Fort Lauderdale is home to the biggest in-water boat show in the world, with 3 million square feet of exhibit space at six venues. There’s no way to see all of the new boats on display, so I’ve worked up a short list of those that will be at this year’s show that caught my eye during the past year or so.
I can think of at least three Down East-style express boats I will be checking out: the Sabre 38 Salon Express, the Hinckley Talaria 34 and the Hunt 44 Express Cruiser. All feature joystick helm control, and Hinckley will showcase its new PalmStick, a wireless remote-controlled joystick, on its T48. The Hunt and Sabre are powered with pod drives; the Hinckley has waterjet propulsion.
There are several boats with more modern styling that I also plan to climb aboard, such as the Carver 34 Fly (www.carveryachts.com), the first in a new line from the builder, and the Cruisers 41 Cantius, a 40-foot express cruiser with accommodations you’d find in a larger motoryacht (www.cruisersyachts.com).
A few days before this magazine went to press, I visited Sea Ray’s Knoxville, Tenn., plant, where the builder unveiled three boats that are new from the keel up: the 350 Sundancer, 370 Venture and 510 Sundancer (www.searay.com). All three will be on display at the Fort Lauderdale show.
The 370 stood out because Sea Ray has powered this express cruiser with twin outboards — a pair of 300-hp Mercury Verados hidden in two compartments that double as padded sun lounges. “Sea Ray has had outboard boats in the past, but certainly not on a boat of this size,” says Dan Robinson, Brunswick Boat Group director of program management.
The 4-strokes sit in well-ventilated fiberglass compartments, and a hose attached to each engine cowling funnels exhaust outside. “The outboard installation allows us to double the space of the aft cabin and include large portlights to illuminate the space naturally,” Robinson says. “It also opens up the cockpit and stern. It makes the whole platform bigger and more spacious.”
I had a chance to drive the boat, and the outboards packed enough punch to pop the Venture on plane quickly and with little bow rise. She displayed nice acceleration in the midrange, and steering and maneuverability were comparable to a similar sterndrive model. I was without my decibel meter, but after years of testing boats I can confidently say it was a quieter ride than that of some conventionally powered express cruisers.
The 300s pushed the boat to a top speed of about 41 mph. The boat gets about 1 mpg at 32 mph — decent mileage for this type and size boat.
Now to the 350 and 510 Sundancer. Both feature new interior styling that impressed the Sea Ray dealers I interviewed at the builder’s “Homecoming” event. “I love the 350 — it’s contemporary, lots of space, totally different. It’s sort of a Frank Lloyd Wright look in the interior,” says Angela Schell, a saleswoman with Sea Ray Cincinnati.
“They nailed the 510,” says Bob Pappajohn, president of M&P Sales in Burnaby, British Columbia. “They have brought light into the boat in a number of different ways and really opened up the boat so it feels much bigger than it is.”
The new EdgeWater 280CX also feels like a bigger boat than its LOA might indicate (www.ewboats.com). Twin Yamaha F300s power this dual console, which packs in lots of seating and includes a cabin with a galley and a head. The CX stands for crossover, but perhaps it should be a criss-crossover because it can carry out more than just fishing and dayboating.
The new Contender 30ST, with twin Yamaha F250s or F300s, aims to please those who want to fish or just enjoy a day on the water with the family, all with an eye on the fuel gauge (www.contenderoffshore.com). Its stepped hull works with the fuel-efficient outboards to deliver impressive mileage numbers — 2.1 mpg at 38 mph.
For boats under 25 feet, I plan to find the Rossiter 17, a deep-vee center console (www.rossiterboats.com); Boston Whaler’s largest Montauk yet, the 210 (www.bostonwhaler.com); and the Sea Ray 230 SLX.
I’ll probably spend a good amount of time with the Yamaha-powered Pursuit 36 Sport Yacht — the first offering in this segment for Pursuit, which is known for its center console, walkaround and express fishing boats (www.pursuitboats.com). This 36 Sport Yacht eventually will be offered with Yamaha’s new joystick steering system, due out sometime in 2013. Like the Sea Ray 370 Venture, Pursuit encloses the outboards for a clean look at the stern.
Beneteau has two new powerboats. The builder’s first outboard boat, the Barracuda 9, is a 29-footer with a walkaround pilothouse. (Click here for more on the Barracuda 9.)
In the article "Powerboats to see at FLIBS" are six new boats that didn’t make it into our boat show preview in last month’s issue, including Beneteau’s Swift Trawler 50 and five others that will be on display in Fort Lauderdale.
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