Want to go so damn fast that all of South Beach is one big blur? Too bad, since many of the women on South Beach are topless. But if you're willing to trade scenery for speed and you place fishing high on your to-do list, Fountain's new 38 CC is a boat you have to check out.
CULTURED PEARL. Few people know how to make a boat go fast like Reggie Fountain, so you're right to assume that the new Fountain 38 CC is going to boil the water. And with a 72.5-mph top end, the wind resistance will bend your rods more than a 100-pound tuna. But because we're talking about Fountain, a top end that beats the competition is no surprise. But this is: Cruise at 4500 rpm and you'll be running at about 50 mph while burning only 33.6 gph. That means you're getting 1.5 mpg. Sounds pretty amazing for a 38' boat, doesn't it?
That efficiency is a hair above another twin-step, triple-Verado-rigged competitor, the Donzi 38 ZF Open ($212,000). With identical powerplants, the Donzi makes 1.3 mpg at 4500 rpm, but it cruises about 5 mph slower. At 5000 rpm the Donzi runs just a tick under 50 mph-and gets 1.1 mpg. Note that even though it goes faster, the Fountain has a foot more beam than the Donzi, and their weights are nearly identical. The Donzi has an advantage when it comes to fish stowage, though, because at 7'4" long, 2' deep, and 3' wide, the forward fishbox is the largest in this class.
What makes the 38 CC run so well? It's not just the twin steps. This boat also has a setback and notch built into the transom, as well as a V-pad on the hull bottom, which is where the entire boat rides at high speeds. The net result? An 8 to 15 percent increase in overall speed, midrange performance, and fuel economy over plain-Jane V-bottoms. Some people believe steps improve a boat's ride-count me among them. The steps introduce a cushion of aerated water under the boat, which breaks adhesion and allows the hull to run faster. But, to me at least, it also seems to soften re-entries and impacts when the seas kick up. If you want to run above highway speeds, the boat has to be built to take it-and construction is another area in which Fountain takes a sophisticated approach. The hull is solid fiberglass from the waterline down, with the keel, strakes, and hullsides cored to boost stiffness and rigidity. The stringer grid is molded, glassed into place, and pumped full of foam. And the hull-to-deck joint is tightly secured: It's riveted to keep it in place when the through-bolts are run through, Plexus adhesive/sealant is applied in the joint, and where the two parts meet they're fiberglassed together. Popping across a chop at 65 mph and taking large boat wakes in the 50-mph range, the boat felt as solid as most competitive boats do at 30 mph.
I did, however, find two things I didn't like about the way the 38 CC is put together. First, wires running under the starboard side gunwale weren't chafe protected nor were they well loomed where they went through a cutout. After a few years of bouncing around in the rough stuff, the insulation on those wires will be history. This may have been because my test boat was rushed out the door for a boat show, so peek under the gunwales when you're assessing a 38 CC and see for yourself. Also, the electronics box door is held up with spring struts, which tend to bend, break, and shut on your hand.
TOUCH. In the wow-look-at-that category, the 38 CC provides a few nifty features you won't find on many other competitive boats. Check out the coaming bolsters, for example. Not only do they ring the fish-fighting arena, there's also one running across the helm. Of course, slower boats don't need this. But when you wedge yourself in between the console and leaning post for high-speed dashes to offshore fishing grounds, your knees will appreciate the extra protection. And when you reach your destination, you'll love that the 38 CC has rodholders galore. The gunwales have three in each side, and the T-top rocket launchers number nine. The two on the outside are angled out to the sides, so you can run lines directly from them without increasing your chances of tangling. And yes, that powder-coated T-top with all those rocket launchers comes standard.
Once you put those rodholders to use, hook up, and strike the gaff, you'll discover that you have numerous choices as to where you stow your fish. There are four dedicated boxes in the deck that will each swallow a tuna as large as 100 pounds. Rap your fist on the sides. Notice how solid it feels? That's because you're hitting the sides of the stringers. And foam-cored stringers provide the best in fishbox insulation, so your ice won't melt on hot summer days and your fish will stay fresher than anything found at the local sushi bar. The locking forward deckbox is rigged with rodracks and has room for a quartet of big guns. You'd rather have more space for bigger fish? No problem, the racks are removable.
The transom has a livewell and rigging station sink built-in. The livewell is rounded and has a clear viewing port on top, but it's not lighted and the port opens aft and leans against its hinge. I'd like to see a strut or a different type of hinge here, because sooner or later it will get bent by someone leaning against the top while it's open.
Another touch die-hard anglers will appreciate: Unlike many go-fast fishboats, the 38 CC has a capable anchor locker. The built-in rack holds a large Danforth securely in place, the hatch is wide enough to provide easy access, and there's room for hundreds of feet of rode. All three bow cleats are lift-ups, so they're out of the way when you don't need them. Whether you're chasing schools of bunker with a cast net or anchoring up to chum live ballyhoo, the arrangement is perfect.
Your electronics suite will have a well thought out home, too. The flat at the top of the dash is spacious enough for a pair of 12" screens, and it has a locking cover with its own dedicated stowage spot in the console, where it latches into place. Most of the lower dash is taken up by the army of gauges, which are complemented by a huge pair of trim indicators with a custom-made protective see-through cover. When you consider the amount of space at the helm, you'll realize that Fountain made excellent decisions when combining the requirements of a captain who has to operate at high speeds and the needs of a serious angler. The only thing missing is a dedicated rack for your image-stabilized binoculars, which you'll need for those runs past South Beach.
The Highs: Not only does it run faster than the vast majority of its competitors, it does it while burning less fuel. Love the helm coaming bolsters. Love the T-top rocket launchers. Love the anchor locker.
The Lows: Why weren't the wires running under the gunwale chafe protected or supported at the cutout? Spring struts on the electronics box don't cut it. Aft-opening livewell hatch hinge will get bent if leaned against.
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Draft (max.): 2'5"
Displacement (lbs., approx.; w/o power): 10,600
Transom deadrise: 22 1/2°
Bridge clearance: 8'0"
Max. cabin headroom: 6'2"
Fuel capacity (gal.): 346
Water capacity (gal.): 30
Price (w/stand. power): $272,009
Price (w/test power): $272,009
Standard power: Triple 275-hp Verado outboards.
Optional power: Triple outboards to 825 hp total.
Test boat power: Triple 275-hp Mercury Verado in-line-6 four-stroke supercharged outboards with 158.5 cid, swinging 18" x 26" four-bladed props through 1.85:1 reductions.
Standard Equipment (mjr. items): Hydraulic steering; raw-water washdown; T-top w/spreader lights and electronics box; gunwale and T-top rodholders; under-gunwale gaff/mop/rodracks; circulating livewell; hydraulic trim tabs w/indicators; 3 batteries w/parallel and switches; 25-qt. forward console cooler; 4 integrated fishboxes; locking rodbox; glovebox; locking electronics flat cover.