— By Capt. Bill Pike — February 2000
|Part 2: Predator will use virtually any combination of woods a customer wants.|
The Predator is indeed sophisticated. Her hull is a vacuum-bagged sandwich consisting of an interstitial layer of CoreCell foam, with machine-impregnated laminates of Gougeon Brothers’ Pro-Set epoxy, S (or structural)-glass and Kevlar on either side. Gerber uses S-glass rather than E (or electrical)-glass because its comparatively long (600-foot) filaments produce increased structural integrity. Impregnating machines squeeze out excess resin and produce a top-notch 45- to 55-percent resin-to-glass ratio. Once a hull is laid up, it is baked in a portable oven at 150F for 26 hours.
The rest of the boat’s laminates are similar, except for the addition of carbon fiber to the deck and tops of the epoxy-composite stringers. The shoebox-type hull-to-deck joint is so precisely fashioned and fits so tightly, it actually has to be shoehorned together with special tools prior to bonding with Plexus methacrylate adhesive, layers of epoxy-impregnated glass, and self-sealing, epoxy- coated stainless steel screws.
The level of the 35’s engineering is on par with her construction. Consider, for example, her pumps. For many years, Oberdorfer has manufactured superb marine pumps for commercial boats. Their cost is typically several times that of units designed for recreational applications, but they’re intended for long-term use. The 35 comes standard with five such units, including one that replaces the OEM pump in the MSD.
Then there’s watertight integrity. Instead of several through-hull fittings, there’s a sea chest amidships with a faired and grated intake that produces eight pounds of water pressure when the 35 is making approximately 40 mph, a situation that reduces the load on the engine-driven pumps. Water exits not via through-hulls, but by a network of scuppers and pipes that drains into an exhaust system custom-built by Predator. Engine-room air intakes are molded into the hull sides using Dutchman-type mold inserts and backed up with a complex baffling system and Delta "T" demisters that keep the engines breathing relatively dry, salt-free air. Finally, the molded-glass fuel tanks are configured in much the same way double-bottom tanks are in ships to ensure structural integrity.
The detailing and finish of the 35 are no less noteworthy. Accessed by a small hatch just abaft the steering console or via a switch that raises the whole bridge deck well out of the way, the engine room is faired smooth and painted with Awlgrip. There’s a big, fuel manifold on the forward bulkhead that’s as precisely laid out as an electrical circuit board, a set of duplex Racors on either side, and no clunky deck liner to vibrate and obscure the bottom of the boat in the event of a holing. The genset, forward between the engines, is easy to access, although with the bridge deck retracted, you’ve got to be careful of the fire-extinguishing bottle—it’s a real head-knocker.
While the topside and interior layouts of the boat are as simple as the photos and technical illustration indicate, the joinery is wonderfully complex. Our test-boat’s decor consisted of Japanese tamo wood, gray elm, and teak, but Predator will use virtually any combination of woods a customer wants. The teak trim was intricately and seamlessly put together with rabbets, dovetail joints, and a profusion of fancy S-scarfs. Veneers were applied so that grain patterns are duplicated. The cockpit has its own S-scarf teak joinery as well as a teak-trimmed viewing port on the livewell. All the fish-fighting essentials are here, from inwale rod lockers to a stainless steel backing plate for the optional Murray Brothers fighting chair.
By the time we returned to Merritt’s Yard in Pompano Beach, it was dark. After backing the 35 into her slip and tying up, Gerber and I finished examining the boat by deck light. Halfway through this process, I noted the gorgeous hawsepipe cleats at the transom. With the curiosity of a guy who’s certainly done his part to support the many chandleries of our fair nation, I asked Gerber what these particular pieces of hardware cost him wholesale.
"They’re custom from G.G. Schmidt," he replied. "I pay about $1,200 apiece."
The figure blew even my mind, although an apres-boat-test cheeseburger at a nearby eatery soon got me back to reality.
Predator Custom Yachts Phone: (941) 351-1553. Fax: (941) 360-9177.
This article originally appeared in the January 2003 issue of Power & Motoryacht magazine.