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BOATS

BOAT TESTS

Davis 70

Under a low-hanging, leaden sky and dodging sheets of rain, we'd just finished our performance testing of the Davis 70 in the protected ICW off St. Lucie, Florida. Now we were headed out into the ocean for the real test. A cold front had bullied its way through a few hours before, but the wind was still up. As the big sportfisherman turned out of the calm channel and took up an easterly heading for the inlet, the EZ2CY enclosure (three sides only, the side facing the cockpit being StrataGlass so it could be rolled up) began to rattle ominously. EZ2CY is rigid; it's not supposed to rattle.

Soon the rain began to pelt us in earnest, and the 70's bow began to rise and fall rhythmically in response to swells that were rolling through the narrow cut. Visibility out of the rain-mottled plastic was now sketchy at best, but I could still make out whitecaps outside the breakwater. As we entered the cut, I could see that they weren't whitecaps after all; the wind was blowing the tops off the waves.

And then we were in the soup, a jumble of fours and sixes that came at us from all angles. The 70 edged forward at dead idle, but the waves were rushing at us with sufficient velocity to make it feel like we were at cruising speed. The boat shouldered into the swells with a reassuring solidity—never a squeak or groan—nd her trademark Buddy Davis Carolina flare deflected the spume to either side so that the only wetness we had to contend with was from the sky. Not only was I not uncomfortable, I was enjoying the heck out of it.

Soon we were past the breaker line and out into open ocean where things calmed down to "only" fours and the occasional five. As we turned north, putting the seas on our forward starboard quarter, the C32s gradually edged up until I happened to look down at the CAT displays: 1600 rpm, which the GPS said worked out to nearly 20 knots. Twenty knots and the ride was smooth enough that I could write in my notebook.

But that's a Buddy Davis hull for you—Buddy Davis with help from naval architect Donald Blount. Besides the big flare there's a warped bottom that terminates in a generous 16 degrees of deadrise to smooth out the ride and propeller pockets (optional) to moderate draft. Take a sophisticated hull form like that and stretch it to where it can span waves, and there's not much that'll keep you in port.

The 70 I was on was Hull No. 2. Buddy himself had built Hull No. 1, and then sold her, the molds, and his company to Ira Trocki, who already owned Egg Harbor Yachts and a bunch of other boating-related companies too lengthy to list here. This boat, which debuted at last fall's Fort Lauderdale International Boat Show, represents both the group's largest build to date and its entry into the world of custom sportfishermen.

And the 70 is custom. Davis will do just about anything you want—and yes, that includes moving bulkheads—which explains how our boat, with a base price of $3.5 million, ended up listing at more than $5.1 million. Granite countertops, steam bath in the master, electrically opening and closing saloon door and flying bridge hatch, stunning teak interior, big plasma TVs in every stateroom and the saloon, hardtop with electric sunroof, air-conditioned engine room, bridge, and cockpit—yup, the goodies do add up.

But even ignoring her price (as if you could), you have to appreciate the way the 70 is engineered and built. The boat is so solid she feels like she was carved from a block of stone, when in reality she's cored throughout (including bulkheads) with Divinycell foam that's resin-infused. So while 117,000 pounds (with full fuel) may not sound exactly svelte, it is a moderate displacement for a boat of this size. And speaking of fuel, the 70 carries plenty of it—2,000 gallons with prop pockets, 2,200 gallons without—in three tanks: two saddle units forward of the engine room and the main one under the cockpit. Thanks to a fuel-transfer system and cross-over manifolding, you can top off any and all tanks from any fill. Better yet, you can leave the forward tanks empty for those times when you don't need the range, which should enhance running attitude and maybe add a knot or two.

Not that our boat needed more knots. She topped out at a respectable 32 (36.8 mph), despite an annoying vibration that told me something was amiss in the drive train. The captain said he didn't feel it, but I surely did. Regardless, the phantom shake didn't affect our sound levels, which stayed in the mid-70s most of the time. I thought the muffler system was particularly effective, as it eliminated any resonance during planing, something I've heard on other boats powered by C32s.

A good turn of speed is pretty important in a sportfishing boat, and this is a sportfishing boat, although inside she felt more like a motoryacht. (She hadn't been campaigned when I was aboard her in early January.) Stand in the massive cockpit, and you can easily imagine chasing down billfish somewhere warm and far away, even without the chair installed. (The backing plate for it is.) Not only is the cockpit big, but there's also the de rigueur mezzanine with enough seating for eight and loads of stowage and a bank of tackle drawers below.

Access to the engine room is also beneath the mezzanine, via a centerline hatch that leads to a Diamond Sea Glaze watertight door and then into the mechanicals space. Once inside you're treated to serious features like dual engine-driven crash pumps plus demisters and big 24-volt intake and exhaust fans by Delta T. Although the area was air conditioned, I was told that it's somewhat superfluous as the temperature here rarely exceeds 90F. The Cats were aglow with the optional chrome trim package, but what really caught my eye were the polished stainless steel plates on the overheads above the engines. They make for a dazzling show but also stand off from the overhead by about three inches, which allows air to circulate behind them and prevents heat from radiating into the saloon above.

Ah, the saloon. This being a custom boat, you can have it just about any way you want. I liked this layout because the galley and saloon are basically one space, separated by only one step. I did think the lovely circular stairway to the bridge (the only way up there) intruded a bit on the interior, and I didn't get the point of having the 3'x3' hatch at the top of the stairway open electrically while the small door opens manually. But I guess on a boat like this, one does such things because one can.

And anyway, what you're really buying with the Davis 70 is a palette on which you can paint your dreams. Lots of custom builders can sell you that. In the end, it's the hull into which all those goodies go that makes the difference.

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

It doesn't matter whether your boat is 17 feet or 70, you never have enough stowage space. But of all the places I've seen where builders look to add room to stow stuff, I've never seen one use the space under a bunk. It's a great place to lay out clothes you don't want wrinkled—or just stow a couple more rods.—R.T.

This article originally appeared in the March 2008 issue of Power & Motoryacht magazine.