Tapping the Glendinning electronic controls forward and feeling the solid thunk of a pair of 485-bhp diesels kicking in, I pulled Pursuit's newest and biggest fishing machine off the dock. It's usually a familiar sensation, but on this test it seemed like electricity flowed from those throttles right into my body, jolting me into sportfishing hyperdrive. Why so much adrenaline during a simple departure? Get on a 3800 Express, and you'll feel it too. What's more, you'll feel the envious eyes of the other guys on the dock on your back. The 3800 Express is a truly refined fishing machine. I couldn't make this boat much sweeter than it already is, no matter how hard I tried. Pursuit has raised the bar that every other boat in this category must jump.
PIT CREW. Despite its smooth lines, the 3800 Express is not just a fashion plate. Do a quick check of the cockpit, and there's no mistaking the boat's fish-first attitude. For starters, look at the livewell, mounted forward on the port side. It holds 50 gallons, plenty of water to keep dozens of goggle eyes swimming all day long, and has a viewing port. I was sorry to see that it's not insulated, but it's gasketed so you won't have wet feet when the going gets rough. Next to it is a sink and rigging board that sit over tackle stowage trays. That rigging board has some unusual grooves running around it, which channel fish goo back into the sink as you rig baits-a thoughtful touch. A knife/pliers holder sits next to this station. The only downside to this unit? It adds a whopping $4,450 to the boat's base cost, which is higher than the competition from the get-go. In fact, if you add in all this boat's listed options, the price edges over half a million. Compare that to Rampage's 38 Express, which starts at $311,000 with twin Cummins 450-bhp diesel inboards and includes the livewell in its list cost. Cabo's 35 Express is $354,502 with twin 450-bhp Caterpillars and the livewell, too.
The Highs: Windshield is the biggest, strongest you'll ever see on any 38' express. Rod stowage is functional and decorative. Best gaff stowage in the galaxy. Throttle response in an instant.
The Lows: Get ready to spend BIG bucks for optional equipment. Large pots and pans won't fit on the stovetop's burners. Helm seat should have a manual adjustment. Insulate the livewell, please.
The starboard side of the cockpit houses a bait cooler ($3,600 makes it a freezer) under an aft-facing bait-watcher's seat. Behind this seat is a wetbar, which backs the electrically adjustable helm seat. Just press a button and the seat slides forward or back on a worm gear-you'll never fight one of those release bars again. However, I've seen similar electrical units fail in saltwater conditions; a manual adjustment would be more reliable. What you might not notice here is the slot between the helm seat/wetbar/aft seat unit and the inwale. It runs the entire length of the unit and is just the right width for stowing gaffs. I mention it because with a few add-on gaff mounts, this makes for the safest gaff stowage I've ever seen, without giving up the instant accessibility you need when a big fish comes up to the boat faster than you expected. After swinging the fish into the cockpit, drop it into the macerated, so-big-you-can-nap-in-it fishbox.
There are a total of 10 rocket launchers, 6 across the top and 4 on the tower legs. Of course, you need dedicated rod stowage in the cabin, too. Competing boats like the Cabo and the Rampage both have stowage lockers down below, but few if any production boats have rodboxes like those on the 3800 Express: sole-to-ceiling glass doors, trimmed in teak, provide a glorious view of your big guns as they rest in the locker. Eight International 50s will ride in comfort and style here. What about your spinning rods? Pursuit thought of those, too. Pop up the hatch in the center of the cabin sole, and there's a horizontal rack that will hold half a dozen rigs.
Yeah, that rod locker is a real eye-catcher, but there's more belowdecks. Take the teak and maple with brass-inlaid leaping marlin galley table, for example. And check out those bar stools, which turn the four-seat dinette into a six-seater-they have an extended fourth leg, which slides into a female mount in the sole, locking the bar stool in place. Want to move it to the other side of the table so you can watch a movie via the VCR or the 11" flat-screen TV ($5,000)? Just pop the fourth leg out of the mount, walk the stool over and drop it into a different mount.
