard transom gate, it’s fairly obvious this boat is a crossover family fishing boat. Right away you will notice the large bench seat at the transom and if you lift it up you will find the bait well, a spot for a cast net and bucket, along with access to your battery switch.
The top sides house drink holders, vertical rod holders and a non skid finish. The non-skid continues in the cockpit sole, and rod holders can be found both in the gunnels along with in the leaning post.
You’re by no means cramped in the the cockpit of the R222 but space isn’t exactly at a premium either. Knowing this, Robalo adds a smart feature. The cooler that sits under the leaning post is on rails, so it can easily slide in and out from under the seat. Whether you need to remove it completely or just get a bottle of water, it’s real easy. A small, yet functional feature.
The leaning post in the R222 ES is great. Its tubing is finished in a white powder coat, much like the other tubing in the boat. It’s a minimalist design that saves weight, yet still has everything you need like the aforementioned rod holders, a flip up bolster and great lines of sight should you sit up on the seat rather than lean. Your feet fall naturally into the and angled footrests built into the base of the console and there is easily room for two behind the helm.
The helm itself does exactly what it needs to do. There is room in the center to flush mount your favourite graph. However the rocker switches flank this area. I think these could have been placed somewhere else, as it limits the size of graph you can choose, and we all know how important those are to fishermen. That’s really my only observation. The controls are mounted in a natural position for standing operation and the optional T-top not only provided ample shade from the hot Miami sun but as we were soon to find out, a great grab handle for the rough water to come.
As you might expect, forward of the console was a jump seat. You can pretty much bet your house that a center console will have a seat here and the R222 ES didn’t let me down. Now there is no storage or livewell below this seat, because the whole console swings open to reveal a large storage compartment that is built to house a head. A great family friendly feature.
The bow on this boat is really where the family will be sold. There is a wrap around seating arrangement along with coaming bolsters that turn it into a conversational lounge area. Pop in the table and you have a spot to have lunch or to play cards in the sun. Even better, there is a filler cushion option available to give you a large sunpad. Back rests allow for forward lounging with the feet up on those longer cruises. Storage can be found under each of the seats along with in the sole. But also toss the cushions in the head compartment and get out the rods and there is lots of room to fish from up in the bow. This boat can really do it all.
Those are the “big” features of the boat, but everywhere you look there are nice finishes and hardware that are going to probably go unnoticed at first but will be one of the main reasons why you love your new boat. Whether it be the pop up cleats, or the lift up hatch releases or the bow railing that extends well past the bow. All these details add up.
I have heard about Robalo’s reputation of building strong fishing boats and we had the perfect day to test this. As we headed out to the open water at the Miami Boat Show we were greeted by 2 foot rollers. Perfect test conditions for Robalo’s Hydro Lift Hull. The Hydro Lift hull has a rounded keel, pronounced strakes that move into large, reverse chines. This provides the boat with a stable running let well performing hull and we got to see that first hand. We were able to ride up through the top of the waves, rather than crash into the deeper parts of them. With every wave hit I listened for rattles or creaks and each time I heard nothing but water splashes. The Kevlar reinforced hull that features hand laid fiberglass certainly lived up to its reputation.
But that’s only half the battle. Powering this boat was the 4-cylinder, 200-hp Yamaha Outboard. This new engine is a lean and mean horsepower machine and it was certainly up to the challenge. We were able to get on plane before it got too rough in just under 4 seconds and we settled into a comfortable cruise of 21 and a half mph at 3500 rpm. This was a comfortable speed for the conditions we were faced with, yet when we went faster the mid-range response was noticeable.
We managed to stay fairly dry on the test run, and any spray we got hit with was merely caused by wind and not by the hull. Finding a calm, protected section we were able to hit a top speed of 43.2 mph at wide open throttle.
I left the test of the Robalo R222 ES impressed. Testing it in Miami amidst a sea of center consoles it’s easy to get caught up that it’s a Florida or Carolina boat but that is simply not the case. This boat is home on any big water, fresh or salt. It’s for the family that wants a durable and dependable center console that can handle both fishing and family time.
|Dry weight:||3,700 lbs||1,678 kg|
|Fuel Capacity:||90 US gals||341 L|
|Base Engine / Drive:||Yamaha F200|