Fast, smooth-riding, and versatile, Contender’s 38 Express sports deluxe cabin accommodations and a cockpit arrangement more sociable than a casino hostess. Looking to an inboard express cruiser? Look here instead, especially if you desire performance and efficiency. With triple 250-hp Yamaha outboards, the 38 Express topped 1 mpg between 29 and 38 mph (triple 350-hp Yamahas purportedly push it to 60 mph). Crank the wheel: The 38 Express responds instantly, delivering confident thrills. In chop its deep-V hull and relatively narrow length-to-beam ratio allow for a smoother ride than most inboard cruisers, which at this length are about a foot wider and have less deadrise. The tradeoff is that for the same LOA, inboard cruisers get more interior volume, though outboards increase stowage beneath the cockpit.
There’s no compromise in luxury. The forward V-berth converts to a sitting area served by a burled wood table mounted on a massive chromed-stainless pedestal. This drops, creating a queen berth. The aft cabin features twin berths, sitting headroom, and a flat-panel TV. Lockers and shelves are abundant throughout.
A real marble top gleams in the galley, inset with a sink and two-burner stove. A stainless-steel refrigerator is underneath. Miters are tight, the fit is exact, and a warren of cubbies stows your miscellany. Swing open the curved wood head door and you’ll find a vanity topped with more real rock. A teak floor grate adds a salty touch of class and enhances drainage.
A new cockpit paradigm awaits those used to inboard express cruisers. The helm is aft and to starboard, leaving space between it and the cabin bulkhead for huge C-shaped seating with plush upholstery. Two can sit at the helm bolsters, and a third can use the unique console/bolster to port. Lift the hinged cushions to find a grill and cold boxes. Air-conditioning is ducted to the helm deck. A semi-custom builder, Contender will accessorize the 38 Express to your heart’s content. Icemakers, more fuel, tops, towers, canvas, and so forth are yours for the asking.
The huge cockpit is self-bailing and has fishboxes, tackle drawers, and rod stowage. Six guys can maul tuna from here one day, while six chaise lounges can be arrayed the next. Few boats can do so much.