Photography By Scott Kerrigan
The Weaver 80 Escapade is crazy fast, rife with standout customizations, and built for the long haul.
Mick Jagger famously sang “you can’t always get what you want.” But he sure as hell wasn’t talking about the owner of the Weaver 80 Escapade, a boat I recently boarded at her home dock, situated just behind a large, some might even say palatial, waterfront estate in Palm Beach. The house, the cars, the pool, they were all impressive, but the big boat out back is what really took the cake.
The lucky owner, who was onboard that day, was coming out of a 74-foot semi-custom convertible. His main reason for wanting a custom boat was simple, if a bit inglorious sounding. “I wanted to go to a builder and say, ‘This is what I like to do on my boat, and here’s all my crap. Let’s build around that,’” he says. (By crap, he mostly means fishing gear, as he is a fairly serious fisherman who spends a lot of time trolling the waters of the Bahamas and Mexico for big game.)
And thus began the search for the right custom builder. He hit all the usual suspects, but was disheartened to find that many of those shops were so busy, he says, that they wouldn’t be able to even start building his boat for another year and a half. Considering custom boats in the size range he wanted—80 feet—often take up to two years to build, that simply wasn’t an option. But then the owner came across Maryland’s Weaver Boat Works, the self-proclaimed “best-kept secret in sportfishing,” and he liked what he saw. First off, he and his captain, Jeff Smith, fell in love with the vessels Weaver produced—fast, sturdy, cold-molded, dry-riding boats with impeccable attention to detail. And secondly, Jim Weaver, the head proprietor, told the owner he could start on the build right away, and have it done in about a year and a half. All of a sudden, it was game on.
Under The Hood:
This Doesn’t Suck
Even when you’re in command of an 80-foot, fully custom fishing boat, sometimes it really is the little things. Capt. Jeff Smith will tell you all about that. He says his very favorite feature in the engine room is the built in Shop-Vac. Yup, the Shop-Vac. “It’s great,” he says, “having one down there already, I don’t have to cart it around. Plus it’s set up to pump overboard or to be self contained if I’m cleaning up oil or something like that. There’s one in the forward bilge and the lazarette too. Little things like that can make all the difference.” And he would know. He’s the one taking care of this beauty.
One of the things that attracted the owner to the Weaver was the amount of flare the builder allots to the bow section of his hulls. He felt his old boat was a little bit wet riding, even up on the flying bridge, and so was attracted to a hull shape that could slap down the notoriously choppy Atlantic Ocean. But there was another thing he had in mind for the hull that he had to ask for. Prop pockets. Escapade would be spending a lot of time in the Bahamas, and as such needed a reduced draft so as not to wind up stranded on some lonely shoal somewhere in the Abacos. Though he had never built a boat with prop pockets before, Weaver obliged, with the help of Donald L. Blount and Associates.
Things turned out well in that regard. Those pockets not only managed to keep the boat in good water, but they had a few added benefits as well. Namely, they afforded the props a very flat running angle, which Smith thinks helps the boat hit the truly impressive speeds she hits in the higher part of her rpm range. No really, truly impressive, to the tune of a 40-knot cruise and a whopping 44.7-knot top speed with the hammer down and the twin 2,600-horsepower MTU 16V M94s cranking at 2450 rpm. Smith also attributes the easy way the boat glides back down on a fish to the pockets. He thinks they help keep her high in the water and, watching the boat plow backwards while simulating fighting a fish, I’d have to agree. If you were fishing in the cockpit you wouldn’t have that well, I’m about to get wet feeling you get on some other sportfishing boats as you watch the seas pile up behind the transom as they back down.
Despite speeds you might associate more with a sporty center console—such as the 32-foot SeaVee this boat pulls behind it—than an 80-foot convertible, the big boat’s ride was exceptionally solid, even in the 4- to 6-foot seas we tested her in, thanks to Weaver’s emphasis on hull construction. The hull’s made of three layers of 12mm okume sandwiched with E-glass and Kevlar. Which means it is, quite literally, bulletproof. For his part, Jim Weaver says the cold-molding process is “labor intensive, but worth it. It takes a lot of man-hours, and in some cases can take twice as long as some other building methods, but as far as the ride we get from it, the solidity of the build, and the noise reduction, it’s hard to beat.”
