The new high-horsepower outboards, such as the Yamaha F350 and Mercury Verado 300, have helped expand the express fishing boat market. These 4-strokes — and let’s not forget Evinrude’s E-TEC 2-strokes — give the boats the improved speed and fuel economy needed for long offshore trips.
With these big outboards, center console fishing boats can journey farther, too, but they lack the express cruiser’s accommodations and protection from the weather. That’s why some center console builders have added express models to their fleets — for example, Ocean Master (336 Sport Cabin) and Everglades (320EX), both of which are outboard-powered.
“They want a more all-around package,” says Mark Hauptner, owner of West Palm Beach, Fla.-based Ocean Master Boats. “If they’re going to go farther, they need more.”
The Ocean Master also is available with a single diesel, which provides an impressive 2 mpg at 30 mph. And standard power for the Ellis Patriot 36 is a 480-hp Yanmar — the only other single-diesel boat in this roundup — which should provide the same fuel consumption but at a speed of around 21 mph. This group also includes one boat offered with outboard power only, the Everglades 320EX, whose sweet spot is 37 mph.
Styling varies among express cruisers, and the six boats here represent three categories: fishing, New England-style and production express cruisers. Ocean Master is a semicustom builder, and Ellis is a custom builder. The remainder can be considered production builders.
Everglades joins a group of center console fishing-boat builders who’ve made the jump to express boats. In late 2008, the Edgewater, Fla., builder introduced two express boats: the 320EX and 350EX. The 320EX was first.
Powered by twin 350-hp Yamaha 4-strokes, the boat reaches a top speed of 51 mph, which makes it the fastest express in this lineup. At a cruise speed of 37 mph, the 320EX has a range of 274 miles. At trolling speeds, you’ll be getting more than 2 mpg, according to Everglades.
Everglades designed the 320EX to operate in all weather conditions. Tempered glass is used for the front and side windshields, and the front windshield contains three sections that electrically open forward. “A standard built-in enclosure finishes off the back [of the bridge deck] and can be quickly
installed to keep in the warmth or cooling necessary to enjoy whatever marine environment you may be in at any given time,” says Everglades marketing director David Glenn. A 5 kW generator is standard, along with two separate air conditioning/heating systems for the cabin and helm deck, he says.
In the cockpit, twin transom seats fold away when it’s time to fish. An 81-gallon fishbox and 43-gallon live well are housed in a large fiberglass module, and the builder includes toerails along the hull sides to give anglers added balance. Forward, you’ll find tackle drawers to port and a sink and cutting board to starboard.
A raised wraparound settee on the bridge deck will accommodate three to four crewmembers. The gray helm console reduces windshield reflections to improve visibility. The A/C system plays no favorites, with nine vents across the width of the dash so everyone feels the cool air.
Venturing forward, you can grab the rails on the hardtop, which comes standard, along with a spotlight, spreader lights, speakers, nine rocket-launcher rod holders, and six more rod holders integrated into the hardtop underside.
Below, there’s 6 feet, 4 inches of standing headroom in the main cabin, outfitted with an enclosed head with shower, a full galley with single-burner stove and combination microwave/coffeemaker, and a midcabin berth. Base price with the 350s is $369,231.
“The majority of the equipment on our boats is standard,” says Glenn. “Our boats feature very few options to take some of the confusion out of the purchase.”
Ocean Master 336 Sport Cabin
Mark Hauptner started designing and building center consoles more than 30 years ago. During the last few years, some customers came looking for more protection from the weather, a stand-up head and the necessities for overnighting. In 2005, he started building a 31-foot express using the same hull that has been the foundation of his business: the Ocean Master 31 center console, launched in 1974 and the largest boat of its kind at that time.
Now Hauptner has introduced a 33-foot express cruiser. The boat comes in two versions: the 336 Express is designed with a hardtop and windshield that are separate components, while the 336 Sport Cabin has a pilothouse. Hauptner, who runs his semicustom boatbuilding business out of West Palm Beach, says he has sold two Sport Cabin models and one Express so far.
The chines rise progressively from the transom to the bow, providing stability, fuel efficiency and a level ride, says Hauptner, a former raceboat designer and driver. Hauptner vessels are heavily built, with solid glass bottoms and sides. Decks are cored with either pressure-treated plywood or closed-cell foam. Vinylester resin is used for protection against osmotic blistering.
The cockpit, bridge deck and cabin can be outfitted to the customer’s liking. For instance, one of the Sport Cabin owners had a dinette table installed across from the starboard-side helm station, a location typically reserved for a companion seat. The boat can be ordered with a composite aft bulkhead with acrylic doors to completely enclose the bridge deck area. The cockpit can remain bare, or it can be packed with seating. A tower is also an option.
The Sport Cabin’s Spartan accommodations include a 7-by-8-foot V-berth forward, and there’s room for a galley and a dining area. The head is contained under the V-berth, so if you want privacy you’ll have to make sure the companionway door is closed. A separate standup head compartment is an option.
The 336 can be ordered with twin outboards or a single diesel. The latter gets an impressive 2 mpg at 30 mph. The first outboard-powered boat — an Express with twin 250-hp Evinrude E-TECs — gets about 1.25 mpg at the same speed. The outboard-powered boat, which has a bracket for the engines, was designed for twins. Hauptner isn’t a big believer in triples. “You have too much equipment and maintenance, and you burn more fuel,” he says.
Pricing ranges from $254,000 with twin Evinrude E-TEC 250s to $314,000 with a 600-hp CMD diesel (straight shaft or outdrive and jackshaft). The company also offers 300- and 350-hp outboards.