Chase, Catch, and Cuff Page 2

Chase, Catch, and Cuff — U.S. Customs
Chase, Catch, and Cuff

Part 2: 3 Customized 39-foot Midnight Expresses

By Capt. Patrick Sciacca — June 2001


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• Part 1: U.S. Customs
• Part 2: U.S. Customs
• Part 3: U.S. Customs

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• U.S. Customs

Along with an intimate knowledge of more than 600 laws, the Customs service is responsible for enforcing and for the kind of boat-handling skills it takes to nab smugglers, agents need durable, high-performing boats. To that end, Customs recently took delivery of three 39-foot Midnight Expresses (a fourth is in the mold), which have been customized for use in law enforcement.

Tom Mason, president of the Pompano, Florida-based Midnight Express Powerboats, who took over the company three years ago, explained some of those modifications to me. Many have been incorporated into civilian versions, although most pleasureboaters will probably pass on the flashing lights and sirens. "We changed the deadrise from 24 to 22 degrees," says Mason, adding, "I felt the boat wasn't as stable [or] comfortable in a sea." By slightly flattening the bottom of the original boat, which was geared to run in the 90-mph range, Mason says the boat is easier to maneuver and safer to run wide open. In addition, the after sections of the mold were modified to accommodate four outboards. Mason told me Customs had a 39 with three, but she wasn't fast enough. (Customs guys don't like to discuss specific speeds.) He said the choice came down to either three 300s or four 225s, and after some trials, Customs picked the 225s.

But while performance is important, with a typical patrol lasting up to 12 hours, comfort is also key. Stellhorn and Manheimer told me earlier 39s were wet, so spray rails were added. The hull sides were raised five inches and the deck two and a half inches to create a self-bailing cockpit. Nonskid was added forward to make it easier for the officers to access the bow in a hurry--say, if they had to leap onto another boat, as Stellhorn did during one bust he told me about.

Next page > U.S. Customs, Part 3 > Page 1, 2, 3

This article originally appeared in the May 2003 issue of Power & Motoryacht magazine.

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