The Bahamas has a lot of fine attributes: the color of the water, some of the friendliest people you’ll ever meet, the relaxed phenomenon of Island Time, the fishing opportunities. There’s a lot to love about this part of the world. Even if the only thing the Bahamas had going for it was turquoise water, well, for me that would be reason enough to go.
My mind, body and spirit were still recovering from a trio of flights that saw me safely—if not in need of a chiropractor—to Marsh Harbour in the Abacos. Not half an hour after landing, my colleagues and I were bouncing atop 2-foot chop in Bahamian seas. That sudden burst of color was a pupil-dilating, head-spinning experience—not unlike Dorothy being transported to Oz.
Our ruby-red slippers happened to be an Everglades 435CC with a deep blue hull and quad, 300-hp Yamaha outboards hanging off the transom. My first impression of this battlewagon was boy, is she big. With a relatively high freeboard, a sport bridge on the hardtop and jet-black outriggers she had NBA-like height to match her length and beam.
The reason behind this spontaneous summer trip was twofold. My colleagues from Active Interest Media’s Marine Group were in town for a management meeting (I know, it’s a tough job) during which we’d discuss new initiatives, including the magazine you’re holding in your hands. This meeting also offered me the rare opportunity to test the Everglades with colleagues from Anglers Journal, Soundings, Passagemaker and Yachts International. The opinions of these certifiable boat nuts with different tastes and expertise would prove invaluable.
Gallery: Everglades 435CC
Our first day aboard saw 25- to 30-knot winds and a stacked 2- to 3-foot chop. The helm duties were passed around like a hot potato with each editor trying to get more time at the wheel. She was quick—about 50 knots—but it doesn’t take boat-testing experts to tell you that a boat with 1,200 hp is going to move along nicely.
I recognized fairly quickly that the 435 is a steady and stable performer, but I was eager to get feedback from my colleagues. Back on land that evening I talked with Editor-in-Chief of Passagemaker Andrew Parkinson. The weekend prior to our trip he had been hanging out with a group of yacht owners. “They could have all owned superyachts; they easily have that kind of money,” he said. “But a lot prefer to have a center console like the Everglades because it allows them to use the boat more frequently with their families. That’s really what it’s all about. And in the Bahamas there’s such thin water, there are so many places a superyacht can’t get into so you really need a boat like this to experience what these islands have to offer.”
“It really seems to run well in the small chop we ran across today,” said Marine Group President Gary DeSanctis. “We were doing 36 knots but it felt like we were going 25—it was that smooth. And it was a dry ride.”
The 435’s smooth ride is due in large part to her stout, near 17,000-pound displacement and her Rapid Molded Core Assembly Process (RAMCAP) construction that company founder Bob Dougherty pioneered. RAMCAP is a method where the hull and deck are fully cored before the two are joined, thus leaving no gaps in its coring anywhere in the boat. The feeling of solidness was impressive. Every time our crew launched off the top of a wave, we’d engage in a core-tightening, teeth-clenching brace for impact that never came.
The next morning, 15 of us filed in around the console of the 435. Three found spots at the helm, three more were in the second row of seating behind the helm and the rest split up between the bow lounge and the cockpit, which housed a slide-out cooler that would be tested extensively over the course of the next few days—you know, for science. One of the most impressive things about the 435 came into view at this point—it was amazing how many people could be entertained aboard without the boat feeling overcrowded.
Woosh … woosh. The cooler slid open and shut, and conversation flowed easily. We nosed the bow of the 435 into the sugar sand beach of No Name Cay and grabbed a bushel of apple slices to offer the wild pigs on the island.
I should have known something was up when the owner of our Everglades, Kenny Mcleskey, opted to stay behind with the boat.
“Oh no, I’m good here, but you guys have fun,” Mcleskey said with a hint of apprehension in his voice. “And keep your palm open when you feed them,” he added as most of our crew was already descending into the water through the port-side dive door and ladder.
VIDEO: Testing the Everglades 435CC
Video produced by John V. Turner
His advice would come two minutes too late. One of the largest wild pigs, known locally—and appropriately—as Big Momma, chomped down on DeSanctis’ finger. [The ensuing dialogue has been redacted—but you’re free to imagine.] I thought for sure a pig roast would be our next team building activity. I digress.
Most of the other pigs, though excitable, were harmless. Some I would even call cute. And aside from that run-in with Big Momma, the rest of the team thoroughly enjoyed this time-honored, Bahamian tradition. It was moments like this one where the line between work and fun began to blur and friendships came into focus.
After our experience with the curly tailed natives, it was back to “work” for some of us who wanted to get photos and video of the 435 in action. We were given the chance to run the boat in some seriously rough conditions as sportfishermen from the nearby Custom Boat Shootout came barreling through the inlet.
While watching custom battlewagons race together in what can best be described as an attack formation, the theme from “Ride of the Valkyries” played in my head. Mcleskey and the 435 were unfazed by the standing 4- to 6-footers these boats produced. He angled the boat like a pro and kept everyone comfortable. To me that’s the sign of a good captain, not to mention a good boat. Any boat can be slammed through waves. As someone who meets a lot of captains, I’m rarely impressed by someone slamming into troughs with reckless bravado; I’ll take a soft landing and strong, sturdy hull any day.
That evening, after an alfresco seafood dinner and some more, shall we say, cooler sliding, I was encouraged (read: coerced) by colleagues to test the 435’s GOST Evolution 2.0 security and monitoring system. Mcleskey challenged me to see if I could creep stealthily enough on board to sneak past the system. Challenge accepted.
I crept aboard like a cat—okay, maybe a jungle cat. okay, it was probably more like a giraffe, but I made it across the cockpit without tripping the system and started to think my feline-like reflexes would see me through to the helm.
The alarm blared at about twice the volume of a traditional car alarm. Blue and white strobes hit me like a smack in the face. At that point an alert was sent to Mcleskey’s phone that the alarm was tripped. GPS would then allow him to track the boat if in fact I were a thief looking for a joyride, or worse.
“I wouldn’t bring a boat down to the islands without it,” said Mcleskey. “Not only is it an insurance requirement, it just makes sense.”
Toward the end of the trip, I was talking with Editorial Director Bill Sisson about the rising median age of boat owners (it’s now 55) and the challenge the marine industry has in attracting millennials. We both agreed baby boomers have planted the boating seeds in their children; it’s just going to take a bit longer for them to get into boat ownership because of student debt, a focus on starting families, etc.
“I think what this trip and the Everglades showed,” said Sisson, “is that this sport really has all the raw materials. It has the sun. The wind. It has the water and it provides that sense of freedom that nothing else can. And it’s so addictive that we’re willing to pay all kinds of money for short amounts of time on the water. It’s a great thing.”