Fort Pierce, Florida, is an angler’s dream town. Located on the Intracoastal Waterway (ICW), it boasts a deep-water channel providing a quick route to Fort Pierce Inlet and the Atlantic. “Sailfish Alley,” a famous hotspot during the winter months, lies just offshore, and many other species—including wahoo, grouper and snapper—also lurk in the ocean depths. It’s no wonder that Fort Pierce has been home to Pursuit Boats since 1983.
We were assembled on the dock in Fort Pierce City Marina (which recently underwent a $31 million renovation) to witness the launch of the builder’s new flagship. The Pursuit S 428 Sport, with an LOA of nearly 44 feet, is the largest Pursuit ever built.
The S 428 is also the flagship of Pursuit’s Sport center console series, which now includes five models starting at 26 feet. Like its smaller siblings, the S 428 is a fully equipped fishing machine, but it also doubles as a large luxury day boat, featuring two spacious cockpits for lounging and entertaining, plus a console cabin with V-berth and head. The design goal for the boat was to fulfill both missions without sacrificing functionality for either one.
“We really try to push for something you don’t have to compromise,” said Christopher Gratz, Pursuit’s vice president of engineering.
A lot of innovative design work went into the S 428. Starting forward, there are two large, padded sunlounges mounted on the front of the console, ideal for catching rays; each also incorporates a lower seat at the same level as the forward cockpit seats so six or more people can socialize here with ease. The bow settees have backrests that swing out from the gunwales at the push of a button. They are powered by electric trim tab actuators, a clever re-purposing of existing technology.
The Pursuit S 428 was designed with a single-level deck for ease of traffic flow. Moving aft, you find hull windows in the wide, deep walkarounds. Not only do these windows provide light for the console cabin, but they also give the driver a unique view of the water on either side of the boat.
The Pursuit engineering team pulled out all the stops in the S 428’s aft cockpit. When the boat is at rest, you can deploy the starboard fold-down hull side, which turns into a large platform for water-sports activities. Opposite, the port gunwale holds a standard diver door.
When the boat is in fishing mode, its seating is designed to be compact and out of the way of the action. But you can change to social mode in a flash by pushing another button. The rear-facing mezzanine bench seating unit slides aft, allowing access to two previously hidden tall chairs with folding backrests, and an outdoor galley with sink, fridge and grill. “We’re going for ‘best in class cockpit,’” Gratz said.
By my count, you can seat 15 or more people comfortably aboard the S 428, and that’s not counting the twin settees in the console cabin, which convert to a double berth. So, when we left the dock for a short sea trial on the ICW with 11 people on board, the boat didn’t seem at all crowded.
The boat’s command center is extremely comfortable, with three tall captain’s chairs complete with flip-up armrests. On hot days, air-conditioning vents keep things cool at the helm. The S 428 also rocks an impressive JBL Audio sound system.
The helm itself features a contemporary layout with two 22-inch Garmin multifunction displays flush-mounted in the dash, “glass cockpit” style. The boat also is rigged with Yamaha’s Helm Master joystick control, which makes docking a breeze by taming and teaming up the quad 425-hp Yamaha XTO Offshore outboards.
Seakeeper gyros seem de rigueur these days, and of course our boat had one, an optional Seakeeper 6, located in a dedicated compartment under the rear cockpit sole. Although there was no need for it on the calm ICW, the gyro could prove useful for added stability when trolling or fishing at anchor in rough conditions.
In open water, we opened up the throttles to see how the new S 428 would perform. The factory has recorded a top speed of 51 knots with a nearly full fuel tank with this power configuration. (An efficient cruising speed is 27 knots.) During our sea trial, we were impressed to see speeds in the 49-knot range, even with such a large crew of Pursuit team members and journalists aboard.
There was no time for fishing that day, a pity because we were in Fort Pierce and the S 428 is equipped with an outstanding array of fishing equipment. That includes locking gunwale rod stowage, padded coaming, refrigerated in-sole fish box, transom fish box, two 36-gallon transom live wells, tackle center, outriggers, rocket launchers and more.
Beyond all the bells and whistles, however, Pursuit’s attention to detail truly stands out on this boat. For example, the hardtop has ladders on either side that provide solid footing all the way to the top. “Hardtop access is important to us,” Gratz said.
Following the sea trial, we did a quick tour of the newest facility on Pursuit’s Fort Pierce campus, a 185,000-square-foot manufacturing space that opened in May 2020, which confirmed that quality construction is indeed a Pursuit hallmark. Both the S 428 and S 378 are being built here. We watched a hull being laid up utilizing the latest resin-infusion and vacuum-bag technology, then observed the other stages of construction. Pursuit builds as many components in house as possible, rigorously testing each element. Said Gratz, “Uncompromised functionality is what we are always after.”
Weight: 23,600 lbs.
Deadrise: 22 degrees
Fuel: 547 gals.
Power: (4) 425-hp Yamaha XTO Offshore
This article was originally published in the January 2021 issue.