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Sturdy as she goes

The convertible long has been a dual-purpose offshore platform, a sportfishing machine with motoryacht comforts that appeals to both serious anglers and cruisers.

The convertible long has been a dual-purpose offshore platform, a sportfishing machine with motoryacht comforts that appeals to both serious anglers and cruisers.

The look is distinct, with its flybridge helm, blanked-out windscreen, and sweeping, clean foredeck. Looks aside, these rugged and dependable boats also are known for their seakeeping, fishability and comfort.

The latest generation of the convertible offers increased speed and range, shallower draft and upgraded amenities, taking owners to remote fishing spots and exotic cruising destinations virtually anywhere — comfortably and securely.

“Our customers like to travel,” says Viking Yachts director of communications Peter Frederiksen. “A lot of our boats go to Costa Rica now.”

Many convertible builders are promoting the shallow drafts of their new boats, which allow access to more waters. “A lot of these guys want to go to the Bahamas and cut across [Bahama Bank], so the lower draft is a good thing,” says Bertram sales and product manager Kim Bradley.

Production and semicustom builders alike are looking at how owners are using their convertibles to determine what they need, whether a larger cockpit or a redesigned flybridge.

“We’re trying to be as market-driven and sensitive as we can be,” says Mike Usina, Silverton vice president of sales and marketing. “Rather than guessing, we’re going out and asking the marketplace what they want to see.”

And custom builders are making their impact on the convertible market by offering unique boats. “[The owner’s] needs on the boat are satisfied because it’s built around the way he uses it,” says Jim Sculley, head of sales and marketing at Sculley Boatbuilders, a custom builder in North Carolina.

Here’s a look at nine convertibles ranging from 34 feet to 74 feet — production, semicustom and custom.

Silverton 34 Convertible

Silverton updated one of its most successful models, the 34 Convertible, to celebrate its 35th anniversary this year. The response from the marketplace has been impressive, says Usina, with more than 100 boats sold in the first five months the new 34 was available.

“That’s as remarkable a premier or introductory period as we’ve experienced in 35 years of building boats,” says Usina.

He says the response has been based on the 34’s price: $210,950 with standard 320-hp Crusader 5.7-liter gas engines.

This entry-level convertible, designed by Silverton and Donald Blount & Associates, has almost a foot more beam than its predecessor, and two staterooms rather than one. Usina says the “classic” 34 Convertible, which Silverton last built in 1995, was the company’s most successful production run, selling 1,200 boats in 16 years.

They hope to repeat that feat with the new, larger 34.

“Its dimensions are such that the internal envelope is, comparatively speaking, very large,” Usina says. “For a convertible in its size it probably has the biggest bridge in its class.”

He says Silverton has developed a line of convertibles built more for cruising than fishing. The company positioned the helm farther forward than is found on most convertibles, for increased visibility. Usina says this arrangement is comfortable and allows more room for seating on the bridge.

LOA: 37 feet, 7 inches BEAM: 13 feet, 10 inches DRAFT: 3 feet, 3 inches DISPLACEMENT: 17,440 pounds (dry) FUEL: 286 gallons WATER: 94 gallons SPEED: 30 mph top, 20-22 mph cruise (Silverton doesn’t guarantee performance numbers) STANDARD POWER: twin 320-hp Crusader 5.7s BASE PRICE WITH STANDARD POWER: $210,950 CONTACT: Silverton Marine, Millville, N.J. Phone: (856) 825-4117.

Cabo 40 Flybridge Sportfisher

Cabo has filled out its convertible offerings with a new 40-footer. The 40 Flybridge Sportfisher joins the builder’s lineup of convertibles and express boats from 31 to 48 feet.

“The purpose of this boat is to give our 35 Flybridge customers something to look towards rather than our 43,” says Cabo sales manager Greg Bourque.

The builder’s in-house engineering team in collaboration with designer Michael Peters came up with the hull shape for the 40 Flybridge Sportfisher.

“It’s all about the ride,” says Bourque. He says the 40 hits a top speed of 41 mph and cruises around 35 mph at less than 2,000 rpm, with a full load of fuel and passengers. The standard — and only — engines offered are twin MAN D2876LE 401 or Caterpillar C-12 diesels, each rated at 700 hp.

