A convivial getaway on board the new Regal 38 FXO has us wondering: could the combination of outboard power and flybridge comfort be the wave of the future?
I was wolfing a boat-test breakfast at the Belleair Café in Clearwater, Florida, when I got a text from Regal’s marketing manager, Jeff Littlefield. What about postponing festivities for an hour or so, he suggested—one of his guys was running late. Dang, I thought. While the delay would dovetail nicely with the scheduled arrival of Charlie Levine, Power & Motoryacht’sExecutive Editor, who was encountering wicked traffic coming from Orlando, it hardly fit my twitchy agenda. I was, truth to tell, in a whopping hurry to get aboard Regal’s latest and greatest—the 38 FXO, a sporty flybridge cruiser with roughly the same hull form as Regal’s popular 38 Grand Coupe, but with triple F300 Yamahas for propulsion instead of stern drives and an ample running surface extension, stretching all the way to the trailing edge of the swim platform, to support and balance the outboard package.
The flybridge-outboard synergy was the main attraction. Such configurations are rarer than hen’s teeth these days. In fact, while dousing my pancakes with syrup, I couldn’t think of another boat from a mainstream builder that was comparable, unless I factored in Regal’s 42 FXO, a slightly larger but nearly identical vessel that debuted a couple of years ago. So yup, I was antsy—I wanted to know: How would the 38 behave during close-quarters maneuvering? How fast would she go with three props instead of two? And how would shifting the power all the way aft affect the standard performance parameters?
There was one more detail I was also wound up about, though. By general agreement amongst all the office-bound honchos who’d signed off on the project, the upcoming sea trial was to be officially considered a “vacation day,” with little actual “work” in the offing. Would we “run the numbers,” as they say, to officially record speed, fuel consumption and sound levels in open water? And would Charlie and I each take a turn at the wheel to tap into the driving experience? Yes and yes, but otherwise, the whole point was for everybody on board to simply enjoy both themselves and the boat until nightfall, a choice assignment if ever there was one.
The actual arrangements were, at best, loose. We’d take the 38 out to Anclote Key, a verdant, palm-shaded jewel of a barrier island on the eastern edge of the Gulf of Mexico. Then, in a likely spot, we’d drop the hook and, after putting a little pizzazz into the 38’s standard-issue grill, slam dunk a whopping taco feed, gastronomically enhanced with chopped filet mignon that Regal’s Regional Sales Manager Lysle Spangler was promising to bring along.
Regal 38 FXO
Patience has never been my strong suit. I gave Littlefield’s text one more pass and then, after polishing off a second cup of coffee, texted him back, using the most persuasive approach I could muster: “Hey Jeff. Hate to be pushy, man. But what if I slide by now—just to check things out? Can’t wait to get aboard. Take a few notes, you know. What do you say?”
Littlefield soon replied with an accommodating “OK” and, happily enough, the 20 minutes it then took me to drive over to Quality Boats Marina gave the sea gods enough time to assemble the whole crew on the premises, including mignon-maven Spangler, whose participation was, in no small way, considered pivotal. After Spangler stowed a hefty paper-wrapped package in the 38’s aft galley, he and I embarked upon a short tour of the boat.
The aftermost machinery space—a cavernous area created when Regal’s designers opted for outboards rather than stern drives—soon turned out to be especially revelatory. For starters, it was outfitted with a veritable who’s who of top-notch ancillaries—Fischer Panda (generator); Florida Marine Tank (for diesel, gasoline and water storage); Mastervolt (battery charger); Apollo Valves (through-hulls); Groco (sea strainers); and Dometic (air-conditioning) were just some of the brand names in evidence. And then, there was a trusty Seakeeper 3 purring away in the midst of things.
“An option on this particular boat,” Spangler said, patting the 550-pound machine respectfully. “We’ll keep it running all day if you don’t mind. It’ll keep us super comfortable.”
“Okey dokey,” I agreed, figuring the 38 probably rode quite comfortably whether with or without a Seakeeper. Indeed, the vessel carries a Class B CE Certification, good for offshore winds up to 40 knots and seas up to 13 feet, thanks to savvy lamination techniques that keep her vertical center of gravity low and her roll resistance high. And that’s without gyro stabilization. So, why go with quite comfortable when super comfortable was available?
