I’m going to take her from the tower, okay?” I enthusiastically inquired with Cabo Yachts’ international sales manager Steve Boerma. I’m a certified tuna-tower nut, although I don’t entirely know why. Perhaps it’s because I grew up with one on my dad’s boat, run my own boat from her tower, or just enjoy the solitude up top. Maybe it’s all of the above. I do know that when I saw the optional Pipewelders tower onboard Cabo’s 52 Express shining in the midmorning South Florida sun, I had to check it out.
I worked my way up to the tower’s helm, selected the station, and opposed the single-lever MAN electronic controls just to the right of the wheel (the bridge-deck helm is set up in Palm Beach fashion) to spin and line up the 52 on a down-sea heading. There was a steady 15- to 18-knot breeze, and I was curious what effect the short-spaced three-footers might have on her. I knew if there was going to be motion during the wring out, I’d feel it up here.
I put the throttles fully forward as the 52’s optional twin 1,550-hp MAN diesels (1,360-hp MANs are standard) quickly spun up to 2340 rpm and my test boat edged toward her average top hop of 47 mph. Yep, that’s 55,950 pounds of boat skating across the Atlantic at the equivalent of 40.5 knots. I put the wheel hard over at WOT, and her power-assist steering easily helped carve a boat-length-and-a-half turn with only about a 200-rpm drop. Even while I was on the tower, she was steadfastly stable. Of course, this speed has a cost: 166 gph. However, when I dialed the MANs back to their 2000-rpm cruise, the 52 sped along at 40.5 mph (35 knots) at just 114 gph, and she tracked straight on all points, with only occasional and minimal correction needed from the wheel. I concluded that this boat is destined to become a Bimini-start leader and first with lines in the water at a tournament near you.
Her speed comes from a combination of that big power turning big wheels—34x53 five-blade Veems, to be exact—and a Michael Peters modified-V hull. Peters is notable for designing boats that can go really fast (try 175 mph), but he’s also drawn lines for a 38-knot, 78-foot Garlington convertible and a 54-knot, 38-foot Sterling center console. He’s additionally responsible for the Cabo 40 Express (“High Desert to High Seas,” March 2003), which initiated a shift in look and lines for the builder and which, like the 52, features a fine entry and exaggerated flare to keep spray to a minimum.
Also contributing to her impressive speed is a hull that is completely cored, a first for Cabo Yachts. Boerma told me that to construct the boat in solid glass would have meant too much weight, and that impressive top end might not be achievable. So the fiberglass hull is vacuum-bagged with Corecell, which adds stiffness and strength without adding excessive weight. If the lighter-weight cored hull (that is, if 27-plus tons can be considered light) was going to pound, it would’ve during my test day’s conditions. It didn’t. In fact, running straight into the breeze, she could’ve been drier, especially considering that I was running the 52 at 40 mph into a 17-mph breeze for a true wind speed of 57 mph. (We should have put up the optional isinglass around the bridge deck.)
Another place that stayed dry, and relatively cool thanks to well-designed hull-side vents, was the 52’s engine room. And it’s one of the most spacious ERs I’ve seen on an express boat. There’s 6'8" headroom down here, but to experience that you must go down three steep steps from the cockpit. The first is a doozie: a 20.5-inch rise. Once inside, you have more than two feet between the powerplants and inboard access for regular maintenance items like oil checks and filter changes. An engine-driven crash pump is also easily accessible inboard of the engine stringers, and there’s 25 inches between the engines and the forward bulkhead. At 5'7" and 160 pounds, I found working my way around them to be quite easy.
Rivaling the ER’s elbowroom appeal is the business end of the 52: her cockpit. I measured a usable 125 square feet of it. And she’s rigged to fish, with a standard 80-gallon, molded-in transom livewell, a bait-prep center to port with a sink, tackle stowage, a rigging board, and an insulated ice box that can be refrigerated. There are also two in-deck macerated fishboxes (my test boat’s had optional refrigerator plates), starboard-side gaff racks, a gated tuna door to accommodate a big eye, and five rod holders (see specifications for complete equipment list).
And if you want to get out of the cockpit for some shade while on the troll, the bridge deck offers a great respite. There are three Stidd helm chairs and an L-shape lounge aft and to port of them. Combined with optional air conditioning, it’s a great setup to keep captain and crew together during the ride out or hanging on the hook and eating some fresh-caught yellowfin.
For Cabo Yachts the 52 is a logical step. The company has built more than 100 45 Expresses, creating a strong step-up market for the new boat. The 52 also makes sense for anglers. For the family-oriented fisherman, it prevents the captain (a.k.a. Dad) from being a chauffeur on the flying bridge all day, and her two staterooms effortlessly accommodate a family of four, plus another two guests on the saloon lounge. For the hardcore offshore fisherman, she’s geared for overnights to the edge and tournament angling. She has the speed to put you out in front of the pack and is easily fishable thanks to her sizeable cockpit and efficient layout. Better yet, her express nature enables a team to easily communicate when a money fish is on the line.
The only decision you have to make is, do you want her with tower or without? I definitely say with.
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