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Albemarle 360 XF

Let’s be frank. Notwithstanding an attractive, nicely appointed interior, there’s nothing frou-frou about the Albemarle 360 XF (Express Fisherman). Everything about her is solid, functional, and bred for fishing. But that is not to say she’s unattractive. On the contrary, in just the few minutes it took to fuel up at the Sea Isle Marina during the 2006 Miami International Boat Show, several couples came aboard to have a look-see, each expressing their admiration as they reluctantly disembarked so we could set off on our sea trial.

While Albemarle’s customer service manager, Ted Haigler, supervised the fueling operation, I started checking out how the new 360 measured up—literally. With tape in hand, I surveyed the dimensions of her generous cockpit; at the sole, it extends nine feet fore and aft by 11’5” athwart-ships, offering more than 100 square feet of battleground for boating the big ones and, surprisingly, far larger than the 72 square feet claimed on Albemarle’s Web site.

The perimeter of the cockpit is rimmed with coaming padding that extends from 24 inches above the sole up to gunwale height (30 inches above the sole), assuring firm but comfortable thigh support at just the right height for the average person. Oddly, though, the bottom of the transom door is a good six inches above the cockpit sole, which puts the bottom of the door some 15 inches above the waterline. Because the cockpit sole is nine inches above the waterline, it seems to me the sill could be reduced to a height of about one inch (instead of six) to ease the task of hauling fish through the transom door. But offsetting this one nitpick, I would give the rest of the cockpit an A-1 rating, being as it’s equipped with a five-foot in-transom fishbox, a four-foot under-sole box, and the requisite compartments for a bait freezer, prep sink, livewell, and tackle drawers. Hatch fittings and other hardware operated easily and appeared to be stout, but I would like to see a gas strut added by Albemarle to the in-sole fishbox to keep its 48”x20” lid from becoming a toe guillotine.

It’s not just the cockpit that shows how the 360 is well-proportioned. Maybe her most prominent feature is the towering sweep of her broad Carolina bow. Five and a half feet above the water, her foredeck flares to a maximum beam of nearly 14 feet. Her hull then tapers aft to a beam of about 12 feet as her sheerline dips to the transom. Not only does her form look powerful (and so seductive), it’s also functional. The broad bow should keep her decks dry, while the pinched stern assures proper fore and aft balance without causing an excessive amount of immersed bottom area (which would increase frictional drag).

A further benefit of her voluptuous forebody is the generous interior volume it affords. Within her 36-foot length, she offers a head with separate stall shower, full-function galley, saloon with convertible settee, and a stateroom with queen-size berth in the bow.

I liked the classy-looking, optional teak-and-holly sole (in place of the standard carpet), but I didn’t care for the exposed rod stowage racks above the settee. They would be cleaner looking (and more secure) if concealed, perhaps behind a Pullman berth that could be added above the settee.

The engine room is nicely sized for a 36-footer, thanks to hydraulic rams that lift the aft end of the bridge deck, creating about four feet of headroom when you stand between the Cat C9s and easy access to all vital components. Ironically, the only awkward part is ingress into the space, where the opening under the bridge deck is just three feet high (above the cockpit sole) and at which point there is a set of narrow, nearly horizontal steps that you must negotiate to traverse the Onan genset below. For routine checks, there’s a 22”x36” day hatch in the bridge deck that affords easier access to the centerline side of the engines.

With the bridge deck lowered into place, our tanks full of fuel, and the last of the ad-miring public ushered ashore, we set out to take the final measure of the 360. The commercial ships lining the Miami shipping channel seemed a fitting backdrop to our performance trials, underscoring the Albemarle’s functional fitness to her intended purpose. Acceleration was quick; plenty of low-end torque from the Cats got us out of the hole easily, and the turbo boost above 1600 rpm brought the 36 up to a top hop of nearly 38 mph. Sound levels approached 93 decibels, high but not unusual for an open bridge, and subjectively not objectionable.

Outside the inlet, seas were relatively calm with just a foot or so of chop, but when we found some monster wakes, the 360 took them in stride. Steering was nice and tight, allowing me to carve S-turns at full throttle with no cavitation, no vibration, and little drop in speed. Backing down hard, we took some water under the transom door (Haigler explained there was a gasket missing on our test boat), but the scuppers were up to the challenge and drained the cockpit within seconds.

By the time we got back to Sea Isle, the boat show had closed. But we continued to get admiring looks, this time from the legion of workers breaking down the exhibits. With her no-nonsense attitude, the 360 clearly has broad appeal.

Albemarle Sportfishing Boats

This article originally appeared in the May 2006 issue of Power & Motoryacht magazine.

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