45 Express — By Capt. Bill Pike
|The Davis 45 Express is an honest, hardworking sportfisherman with the quick, agile moves of a cow pony.|
A couple of years ago, at the end of a business conference with a dude-ranch theme, I spent a dusty afternoon in Arizona herding cattle. Except for having a hard time "sitting a saddle" the next day flying home to Florida, the experience was excellent and extra-enjoyable on one count: The young cutting horse I rode for the afternoon was so smart, fast, and flat-out fun to handle that I hated to see the whole extravaganza end. I could have just kept on ridin', I guess. Next stop: Mexico.
Funny how things work out. Although at the time it seemed highly unlikely I'd ever get to enjoy an adventure like that again, a recent test drive of a prototype Davis 45 Express turned out to be a virtual dead-ringer. I may have been herding whitecaps in the Gulf Stream near Islamorada rather than steers in the desert, but the speed, panache, and rollicking good fun of the ride was exactly the same. Not only did the Carolina-flared Express track bullet-straight and bone-dry through head, side, and following seas at planing speeds (including a respectable top end of 36.5 mph), but she also evinced slow-tempo handling characteristics verging on ballet, rodeo-style.
Backing down on a fish, for instance. To simulate the fast moves a major-league hook-up sometimes calls for, I centered the Express's rudders, slammed my butt against the wheel for moral support, filled each palm with a polished-stainless single-lever engine control and "just got awwwwnnnn with it," as we say in the South. The head-snapping agility of the Express in reverse blew my mind. In fact, according to the Northstar 952XD color display on the dashboard, I had the boat backing down at a mindboggling rate of 6 knots at one point, with nary a drop of solid water coming over the transom, hardly any squat, and the Ritchie compass spinning all over the place--north, south, east, and west--thanks to one outrageous S-curve after another. Yeeeeehawwww!
There are reasons for all this, of course. Topping the list is the precise placement of the longitudinal center of gravity (LCG), a job Davis subcontracted to Virginia-based naval architect and marine engineer Don Blount. An LCG that's positioned to perfectly relate to lifting forces at planing speeds engenders good balance, says Blount, and good balance helps prevent bow steering, enhances tracking, and imparts cornering poise and mannerliness. Another important factor is the savvy design and placement of the boat's running gear, a realm of engineering that covers everything from determining the shape and location of rudders to choosing the number of blades on props. The years of experience and boatbuilding acumen that Davis brings to this arena contribute to the lithe quickness of the Express and also helps preclude handling problems like inordinate speed losses and the tendency to stall or hop sideways in high-speed turns.
This article originally appeared in the January 2003 issue of Power & Motoryacht magazine.