Bourque says 700 hp is “the sweet spot for that boat,” adding that fuel consumption is 45 gallons per hour at cruising speeds. (The C-12s were used in testing.)

Bourque says the boat’s interior layout is perfect for cruisers and anglers. There is a forward master stateroom, as well as an aft guest stateroom with a double berth and pullout single berth.

“The difference in a Cabo is always in the details,” says Bourque. “They just get better and better.”

LOA: 42 feet, 10 inches BEAM: 15 feet, 9 inches DRAFT: 3 feet, 5 inches DISPLACEMENT: 32,000 pounds FUEL: 550 gallons WATER: 75 gallons SPEED: 41 mph top, 35 mph cruise STANDARD POWER: twin 700-hp MAN or Caterpillar C-12 diesels BASE PRICE WITH STANDARD POWER: $697,300 CONTACT: Cabo Yachts, Adelanto, Calif. Phone: (760) 246-8917.

Luhrs 41 Convertible

Luhrs says its new 41 Convertible is built for big seas and marks an upgrade in the builder’s own standards.

“The whole boat as an entity is several steps above what we could consider a typical Luhrs boat,” says marketing director Chip Shea, adding that the company intends the entire line to meet this new standard. “It’s really a turning point and a departure point to move Luhrs in that direction.”

Weighing around 35,000 pounds wet, the Luhrs 41 is built to run and fish in offshore conditions. The hull is an in-house design and has tunnels to improve efficiency and reduce draft. The engine room and lazarette have been engineered, Shea says, “to outdo any other production boat on the market.”

Shea says the fuel and pump systems, including a dual-pump water system, are superior to the competition. The 41 has a centerline fuel tank, and all through-hulls are abaft the engine room and lazarette.

“The size of the flybridge is much larger than previous boats,” Shea adds. He says the fit and finish and standard interior equipment also are an upgrade from Luhrs’ historical standards. A hardtop and enclosure is standard on the two-stateroom convertible.

“It’s probably the largest 41-footer on the market,” Shea says.

LOA: 44 feet, 6 inches BEAM: 15 feet, 9 inches DRAFT: 4 feet DISPLACEMENT: 30,000 pounds (dry) FUEL: 600 gallons WATER: 130 gallons SPEED: 37 mph top, 33 mph cruise (with twin Cummins 580-hp QSM-11 diesels) STANDARD POWER: twin Cummins 535-hp QSM-11 diesels BASE PRICE WITH STANDARD POWER: $550,000 ($580,000 with 580-hp) CONTACT: Luhrs Corp., St. Augustine, Fla. Phone: (904) 829-0500.

Cavileer 43 Convertible

One of the new Cavileer 43’s more noteworthy specifications is its 2-foot, 11-inch draft. “None of our competition is going to have anything close to that,” says company president John DiDonato. “It’s going to be the shallowest draft in the industry.”

Donald Blount & Associates came up with the new hull design, which employs propeller pockets to reduce the prop shaft angles and, thus, the boat’s draft.

“It’s just going to be a great running boat — smooth ride, dry,” DiDonato says.

The 43 is well suited for cruising and fishing the Florida Keys, Bahamas and shallow waters throughout the world, according to Cavileer.

The new convertible has a two-stateroom, two-head arrangement, and its 15-foot, 9-inch beam makes for a roomy interior, cockpit and flybridge. DiDonato says it will be among the biggest boats in its class.

The 43 will be semicustom, like the 48- and 53-foot convertibles it joins in the Cavileer stable. It will be hand-laid and balsa-cored, with a solid fiberglass bottom. Available in 2005, the 43 follows the company’s 53-footer, which has a redesigned deck and flybridge.

LOA: 43 feet BEAM: 15 feet, 9 inches DRAFT: 2 feet, 11 inches DISPLACEMENT: 43,500 pounds FUEL: 700 gallons WATER: 125 gallons SPEED: unavailable STANDARD POWER: twin Caterpillar C-12 diesels BASE PRICE WITH STANDARD POWER: unavailable CONTACT: Cavileer Boatworks, Lower Bank, N.J. Phone: (609) 965-8650.

