Triton 20 Sea Flight

The Triton 20 Sea Flight isn't fancy, but it sure gets the job done offshore

21st August 2000.
By Chris Caswell

Every boat has a character: some boats are like elegant ladies, others are more like a thoroughbred horse. I came away from testing the Triton 20′ Sea Flight thinking that it’s a lot like a really good pair of work gloves — you know the ones: they’ve been on your workbench for years. Like those gloves, there’s nothing fancy about the Sea Flight, but it’s comfortable, long for strong, and sure to last a very, very long time.

No, it doesn’t have a lot of the glitz and flashy gadgets that you find in big-bucks fishing machines but, on the other hand, the fish don’t know that. The Triton will get you out to the fish and get you back in — the rest is up to you.

This review is about not just the Triton, but about the Mercury OptiMax 115 horsepower outboard hung on the stern of our test boat, which was a perfect match as well as being one of the new breed of “green” engines.

Let’s look at the boat first, though, because there’s a lot to see on such a simple boat. At dockside, the 20 Sea Flight seems low because it doesn’t have the high freeboard on some bluewater designs (like the Triton 22-foot Offshore), but the transom is a full 25-inch height and the rails around the cockpit and the foredeck serve as added security. Nevertheless, I’d pick this as a coastal boat with the ability to run offshore when the weather is settled.

If you don’t know Triton of Ashland City, TN, then you’re probably not a bass fishermen because the company made its reputation (and needs a 170,000 square feet factory to keep up with the demand) for an array of these inland fishing machines. The offshore line, ranging from 18 to 22 feet, is an expansion of their fleet and, if the 20-foot Sea Flight is an example, they’re likely to have the same success offshore as they do on lakes and rivers.

Each boat is 100 percent handlaid fiberglass with no wood anywhere to rot or absorb water. Because the Sea Flight is so simple, it’s easy to check for quality, and there’s no question that it’s there. On some boats, you never really know how well they’re built because joints and fittings are hidden out of sight. But the rails on the Triton, for example, are bolted into backing plates that you can see, and I gave the leaning post/seat on our test boat the benefit of my 200-plus pounds as we ran through lumpy seas and it didn’t quiver.

In line with the simplicity of the Sea Flight, the interior sides are finished in a nondescript spatter finish which isn’t high style but, on the other hand, it isn’t going to show dirt or wear, either. On the outside, our test boat was midnight black which, for you non-boat builders, is a color so tough to do right that many companies refuse to build black hulls. On the Sea Flight, however, it was beautifully done and, sighting down the side to pick out the stray ripples that reveal sloppy moldwork, the surface was just slick and shiny. So I give Triton extra credits not just for a good hull, but for being brave enough to make it black.

The cockpit floor has a spatter-type non-slip finish from the raised bow casting platform right back to the transom and, though not the usual diamond or woven pattern, it seemed to give a good grip in wet conditions. Speaking of the transom, by the way, there’s no splashwell aft so, if you’re backing down hard, you’ll get a chance to test the non-slip because you’ll probably take water into the cockpit through the outboard notch.

The entire cockpit is self-bailing through suitably-sized drains in the transom, so even if you happen to stuff the bow into a big green sea and take a load of water, you can rest assured that it won’t be sloshing around your ankles for long.

The console is compact, with a built-in seat on the forward side that conceals a built-in aerated baitwell. When it comes to console size, something has to give on an 8-foot wide boat and, in this case, the console is compact to provide good walk-around room on each side. As a result, don’t expect much protection behind the console or from the chest-high plastic windscreen. On the positive side, you’ll be able to chase a fish from bow to stern without slowing down.

As I mentioned, our test boat had the optional leaning post with rocket launchers on the back, while a flip-back bench seat atop an icechest is standard. Teleflex Sea Star steering is standard, and there is a glove box in the dash as well as a flat area for your electronics. A row of rocker switches for the various systems is located below the helm, and this was one of the two faults I found with the Sea Flight console. It’s too easy to accidentally “knee” the switches into the wrong position, and the labels for each switch were hard to see. The second fault was with the canvas panel that snaps over the footwell, which I think most owners will remove because it was difficult to attach.

Aft, a pair of padded jump seats to port and starboard conceal the battery to port and either storage or bait opposite. Forward, two fishbox deck lockers are built into the casting platform, with piano hinges for strength and rubber snaps to hold them closed. At the very bow, an anchor locker was large enough to hide the anchor and all the rode you need. The rails that surround the bow and the cockpit sides surprised me: they were nicely welded one-piece units and, on a simple boat like this, I’d expected inexpensive bolt-together rails. Nice touch, Triton.

Our test boat also had a factory-installed aluminum T-top with an electronics box and rod holders, and it was very securely bolted in place. Designed to provide hand grips for skipper and companion, it also leaves the four rod holders on each side of the console free for use. On the other hand, it blocks the port and starboard navigation lights that are mounted on the side of the console, and you’d be better served mounting them high on the T-top itself.

The power on our test Triton was a brand-new Mercury OptiMax 115, and it’s a very slick engine indeed. Based on the same 2.5 liter, 60-degree V-block as the larger 135 and 150 horsepower Optimaxs, it’s unique among the 115 horsepower engines built by every other manufacturer, since it’s the only one with a V-6 block where the others have 4-cylinder engines. And, of course, it’s the only one with the Mercury OptiMax direct fuel injection.

The result of those 153 cubic inches (40 to 50 cubic inches more than most 115s) is enough torque to climb waterfalls. Coming from a standing stop, this 115 pulls like an engine far more powerful and it puts the Triton on plane at just 18 mph.

OptiMax is the Mercury Marine name for their two-stroke direct injection system that was developed by Orbital Engines, and the technology is now used by everyone from Mercedes to Bombardier to Fiat. In essence, a precisely metered charge of a fuel and air mist atomized by a flywheel-driven compressor allows for nearly complete combustion that not only reduces emissions, but gives up to 45% better fuel efficiency than conventional two-stroke outboards.

Controlling the injection process is a sophisticated control module built by Motorola to meet the harsh marine requirements. It not only monitors a number of engine functions, but even takes altitude and ambient temperature into account. The result is that you can idle the OptiMax 115 forever as low as 550 rpm, and yet it has all the over-rev and overheat protection you need for running flat out.

As you can see from the chart, we topped out at 42 mph at 5400 rpm, but even more significant is that we were running at nearly 30 mph at just 4000 rpm, which would combine long engine life and low fuel consumption, while still getting you to the fish in a hurry.

All in all, the Triton and the OptiMax 115 are great buys on their own. Together, they make an unbeatable fishing package.

Boat Specifications

Base Price (boat only): $14,141.
Length Overall 20′
Beam: 8′
Weight (w/engine) 2420 lbs
Fuel Capacity 76 gal.
Engine as Tested: Mercury OptiMax 115
Horsepower 115

Manufacturer
Triton Boats
15 Bluegrass Dr.
Ashland City, TN 37015
(615) 792-6767


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