It’s hard to imagine a boat better suited to all the Bahamas has to offer than the Pursuit S 408
I’ve tested a lot of boats in a lot of places, yet it’s pretty rare that the test venue is somewhere as exotic and pleasant as the Bahamas. But that’s where I went to meet up with Pursuit’s new S 408, a boat that I’d already heard about, due to its debut at the 2016 Miami International Boat Show. A trip to the Abacos aboard a big, fast, comfortable center console definitely would have been something to relish, but something else made the trip even more enticing: I was to rendezvous with the boat in Marsh Harbour, which is just a short ferry ride from Man-O-War Cay, and that happens to be the birthplace of my 1975 wooden Albury Brothers Runabout, something of a precursor to the modern center console. I was hoping that somewhere between the fishing and diving, I might be able convince my host to detour to the place where my boat was built.
The reasons for my interest in the 408, though apparently obvious, were abetted by my averred enthusiasm for outboard-powered vessels. I’ve often written about what I feel are the unappreciated virtues of outboard power, bemoaning the fact that more boats aren’t designed specifically for this form of propulsion. Well, here in the flesh was one that was, and in a venue that perfectly displayed its advantages.
Little wonder that my 20-footer was born here. With its shallow water and numerous and widely dispersed islands, the Bahamas archipelago virtually demands a boat that’s fast and can operate in skinny water. The ideal island boat also needs plenty of deck area from which to take advantage of the region’s principal allures: fishing and diving. Back in the ’70s, my boat filled that role to a T, but times have changed, and nothing better illustrated the extent of that metamorphosis than Pursuit’s newest center console.
My boat’s cockpit is roomy for her size, but of course it’s nothing compared to the 408’s. On my first day aboard, we headed to the backside of a nearby reef for some spearfishing with a complement of no fewer than 10 people, and no one had to step around anyone else, go looking for dive gear, or search for a place to stow our catch. With as many as five divers in the water at a time, unimpaired sightlines were crucial, and even without an elevated helm station (one is on the way), our captain had no problem keeping tabs on the divers. Anyone not in the water was encouraged to stretch out and enjoy the sun on the enormous forward sunpad atop the cabin.
You’d expect a big center console like this to have lots of stowage space, and indeed she does, notably in a pair of big, in-sole dunnage boxes forward. Port and starboard fishboxes occupy much of the cockpit, but the big bonus—and an unassailable argument for outboard power—is the huge stowage compartment between them, right where the engines would be in an inboard. (This space is available even if you order the optional Seakeeper gyro.)
The next day was largely devoted to trolling for whatever the Bahamas Banks had on the menu, and again, there was plenty of room in the cockpit for six anglers, even when we were hooked up. For anyone not fishing, there was that big sunpad, the seats flanking the helmsman, and the aft-facing mezzanine that seats four, immediately abaft the helm—a perfect place from which to watch baits, especially with the optional aft awning electrically deployed.
Shade and shelter are two things that any good island boat needs plenty of. My skiff relies on a canvas top that attaches to the wooden windshield, and a small cuddy for relief from the sun. The 408 has acres of shade when you need it, including an optional Mediterranean sun shade forward, but unlike my boat, you can easily reduce it when you want to bring the heat. There’s even more shelter in the 408’s cabin (too large to be called a cuddy), which tellingly, no one ever took refuge in (except to use the enclosed head), despite the fact that it’s air conditioned. Our boat also had optional air-conditioning outlets strategically arrayed around the helm and cockpit to provide relief, although, again, we never needed them. Another advantage that a big center console has over an inboard cruiser is that you’re almost always guaranteed a breeze, especially if the boat is moving.
The net production of our three hours of dragging an impressive array of baits and teasers was a lowly barracuda, but on the upside, the experience did highlight yet another advantage of big, outboard-powered center consoles. Anyone who has trolled aboard a diesel-powered convertible knows all too well the amount of sound, vibration, and (to a lesser degree in newer engines) smell that are omnipresent. The contrast between such powerplants and our Yamaha four-strokes (with a total of 1,050 horsepower) was striking. From idle to around 800 rpm, the big V-8s might as well not have been been there. There was neither vibration nor discernible exhaust odor, and their sound level was no greater than what we heard from the 8-kilowatt Fischer Panda diesel genset beneath our feet.
Part of the silence was due to the fact that the engines are well aft, attached to a combination bracket and platform that’s integral with the hull. You just can’t expect engines of any sort that are inside the boat and under your feet to be as smooth and quiet as a trio of well-mannered V-8s hanging off a transom. And of course, no inboard—gasoline or diesel—can compare with the outboard’s power-to-weight ratio, which explains why, in addition to all her other attributes, the S 408 is wicked fast. We never saw her top speed of 44 knots because one of the motors had an oil-pressure issue, which explains why the test numbers that accompany this article come from Pursuit. But even treating the motors gently, we managed to cruise effortlessly in the low- to mid-30s-knot range. You can cover a lot of the Bahamas at that pace.
That kind of speed, plus the ability to nose into any isolated beach that happens to strike your fancy, explains why outboard-powered center consoles are the hot setup in the Bahamas. You see them everywhere, ranging from 17 to 45 feet and beyond, powered by singles, twins, triples, and even quads. Some of these boats are pretty radical speed-wise, but the 408 strikes the right balance of comfort, speed, and range. As a way to get to the Gulf Stream in a hurry (and beat the weather) and then tool around the expansive flats at your leisure, it’s hard to imagine a better choice than the S 408. But if she’s too much boat for you, don’t despair. There are 32- and 35-foot versions on the way.
The ideal islands boat was what the Albury Brothers aimed at when they started building outboard-powered boats in 1952. (They’d been making sailing vessels long before that.) Descended from Loyalists seeking refuge during the American Revolution, the Alburys are one of the dominant families on Man-O-War. They began building boats out of the unusually hard madera and other native woods, and when the timber ran out in 1985, they switched to fiberglass, which they continue to use. Their careful, hand-built method is on display in an open shed, just a stone’s throw from the shed where my boat was crafted.
I wanted to see that shed, even though it’s no longer used for boatbuilding, and maybe even speak with one of the Alburys who built my boat, and after our day of trolling and diving, we headed into Man-O-War to make it happen. Man-O-War Cay is small—little more than a dot on the chart—so it didn’t take long to find the boatyard, where I saw 20s and 23s being laid up and assembled at a characteristically unhurried pace. (Other Albury models are built in Riviera Beach, Florida.) I was even able to speak with Donald Albury, a characteristically taciturn chap who, after sufficient prodding, speculated that he probably had had a hand in building my boat.
I was gratified to make the connection, but I was also impressed by how well the Pursuit guys and the Alburys got on. Despite being literally worlds apart in so many ways, they had in common an obvious love of boats and a sense of pride in building them carefully and conscientiously. And like me, they both think there’s nothing better than an outboard-powered vessel if you want to enjoy the Bahamas. Or, for that matter, any place that has sun, sand, and fish.
Noteworthy Options: Mediterranean sunshade forward ($3,960); electric sunshade aft ($15,200)
GENERATOR: 8-kW Fischer Panda, WARRANTY: 5 years structure and blistering, 2 years comprehensive
Conditions During Boat Test
Air temperature: 77°F; water temperature: 73°F
Load During Boat Test
360 gal. fuel, full water, and 3 persons.
Test Boat Specifications
- Test Engine: 3/350-hp Yamaha F350 4-stroke outboards
- Transmission/Ratio: Yamaha/1.73:1
- Props: 16¼ x 17 3-blade stainless steel
This article originally appeared in the October 2016 issue of Power & Motoryacht magazine.