Exclusive: Fountain 48 Express
Cruiser — By George L. Petrie —
|Part 2: Then Fountain leaned over and grinned, “Crank the wheel hard over.”|
Earlier in the day, I had witnessed the preliminary stages of Reggie Fountain’s latest assault on the world speed record for deep-V hulls (see “Speed King,” this story). Now, as he turned his full attention to the 48 Express, it was evident that he is just as committed to getting peak performance out of every boat that bears his name. As Fountain nosed our test boat into the Pamlico River, he pulled the engines back to idle. “Count with me,” he said, as he jammed all three throttles forward; by the time I ticked off five seconds, the hull had leaped onto plane, with virtually no bow rise. As engine rpm built, I grabbed the radar gun and recorded the first of several 62-mph-plus WOT readings, and Fountain tweaked the trim on the Arneson drives to squeeze out the last ounce of speed.
After I finished recording the last of our performance data, it was my turn to take the helm. Ripping a mile-a-minute trench down the middle of the river, I was impressed by how steadily the boat tracked. Then Fountain leaned over and grinned, “Crank the wheel hard over.” Against my instincts, I spun the wheel into an abrupt port turn, and the 48 just banked and obeyed like a show dog on a leash. Back the other way, hard, and again she followed. Even through tight figure eights at full throttle, she felt stable and controlled.
I was anxious to see how the Arneson drives would handle in slow-speed maneuvers. I’ve often heard it said that surface drives aren’t well-suited for docking in tight spots, but the 48 Express put the lie to that myth. Because the outdrive turns (like an outboard motor), the boat backs straight or turns in any direction, using just the centerline drive. By working the two outboard drives in opposition (like any other twin-screw boat), the 48 will spin in her own length. With a little practice, you can even crab-walk her into a slip. And that’s without using the bow thruster.
Over a late lunch, Fountain enthusiastically shared some fine points of the 48’s hull design. The double-stepped running surface is the result of more than two years of prototype testing, determining the correct angle and stagger in each step to make the hull run with proper trim and balance. And the engines are placed two abreast in the hull, with the third mounted forward, again to achieve the right fore and aft balance (although I found access to the forward engine somewhat challenging).
To help boost the yacht onto plane quickly, tubes on the Arneson drive units ventilate the props at low rpm, letting the diesels spin up faster. Fountain even has a trick for mounting trim tabs, to get more leverage while reducing wetted surface drag: placing them horizontally across the transom instead of at an angle that parallels the bottom.
Race-bred refinements like the ones I found on the 48 Express should appeal to all who share a passion for performance. Yet with her comfortable accommodations and civilized demeanor, she’ll be welcome company in any crowd.
Fountain Powerboats Phone: (252) 975-2000. www.fountainpowerboats.com.
This article originally appeared in the May 2004 issue of Power & Motoryacht magazine.