We're roaring through the inlet like a Freightliner on nitrous and I'm looking down - yes, down - onto the deck of a cargo ship that's heading into port. Sitting in the enclosed flying bridge of Hatteras' new 77 puts things in a completely different perspective. Talk about a legal high.
As you look down upon all those marine minions from your heavenly post, you'll be reminded that you alone have as much muscle power as the collective fleet before you. With twin 2,400-bhp MTU V-16 2000 CRs swinging tugboat-size props, you have as many ponies in the stable as a century's worth of Triple Crowns. Think about it for a minute: 4,800 horses. That's as much power as 48 average center consoles, 15 Chevy Suburban LTZs, 12 Bell Ranger 206 JetRanger helicopters, or 4 Messerschmitt BF109 fighter planes.
Considering the heft of the 77, which displaces 157,500 pounds, the boat shows surprising pep. I ran right up to 37.3 mph, and that was in 3' to 5' seas. I also didn't spin the maximum rpm, and with a few tweaks of the props and calmer seas it's reasonable to assume that breaking 40 mph is within reach in this monster machine. From the bridge, however, the 77 seems more gentle giant than monstrosity. A grunting croaker is louder than the maximum 66 dB-A my meter registered at the helm, and even with five-footers crashing the bow, the ride was comfortable, to say the least. Hatteras doesn't depend on sheer mass to smooth out the bumps, either. It designed the 77 with a hull that breaks the waves with about 22 degrees of deadrise amidships, before tapering back to 2 degrees at the transom. The hull is solid fiberglass, and the hullsides and decks are cored with Divinycell. Most of the hatches, stringers, and bulkheads are resin-infused for the best resin-to-glass ratio, and the engine bearers incorporate stainless-steel mounting plates laminated into the stringers. Going between the bridge and the salon and cockpit is also about as simple as can be. Scramble up a ladder? Not on this colossal creature of comfort - a semi-circular staircase makes the climb a pleasure. The interior is plush and stately (think: marble and leather and a total of 164" of plasma TV screens), but what sets off the 77's inside is the layout. Choose among several configura-tions: Eliminate the midship crew quarters to add a desk and walk-in locker to the full-beam master stateroom, go for his-and-hers heads, or add a lounge. The kicker is in the salon, where you'll find a day head right by the entryway - for easy access when nature calls.
Although serious anglers might think the 77 is just too big for a fishboat, a few hours in the cockpit will change their minds - as it did mine. We kite-fished for sails, and so far as I could ascertain, there are only two drawbacks to having so much boat. The first is the inability of the captain to see the entire cockpit from the helm. Hatteras solves this problem by placing additional control stations both in the cockpit and on either side of the back of the bridgedeck. The second drawback? Even with the offset chair, long trolling rods are required to clear the gunwales. So if you ever want to fish standup style, you'll have to haul a completely different set of rods. Luckily, there's plenty of stowage space for them. Speaking of space: With 192 square feet you could park one of those Suburbans on the deck and still have plenty of room to fish. There are upper and lower mezzanines to provide seating for half a dozen anglers, multiple bait and tackle stowage compartments, wet stowage compartments, drink boxes, and freezers. Viking's 74 ($4.8 million with twin 2,030-bhp MTUs) is another boat that offers a customizable mezzanine. But it's smaller at 74'0" and, at 2,416 gallons, carries less fuel. It's as close a comparison to the 77 as you'll find. There aren't other production-molded fiberglass boats of the same dimensions as the Hatteras.
Our test boat had its livewell in the deck, but if you want yours in the mezzanine, Hatteras has no problem putting one there. On the opposite side of the fighting chair the deck held a gargantuan 5'6"-long fishbox, equipped with a divider, plumbed with an ice feed, and drained via a macerator. Something else that's supersize on the 77 are the attics, which usually provide bulk stowage on boats of this size. Here, you'll find walk-in versions. Access the port one to find the "brain" of the boat, a server that would make an IBM exec proud. It holds enough nav data to circum-navigate the globe, enough music to throw a nonstop rave during the trip, and enough movies to run different feature films from departure to arrival. If you ask me, however, the view from the bridgedeck is a hell of a lot more entertaining than any movie - there's no flick that will make you feel like the all-powerful eye in the sky.