Reggie Fountain was telling me all about his redesigned 38 Sportfish Luxury Edition. And one point he kept stressing was this: By lengthening the boat's running surface, its handling improved. Sounds reasonable. A longer bottom almost always makes a boat handle better. But then he told me the overall length of the boat hadn't changed. So how did Reggie pull this off? By giving the boat a nose job.
Take a close look at the bow of the 38 LX (that's how the company refers in-house to the boat). The flared beak, a signature feature that you see on all Fountain boats, is significantly more blunt. The company carried the deep entry of the hull farther forward, which lengthened its running surface, but not its overall length. And to help improve lateral stability at slower speeds, such as when you're trolling, the chines were widened by about 6". Finally, to generate more lift, some of the deadrise in the aft running surface was removed. This increased speed, a key benefit, especially when you're talking about a Fountain.
To save weight, Fountain replaced the molded structural grid with traditional stringers. The stringers and transom are cored with Coosa composite panels and the hull-to-deck joint is sealed with Plexus adhesive, through-bolted with the rubrail fasteners, then bonded around the perimeter with fiberglass tabbing. The wraparound windshield and secondary acrylic model at the helm were both heightened to improve sightlines, and the headroom belowdecks is better. The new 38 LX is worth a second look.
I ran the boat with triple 300-hp Mercury Verado outboards, and whether I was coming on plane, cruising, or searching out the 70.3-mph top end, the boat and engine package responded well. Often when you put a 38' boat with a full hardtop into a corner, it feels like the hull leans in one direction while the enclosure flexes the opposite way. Because Fountain builds its own T-tops with stout aluminum stanchions and can customize them to suit each boat model, the 38 LX carved turns like a Fountain sportboat. I was equally impressed with the boat's response to trim inputs. The 380-S K-planes were an excellent choice, offering enough influence to settle the ride or level the load without acting like brakes.
The 38 LX's top end is one aspect of the boat that sets it apart from its competition. Intrepid's single-stepped 390 runs around 53 or 54 mph with the same power as our test boat and retails for $357,879. Donzi's twin-stepped 38 ZSF runs just under 70 mph with the same power ($336,803).
The combination of its strong performance and a smart interior layout make the 38 LX a versatile boat that caters to cruising families and offshore fishermen alike. Aft to port, a transom gate is wide enough for you to pull through a big-eye tuna, and there are 7'-plus fishboxes in the cockpit sole on each side of the helm station. Twin tackle stations in the inwales are sized for removable Plano boxes and there's even a pull-out wastebasket.
Across the stern, hinged cushions on the aft lounge raise to reveal battery and genset switches to starboard and the livewell to port. In the sole just ahead of this lounge are hinged hatches to access the genset battery and water heater to port, the Kohler genset in the center, and the engine batteries and charger to starboard.
Although the stern cleats are perfectly positioned for cross-tying over the tops of the big Verados, I'd prefer a second set of spring cleats and twin bow cleats instead of a single one up front. The bow locker provides a good look at the windlass, but it needs a gas strut to hold it open.
At the helm, the two-person leaning post converts into individual seats with electric cushions that tuck away easily. The redesigned dash panel offers space for two individual 15" electronic navigation units and optional SmartCraft VesselView screens. Dark gray and black carbon-fiber panels cover the dash to eliminate glare, and the gauge array is easily monitored with one sweeping glance. Twin lever Mercury Digital Throttle and Shift controls put the driver in total command of this boat.
Easy Does It
If the aft section of the 38 LX is for fishing, the forward areas are all about cruising and relaxing. An open lounge area forward of the helm is shaded by the hardtop with a small aft-facing seat to starboard and full L-shaped wraparound cushion to port. There's stowage beneath each, including a dive ladder to starboard that's accessed by removing the bottom cushions. On the old 38 LX, the cushions for these lounges would always wind up on the sole after a long run. Fountain solved this problem by making the outer 2" of the lounge around the perimeter fixed. You pull out the inner cushion to get to the stowage. There's more in-sole stowage in a removable tub that you pull out to get to the freshwater and holding tanks.
Forward, the cabin hatch opens with an assist from an adjustable pneumatic strut. A couple could overnight comfortably on the 38 LX thanks to its well-equipped galley (a fiddled countertop would be an improvement), private head with pull-up shower and curtain, and forward lounge that converts to a V-berth with a drop-down table and filler cushions. A Jensen flat-screen TV comes standard, and there's a hanging locker so you can keep shirts neat if you want to go out to dinner. Even with the longer running surface, the 38 LX is still the same overall length, so you won't need a bigger docking space.
MSRP: Standard power - $360,531 Test power - $365,076
Contact: 252.975.2000 www.fountainpowerboats.com