By Phil Wolf
It is not often that someone would get a chance to test ride in the second boat to come off a production line, but I recently had the opportunity to do just that. Living only a few miles from where this new vessel is being manufactured and the Owner and Co-publisher of Orlando Coastal Angler Magazine sometimes allows me a few industry perks!
This new 18 ft. flats boat is the result of many years of trials and improvements to the normal vessels in todays’ market. Renowned racing boat designer/builder Steve Stepp has over 35 years of experience in the industry. Steve’s previous company Velocity Powerboats located in Sanford Florida holds several records showing that his advanced design ideas can achieve performance and efficiency that most other manufactures are unable to. His latest venture Hydrastepp, manufactures this new vessel in Lake Mary, FL just south of Sanford. Check-out their website at www.HYDRASTEPP.com to look at this impressive flats boat.
I had contacted Steve to go for a test-ride because he is a new advertiser with Orlando CAM and had made several statements in the new ad about this machine – I wanted to see if it could measure up. I met Steve in Sanford at Lake Monroe and the I-4 Bridge on the St. Johns River. Previously I had only seen pictures of this new machine and his many claims on performance on his website and the information they provided for us to build his new ad. I was eager to climb aboard soon after taking some pictures and splashing it at the boat ramp. With a stiff 12-15 mph breeze out of the NE I knew that Lake Monroe would have a pretty good chop on it. We idled under the bridge towards the lake as I asked several questions. This boat was equipped with a new 115 hp Mercury 4-stroke with a 4-blade 26” pitch prop, half a tank of gas, coast-guard equipment and a modest amount of gear. He said it will get on plane in less than 3 seconds with us in it, both of us at over 200 lbs. each, clearing the “Resume safe operation Sign” it effortlessly did just that. Heading into a moderate quartered-sea chop at about 32 to 34 mph it was extremely smooth and incredibly dry. We drove a few miles looking for some calm water but soon headed back to the river.
This boat has a large gunnel and a 94” beam, extremely wide for an 18’ boat and was very stable when I jumped up and walked around on the gunnel. It has a huge storage compartment up front with a removable tackle storage system and 2 other large storage compartments in the rear of the boat, both port and starboard, 1 live-well up front and another in the rear. It has a custom divided sport seat and removable back-rest like you see on Off-shore Racing Boats. The console is very sleek and sports a 12” monitor screen, fish-finder, GPS and supports all the normal gauges. Tachometer, water-pressure, temperature, gas, speed by GPS, all linked to the motor and fuel system, very cool! Steve was telling me how fuel efficient this boat is to run, getting as much as 10 miles to a gallon of fuel cruising around 30-32 mph at 3400 to 3600 rpms. As we got back into the river we jumped on plane and cruised up to about 32 mph, looking at the monitor it was reading 3400 rpms. We hammed down on the throttle and it responded achieving 62.7 mph at 6150 rpms with just a little throttle left before backing off, very impressive for a stock 115 hp. engine with a polling platform on the rear creating drag. Steve asked if I would like to drive back to the ramp. I said yes before he changed his mind. Once again, throttle down and quickly jumped on plane, cruising a bit to get the feel of it I was able to drive it with confidence once getting used to the throttle and trim switch. Cruising up to over 55mph and only burning a little over 6 gallons of fuel per hour on the fuel gauge.
This boat also floats in 10” or less and room for 4 anglers with a huge front deck. If you’re in the market for a new flats boat in the 18 ft. range the new Hydrastepp is one you should take a look at and go for a test ride yourself. They are currently taking orders for production, so get your place in-line! Nicely equipped at a little over $45,000.00 for boat, 115hp motor and custom trailer by Ameritrail. Checkout their website or give Steve a call at 407-718-6695 and tell him your read about it in Coastal Angler Magazine!