One thing I didn't like in the cabin was the stovetop. It's recessed into the simulated-granite countertop, which looks nice, but it's too small for large pots and pans. Otherwise the galley is in top form, with a built-in space-saving coffeemaker, microwave/convection oven, refrigerator/freezer, and simulated-granite sink with cover.
PITCHER'S MOUND. Despite the fishy cockpit and the stylish cabin, my favorite spot on the 3800 Express is at the helm. Just look at that windshield-never seen one like it before, have you? It's a two-piece molded frame, with massive supports and a height off the deck of 6'4". Ever stand at a helm, only to discover that the windshield frame was right at eye level? Of course you have-but unless you play in the NBA, that won't be an issue.
As slick and packed with goodies as this boat is, you might think it would be heavy and, as a result, slow. But in fact, the 3800 Express' 21,800-pound weight is right in line with the Rampage (21,000 pounds) and is noticeably less than the Cabo (24,000 pounds). The Rampage keeps weight to a minimum by coring the hull as well as the bottom and the deck of the boat; the Pursuit and Cabo, on the other hand, have solid-glass hull bottoms with coring from the waterline up and in the decks. The Pursuit's coring is balsa, and the stringer grid is fiberglass-encapsulated plywood and foam.
When we tested the Rampage it topped out at 30.1 mph and cruised at 24.2 mph. The 3800 Express hit 37.2 mph, and cruised at 34.2 mph. Bear in mind, though, that the 3800 Express had a 70-horsepower advantage.
More surprising than the 3800 Express' speed is its handling. I was impressed at how quickly the boat spun with the engines opposed, so I grabbed a stopwatch and marked a 360-degree circle in a 17 seconds. Most boats this size take 20 to 25 seconds to go 360 degrees, and many take more. Put both throttles in reverse and alternately rev the engines. The stern kicks around to either side the moment you apply throttle, so it'll be a breeze to chase down fish from this platform. When you pour on the coal in reverse, vibration from the running gear is no more than you'd expect. Put the pointy end toward the waves now. Throw the throttles down.
I raced through two- and three-foot rollers with the iron horses wide open and discovered the 3800 Express' wave-thrashing attitude leaves the captain as comfortable-and, thanks to the Goliath-size windshield, as dry-as he was back at the dock. Except, of course, that he's a whole lot more excited.
LAST WORD. It's the biggest Pursuit ever built-and we say the best.
Displacement (lbs., approx.)......21,800
Minimum cockpit depth...2'2"
Max. cabin headroom.....6'2"
Fuel capacity (gal.).......450
Water capacity (gal.)......100
Price (w/standard power)....$360,000
Price (w/test power)....$385,000
Standard power Twin 450-bhp Cummins 6CTA diesel inboards.
Optional power Twin 485-bhp Volvo Penta 74P diesel inboards.
Test boat power Twin 485-bhp Volvo Penta 74P in-line-6 diesel inboards with 420 cid, 4.20" bore x 5.30" stroke, swinging 26" x 30" four-bladed Nibral props through 1.5:1 reductions.
Standard equipment (major items) Bow pulpit w/roller; 4 gunwale-mounted rodholders; fighting chair backing plate; fresh/ raw-water washdowns; electrically actuated helm seat; bait rigging station; tackle stowage drawers; coaming bolsters; compass; chart flat; refrigerator/freezer; microwave; 2-burner stovetop; Corian sink; coffeemaker; vertical rod stowage locker; Pullman berth/ settee; vacuum-flush commode; AM/FM/cassette stereo w/4 speakers and remote; VDO instrument package; shorepower w/65' cords; trim tabs; battery charger; CO monitor; auto. fire extinguisher system; 11-gal. water heater; Teleflex hydraulic steering; rudder position indicator; dripless shaft seals.