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BOATS

BOAT TESTS

Silverton 38 Sport Bridge

Some boatbuilders concentrate on perfecting a boat’s performance, while others are all about creating an eye-catching interior design. There are those that focus on giving a smooth ride, and even more are fixed on striking exterior lines. To me, it’s a combination of all these elements that helps give one builder an edge over its peers. However, there are also the intangibles that can put one builder in front of the competition.

For instance, when I was a kid scampering along the docks in Point Lookout, New York, I saw many Silverton 34 convertibles. On the surface this appears to be no great shakes, but all of them had something in common: families. While the marina had a few go-fast boat guys bearing gray chests and big gold chains and beer-bellied anglers lying to each other aboard their sportfishermen, mom, dad, and the proverbial 2.2 children (where do the two-tenths come from, anyway?) always occupied the 34s. And it’s the family appeal of Silverton’s boats that has kept it a leading production builder for more than 35 years. A fall trip to Brick, New Jersey, gave me a chance to see if Silverton’s latest launch, the 38 Sport Bridge, would be embraced by the next generation of boating families.

I soon concluded the answer was yes, and there were several factors leading me to this decision. First, it’s the way Silverton builds safety into its vessels. My test boat featured the trademark SideWalk, which provides molded stairways between the foredeck and flying bridge. The security afforded to kids who want to go forward to the standard sunpad and hang out or to the crew accessing the bow lines or optional windlass is of prime importance. In addition, the boat’s one-inch-diameter 316 stainless steel bowrails encircle the molded steps and foredeck to ensure that everyone stays in the boat.

The same forethought that goes into the 38’s safety features is found in this boat’s build. The hull is solid hand-laid fiberglass below the waterline with a fiberglass-encapsulated wood stringer system that is laminated to the hull to further strengthen the structure. All bulkheads and built-in furniture are also glassed to the hull. On top of this, Silverton utilizes a four-step hull-to-deck securing system that includes a polyurethane sealant, butyl tape, through bolting on six-inch centers, and additional fiberglass in critical areas for further strengthening. You can be sure that during your family’s cruise, the 38 will be as sure-footed underway as your feet are on that stairway and the standard diamond nonskid.

The proof came to me while doing her sea trial. I took the wheel at the flying-bridge helm station (the 38’s standard with Teleflex SeaStar hydraulic steering) and carved quite symmetrical S-turns without any feeling of tenderness or excessive leaning. Good sightlines here are available 360 degrees, and this is definitely the parents’ play space. I noted, however, that when I throttled the Teleflex controls forward and put the wheel hard over for some more performance-oriented turns, the 38 required a little more than two boat lengths to complete the maneuver.

While the 38 is not geared for hardcore performance-oriented handling, her speed was admirable. With standard twin 425-hp Crusader 8.1 MPI gasoline inboards (twin diesels up to 440 hp apiece are also available), the 38 made an average cruise speed of 27.1 mph at 4000 rpm while burning 39.8 gph. When the engines hit WOT (5000 rpm), my test boat made a top average speed of 34 mph while burning 61.4 gph. The gasoline powerplants did offer a cool neck-snappin’ hole shot (see specifications, this story), and the kids will like the occasional hair-raising WOT runs. I know I did. But a quick word on the 38’s engine space: The powerplants are accessed via a hatch in the saloon on centerline. There’s only about 3'5" of usable headroom here and a foot worth of space in front of the engines, plus saddle tanks restrict outboard access aft.

Going fast makes for some great on-the-water fun, but not every day on the water is flat-clam or even sunny for that matter. So, if the family’s day or weekend on the water simply consists of stopping by the boat to whip up some lunch, play Scrabble in the saloon, or watch some tube, the 38 is up to the task. The saloon, which is set in warm cherrywood, features an Ultraleather settee to starboard that offers the best view of the standard 20-inch, flat-panel TV for those rainy-day movies. The dinette table, to port and up a seven-inch step from the main saloon, is a great gathering place for that Scrabble game. In addition, the raised dinette offers clear vistas out the shapely side windows. My test boat’s dinette table wasn’t mounted and could possibly roll in bad conditions. Silverton says subsequent boats will have fixed tables.

The galley to starboard, which is an eight-inch step down from the saloon, is fully outfitted with standards such as Corian countertops, a side-by-side Nova Kool refrigerator and freezer, a Sharp microwave, and a Princess two-burner electric cooktop. Suffice it to say, a family meal can be easily prepared.

Your family’s day can conclude in peace and quiet in one of the two staterooms. The master forward features a queen berth, and there are two single berths for the kiddies aft to port. A split-head arrangement sits between the two staterooms, and access to the port-side shower stall is available from both staterooms. But it’s a high 13-inch step up into the shower from the guest room, which could make for some stubbed toes on the little ones. From the master forward, it’s a seven-inch step up into the stall. The MSD is accessed via the master forward and from the companionway. A family of four (and two-tenths, remember the 2.2 kids?) could have quite a fun weekend or do longer voyages onboard this vessel.

The 38 Sport Bridge is built by an employee-owned company. And that makes it a family of its own. So it’s no wonder why the solid build, open layout, safety features, and quality gathering areas were designed into this boat: because it’s what they’d want for their own families. And from what I’ve seen, I think my son will soon have memories of a new generation of Silvertons around our own marina.

Silverton
(877) 863-5298

This article originally appeared in the February 2005 issue of Power & Motoryacht magazine.

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