Ocean 50 Super Sport

New Jersey boatbuilder Ocean Yachts says it used the hull design from its 57 Super Sport, with an emphasis on space utilization, to come up with its new 50 Super Sport.

Following also in the footsteps of the company’s 48 Super Sport, the 50 has more vee at the transom for better rough-water performance without sacrificing speed, says Ocean Yachts vice president of sales and marketing Douglas Finney. The hull design was a collaboration between naval architect Dave Martin and Ocean’s in-house design team, headed up by company president John Leek.

“The 50 took everything that was good in the 48 and improved upon any shortcomings,” says Finney, who says Ocean offers a longer list of standard equipment than many of its competitors.

“Ocean’s always had a knack for using as much space on the boat for living and for storage,” he says. “It’s a very large layout; it’s a big 50.”

Ocean has enlarged the staterooms, Finney says, particularly the master stateroom. It sits to port and has a walkaround double berth, a vanity, two cedar-lined hanging lockers, and a private head and shower.

The crew stateroom is to starboard, as is a second head and shower. The forward guest stateroom, available with either an island or upper-and-lower berths, has a private entrance to the second head.

The engine room is larger, with more headroom and better outboard access, as the company says it removed the saddle tanks. Ocean also increased the size of the helm console and removed the electronics box from overhead.

“The boat itself has a much more streamlined, tournament look,” Finney says.

LOA: 50 feet, 6 inches BEAM: 16 feet, 9 inches DRAFT: 4 feet, 5 inches DISPLACEMENT: 54,038 pounds FUEL: 780 gallons WATER: 150 gallons SPEED: 39 mph top, 35 mph cruise TEST POWER: twin 825-hp MTU Series 60 diesels BASE PRICE WITH TEST POWER: $915,000 CONTACT: Ocean Yachts, Egg Harbor City, N.J. Phone: (609) 965-4616.

Bertram 630

Bertram calls its new 630 convertible “The New Bertram Muscle,” with the first priority to be a fishing machine.

“The business end of the boat, for fishing, is up to Bertram standards,” says sales and product manager Bradley. “It’s really functional.” Cockpit area, for example, is 160 square feet.

Bradley also touts the interior of the 630, which is available in a three or four stateroom arrangement. “We have probably the finest interior appointments in the industry right now,” he says. Bertram is flexible on layouts, and Bradley says the company likes to leave people with the notion that it does a fair amount of customization.

“Other than the fact that the boat’s drop-dead good looking,” he says, “it’s also a rocket.”

Though there are a handful of power options, most people go for the big engines, Bradley says. He says the prototype 630 was powered with 2,000-hp MTU diesels — topping out at 47 mph — because it’s designed to handle that type of power.

The 630 with an open flybridge (an enclosed flybridge model is on the way) and standard power from a pair of MAN 1,500-hp diesels gives the boat a base price of $2.197 million.

Bertram has mounted the 630’s single fiberglass fuel tank at the boat’s center of balance, with fuel fills on both sides of the boat.

“Because there is only one fuel tank, there are no selector valves to draw off multiple tanks,” says Bradley. This means there’s no need to calculate fuel usage and how much time is left on an individual tank, then go below to switch over to the next tank, he says.

LOA: 66 feet, 9 inches BEAM: 18 feet, 1 inch DRAFT: 5 feet, 3 inches DISPLACEMENT: 90,672 pounds (with fuel, water, gear, eight people) FUEL: 1,849 gallons WATER: 251 gallons SPEED: 47 mph top, 41 mph cruise (with test power) TEST POWER: twin MTU 16V 2,000-hp diesels BASE PRICE WITH TEST POWER: $2.457 million CONTACT: Bertram Yacht, Miami. Phone: (305) 633-8011.

Sculley 64 Sportfisherman

Sculley builds custom Carolina convertibles starting at 50 feet, and the 64 Sportfisherman is its new offering.

Sculley says it is updating its styling, and the new boat has a more rounded look, softer superstructure, and user-friendlier flybridge. Jim Polatty, company COO, says the change satisfies a market niche that the company must grow with.

Jim Sculley, head of sales and marketing, says the classic designs will still be available for those with more “old-school” tastes.

Polatty says custom building influences the overall look of the boat. “It’s not popped out of the mold,” he says. “Every one of these boats is going to be unique.”

