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BOATS

BOAT TESTS

Bonadeo 368 Walkaround

Photos by Robert Holland

A Boat To Hang Your Hat On

The Bonadeo 368 Walkaround is rough, rugged, and ready...Plenty fast too.

This past Christmas I received a book from my future brother-in-law that was full of “cowboy” sayings. One of them that I found particularly striking was this: “There’s more ways to skin a cat than to stick its head in a bootjack and pull on its tail.” Which is a colorful, if somewhat off-putting, play on a familiar adage. When I read it, I was reminded in that peculiar way that memory often works, of something I had seen earlier that December while conducting a boat test: a hat. A traditional Bavarian hiking hat, green felt and adorned with a feather, like the kind that sit atop the heads of the tiny men who live in cuckoo clocks. The hat belonged to Larry Bonadeo, the proprietor of Bonadeo Boatworks, a man who skins cats, wears hats, and builds boats with a style all his own.

Bonadeo’s newest build, the 368 Walkaround, is a rousing testament to the effectiveness of that style. His small, family-run operation builds boats by hand and customizes them nearly anyway a customer desires. The process is no race—Bonadeo estimates that his vessels require up to ten hours build-time for every one hour spent putting together most production boats. But the juice, as they say, is worth the squeeze.

Before I saw the 368 in Bonadeo’s Stuart, Florida, factory, I had read that images didn’t quite do her justice, that you had to see her to truly appreciate her contours. I was dubious. That sounded like just the certain kind of untruth that’s often bandied about Internet comment boards. But I was wrong. In real life, there is something unapologetically masculine, even virile, about the boat that doesn’t quite translate through a camera lens. With a cresting freeboard (5'4" at the bow) and an acutely angled forefoot, she resembles nothing so much as a dagger. This is not at all surprising really, considering Bonadeo openly acknowledges that most of his customers are men looking for “manly” boats to serve either as a hard-core sportfisherman or a family boat for a robust clan. The Walkaround has wide-open, cambered, workable decks reminiscent of a true center console and well-crafted, if not overly abundant, features such as a 50-gallon livewell in the leaning post and a space for a cutting board that can also be optioned as a grill.  Three big 300-hp Mercs hanging off her stern did nothing to contradict the macho image, I should add. 

However this particular boat was not completely red meat and ammo clips. Her cabin houses a very serviceable queen-size V-berth and is adorned with an eye-pleasing—dare I say delicate?—open-grain lacewood veneer that resembles snakeskin so much so that some of Bonadeo’s workers mistook it for that during the build. 

But that’s where the delicacy starts and ends. The 368 has a monolithic hull that completely eschews the “gluing and screwing” commonly found at other yards. She’s also Kevlar-lined and carbon-reinforced from keel to sheer break—a constitution that would help her serve well as a tow-behind tender. Four beefy stringers and seven transverse bulkheads provide an endoskeleton that Bonadeo made sound like that of Wolverine, the comic-book character with unbreakable bones. He asked me if I had seen an online video that recently went viral of a center console boat being dropped from 20 feet in the air onto asphalt, a promotion done by the boat’s builder to prove the strength of their hulls. I said I had and remarked that I thought the boat held up pretty well. Bonadeo agreed, but with a qualification: “I respect the guts to actually drop a boat on pavement like that, and the hull did all right on impact, but the console bounced loose,” he pointed out. “If I made more boats, I’d let someone take a crane to this one. She’s one piece, [and] you could probably pick her up by the console and she wouldn’t break.” This time I was less dubious and more curious. I hoped we’d get some good seas to test out her toughness. 

Out on the water with Larry’s son Tony, I put the boat through her paces in the glassy ICW, and it immediately became clear that her rugged construction was not about to impede on a sporty ride. She got up on plane quickly, and on the pins nudged 60 mph as the wind blasted us in the face. I felt like a dog hanging its head out a car window on the highway. What’s more, hardover at a speed that flirted with 50 mph, the 368 came full circle just shy of two boat lengths and powered back out of the turn and into a straightaway with the nimble ferocity of a high-powered Jet Ski.

All of this was well and good—better than well and good actually—it was a lot of fun. But I hadn’t yet gotten a feel for how the boat would perform in heavy water, to put Larry’s claims of ruggedness to the test. So we headed out towards the notorious St. Lucie Inlet. The chop picked up steadily as we moved towards open water, but it was nothing too drastic, so I decided to move to the bow to check out how the ride was up there in a little bit of slop. I hadn’t taken more than two steps before I heard Tony say, “I wouldn’t do that.” I looked back at him quizzically, and he nodded up ahead. At the mouth of the inlet the outgoing tide was rushing head on into six-foot seas creating steep and sudden swells that jacked up eight feet in the air a mere boat length from the jetty’s rocks. I headed back to the helm and prepared for a rough ride. But it never came. The boat handled the seas with aplomb at about 25 mph, cresting even the largest swells with authority and then nestling down gently and solidly into the trough. The aggressively flared hull, with 60 degrees of deadrise in the bow and soft, rounded chines, threw off the water not in a spray as many boats do, but instead in great sheets of solid whitewater. And while it may have been impossible to stay completely dry in a boat that size in seas like that, I certainly didn’t need the foul-weather gear I had clumsily pulled on at the outset. The open-water portion of the test was in truth a tour de force, both on the part of the Atlantic Ocean and the Bonadeo.  

Back at the factory I found Larry waiting at his desk. We talked for over an hour about all sorts of things, not limited to boats—kids, careers, pets, marriages, Germany, helicopters. Larry’s a bit of a talker. But towards the end of the conversation I could tell he really wanted to get a feel for what my reaction to the 368 was. I answered him honestly that it was a hell of a boat: fast, fun to drive, and great in that inlet maelstrom. “Very good,” he said nodding with satisfaction and getting up from his desk. He paused only briefly to affix his hat to his head before striding out the door and into the thick, warm air of another Florida night.

Bonadeo Boatworks

(772) 463-7447. 

This article originally appeared in the March 2012 issue of Power & Motoryacht magazine.

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