Boat Tests

Birchwood 350

It’s hard for a newcomer to make a mark in an arena dominated by key players who have been around for years. This is particularly true in boatbuilding, where some of the most successful players are often veterans who continuously refine an established product, as opposed to creating something really new and different. While a formula for success, that can rob buyers of the chance to try something

Fairline Targa 47

Once in a while, I forget what boating’s really about. I get all tangled up in a particular vessel’s construction, say, or her engineering. I crawl around on all fours for hours, exploring engine rooms, examining the wonders of electrical systems or hull-to-deck joints. Or I spend hours checking out the latest laminating techniques on plant tours. And although most of this stuff is interesting

Tiara 3900 Convertible

It's all in the details.

After testing boats for more than five years, I've found it's that philosophy that makes the difference between okay, good, and exceptional vessels. And one builder I've noticed that is consistent in its attention to detail is Tiara. I've always been impressed with its helm layouts, clean wiring, and good performing, solid-fiberglass, modified-V hulls. But what

Silverton 43 Sport Bridge

Over the course of 35 years, Silverton has established a reputation for offering extraordinary spaciousness and livability per foot of boat length. Occasionally, however, it's been opined that maximum interior volume has been achieved at the expense of exterior styling and proportion. In other words, Silvertons have been accused of looking top-heavy.

That said, I am impressed by Silverton's

Kit Cats PowerCat 40

"Would that all boat tests were thus," I marveled to myself as the Comp Air 7 Turboprop swung a pirouette in front of me and then stopped on the tarmac of Flightline's terminal on the private side of Tallahassee's Regional Airport. The Air 7 was a beaut, alright—a kit-type airplane of the sort typically sold to do-it-yourselfers with the assurance of professional assistance during

Mochi Maxidolphin 74

When Norberto Ferretti unveiled the Mochi 51 Dolphin at the 2003 Cannes Boat Show, he mockingly referred to her as a "langoustine boat" —in other words, a lobster boat with a Mediterranean twist. She was beautiful and performed well, but at 51 feet she was bigger than any lobster boat I had ever seen.

I had no idea then what Ferretti had in mind for the future, namely the Mochi 74.

Grand Banks 70 Aleutian CP

Grand Banks dealer Jay Bettis is a tall, lean fellow. And, although he's one of Seabrook, Texas' tried-and-true old-timers, with a waterfront operation that's been going strong since 1973, he's about as agile as a cat once he steps aboard a boat. Maybe his Marine Corps training has something to do with this. Or maybe it's just that he loves boats so darn much he forgets how old he is when he's

Post 53 Convertible

Entering Black Pearl Marine's Marco Island, Florida, office, I knew straight away I was dealing with serious anglers. Although he's a salesman, Capt. Steve Sprigg was simultaneously tinkering with a half-dozen grapefruit-size Shimano Tiagra 80-pound reels and poring over the contents of a morning shipment of fishing miscellany. Marc Brunsvold, company president and founder, answered e-mails and

Cabo 32 Express

If there's such a thing as an old hippie hideout, it's Santa Cruz, California. A port town surfing the edge of Monterey Bay, a few miles south of 'Frisco, Santa Cruz seems loaded with folks of a certain age—my age, actually—sporting hairstyles, clothes, and vocabularies that hark back, sometimes subtly, sometimes strikingly, to the Bad Old Days. Or at least that was my take as I

Grady White 360 Express

In the spring of 2001, I spent two days fishing and testing the Grady-White 330 Express on a tempestuous ocean off Ocracoke, North Carolina. Grady's then-flagship boat ran impressively in the slop, and I was even more impressed that we were able to comfortably fish in the six- to eight-foot-plus seas. Shortly after I returned, a PMY reader wrote and asked me what I thought about the 330. I

Jefferson 52 Pilothouse SE

It was breezy. Here and there, I could see wind gusts ruffling what little open water there was at Fort Lauderdale's boat-chocked Billfish Marina. On the plus side of the close-quarters maneuvering equation, there wasn't much current. As Alan Schmitz, dealer support guy for Jefferson Yachts' Billfish-based facility, began casting lines off our 52-foot Pilothouse SE (Jefferson's using SE, or

Apreamare 16m

At the 2002 Genoa Boat Show, I walked up to the foredeck of the first of the new Apreamare 16ms and found a sofa. So I sat down. I imagined a pretty girl lying on one of the sunpads there, pictured something long and cool to drink, and marveled at the inspired idea of providing a bimini top to keep the sun off. A bimini on the foredeck—sheer genius.

Even though the boat was inside a

Buccaneer 95

Get there from anywhere.