A Sculley boat starts in the computer, has a cold-molded hull, and is completed with a fully customized interior. “Most production boats limit you by their build process,” says Sculley.

Polatty says the company can build any size boat, based on the same bottom.

“We use the same bottom proportions,” explains Sculley. “We produce a new jig for each hull, no matter what the size.”

Although the company has a proven hull design — “one of the best-riding boats on the market,” says Sculley — it will tank test a boat if the size changes significantly. He says his boats can run faster in more adverse sea conditions than his competitors.

LOA: 64 feet BEAM: 18 feet, 9 inches DRAFT: 5 feet, 6 inches DISPLACEMENT: 72,000 pounds FUEL: 2,050 gallons WATER: 250 gallons SPEED: 46 mph top, 35-41 mph cruise POWER: twin Caterpillar 1,650-hp C-32 diesels PRICE: $2.5 million-$3 million CONTACT: Sculley Boatbuilders, Wanchese, N.C. Phone: (252) 473-6855.

Hatteras 68 Convertible

Among the notable features of the new Hatteras 68 Convertible are its generous beam, a mezzanine deck in the cockpit, and standard computerized yacht monitoring.

“The most noticeable thing on the boat is the beam,” says Hatteras marketing director Dave Ritchie. He says the 68 will be beamier — at 21 feet, 6-1/2 inches — than the company’s 90 Convertible and some motoryachts.

The four-stateroom, four-head layout includes a full-beam master stateroom. “When you think about the beam on that boat you realize it’s going to be a huge master stateroom,” Ritchie says. The boat’s breadth also translates into a large cockpit, flybridge, engine room and lazarette.

“It’s going to be among the first sportfishing convertibles with a mezzanine cockpit design,” says Ritchie.

The 192-square-foot cockpit’s raised mezzanine deck will have cushioned seating and storage underneath and also will be modular, so owners can arrange the location of such components as the freezer, icebox or optional bait well according to their preferences.

Air induction for the engine is through a hidden ventilation system beneath the cockpit coaming, so there will be no air intakes on the sides of the boat and no air boxes in the engine room, according to Hatteras.

The 68 Convertible will come standard with touch-screen computerized yacht monitoring. There also will be a double hard drive and analog gauges for backup. Hatteras plans to have the boat ready for this fall’s boat shows.

LOA: 68 feet, 6-1/2 inches BEAM: 21 feet, 6-1/2 inches DRAFT: 5 feet, 3 inches DISPLACEMENT: 126,500 pounds FUEL: 2,100 gallons WATER: 415 gallons PROJECTED SPEED: 37 mph top, 33 mph cruise STANDARD POWER: twin Caterpillar 1,550 hp C-30 diesels BASE PRICE WITH STANDARD POWER: $2.882 million CONTACT: Hatteras Yachts, New Bern, N.C. Phone: (252) 634-4895.

Viking 74 Convertible

Viking Yachts will introduce its largest convertible to date, a 74-footer, for the 2005 model year.

“They are going to people that own 65 Vikings and are going up,” says director of communications Frederiksen. “If it turns out that the 74 is wildly successful, maybe there will be an 80-footer.”

The fuel tanks are glassed into the boat and are designed to mirror the hull shape, allowing the engines to burn more of the tank’s capacity, according to Frederiksen. The hull bottom is balsa-cored.

The 74 will be available with four- or five-stateroom layouts and has chilled-water air conditioning. Hull No. 1 will serve as a demonstrator, fishing in summer tournaments, and the boat will debut at either the Norwalk (Conn.) Boat Show or the Fort Lauderdale International Boat Show this fall.

LOA: 74 feet BEAM: 19 feet, 8 inches DRAFT: 5 feet, 6 inches DISPLACEMENT: 121,000 pounds (wet) FUEL: 2,400 gallons (optional 3,000 gallons) WATER: 385 gallons PROJECTED SPEED: 41 mph top, 37 mph cruise STANDARD POWER: twin MTU Series 2000-V12 1,520-hp diesels BASE PRICE WITH STANDARD POWER: $3.296 million CONTACT: Viking Yacht Company, New Gretna, N.J. Phone: (609) 296-6000.