35 — By Capt. Bill Pike
— February 2000
|Predator Custom Yachts’ new sportfisherman is superbly built and stunningly agile.|
I was sitting in a little restaurant behind the Hyatt Hotel on Sarasota Bay, leisurely downing a big, fat cheeseburger, when I first caught sight of the Predator 35. One glimpse was all it took to wipe the idea of lunch from my mind, despite the fact that all-American cheeseburgers are a favorite form of fast food for me, cholesterol be danged.
She was a work of maritime art. In fact, my reaction to the refined but muscular high-performance sportfisherman was about as appreciative and instantaneous as it was to the lovely skiffs and workboats of Winslow Homer’s Caribbean watercolors when I first saw them in a tattered old book years ago. I watched as she pirouetted at the mouth of a slip and backed down with exemplary grace. Awlgripped hull sides glinted in the sun. Teak toe rails glowed gold with expertly applied Captain’s varnish. Stainless steel bang strips on the quarter guards sparkled like jewelry. Enthralled by the boat’s charms, I signaled to my waitress for a check. To heck with lunch.
A few minutes later I was talking with Scott Gerber, president of Predator Custom Yachts and in many ways a kindred spirit. From a commercial seafaring background much like my own, he’d gotten into a succession of yacht-related enterprises that ultimately convinced him to try building a boat of his own, combining the best of what he’d learned from both the recreational and the commercial sides of the boatbuilding business.
Gerber had pulled into the harbor behind the Hyatt to pick up a prospective customer for a sea trial, but before he did, he had enough time to proudly point out an elegantly joined S-scarf in one of the covering boards and unabashedly admit that the price tag on the 35 is high. But then, what would you expect from a constructional melange of pricey post-cured epoxy molding techniques that boost strength, cut weight, and nix VOC emissions, and a raft of engineering and detailing intricacies seldom seen this side of Boatbuilding Heaven? We agreed to rendezvous for a boat test as soon as possible.
Two months later I arrived at Merritt’s Boat & Engine Works in Pompano Beach, test gear in hand, and we immediately began sea-trialing our test boat. Not long after exiting Merritt’s facility, Gerber put the 35 through a maneuver that was both revelatory and spectacular. We were pulled up at the Hillsborough Inlet Bridge, waiting for the bridge tender to allow us and our optional High Seas tuna tower to pass through into the ICW. Gerber had just finished doing a few fast, fish-chasing, back-down turns, all of them impressively agile.
"Now watch this," he said, putting the big stainless steel Release Marine wheel hard over to port. He then clicked the starboard Palm Beach-style, single-lever control ahead, clicked the port lever astern, throttled up to 1200 rpm on the former and 1400 rpm on the latter, and just stood there. The boat began to spin like a top, or a ballet dancer, going faster and faster, somehow holding station all the while.
After Gerber completed this remarkable demo and we’d passed under the bridge, I took the controls, dropped off Gerber at a nearby restaurant, and took the boat out to try some fancy maneuvering myself. In short order I also had the 35 backing down with agility, and ultimately I succumbed to the urge to spin her in place the way Gerber had. There was nothing to it. The boat is so deftly shaped beneath the water and so perfectly balanced above, her maneuverability transcends just about everything I’ve ever encountered in this size range. Easing alongside a dock so Gerber could get back onboard, I felt in my hands and feet the real-world benefits of the 35’s sophisticated weight-saving composite construction and the months of R&D that went into the design of her propeller tunnels.
This article originally appeared in the January 2003 issue of Power & Motoryacht magazine.