Indeed, those man-hours added up, and the 80 actually took closer to two years to deliver, though last year’s unusually frigid winter contributed to that, since the Chesapeake Bay froze and kept the boat at the yard longer than planned.
Nevertheless, the 80’s owner was more than pleased when he did take possession of her last April. The boat has everything he could have asked for and more. Customizations abound. One of the first things I noticed was the lack of hinges anywhere on the boat’s decks.The owner was tired of stubbing his toes on them as he ran to grab a reel when a fish was on. With the owner’s help, Weaver designed and implemented a gasket system and concealed hinges on all the in-sole compartments. They accomplish the same feat as hinges, but the teak sole itself is completely, totally flat.
Access to the sparkling, gelcoated engine room with azure carpeting and 6 feet 6 inches of headroom is through the cockpit. Redundancy is not the exception down here, it’s the norm. There are four Racor fuel-water separators, two watermakers, two air-conditioning pumps, and two freshwater pumps, as well as twin 27.5-kW Cummins Onan generators flush against the aft bulkhead. These are all fantastic for Capt. Smith, but I’d guess the owner’s favorite feature down here are the twin Seakeeper M8000 gyrostabilizers. They absolutely pin the boat in place when she’s floating in chop at a standstill. I’ve been on more than a few boats now with Seakeepers onboard, and truthfully, when they kick in, they never fail to amaze. Weaver sees big things for stabilizers on custom fishing boats in the future. Of them he says, “Customers think they’re the best thing since people started putting mezzanine seating on boats. When mezzanines came out, everybody was like, ‘Oh yeah, I need one of those.’ Now it’s the same thing with stabilizers. They’re becoming an essential part of today’s custom fishing boat.”
Another important consideration the owner had for this boat was the accommodations. By his own account, he’s got some pretty picky friends. “I really needed to make sure I had big staterooms on the boat, otherwise, it can be hard to get people to go cruising down to the islands or wherever. Y’know, people want their space,” he said. “So I made sure that this boat’s cabins were big enough, and nice enough, that I can take even my whiniest and complainiest friends and stick ’em in there and they’re happy,” he continued with a chuckle.
But he wasn’t kidding. The staterooms are really big. There are two VIPs, both are to starboard, and one acts as the captain’s quarters. (There’s also a cabin with bunks and crew’s quarters.) The master is amidships and features an island king berth. Somewhat oddly, there are no windows. It was decided during the build that windows would detract from the boat’s exterior aesthetics. That’s not something I personally would weight more than natural light, but then again, I could be in the minority. Literally all day long, boats passing the Weaver on the ICW slowed down as the passengers onboard gawked, some even going so far as to snap pictures with their smartphones. And bear in mind, we weren’t exactly in some backwater town where people are easily impressed—this was in Palm Beach proper. If that’s not a ringing endorsement to the way this boat looks, I don’t know what is.
In fact, the only thing that messed with the Weaver 80’s lines was the 18-foot Hell’s Bay skiff stationed up on the bow. The owner wanted it because, along with blue marlin, bonefish are his favorite quarry. And this is definitely a guy who gets what he wants.
NOTEWORTHY OPTIONS: Dual watermakers; dual freshwater pumps; Maxwell windlass w/ 175 lb. stainless steel Rocna anchor; GOST security system; all-teak cockpit; twin Seakeeper M8000 gyrostabilizers.
Generator: 2/27.5-kW Cummins Onans, Warranty: Lifetime warranty on the hull; 1 year on all other components
Conditions During Boat Test
Air temperature: 80°F; humidity: 40%; seas: 4-6' up to 1800 rpm, flat seas for 2000 rpm and above
Load During Boat Test
1,600 gal. fuel, 250 gal. water, 7 persons, 2,000 lb. gear.
Test Boat Specifications
- Test Engine: 2/2,600-hp MTU M93s
- Transmission/Ratio: ZF 3060A, 2.75:1 ratio
- Props: Michigan 5-blade 38 x 55
- Price as Tested: Upon request
This article originally appeared in the December 2014 issue of Power & Motoryacht magazine.