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BOATS

BOAT TESTS

Wider 42

Photography by Forest Johnson

All Eyes On Me

The Wider 42 is a one-of-a-kind boat that’s perfect for a short cruise down key largo way. just don’t expect to slip by unnoticed.

I was standing on the main dock at Key Largo’s exclusive Ocean Reef Club alongside the Wider 42, a boat I had been tasked with testing after this past Miami boat show. Ocean Reef Club is a little slice of paradise for those who can afford it. There are infinity pools and breathtaking vistas, mansions, and private lagoons. The docks are lined with big, shiny boats from the top-tier brands you read about in these pages, and the cabana bars are lined with club members, many of whom look like they’re just a few years removed from starring roles on daytime drama TV. It is, suffice to say, a place where people do not impress easily. And that’s precisely the reason I was impressed when a middle-aged guy wearing perfectly rumpled linen pants, his hair graying suavely at the temples, swaggered up to the boat, turned to me and said, “Ok, you’ve got my attention … Now tell me what this thing does.”

The answer to that question—or more accurately perhaps, command—began the day before, some 50 miles north at a dock in Sunny Isles. I had just hopped onboard the boat, along with Wider rep Darren Datson and a few other stowaways and roustabouts. As soon as the engines revved and we pulled away from the dock, someone ventured hopefully, “So … time for drinks?” It was about 10 am. The tone had been set. This boat was built for a good time. And she certainly doesn’t follow very many rules.

The 42 is the brainchild of Tilli Antonelli, the famed founder of Pershing, who left his former company in 2010 to launch Wider. His vision for the boat, which first saw the light of day—wait for it—drawn on a cocktail napkin, was unlike anything the world had ever seen. In repose, the Wider 42 looks a lot like various other near go-fast boats on the market. Her lines are low profile, her copper-and-black coloring commensurately flashy. However the 42 has a very big trick up her sleeve. Basically, she’s a Decepticon. She can transform from an ordinary boat into something wholly other. At rest, at the push of a button, her hull can flare out like the hood of a cobra. The effect is to make her onboard entertaining space significantly larger, to the tune of about 60 square feet total. That’s the denotative effect anyway. The connotative effect is that now you are the guy who every single person on the water is looking at. It doesn’t matter who or what you’re moored next to, when those hull sides pop out, the Wider 42 is the star of any show.

We would set to proving this theory soon enough, but first a bite to eat. We pulled into Key Biscayne’s once-notorious No Name Harbor at lunchtime for a quick nosh at Boater’s Grill. The moment we rounded the inlet’s bend and the restaurant came into view, even with our hull sides pulled in, all eyes were on us. Word spreads quickly, I guess, about a boat like this. As we tied up, curious restaurant goers began filing over, asking who the owner was and how the whole set up works. They didn’t stop until we went inside to get our food, which, by the way, was outstanding. The paella at Boater’s Grill looks like art. It comes out on a tray the size of an Escalade’s hubcap and is full of vibrant and contrasting colors. I can’t argue with the whole fried snapper either.

The Key to the Keys

If you want to reenact this sweet little Key Largo cruise on your own boat, here are the vitals.

We started our trip at Sunny Isles Marina in lovely Sunny Isles, Florida (305-945-6000; www.sunnyislesmarina.org), and cruised 20 miles south to No Name Harbor in Key Biscayne, where we ate fish at Boater’s Grill (305-361-0080; www.lighthouserestaurants.com). Next we shot down to Ocean Reef Club in Key Largo (www.oceanreef.com), about 30 miles due south. It’s a private club, so call the membership department at 305-367-5921 before you head all the way down there.

The next day we went another 16 miles south to Sundowners (305-451-4502, www.sundownerskeylargo.com) on Blackwater Sound for some lunch before boomeranging all the way back to Sunny Isles, where we pulled in after dark. We cruised between 35 and 40 knots—where the fuel curve flattens out for the Wider when she has Arneson drives—and burned an average of 30 gallons per hour. It’s a short trip, but it’s a memorable one.

