Once again, the outboard motor has changed the face of boating. Today's outboards combine high levels of power and efficiency with lower maintenance, lower noise, and ease of use other propulsion can't match. Contender, Donzi, Fountain, Glacier Bay, Hydrasports, Intrepid, SeaVee, MJM, and others now offer big boats that are real cruising pleasure boats. Intrepid's 430 Sport Yacht is one of the best.
The 430 Sport Yacht takes full advantage of having motors outside the boat with its master cabin, large head, and massive stowage and service access. The performance that a trio of outboards can deliver is heightened by the highly refined surfaces of its single-step hull and amplified by its stiff, light-but-strong, vacuum-bagged construction. It's a gas to run. And while a couple could hit the islands for a week aboard this boat, it offers considerable capacity as a racy, spacey, big-water dayboat. The 430 Sport Yacht isn't perfect, but I found it unrivaled in many areas.
L. Francis and Nat Herreshoff were legendary designers and were the world's first large-scale production boatbuilders. They knew how to keep a cabin from feeling like a cave, even though their largest boats rarely incorporated standing headroom. They used lots of ports and windows as well as strategically positioned skylights over tables or work areas. Above all, they used brightwork -- oiled or varnished wood -- sparingly and low: Above waist level, white finished bulkheads and cabinetry reigned, with dark wood used only for definition.
Unfortunately, many of today's cruiser builders fail to follow their time-proven example. Yes, hull windows, skylights, and portholes are used with abandon. But even with 6'6" of headroom, dark teak or cherry bulkheads running to an over-upholstered headliner make a cabin feel heavy and enclosed.
Now step inside the 430 Sport Yacht's cabin. Large, fixed hull windows in the forward berth and aft stateroom combine with skylights over the galley, salon settee, master berth, and head vanity. The sole is teak and holly. Galley cabinets, including the drawer refrigerator, are medium-toned, book-matched wood laminate topped with honey-colored faux stone. The headliner is white fiberglass, which imparts a lighter feel than wood. Cabin and head doors are also white fiberglass. Yes, the Herreshoffs denigrated fiberglass, but even they would applaud the way the doors on this boat are made. Instead of using cheap, extruded aluminum frames on which to hang the doors, mating rabbets are molded into the bulkhead and each door's interior edge, forming the frame and stop. The fit is so seamless that, when closed, the doors nearly disappear into the bulkhead. (I'm sure Intrepid will add mirrors to the insides of these doors, though they were missing on my test boat.)
Behind one door, in the space inboard engines might occupy, I discovered a queen-size berth with walk-in headroom. Directly above is a skylight -- a deck hatch, really, though from topside you wouldn't know it. Like all the hatches and skylights aboard the 430 Sport Yacht, this one is flush with the surface above, which contributes to the seamless look of the exterior. Also, it can be opened only from within, which adds security.
A combo TV/DVD player was mounted a foot or so beyond my feet when I reclined -- perfect. But for the hanging locker and the bedding, white fiberglass finishes the majority of this space. The large hull window allowed reflected sun diamonds to dapple the bulkheads and dance on the overhead.
The head is opposite this stateroom, occupying the balance of the space below the helm area. A stall shower with a gorgeous seat offering built-in stowage, a honey-topped vanity, and another strategic hatch-cum-skylight make it functional and pleasant.
Out and Inside
Topside accommodations aboard the 430 Sport Yacht are amenable, best illustrated by the electrically convertible sunpad, which is incorporated into the athwartship leg of the eight-person Ultraleather L-lounge opposite and abaft the helm. Touch a switch and it folds out into the cockpit, forming a two-person tanning station. Our cover model for this test, Amanda, reported that she was "totally comfortable," even as we romped across the Gulf at nearly 60 mph.
The seat is well built, thickly upholstered, and padded with high-quality foam that doesn't bottom out. But the real credit for Amanda's comfort comes from the soft, stable ride the 430 Sport Yacht delivers. It's fast, rides smooth, and responds the instant you goose the throttles. It's the ride's finer points, however, that kept Amanda from rolling out of her un-strapped thong, despite my efforts.
There's little hesitation as the boat strikes a wave. It maintains a level attitude -- you go through swells rather than climb up and down them. Hit a wave quartering at a different angle than the rest of the train, and instead of dropping on one chine as do many boats, the 430 Sport Yacht keeps its poise, remaining level across the beam.
There's no wetbar aboard the 430 Sport Yacht. Intrepid is a semi-custom shop, ready to satisfy your needs. The same is true of Contender's 38E (roughly $500,000 powered like my test boat). Still, a standard wetbar in a boat of this class seems a no-brainer to me.
The aft cockpit, all 100 or so square feet of it, is a warren of precision-fit hatches. Some conceal insulated stowage boxes. Aboard my test boat, these were plumbed as fishboxes and livewells. But they'd hold scuba gear, deck chairs, or what have you with equal ease. Open other hatches to reveal excellent access to systems and plumbing. A boarding door and platform provide water access, but I had so much fun running the 430 Sport Yacht, I'd have to own it awhile before I'd be willing to stop for a swim.
EXTRA POINT: Tiny, indestructible, prismatic LED sidelights built into the hardtop deliver outstanding luminosity, have a two-mile range, and draw practically no current.