That's the mission of the stout-looking, passagemaking Buccaneer 95. To prove its point, the builder took this full-displacement, steel-hull vessel from the Inace yard in Brazil, where she was constructed, to last year's Miami International Boat Show on her own bottom. That's a 3,000-mile-plus haul. The crew told me that during the delivery there were several days

Viking Sport Cruisers V70 Express

About ten years ago, I received a call from Tom Carroll, then executive vice president of Viking Yachts, telling me the builder partnered with U.K. builder Princess Yachts to import a line of motoryachts to the United States. He wanted to know if I was interested in shaking down the first two models, a flying-bridge 48 and a 52-foot open, on a run from Miami to Marathon. I said yes, but I was

Marlow Marine Prowler 375

I was sitting in David Marlow's pine-paneled office a year ago, looking out the window. It's a beautiful, park-like place, Marlow Marine, with royal palms, one of the oldest buttonwood trees on Florida's west coast, cracker-style tin roofs, and an ambiance of calm assurance. The shady, spring-fed lagoon at its center, which opens into the Manatee River, Terra Ceia Bay, and ultimately Tampa Bay,

Carver 33 Super Sport

When I was told last year that Carver was going to build an entry-level, inboard-powered, flying-bridge cruiser, I wondered. In the 1990's it offered just such a boat, a 32-foot convertible with twin 270-hp gasoline inboards, and in the 1990's it sold a ton of 330 Mariners, a similar design. Both boats succeeded because of Carver's knack for making a small boat feel bigger than it actually

Hunt Surfhunter 33

Pedigree is important in animate objects such as racehorses, show dogs, and maybe NASCAR drivers, but does it mean anything for boats—or, more specific, hull forms? Is there such a thing as nautical DNA that predisposes a certain boat to greatness based upon other successful boats from the same builder or naval architect?

According to the folks at Hunt Yachts, the answer is yes, and

Henriques 42

New Jersey-based Henriques is known for building solid boats with seemingly never-ending cockpit space and fishability in abundance. One thing it is not known for is introducing models at the rate of reproducing rabbits. So when I heard it was launching a new 42, I was on the phone ASAP.

According to plant manager Manny Costa, the 42 is based on the popular Henriques 38, but besides being

Ocean 73 Super Sport

"My friends from the Bahamas, they say that the devil lives here, man," says Jose, also known around the docks of San Juan, Puerto Rico, as Vanilla due to his light skin color. He's one of two mates aboard the Ramon family's 73 Ocean Super Sport, the company's largest convertible to date, and is gesturing out past the tranquil waters of the inner harbor to the not-so-calm ocean. Angel, the other

Rinker Fiesta Vee 360

There was virtually no wind on test day, so rather than make the trip out to the open Atlantic to wring out our Rinker Fiesta Vee 360, I went with a stretch of the Intracoastal Waterway not far from Davey Marine Center, Rinker's dealership in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. Why waste fuel goin' offshore when conditions right next door are virtually the same?

All went well at first. The part

Hampton 540 Sedan

Like so many industries these days, yacht building in China has entered a new era. While cheap labor and beneficial exchange rates have kept prices low, quality has improved markedly over the past decade as experienced Taiwanese builders have shifted many of their operations to the mainland. Typical of this trend is Hampton Yachts, established along the outskirts of Shanghai in 1992 and built on

Jarrett Bay 32

A shift has taken place. Perhaps it's due to saturation of the big-convertible market, or maybe there's a growing need for midsize sportfishermen, but a lot of builders have taken to constructing mid-30-footers aimed at getting you to blue water and big fish. Take the Cabo 32, Albermarle 36, and Bertram 36, all production boats. Now a custom builder has entered this market with a semicustom

Sunseeker Predator 108

The day began plainly enough. I met for coffee with Sunseeker's Hannah Braithwaite-Smith at the British builder's Pompano Beach outpost, Sunseeker USA. We started with the usual pleasantries, and soon transitioned into some generalities about the Sunseeker Predator 108, the big, Arneson drive-powered, performance-type motoryacht I'd soon be sea trialing in the nearby Atlantic. We talked about how

Sculley 64

You may not believe this, but testing a fully custom, $2.65-million sportfisherman was hard work. Not so much the part where I walked around the Sculley 64 and took notes. Nor the part where I measured speed, fuel burn, acceleration, and all that other stuff. And certainly not the part where I took her wheel. No, the tough part was the evaluation. What can you find wrong with a boat that costs

Sea Ray 48 Sundancer

Success often breeds repetition. When something works well, it's human nature not to reinvent it. Arguably, the Sea Ray Sundancer series is the most successful franchise in boating, so when it came time to replace one of the most successful Dancers, the 460, Sea Ray engineers didn't reinvent the wheel. They just trued it up a little.

Dropping the zero from the model designation was step

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