After lunch we took the boat out to Stiltsville and zipped around the boarded-up shacks there. The place has always reminded me of a post-apocalyptic dystopia, as if some biblical rain had washed over the land, and only Stiltsville remained. It’s like something out of Kevin Costner’s legendary bomb Waterworld, where Costner constantly has to try to outrun bad guys on Jet Skis while captaining a sailboat. (Did I mention it was a bomb?) Either way, I’m sure Captain Costner would much rather have been at the helm of the Wider 42. The boat’s stepped hull, which was designed by Wider in conjunction with world-champion offshore racer Mark Wilson, is slippery, nimble, and also sturdy in comparison to some other similarly designed hulls I’ve tested. Hull performance was of high importance to Antonelli, who wisely foresaw that if his boat didn’t run well, it might easily be denounced as gimmickry—which I promise you, it is not. The twin 480-horsepower Cummins QSB 5.9s matched to Arneson surface drives made the 42 sheer fun to drive. She rocketed through S turns with a pleasing amount of bite, and screamed down straightaways at 48 freakin’ knots. It’s a gusty ride though, that’s for sure. The Wider’s console lacks much wind protection below the windshield, so your legs might get cold, but if that’s your main concern, heck man, buy a pair of pants.

The only other qualm I had with this boat also tangentially applies to how she performs—she needs more handholds. For a boat that goes this fast, you’d probably prefer more places to hold on tight. I think Wider sort of went form over function here, because the interior looks sleek and modern and cool as hell, just, y’know, nobody wants to get bounced out of their seat.

After having a ball in Stiltsville we pointed our bow toward Key Largo and took off. We glided into Ocean Reef Club’s marina that afternoon as sunbathers glanced up from their umbrella drinks and 50 Shades of Whatever to casually take note of the new guy. The gawking didn’t begin in full until the photo shoot shortly thereafter, when, in full view of the club’s main pool, we let the Wider 42 do her thing. The hull sides slid out to create her “terraces” as Wider refers to them, the camera’s flashbulb went pop!, and the jaws on shore dropped.

After the shoot, I took a tour of the Wider to check out her onboard features. One thing I wanted to get a good feel for was how sturdy her terraces were, since at first glance that could be of concern to a potential buyer. Turns out they’re rock solid thanks to 2,000-pound buoyancy compensators under each wing. Good to know. Elsewhere onboard, there’s carbon fiber all over the place. The Wider is, in fact, 70 percent carbon fiber (which accounts for her featherweight 18,700-pound displacement), and the remainder is fiberglass. So if you’re into that sharp-looking, black-thatched carbon look, rejoice! Even the toilet in the forward cabin is carbon fiber. It looks like it should be on a rocket ship, which, considering the 42’s heady speeds, it sort of already is.

That cabin is about standard for a cuddy cabin-type build. A V-berth large enough for two is a suitable spot to lay down for a nap or spend a night or two onboard. And a burner, microwave, refrigerator, and freezer make the boat even more amenable to an overnight.

On the main deck my test boat had a bench seat forward of the helm that could pull out into a lounge. Then there were the two helm seats, and two more seats just aft of that, which for my money were the best places on the boat to ride thanks to their ample wind protection, comfort, and lines of sight.

A smallish but functional grill hides away underneath the helm seat, along with a sink and a cutting board. A garage aft is the perfect spot for water toys.

After a night in Key Largo, we had to head back towards Miami. We took the inside route, and, as if just to hammer home the point that this boat draws eyeballs, we trolled slowly past Gilbert’s, a tiki bar that just happened to be hosting some kind of speedboat convention. Needle-sharp boats were lined up five deep at the dock, their engines loud, their paint jobs louder. It was clear that the folks partying at the bar were a group that values being the center of attention. And yet, as we passed by, heads on shore turned towards us. Everybody was looking, many were pointing. An all-white catamaran go-fast slowed to a near stop as it passed by, the three muscle-head guys onboard craning their necks to get a better view, totally silent, until one of them simply said “Wow.”

So that, dear readers, is what the Wider 42 can do. Stand out in just about any crowd. And if you like a boat with a dynamic design philosophy, a shocking amount of onboard space, a slippery and fast hull, and enough amenities to get you through the day and night, well, that’s just icing on the cake.

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This article originally appeared in the June 2013 issue of Power & Motoryacht magazine.