As we’re about to cast off from the Miami International Boat Show aboard the Mag Bay 42 Express Sportfish, I ask Mag Bay President Mike Howarth if he’ll be driving. “Ain’t no way I’m driving this boat,” he says. “I haven’t driven a boat in years.”
Howarth has been building boats for more than 50 years, most notably at Cabo Yachts, which he co-founded in 1991. Today, he owns Mag Bay with his son, 31-year-old Mag Bay Vice President Barrett Howard, and leaves the driving to him.
“Barrett drove a Cabo in a tournament when he was 15 years of age,” Mike says. “I’m really proud of him.”
“I was younger than 15.” Barrett tells me. “My dad taught me how to drive a [Cabo] 35 at age 9. At 13 years old, I was running a Cabo by myself.”
He recalls the moment when, 60 miles offshore at a tournament, backing up on a fish, his father came by on a 110-footer. “That was pretty cool,” he says. “I was addicted to fishing.”
Four years later, in 2006, Barrett was heartbroken when Mike and his partners sold Cabo Yachts to Brunswick Corp. Barrett had grown up in the Cabo factory in California’s high desert. “My crib was literally a boat,” Barrett says. “I love building things.”
The boatbuilding gene doesn’t just come from his dad. “My mom was a carpenter at Jensen Marine,” Barrett says. “When I was little, Mom and I would [load] bow rails in a [Ford] F-150, strap them down in the bed, and the pulpit would be hanging over the hood. Then, we’d go get burritos for the whole crew.”
By 2014, Mike saw how much Barrett wanted to build boats and agreed to start a new company. Their first stop was yacht designer Michael Peters, who’d designed Cabos. After much deliberation, the three of them decided a twin-outboard, stepped-hull design would be the best way to kick things off. The Mag Bay 33 Center Console debuted in 2015. The Mag Bay 42 Express Sportfish is the company’s second model. It’s also designed by Peters, but has a conventional, modified V-bottom and inboard diesels.
As Barrett maneuvers the 42 off the dock, I admire the dual 24-inch Garmin displays that dominate the helm station.
“We called Garmin and asked them, ‘Are you coming out with something bigger?’” Barrett says, adding that the 24s were the largest screens Garmin offered. “The whole idea about this boat is, bigger and more.”
Pretty much everything on the 42 is oversized: the sea strainers, the bilge pumps, the deck fishboxes, the transom live well, the hawsepipes, the cockpit drains. There’s more deadrise, bigger motors, bigger pockets, 29-½-inch propellers on 2-¾-inch shafts, and almost twice as much power as on the Cabo 40.
“There’s a lot of Cabo influence on the Mag Bay,” Barrett says. “All our guys [at the factory] are Cabo guys.”
After we pass beneath the William M. Powell Bridge and enter Biscayne Bay, Barrett takes the 42 up to 26 knots. The water is relatively calm, but the Miami show has brought lots of boat traffic. As the 42 slices across a wake, it simply flattens it. Barrett pushes the 42 to 38 knots, still short of the boat’s 40-knot-plus WOT. It’s a thrilling ride. There’s no missing the sound of the twin 1,000-hp D13 Volvo engines rumbling below our feet, but they’re not too loud to have a normal conversation.
Barrett wants to check the trim tabs, so he hands off the helm and goes aft. This is the first hull. It’s just out of the factory, and the Howarths are still tweaking it. Barrett calls his dad to take a look. They hang over the stern, their heads just above the water as the boat streaks across Biscayne Bay. After a few minutes, they conclude that the trim tabs need to be raised a quarter of an inch.
Back at the wheel, Barrett shows off the 42’s agility. Facing aft, he puts one engine in reverse and the other in forward as the boat starts spinning on her own axis. Even though we’re doing 360s at an almost dizzying rate, there isn’t much water coming into the cockpit. The 42 shouldn’t have a problem outmaneuvering the smartest and biggest gamefish.
The 42 is also easy on the eyes. From bow to stern, everything slopes aft: the foredeck, and the house and tuna tower, flowing effortlessly into each other as if drawn with a single line. Peters drew a pretty boat.
The helm station design is minimalist and sleek. A faux teak helm pod complements the three Release Marine helm seats. There are seven of us on the boat. Between the helm seats and the L-shaped settee, the boat could easily handle more.
Down below, the cabin has 6 feet, 8 inches of headroom; 6-foot-long hull-side windows; and two skylights. The cabin includes a galley with two under-counter stainless-steel refrigerators, a stove and a microwave. An L-shaped settee can serve as additional berths, and faces a 42-inch television. The stateroom forward has an island double berth, two hanging closets and stowage for 7-½-foot rods.
All the electrical runs are to port, and all the plumbing is to starboard. Using an electric actuator, Barrett raises the helm console to show off the wiring beneath. Nothing is crowded, and the arrangement is artful.
“My goal is to just build the best,” Mike says. “Our philosophy is, to spend this kind of money, you have to go with premium products. That was our philosophy at Cabo. We’re not gonna cut corners.”
When it’s time to head back to the boat show, someone persuades Mike to take the helm. He looks ambivalent but obliges.
Barrett looks downright giddy as he says, “He hasn’t touched a wheel since I learned how to drive. He wouldn’t even know how to turn it on.”
He gets next to his dad and tells him to aim for the bridge and “slam the thing.”
The 42’s diesels roar, and the boat takes off. One of the 24-inch Garmins displays only boat speed, with two giant digits filling the entire screen. Mike jokes about how huge the numbers are. Truly, everything on this boat is bigger.
Displ (dry).: 41,875 lbs.
Fuel: 675 gals.
Water: 100 gals.
Standard power: (2) 1,000-hp Volvo Penta D13 diesels
Base price: $1.25 million
This article originally appeared in the May 2020 issue.