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BOATS

BOAT TESTS

Intrepid 400 Cuddy

Shape Shifter

This highly customizable 40-footer is equally effective as a daytripper, a sportfisherman, or a Bahamas weekender.

Would you like your ice maker to make clear ice or cloudy ice? I didn’t even know you could get an ice maker that does that. But you can, and this is the level of customization that Intrepid Powerboats offers its owners. For 24 years, this builder’s trademark has been constructing solid, streamlined, and fast boats that offer an owner the opportunity to personalize his or her vessel. With that thought in mind, I hotfooted it down to Fort Lauderdale in mid-July to check out Intrepid’s latest launch, the 400 Cuddy.

I was immediately struck by the massiveness of the three bright-white (optional) engine cowlings over the triple, 350-hp V-8 Yamaha outboards. Two engines are standard, but Intrepid can hang as many as four outboards on the motor bracket. Mark Beaver, chief operating officer, says that even as the size of Intrepid’s vessels grows (it currently builds models up to 47 feet), it will continue to utilize outboard power. And he says the reason is simple: if a client has an engine go down, Intrepid can easily pull it, replace it, and have him back on the water in a day. And even if he had to replace a big inboard, the extended downtime could leave the owner out of service for as long as a week, and that’s not good for either the boater or the builder.

Although ease of maintenance, repair, and replacement are all reasons why Intrepid focuses solely on outboard power, there’s another one: speed. My test 400 Cuddy featured a one-step, deep-V hull form possessing about a 45-degree entry and a 21.5-degree transom deadrise. And just forward of that lift-producing step, which is positioned slightly aft of amidships, the deadrise transitions to about 33 degrees.

What did all this ultimately mean in terms of performance? The deep-V meant that the two- and three-footers outside Port Everglades Inlet were dispatched like a fly with a swatter when I pushed the dual-binnacle Yamaha single-lever throttles to the pins and ran this 40-footer up to a top hop of 59.7 mph at 5500 rpm. She was just as smooth when I dialed those triple Yammies back to a comfortable cruise of 4000 rpm, which provided an impressive speed of 43.1 mph. This boat’s optimal efficiency came at 4500 rpm and 50 mph. The trio burned a total of 51.9 gph, enabling the 400 to make 0.96 mpg. Taking into account her 400-gallon fuel capacity, my test boat’s range worked out to 347 statute miles at this speed figuring in a ten-percent fuel reserve.

This single hull-step aids in her efficient nature and offers enough lift to get the boat up and running quickly and softly, but it also provides exceptional cornering speed too. Beaver says that some two-step designs really push the boat into a turn, slowing it down dramatically. I ran my test boat up to about 50 mph, and then put her hardover to port. She simply leaned moderately into the turn and then almost instantly reversed direction with nary a drop in rpm. This quick directional switch was at once exhilarating and seamless. For this reason alone, the 400 Cuddy should make the shortlist of any serious performance-boating enthusiast. Her handling was impressive and her speed outrageous, but the thing that made this boat special to me was how well all these elements worked together.

In fact, this hull design is so fine-tuned that the 400 can be run straightaway without trim tab or engine-height adjustments. Beaver says this trait is what makes Intrepid a favorite among their owners—especially megayacht owners, as the builder sells about 20 percent of its boats to them as tenders. (Intrepid actually started out building boats almost exclusively for the megayacht market). He adds that for those big-boat owners, the tender may be the only vessel they get to drive on a regular basis, and the easier the experience is for them, the better. The builder often tells these newbie owners to “just drive the boat.” As the helmsman becomes acclimated to the vessel’s behavior, Beaver suggests they use the trim tabs and engine trim to enhance their driving experience.

Another piece of this boat’s performance package is the fact that she’s light yet tough. The 400 is fully foam-cored, some parts being hand-laid fiberglass over the core (hull) while others infused via vacuum bagging. (Intrepid expects to expand its use of infusion in the future.) The result is a smooth, clean, gelcoated surface everywhere you look. My 400 was so well built that when I stepped onto the deck of this boat, it was like stepping onto solid ground. More to this point, my boat featured an optional side boarding ladder, which never creaked or groaned, even while we were moving along at almost 60 mph. This is because there is significant fiberglass transversal reinforcement supporting the door. The trade-off is the loss of an in-deck stowage area, but for hardcore divers and cruisers who like to swim, it’s undoubtably a worthwhile exchange. One other cool construction factoid is that the bolts securing the optional hardtop’s contoured and beefy three-inch piping are aircraft-grade T9 anodized aluminum. Intrepid does this to prevent the metallic conflict and corrosion that can come from using dissimilar metals. It also makes the optional powdercoating on the piping last longer. Details matter, and Intrepid seems keen on making sure it addresses every one.

I’ve run some high-performance craft that go fast and ride well but just don’t offer cruising comforts. Intrepid doesn’t believe it needs to forego the niceties to build a performance-oriented cruising and fishing boat. From the optional cherry-and-holly sole to the also optional high-gloss cherrywood-veneered cabinets and standard Corian countertops, you can see the same level of attention to detail in every curve and seam of the 400.

Below decks, this boat, which sports a relatively narrow 11'1" beam, manages to comfortably fit a V-berth for two (which also acts as a dining table with seating while daytripping), and an aft berth under the helm console, a great place for the kids to camp out during a weekend. Headroom here and in the head (which has a Raritan MSD) is 6'2".

Although the owner of our test boat didn’t get too radical with options (like choosing cloudy-ice ice makers), he definitely got his 400 the way he wanted her. She’s a little bit weekend cruiser and a little bit gentleman fisherman, a true utility player that should make his whole family happy. With accommodations for four, speed that will blow the gray right out of your hair, an open center console layout that keeps the day on the water social, and the ability to option her out your way, both center console and express-cruiser fans will have to take a long look at the 400 Cuddy. But they should be warned: if they look long enough, they may find themselves writing a check, too.

Intrepid Powerboats

NOTEWORTHY

Perfect Vision

Intrepid Powerboats is one of the most-detail-oriented builders I’ve come across.

For instance, it recently made a significant financial investment designed to make its already solidly built boats even better. The secret ingredient? Infrared technology that was originally developed to check the quality of space shuttle parts for NASA.

Working with infrared-vision pioneer FLIR, Intrepid uses a specialized camera that reads the quality of its hull construction based on its heat signature.

A technician places each boat in a room heated to a high temperature. Once the boat is hot, the technician runs the thermal imager, which is connected to a computer, down the side of the boat, revealing the quality of the lay-up.

The goal here is locate any dry spots, inconsistencies, blemishes, or even voids before they get to the owner. —P.S.

This article originally appeared in the October 2010 issue of Power & Motoryacht magazine.

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