Contender 39 LS

The Contender 39 LS is a serious offshore heavyweight.

It’s rare to get to test a boat intended for offshore use in truly nasty ocean conditions. But when Contender Boats said we should take its 39 LS center console out on a day when the charter boats were turning around and returning to port, I jumped at the chance to really put this boat to the test.

We ran smack into a set of eight- to 10-foot swells that the 39 LS took with ease. The trio of monstrous 350 hp Yamaha outboards provided plenty of push, and the digital controls gave me precise throttle control as the boat left and re-entered the water, a requisite for running breaking inlets.

I headed south, which put the waves on the beam, often the most challenging of conditions for a V-bottom, but we took minimal spray and the boat tracked straight even with a 20-knot wind trying to blow us off course.

The 39 LS’ twin-step bottom, designed by John Cosker of Mystic Powerboats fame, was drawn with offset strakes and convex sections in the bow to help carry the nose out of the water. This puts the propellers in good contact with the water to keep the boat moving forward in rough conditions and still lets it run at speeds exceeding 70 mph when you have the opportunity and inclination to pin the levers.

When we headed back in, I got to see how the 39 LS handled big following seas, and Cosker’s design again met the challenge. I could keep the boat on the backside of the waves and ride them in through the big following seas with no tendency to broach.

You'll get similar performance in less-than-ideal conditions from the Intrepid 400 (Boating, January 2010), which retails for $383,100 including power steering with the same power as my test boat had, and from the Nor-Tech 390 Sport Open, $408,000 with the triple Yamaha 350s. The 39 LS is a little faster than the Intrepid, which topped out around 65 mph during our test, but the Nor-Tech reportedly runs 76 mph.

What I also noticed during our rough-water run was that, when the 39 LS launched and re-entered the water, I heard no rattles, never felt the hull flex or creak beneath me and never saw the T-top frame wobble. The LS line is intended to please more than serious fishermen with more family-friendly options (more on this later), but Contender knew that buyers of this boat would expect the rugged construction for which the company is known. Those three mighty outboards mount on a transom cored with Divinycell foam. The manufacturer cores the hull sides with balsa and reinforces the strakes with putty. The stringers and deck liner are also cored with Divinycell. The hardtop frame is formed out of 3-inch-diameter, powder-coated aluminum tubing and assembled with heavy-duty stainless-steel fasteners. In a touch that looks cool and adds functionality, the underside of the T-top is finished in the same color as the hull. The dark green top on my test boat helped reduce glare on the instrument panel. Except for the single forward bow cleat (I’d prefer two), the spring and stern cleats are positioned beneath the deck with the dock lines running through hawsepipes.

My lone gripe at the helm is that I would have liked to have stood a little taller. Contender offers an optional step for runts like me. Yamaha's digital controls allow you to run all three engines on one lever. To deter theft and keep you from having to carry around three separate keys, the 39 LS has a single key that energizes the battery switches. Then you power up the motors with push-button ignition switches.

Looking at the more family-oriented features on the 39 LS, you can get an optional starboard side-boarding gate ($13,185) that folds neatly into the cockpit sole. Positioned on the aft side of the helm seat structure, a wet bar features a grill beneath a Corian countertop, a drawer-style refrigerator and additional stowage. For stowing fenders and dock lines, there are plenty of options given the number of in-sole lockers. If you still want to fish this boat, there’s a tuna-size box on the starboard side.

Within the center console, you’ll find a commode with more than enough sitting headroom for adults. On the front side of the console is another bench seat with stowage in the base. There is a place for everything aboard the 39 LS.

In the bow, you’ll find the best seats aboard, thanks to an optional feature (an extra $1,778) found only on the 39 LS. Hydraulically activated backrests on the aft end of each of the nearly seven-foot-long lounges raise to turn them into chaises. Put them in the down position and lower the three-position table halfway to turn the area into a giant playpen with filler cushions. And since the 39 LS can handle even the biggest conditions with ease, you’ll feel comfortable knowing mom and the kids can hang out there while you cruise the waves on a calm day.

Comparable models: Intrepid 400, Nor-Tech 390 Sport Open