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BOATS

BOAT TESTS

Hatteras 77 Convertible

I stood awestruck. The mammoth, sun-blocking, Bausch American tuna tower stretched its neck more than 40 feet towards the seemingly endless blue sky. If that’s the tower, I thought, there’s got to be a behemoth big-game boat supporting it. And there was, 77 feet of it.

I turned the corner to the outside slips of Pier 66 Marina in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, and next to the Pelican Grill was Hatteras’ flagship Convertible sitting like a broad-chested bulldog with 22 feet of beam (several similar-size vessels average a foot and a half less), which, to put it into perspective, is nearly the LOA of the first boat I owned. That generous beam helps provide this vessel with 192 square feet of fish-fighting space, and even with the massive, optional Pompanette offset fighting chair, there’s plenty of room for a wireman and gaff man to get to the transom.

But the optional golden teak cockpit (along with teak decks and covering boards), available through a partnership with Jarrett Bay Boatworks, offers more than just space. It features a blue marlin-size transom door, two 5’5”-long macerated fishboxes (one rigged as a livewell) with gas-assist struts, stainless steel-lined tackle drawers, and a ten-cubic-foot bait freezer—everything the traveling angler could want. The 77’s optional 41-foot Rupp hydraulic outriggers and rocket launchers across the flying bridge finish this boat’s mission statement: built to fish, anywhere.

Although she’s tricked out for angling, I wondered if this boat’s size and enclosed flying bridge, which prohibits a clear cockpit view due to the forward helm position, could be an effective fishing platform. For trolling enthusiasts, the ability to see baits and communicate with the crew are essential. That’s why I’m a fan of the open bridge, as it better facilitates contact between the crew and captain and allows the helmsman to watch the spread more easily. To test the boat’s fishability—well, we fished. Setting the hydraulic outriggers was as easy as loosening the tie-down under the gunwale and pushing a button at the helm. I was sure that the enclosed bridge would make trolling difficult and/or inefficient, but Capt. Jeff Donahue simply exited the flying bridge to guide his mate and set lines, and then operated the boat in slow troll mode from the outside helm on the starboard side of the overhang. This second helm offers clean sightlines forward through the enclosed area and provides a great view of the spread. We didn’t catch any sailfish (thank you, east wind), but did get a chance to observe the prowess of this enclosed flying-bridge sportfisherman.

Of course, you can also run the boat from that tall tower, which has a full electronics suite like the main helm, or use one of two auxiliary stations, either the one on the flying bridge or the one in the cockpit behind a flip-down panel. But open-bridge diehards, stay tuned: Hatteras plans to offer a 77 without the enclosed bridge.

Fishability is one part of this boat’s equation, but with destinations like Panama, Venezuela, and Costa Rica becoming staple stopovers for big-game enthusiasts, range is also a must-have. This battlewagon has a 3,000-gallon fuel capacity that’s distributed in four tanks, and with the optional 2,400-hp MTUs’ 2000-rpm, 30-mph slow-cruise speed, those megamotors eat up 182 gph. This still results in 445 miles between fill ups. The powerplants’ true cruise rpm is around 2250, and with that number the 77 easily hits 34 mph at 223 gph, but range drops to 411 miles.

These MTUs are rated at 2450 rpm, and while the ones in my test boat managed only 2365 rpm during some of our testing (the suspected reason being a delay in engagement of the engines’ third turbos), range at WOT still measured 422 miles at 37.5 mph and 240 gph. It’s worth noting that that top speed is an average, and during the second half of the two-part run, the turbos functioned properly, albeit briefly, and the 77’s top one-way WOT measured 39 mph. According to Hatteras, this single-run speed is more in line with the boat’s expected performance.

The 77 achieved these numbers in four- to six-foot chop-topped seas, and I can say that she made her 34-mph cruise into the sea effortlessly and, moreover, smoothly. The boat didn’t—wouldn’t—pound. During my wheel time, her easy-to-shift Sturdy electronic controls and Sea Star power-assisted steering enabled me to drive her with confidence.

I quickly put the wheel hard over, and the 77 beat into the seas with her shoulders knocking the spray away. She was also quite agile for a boat of this size, making tight U-turns of about two and a half boat lengths without excessive heel. After seeing her smack down a head sea, I concluded the 77’s not only well-balanced but tough.

Part of that toughness comes from Hatteras’ belief that a solid-fiberglass hull bottom is the best foundation for an offshore boat. That’s one reason this battlewagon possesses a wave-smashing 157,500-pound displacement. But the builder did try to shave off pounds where possible without sacrificing strength. The 77 has PVC foam core in her hull sides and superstructure. In addition, the 77 sports beefy fiberglass stringers with steel laminated into them where the engine-mount bolts are placed. Hatteras also uses resin infusion with the PVC foam core to construct the boat’s engine-room bulkheads and decks, a technology the company says will be used more often and in more places in the near future.

The brute build of this boat contrasts with her sleek and seamless exterior appearance, which is helped by hull vents that are under the gunwales instead of in the hull and an air-induction system that provides combustion air to the hungry MTUs. Her hull shape is equally seamless, a convex form that transitions from a fine entry to a variable-deadrise bottom. Deadrise is around 22 degrees amidships and flattens out to just two degrees at the transom. These flat aft sections provide added lift and transverse stability underway. In addition, Hatteras employs four strakes that both deflect spray and enhance lift. Seeing how she ate up the ocean on test day, I’d say it’s a design that works.

The 77’s lines are as graceful as the high-gloss cherrywood interior is warm; an interior that is customizable as long as you don’t move any bulkheads, which would involve altering plumbing and/or wiring. My test boat featured four staterooms with an office in the master. Standard wood choices include cherry, mahogany, and maple, and granite is an available for the countertops. To help you in the decision-making process, Hatteras has a full-time, custom-design coordinator.

With her tough build, considerable speed, generous range, and solid fishability, the Hatteras 77 Convertible makes a strong case for adventurous anglers to take her for a ride. Be prepared, however, if you do, since you’ll probably want to buy her. I know I did.

For more information on Hatteras Yachts, including contact information, click here.

This article originally appeared in the March 2007 issue of Power & Motoryacht magazine.

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