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BOATS

BOAT TESTS

Midnight Express 37 Full Cabin

I was headed for Midnight Express’ Fort Lauderdale, Florida, facility in my rental car when I got the call. “Bill,” the guy said, just as a big ol’ cardboard box blew across the road in front of me, “have you checked on the weather offshore lately? It’s terrible.” We were scheduled to sea trial a motoryacht in the 80-foot range later that day, so I’d indeed checked on meteorological prospects just prior to leaving my hotel some minutes before. They’d been gloomy all right: six- to eight-foot seas, winds gusting to 25 knots, temperatures in the 60s, and rain squalls. “I gotta cancel,” the guy concluded. “It’s too rough.”

“Okee-dokee,” I said, rescheduling him for the following week (when conditions were likely to be more mellifluous), and continued making my way toward my destination, but with deepening misgivings. Was this particular morning really a good time to wring out a Midnight Express 37 Full Cabin with triple 275-hp Mercury Verado outboards and a ballpark top speed of 60 mph? And who’d be driving while I manhandled the radar gun during speed and acceleration runs in offshore conditions not fit for a fair-size motoryacht? Don Aronow reincarnated?

Funny. When I arrived, Midnight’s little place on Lauderdale’s Northwest 15th Avenue reminded me somewhat of Aronow’s old shop on 188th Street in North Miami—Thunderboat Row, the powerboat-racing capital of the world during the '80’s and early '90’s. Scruffy and industrial-parkish, it had a certain cachet nevertheless, a heady mix of we-build-the-best-speedboats-on-
the-water-bar-none chutzpah and good ol’-fashioned our-
customers-include-U.S.-Customs-and-numerous-other-
military-type-organizations-around-the-world machismo.

“That’d be me, Capt. Pike,” replied Midnight’s vice president Eric Glaser when I asked who’d be driving during the speed and acceleration runs that I was not, as yet, totally cool with actually doing. Glaser looked young—real young. But then again, he wasn’t touting his driving skills every chance he got, either. Quiet confidence? Often the mark of someone who is actually a solid, experienced driver.

“Well,” I said at length, having thought things through, “whataya say I drive the boat myself at first to sort of get a feel for her? Okay with you?”

Glaser nodded. I smiled, just as a faint, not-unfamiliar tremor rattled through my soul. What the heck? My personal boat may presently be a Grand Banks trawler with a sedate top speed of 10 knots, but hey, middle age hasn’t squeezed all the deep-down, adventure-lovin’, adrenaline-rushy fervor outta me. Not yet, anyway! We jumped into Glaser’s giant white pickup, towed our 37 over to a ramp in Pompano, and dropped her in.

By the time I’d driven the boat to the bascule bridge at Hillsboro Cut, I was dang near a true believer—some vessels instill confidence in a heartbeat, and the 37’s one of them, pure and simple. Thanks to Mercury’s DTS (Digital Throttle & Shift) engine control, maneuvering dockside with the 37’s triple outboards felt exactly like maneuvering with twin diesels and top-quality, electronic, single-lever sticks: lots of torque, conventional (but computer-simulated) twin-screw technique, and a bow thruster on tap just in case. And coming up the ICW from Pompano was pure joy. The 37 slipped along like a phantom—silent (or nearly so), sure-footed, and slick.

But the ocean made me a total fan. As soon as we cleared Hillsboro’s outermost green buoy, I juiced the throttles and beelined straight east, flat into a free-for-all of four- to six-footers, with a few eight-footers thrown in. Impressions began to flow as soon as I turned north, charging straight into the wind, pouring on more and more speed…35 mph...45 mph...and finally, an amazingly solid, dry, wide-open-throttle velocity of 60.2 mph.

Driving was virtually effortless once I’d added a little tab to keep the nose down, trimmed the Verados out to optimize running attitude, and accustomed myself to snatching back on the throttles when the props occasionally aired out. And the sense of true-tracking, turn-carving control? “Wonderful,” I yelled at Glaser, as I charged around with chills fibrillatin’ up my spine. “Absolutely wonderful.”

Glaser, the way things turned out, was indeed something of an Aronow reincarnation. Could the kid drive or what? And what’s more he could explain stuff simultaneously. While we rocketed up and down the coast recording test data, he was able to describe how the 37’s constructed, with a gutsy, glass-encapsulated, Mantex foam-core stringer system; hull sides, decks, and cockpit sole sandwiched with Nida-Core; a robust hull-to-deck joint secured with both Plexus methacrylate and fiberglass; and a massive, five-inch-thick transom so beefed up with aluminum bar stock, Mantex, and fiberglass (16 layers), it can handle four big Verados, not just three. And he was also able to cite the main reason for the performance we were so enjoying: the savvy placement and design of two aerating steps that traverse the 37’s long, bullet-like running surface.

“The real story continues to be this, though,” I opined as a sort of summation once the clunky constraints of shore-side life had sent us packing back to Hillsboro and home. “We’re jammin’ around out here in the open Atlantic with a Midnight Express 37 Full Cabin in weather that’s got everybody else skunked, including an 80-footer, and we’re havin’ a freakin’ ball!”

“One more hard-over turn, Capt. Bill,” yelled Glaser, by way of response. “And make it full throttle!”

For more information on Midnight Express Power Boats, including contact information, click here.

This article originally appeared in the March 2007 issue of Power & Motoryacht magazine.

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