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BOATS

BOAT TESTS

Cabo 38 Flybridge

The moment was bordering on silly fun. I took over the wheel of the Cabo 38 Flybridge (Hull No. 1) and with minimal input from the ZF electronic controls made her spin like a top. As I throttled the optional 800-mhp MAN diesels, she whipped around to port in a perfect circle while the 27x33 four-blade nibral wheels ate up the cobalt water off Port Everglades inlet. Thus this pocket battlewagon effortlessly displayed her ability to outmaneuver wily marlin, from the acrobatic whites to those greyhounding, tackle-busting blues. I quickly reversed the throttles to spin her to starboard. She was impressively agile, backing down at more than 5 mph with minimal water rising up over the transom and into the cockpit. What water did get in was instantly evacuated through the scuppers. This boat was built to fish.

More evidence of this was found in her cockpit arrangement, thoughtfully presented with an optional Release Marine rocket launcher. There's a reinforcement plate laminated into the deck to accommodate a chair, but at 38 feet LOA, this Cabo's better served with my boat's bolster-type setup. A chair might impede access to the longitudinal macerated in-deck fishboxes, where the rocket launcher keeps them in the clear. Those fishboxes are large enough to handle several 50-pound-class yellowfin, some mahi-mahi, and ice for your catch, of course.

If you're a live-bait fisherman, you'll definitely take advantage of the standard 48-gallon in-transom livewell. Cabo designed its interior contours to prevent bait from banging around while underway (beat-up bait don't swim well). This builder can also outfit your 38 with tuna tubes if you need room for larger skipjack and bonito baits. Four rod holders are standard issue, but I'd like to see two more in the gunwales to enable four lines out of the optional Pipewelders' outriggers and still run flat lines off the transom (Pipewelders also manufactures the hardtop frame). You can always run a shotgun bait out of the rocket launcher and still have room to hang dredges off the 12-inch stainless steel stern cleats.

Since getting offshore to fish sometimes has to be done in less-than-ideal conditions, the 38's hull bottom is comprised of solid fiberglass. Cabo laminates it in the high desert of California, where the average humidity is about 17 percent, an ideal environment. Each layer of fiberglass is fully cured and ground back before adding the next one, a process that involves a lot of man-hours. (Build time for a 38 is about four months from start to finish.) Cabo says that while its system is time-consuming, it results in a better overall bond. I can't argue that, as my test boat felt solid even while running across the ocean at WOT. She seemed especially beefy when Cabo Yachts' vice president of sales and marketing, Jim Renfrow, tossed two 40-pound bags of ice on the deck and there wasn't a rattle or a shudder to be heard or felt. Her hull is secured at the hull-to-deck joint both mechanically with bolts every four inches and tabbed with 'glass all the way around. A liner adds backbone while also creating a finished look.

Fortunately, she's as speedy as she is clean-looking: Her Michael Peters-designed, modified-V hull form, which sports 17 degrees of transom deadrise, sprinted to a WOT speed of 43.5 mph. The MANs were spinning 2340 rpm at this velocity within the accepted tolerances of their rated 2300 rpm. When I dialed back to a 2000-rpm cruise, my test boat made a deceivingly quick 37.3 mph, at which speed not only will you likely be one of the first crews to get lines in the water, but the MANs burn only 56 gph total. At that rate, the 38 has a 284-statute-mile range on her 475-gallon fuel capacity, plenty for a day or overnight to the canyons and back. As for seakindliness, seas were only about two feet on test day, no real challenge.

Of course, even well-designed and -built boats can stand improvement, but the thing that got me was that Renfrow showed me what the company would improve before I got a chance to tell him.

He started off by pointing out the handrail along the flying-bridge helm. The builder noticed the distance from the last ladder step to the optional Bluewater helm chairs leaves a couple of feet without a handhold, so the handrail is being lengthened. Cabo is also converting the saloon's trapezoidal bird's-eye maple and teak saloon table from a fixed one to a rectangular adjustable version that will also add sleeping space. Cabo also thinks a teak veneer would look better under the saloon and galley countertops, and this will be available starting on Hull No. 2. Lastly, it's changing the backrest snaps on the helm benchseat. Instead, a track system will keep the backrests more stable underway and be easier to remove and replace during washdowns.

One place that unfortunately Cabo can't change is the engine space. It's tight. I had to crouch my 5'7" frame to maneuver there, and getting outboard of the big MANs requires climbing over the top of them. The same situation is likely with any engine choice, as all of options are in-line six-cylinder diesels. For example, the standard 600-hp Cummins are not as long as the MANs but just as tall and less than two inches narrower. And the 715-hp Caterpillars are ten inches longer and one inch taller than the MANs.

Nevertheless, the 38 was thoughtfully conceived for serious anglers. She offers comfortable accommodations for six yet can easily be handled by a two-man crew. With her speed, fishability, and sturdy build, she's a true pocket battlewagon for the sophisticated big-game enthusiast.

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

The close-quarters game just got a lot easier. Engage forward idle, and a traditional marine gear will exert about 325 psi on its clutch plates. Such hefty pressure is often the culprit in the lurch you get when engaging the transmissions, and it can result in idle speeds of 7-plus knots. In contrast, the ZF Supershift transmission offers an "easy dock" feature via a control panel at the helm, which reduces clutch pressure to 35 psi. The result: a smooth and quiet exit from a slip with full steerage and a 4.2-knot idle speed. This is a great tool for those who navigate long no-wake zones.

It's also good when fishing. With standard trolling valves, you have to disengage the valve to get full throttle back in the sticks after a hookup. Supershift's Autotroll function allows you to run at those 5-knot white-marlin speeds like a valve system, but once the throttles pass 60 degrees, you get full clutch pressure, which lets you chase fish faster. Retract the controls back to 60 degrees or less, and the system defaults to trolling mode.—P.S.

ZF Marine

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