The big, white-topped greenie hissed like frying bacon as the boat heeled into the trough. I braced for the slam, anticipating tons of water breaking against the side of the boat. Instead, Cabo’s 44 HTX rode like a duck, the wave gently slapping its lee chine in defiance.
The scene was repeated throughout a day of power-drifting in rough seas. The why of the matter — the alchemic mix of features that provide the 44 HTX the ability to fish in a beam sea with grace instead of snap-rolling its crew off their feet — remains locked in Cabo’s design vault. I can say that this new hull delivers outstanding performance and handling on the drift, on the troll and on the go at speeds exceeding 43 mph. The 44 HTX’s sea legs represent just one of numerous must-see attributes this express fish possesses.
Another is the hardtop with its integral windshield and enclosure. Such “coupe” designs dominate the cruiser market, and with good reason. Hard enclosures eliminate the hassle and visibility issues inherent with canvas and allow for effective topside air conditioning and heating. But the 44 HTX is the first express fish example to hit the grounds. Even Tiara, which has found great success with its coupe-style Sovran cruisers, has yet to fully enclose the helm of its fish boats, such as the 4300 Open ($907,990 with twin 715 hp Cummins QSM-11 diesel inboards) detailed in our July 2010 issue.
The top defines the 44 HTX’s lines, enhancing its aggressive stance. And, since anglers tend to take their boats farther, and in worse conditions, in pursuit of their passion, the top’s built differently from those aboard cruisers. Just as fish boats rarely have ports in the forward stateroom, there is no door in the windshield, nor a retractable sunroof in the 44 HTX’s top, openings the sea might exploit. And no cruiser has teaser reels installed on the underside of its top.
Another difference: visibility. Many expresses force skippers onto tiptoes in order to see over the bow. The 44 HTX’s helm is raised, which helps, but so does the shallow running angle. My inclinometer never exceeded 5 degrees throughout the cruising range, an angle that kept pot buoys and flotsam in view and easy to avoid.
Abaft the helm is an L-shaped lounge with a great view through the expansive windows. The lounge is plush, yet the backrests don’t block the view of the transom corners while the skipper is working a fish or docking. There’s stowage beneath here, enough to hold a ton of stores, safety gear, rods, what have you. A console with tackle stowage, a grill and a refrigerator is to starboard. Weep holes in the drawers keep gear dry. Plus, for a breeze and the tang of salt (and to smell a slick before you see it), the side windows slide open and a hatch is fitted overhead.
Like Viking’s 42 Open (which is powered by Zeus pods and will debut about the time you read this), the 44 HTX has a cockpit that boasts a mezzanine, located to port and wide enough for four to enjoy observing the action. It’s high enough to sit and watch the spread, but I found myself perched atop the aft part of the starboard-side tackle locker/grill console. While there, I noticed there was no nonskid coating on the side decks at the forward end of the cockpit — right where you’d step to go forward. Cabo says it needed to leave this section smooth on hull No. 1 until it saw exactly where the PipeWelders tower legs would land. Subsequent boats won’t have the slick patch, I’m told.
The cockpit taped at more than 100 square feet, so there’s room for a chair. The sole features heavily gasketed, deeply guttered fish boxes and access hatches. A livewell, with clear viewing pane, is at the transom.
The engine room is accessed via a hatch beside the mezzanine. Cabo cut its reputation on fastidious rigging, and the 44 HTX is heir to that legacy. From engine mounts to the smallest clamp, every fitting’s done right. Access outboard and behind the engines is poor; the sheer size of the 1,001 hp Cats is the primary cause. Choosing smaller engines would alleviate the issue, but Cabo has a better idea and showed me plans for a reworked engine room with excellent serviceability even with the big ACERT (advanced combustion emission-reduction technology) diesels in place.
Belowdecks, don’t miss the galley: It spans the aft bulkhead and is fitted with designer fixtures and high-end cabinetry. I found it easy to stand at the athwartship, faux-stone counter while under way. Its location also allows the head to be between the master and aft staterooms. This delivers more privacy than found aboard boats in which the sleeping spaces share a bulkhead. Also cool is that you can opt to fit out the aft stateroom as an “anglers room,” complete with an etched glass marlin, for stowing and displaying your rods and lures.
If outstanding seakeeping, a hardtop enclosure, a cockpit mezzanine and a flexible and innovative cabin arrangement don’t get you to sea-trial Cabo’s 44 HTX, there’s plenty more to like about this boat. Hit the shows, use a keen eye, and see for yourself.