Copperhead by Ankona Boats - Small skiff with byte!
I have a confession; this is the second time I've been out to review Ankona Boats' Copperhead. The first time was about 4 months ago, and to be honest, the boat wasn't what I deemed ready for public consumption. Ankona did a great job of supplying two prototypes for me to check out. However these prototypes needed some refinements. I do not feel reviewing a prototype completely reflects what the prospective buyer who researches a boat will receive. It's a disservice to the reader and to the reviewed boat.
On the drive to the ramp I keep having these nagging thoughts though. Did Ankona address some of my issues? Is the boat better? Will I have to write my first negative review? Read on to find out.
Who are Ankona Boats? To better understand this I first have to ask what do you get when a retired Director of IT with a degree in Oceanic Engineering sheds the suit, tie and Thumb Drive to pick up an orbital sander? Mel Walker, that's what you get. He ditched database integers for a passion of resin mixing ratios. Mel is a quiet gentleman who has one self-described goal. Build a safe strong boat for the everyman. Then build it for a price that doesn't break the bank but will last a long time.
One example of this desire is his Copperhead. The concept started as a simple, small family friendly skiff. A boat that works just as well fishing as it does for a family outing. Mel explained it as "Putting value back into the boat. I want someone to look at the Copperhead and say I use to have one of those when I was a kid."
The Copperhead is 16' long and 62" wide. Base hull tips the scales at about 350 lbs. The hull is for all intents and purposes flat with minimal dead rise and a "V" entry to help cut through the chop. The hull is hand laid glass with multiple overlaps. While not the lightest it could be, it does make for one stout and solid hull.
The "V" entry is what I would call shallow and short. Unlike some higher dollar skiffs with sweeping variable deadrise entries the Copperhead just keeps it simple. One advantage to this short entry is the maximum width of the waterline beam is very far forward making for a solid feeling boat when moving about the bow. My initial concern though, was the entry would be too blunt to effectively cut the chop and redirect spray away from occupants. Not the case, the nose cuts more than plows through chop and the added weight from the stout build process makes the hull feel solid in a chop, not light and pingy.
The morning of the review Mel met me at the ramp to get some pictures while the light was just right. Seeing as how the review took place in some of my favorite waters, I knew a few nice spots for pictures. After burning through a bunch of pictures, then picking up Mel's brother with a chase boat for the running shots, it was time to see if improvements had progressed sufficiently from the prototypes.
I'm very happy to report that the boat this review was conducted on is way better than the prototypes. Ankona Boats made some improvements to the build process that enhances the final product the customer receives. Fit and finish improved and have matured to include some ingenious additions such as a simple but elegant rod tube that has no seams. The tubes can be made in contrasting colors to make it easier to find them.
It is also not necessary to buy all of your accessories up front. Ankona developed "field installable" components. These components include a gunnel mounted instrument pod, front or back deck extension with optional storage locker or 12-gallon livewell. A mini center console with an optional 20-gallon tournament release well, 3-drawer bulkhead mounted tackle station. For the side console crowd they have a side console with side mount controls.
The ride and performance of the Copperhead has not changed since the prototypes, aside from one thing I feel make a world of difference. New for the Copperhead are the new Minn Kota Trim Tabs. As a long time Bennet/Lenco user, I can honestly say I'm impressed. They are quiet like Bennet tabs but quick like the Lenco's. The composite construction help to reduce weight while providing for a more advanced shape to better redirect water flow giving greater lift. One nice feature is the built in automatic stop, that keeps the actuator from continuing to run when in the maximum up or down setting.
The new tabs help bring to life the Copperhead. Hole shot improved greatly as did minimum planning speed. Tabs help to adjust for lop sided seating and make the Copperhead a more mature feeling skiff. While tabs are not necessary by any means, I would highly suggest potential customers take a test with the tabs.
Poling strakes help to keep the Copperhead pointed in the desired direction and the low freeboard minimizes crabbing from cross winds. Proper weight distribution is the key to nearly effortless poling in a measured 6.5". In the prototypes I tested, too much of any one thing was not a good thing. Too much weight forward, and the stern had a tendency to waddle like a duck side to side. Too much weight in the stern, and the nose went high and squat hampered the efficiency. Fortunately this too has been addressed with the placement of the fuel tank and centering weighted items like the battery and cooler or livewell to the mini console.
My single complaint is the non-skid. There is nothing fundamentally wrong with it. The surface provides sufficient grip when wet and is not aesthetically displeasing. I'm just not a fan of it. The non-skid is a derivative of what had been done on offshore racing sailboats. According to Mel the more traditional style of non-skid is actually less expensive to produce. I spoke to an owner to get his perspective and he too, initially, was skeptical but it has since grown on him and actually likes it over other more gritty options. Mel says that it's easier on the feet over a long period of time. Maybe more time on the skiff might sway my opinion.
Rigging on the production boat was not complex. Simplicity has its advantages. All components are marine grade. Switches are sealed and hardware is quality components. While there lacked some of the flash of some high dollar skiffs, the build kept inline with the mind set and goals of Ankona Boats.
Overall I'm impressed with the Copperhead. The compact package is well thought out and built to last. What I'm most impressed with is price. Base price on a trailer and WITH 25hp motor is $9900. Adding lots of accessories bumps the budget to between 14-16K depending on how complex the customer desires their ride and power options. However, smartly equipped with the right hardware and accessories, one can be had for less than 11K.
This is one heck of a deal and may make some of my quips seem overly harsh. I feel that regardless of price, the consumer should get a quality product. There are some things builders should not skimp on to squeeze every last drop of profit from the consumer. The Copperhead does not skimp on the basics, they put quality and value back into boating.
Fort Pierce, FL 33032
phone: (772) 579-7214
SPECIFICATIONS AS SUPPLIED BY MANUFACTURER
LOA - 16'
Freeboard - Inside cockpit 13"
Overall Beam - 62" to rubrail
Waterline Beam - 52" nominal
Forward Deck - 6' more with deck extension
Rear Deck- 32" plus 14" with deck extension
Cockpit - 7' x 39" width
Overall Finished boat weight Ready to fish. - 340 lbs simple layout more depending on options (ie, decks, lockers, livewells, consoles)
Fuel Capacity - 6 gal. portable, 9 & 12 gallon alum. tanks optional
Draft with two average 190 lb. - 5-6" simple layout-6-7" max depending on options (decks extensions, lockers, livewells, consoles.)
for simple tiller layout, poling platform, under gunnel rod racks (2 per side), bilge pump, battery switch, 2 gang switch panel, heavy duty rubrail, 316 stainless bow & stern eyes.
MSRP: $9900 with standard equipment and 25 Yamaha 25 2S and Continental trailer.
MSRP as tested: $10,650