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Ocean 37 Billfish

Remember when you could just go into a place and order a cup of coffee? Not anymore. Now it's got to be half-caf, half-decaf cappuccino with extra foam and a sprinkle of shaved chocolate. Or something like that. Well, it seems like the same thing has happened to sportfishing boats. Not only have they been supersized, but they're often loaded up with frills like automatic blinds, pop-up TVs, and electric doors. With its 37 Billfish, Ocean Yachts has deliberately taken a giant step back, building a sportfisherman focused on the basics: going offshore swiftly, safely, and comfortably, catching fish, and getting back home again. She's not spartan. Indeed, she has most of the creature comforts that one expects in this day and age, but she's not overdone with gimmicky gadgets that distract from the primary mission.

By hoisting settees on either side of the bridge deck (manually, thank you—no powered rams needed), I exposed her twin 480-hp Yanmar diesels—electronically controlled, of course. Getting back to basics does not mean shunning modern technology, especially when it delivers improved performance. Her machinery spaces also housed a Cruisair air-conditioning unit to port and an Eskimo ice maker to starboard, both easily accessible. There was an X-Change-R oil-change system, a Westerbeke genset in a soundshield, and the other necessary engine-room components, all accessible with relative ease. And to keep things neat, the engine room has a smooth, white liner that's simple to clean and makes it easy to spot leaks.

With the settees back in place, I could appreciate just how cleverly the bridge-deck layout had been planned, making the most of its modest footprint. Extending more than seven feet fore and aft on the port side, a U-shape settee offers seating for four or more around a dining table. The table can be lowered to form a three-foot-wide berth—perfect for a midday siesta or a night's sleep under the stars. And because the settee is raised nearly a foot off the deck, it offers guests panoramic views even when they're seated. Aft of the double helm seat is a settee big enough for two that faces the dining area, forming a cozy seating area for swapping fish tales.

As I admired the efficiency of the bridge-deck layout, its real beauty struck me: With her lower helm station, the 37 offers the functionality of an open/express boat. But with windows on both sides and a fixed windshield, she looks like a true convertible, albeit with a functional lower helm station that's fully protected from the elements. With a flying bridge atop her deckhouse, she deftly combines the best attributes of both open/express and convertible styles. Even the doorway leading to the lower deck speaks volumes about the design philosophy. Set in a stout metal frame, the door swings open on big stainless steel hinges. The brawny stainless steel handle felt secure in my grasp as if to assure me it would hold fast if I needed to grab it in a seaway. And in lieu of some intricate sliding mechanism, a small panel forward of the door simply flips up to create headroom in the stairway.

The same efficient use of space that impressed me on the bridge deck was evident in the galley and lower-deck layout. A two-burner cooktop is concealed beneath a removable panel that provides extra counterspace for prep work but stows out of sight when the stove is in use. In the corner is a stainless steel sink; 16 inches in diameter and eight inches deep, it's big enough to hold dishes, pots, or even a platter. Tucked under an adjacent four-square-foot section of Corian countertop, there's a two-drawer U-line refrigerator/freezer/ice maker, conveniently at the base of the stairs to the bridge. Above the counter is the A.C./D.C. distribution panel, just a step or two from the helm station. Along the outboard side of the galley are several eye-level and under-counter cabinets, but the eye-popper is a big pantry forward. Measuring more than a foot wide, two feet deep, and five feet high, it's roomy enough to hold stores and dry goods for a weekend or more.

Opposite the galley is a head that offers lots of elbowroom, along with a separate 2'x4' shower enclosure with a built-in seat. Even the sink is amply proportioned, a man-size 16"x11" oval that's plenty big for shaving, hand-washing, and grooming, with a couple of feet of countertop.

Marveling at the space that Ocean had put into this 37-footer so far, I wondered how much more there could be. Opening the door to the stateroom, I saw. Criss-crossed double and single berths accommodate a variety of sleeping situations while providing a comfortable spot to relax and watch the flat-panel TV. A stack of four 12"x9"x20" drawers under the upper berth and generous hanging lockers on both sides all take care of stowing gear.

Even with all her interior space, the 37 boasts a cockpit well suited for the primary mission: raising fish. Beneath aft-facing seats there's a sink/bait-prep station and tackle drawers to starboard and a livewell to port. Another livewell is in the transom, and a pair of fishboxes are built in beneath the cockpit sole. A removable in-sole stowage bin just forward of the transom affords access to the lazarette and steering gear.

Weather conditions were ideal for putting the 37 through her paces. Winds of 15 to 20 knots were opposing the tide, building steep three- to four-foot seas mixed with occasional four- to six-foot swells. Running downwind, she was fast and smooth, and even upwind at nearly 33 knots, she never slammed, and we took no water on deck, thanks to her fine forward sections and generous flare at the bow. She was truly one sweet ride even in challenging seas.

Backing down at 4 to 5 knots, we took no water in the cockpit either. And sitting dead in the water, even in beam seas, she rolled gently but didn't wallow, thanks to the superior damping offered by her down-angled chine setup. Her sound levels were 90-dB or lower (65 is normal conversation) throughout the rpm range, probably because the engines are right behind the helm and there isn't a lot of acoustical insulation in the engine space.

Nevertheless, by getting back to basics, Ocean has created a boat that does her job well yet built her in a way that's as modern as tomorrow. That sounds like a winning formula. And Ocean must think so, because the 37 is the first in a series of Billfish it has planned.

For more information on Ocean Yachts, including contact information, click here.

Ocean used a 3-D surface-modeling program to design the 37 Billfish's entire hull and deckhouse. It e-mailed electronic files containing the 3-D geometry to Marine Concepts, a Florida-based company that formed the hull and deckhouse plugs from blocks of structural foam using a five-axis CNC router. The finished plugs were then shipped to Ocean, where they were used to build the molds for the finished parts. Sounds like a lot of steps, but it's far easier, faster, and more accurate than the old-fashioned way.

Even the stringer system is fully molded, not laminated into the hull as is the usual practice. The complete longitudinal and transverse stringer system is molded as a separate part that gets bonded to the inside of the hull using Plexus, an ultra-strong fiberglass fusion material. It produces stronger, lighter framing systems, with the additional benefit that the exposed surfaces of the frames are as smooth as the hull's exterior, making them easy to keep clean.—G.L.P.

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

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