“Hey, Bill,” somebody yelled from aloft, just as the three Yamahas sprang into action. “You guys done down there? The natives are gettin’ restless.”
Were we hitting the trail? I raced from my seat near one of the battery boxes straight up to the softly carpeted cockpit and from thence up the stairway to the flying bridge where Thomas Medri, Regal’s Canadian rep and the skipper of record for the day, was sitting at the upper helm station.
“Hey Thomas,” I urged, breathing hard, “mind if I take her out of the slip and play around a while—see how she behaves dockside?”
Of course, joystick-enabled outboards are simply not as rotationally responsive as inboards or even pod-drives, mostly because the twisting leverage required of an outboard setup is so much greater. Still, I’m quite confident in drawing two conclusions from the maneuvering exercises I subsequently put the 38 through. First, the boat’s indeed a relatively agile, eminently controllable little cruiser, thanks to her Helm Master joystick, Lewmar bow thruster and the fact that, from the seat at the upper helm, I could keep tabs on her starboard quarter through the opening for the bridgedeck ladder. And second, my joystick technique’s just a tad “off” these days, most likely due to my two-year pandemic-induced hiatus from boat testing.
I loved the run to Anclote; it was pure joy. While the flybridge had been okay for marina machinations, the late-December weather dictated a move to the lower helm for our speed and other test runs. In any case, the 38 turned out to be a true tracker, agile in turns and sweetly balanced, although her maximum running attitude when coming out of the hole was a little high at approximately six degrees. And her top speed of 41.7 knots at 5800 rpm (200 rpm less than Yamaha specifies for top end) was just a bit less than Regal officially reports, most likely due to some growth on the bottom, or all extra passengers on board, or both.
We went with a mid-afternoon lunchification. The 38’s hook hit pay dirt on the northern end of Anclote where the sand was white, the waters washing ashore were strikingly clear, the shallows were neon green and a warm, friendly breeze came constantly wafting, undoubtedly all the way from Mexico. And Spangler’s top-of-the-line tacos were excellent, I’m happy to report, and delectably augmented with fresh-chopped tomato, lettuce and cheddar, as well as oodles of homemade guacamole and salsa. Moreover, in deference to a vegetarian in our midst, he simultaneously served, as a mignon stand-in, a rather odd-looking, mysterious product labeled: “Beyond Meat.”
“Anybody want some?” he grinned, with tongs raised on high. At the time, most of us were hungrily hammering his moreconventional fare while standing in or sitting around the 38’s indoor-outdoor social area, utilized by gregariously opening a glass bulkhead and door that, under less mellifluous conditions, would have separated the cockpit from the salon. The general response was lukewarm.
“Oh, come on,” challenged Spangler, adding a small chunk to each paper plate and then looking on expectantly. “Eat.”
“Huh,” said Littlefield, squinting his eyes.
“I’m not eatin’ it,” said Charlie, turning thumbs-down with both thumbs.
“Yuck,” said Medri, shaking his head while strangely smacking his lips.
“Huh,” I reiterated, backing Littlefield’s point of view.
Fortunately, the rest of the afternoon went way more smoothly than the vegetable-protein tasting. In fact, at one point, while we were hanging out on the flybridge (which remained rock-steady for the most part, despite an occasional anchor-chain thump induced by the minor, southwesterly swell), a couple of us simply lapsed into a long, peaceful silence while we examined the Gulf of Mexico’s vast grey expanse and the cobalt sky piled on top.
Although it was cold and dark when we finally got back to Quality Boats Marina, the ensuing dockside goodbyes still took a good, long while. Eventually, however, I was constrained to pull out of the moonlit parking lot in my rental car while cheerily concluding that I felt pretty darn good, undoubtedly thanks to the serendipitous nature of a truly excellent day on the water. We’d all enjoyed a genuine vacation, on board a fine flybridge cruiser, with an unusual but decidedly practical powerplant. A cool deal? Yeah, for sure.
Regal 38 FXO Test Report
Regal 38 FXO Specifications:
Displ.: 21,600 lbs.
Fuel: 360 gal.
Water: 55 gal.
Power: 3/300-hp Yamaha F300s
Cruise Speed: 22.3 knots
Top Speed: 40.9 knots