Men are from Mars, women are from Venus, and boats are from…Jupiter? Well, yes. At least the new Phoenix 35 is. How so? The Phoenix 35 is built by Jupiter Marine, which until now has been known only for its outboard-powered 27' and 31' center consoles. So the question is: Can such a boatbuilder resurrect a traditional sportfisherman and update it with a level of construction and style that's competitive in the 21st century?
I tested the Phoenix 35 as a massive storm front moved in. As I cleared the inlet, waves were running one to two feet. Soon they reached three to four - and more. The sky grew dark and dangerous. The rain beat on us like a ball-peen hammer. It was a full-blown squall. Hey, what a great day to test a boat.
IMPROVED ATTITUDE. A boat that sits bow down at rest is going to have problems when underway. Bow steering, trouble getting onto plane, and nose stuffing are all possibilities. Despite its well-deserved reputation as a sturdy fishboat, the old Phoenix 34's handling was another issue. It sat bow down. Jupiter addressed this problem by re-engineering the boat's weight distribution. The goal: Move the boat's center of gravity 8" aft. The natural starting point was with the engines, which are responsible for 3,100 pounds of the Phoenix 35's 23,890-pound overall weight; they were shifted 4" aft.
THE HIGHS: Changes in prop pockets and weight distribution bring a classic into the 21st century. Wide open cockpit and thin transom are ideal for fighting big game on standup gear.
THE LOWS: Salon door latch is flimsy. Mist blows back into the cockpit at cruising speeds. No rigging station means you'll have to pre-rig or bring along a cutting board and bucket.
I know what you're thinking: Shuffle the engines farther under the deck and it'll be hell to access them for maintenance. Well, that's not a problem here, because the Phoenix 35's engine boxes sit above deck level, forward in the cockpit. They swing open from the front, exposing every inch of the iron horses to your wrenches, rags, and ratchets. They also make two great aft-facing bait-watching seats when you're on the troll. But won't pushing the engines farther aft result in an increased shaft angle and reduce efficiency? Another valid concern, but it's also been addressed with care. Added depth in the prop pockets allows for a better shaft angle and a shallower draft to boot.
More weight was moved aft by changing the battery, genset, and holding and fuel tanks. This shuffling does more than change the center of gravity. It allows more room for fuel, increasing the old Phoenix's capacity of 300 gallons to 400. That matches the fuel capacity of the Luhrs 36 ($220,200 with the same amount of power). But the new Phoenix 35 cruises at about 30 mph compared to the Luhrs 36's 28, so the Phoenix 35 will have a longer range at cruising speed.
With the performance issues taken care of, Jupiter then attacked the model's vintage styling. A new flying bridge was designed, the salon windows were updated, and the entire boat was given a face-lift. Sharp looking? Modern? Yes. But that's not the entire story. Applying Jupiter's decades of experience creating high-end gel-coat fit and finish, special attention was paid to the Phoenix 35's outer appearance. The Armourcote gel coat gives this boat a beautiful a mirror-like surface, and the care with which it is applied keeps that surface ripple-free. Underneath, there's a barrier coat of vinylester resin. Dissect the hull further and you find multiple layers of biaxial glass and woven roving, laid up into a solid hull bottom. Hullsides above the waterline are cored with Klegecel closed-cell foam, as are the cockpit sole and the decks. This structure is supported by 1 1/2"-thick marine-ply stringers, made from a triple layer of 1/2" ply glassed together and encapsulated in multiple layers of triaxial fiberglass. Seven transverse bulkheads are bonded into the hull with vinylester resin. The hull-to-deck joint is sealed with 3M's 5200 adhesive, through-bolted, and fiberglassed together, completing the Phoenix 35's Gibraltar-like structure.
One thing I didn't like in terms of construction: The latch that holds open the cabin door is a thin, flimsy friction catch. Kick it once and it'll be bent out of shape forever. The company said it would replace these latches on future models.