You need three boats. One for cruising, one for fishing, and another for getting out your high-speed ya-ya’s. You might find a boat that satisfies two, but three? Well, we found ’em. Each can cruise, fish, and perform with aplomb. With outboards, draft and maintenance are minimized and interior space is maximized. All are center or side consoles, with seating between the helm and cabin, a generous cockpit aft, and complete cabins. The only question is which to choose.
CONTENDER 38 E, www.contender.com 800-645-2906
|Displacement (lbs., approx.):||12,700|
|Fuel capacity (gal.):||480|
|Water capacity (gal.):||30|
|Price (approx.; w/triple 250-hp Yamaha F-250s)||$410,000|
PERFORMANCE: Our tester topped 53 mph. Best economy is at 34 mph, burning 31 gph for 1.2 mpg. It gets better than 1 mpg at all speeds between 20 and 39 mph, so expect 576 miles of range. Its conventional deep-V hull mushes chop and crests swells without cantilevering the bow and dropping. It turns when you ask, leaning and carving constantly regardless of engine trim or speed. It planes without loss of visibility forward.
DETAILS: The hull and deck are glassed and bolted together. Strakes are filled, and the hull has PVC coring in the sides and a solid glass bottom. Midship cleats are near the helm for easy solo docking. Burled-grained hardwood tops a chromed, stainless pedestal that converts the master berth; two more can sleep in the aft cabin. There’s a marble counter in the galley, a two-burner stove, an under-mount sink, and stainless appliances.
CRUISING AND FISHING: Cruising: Forward master berth and aft stateroom sleep 4; full galley; all-in-one head/shower w/electric commode; generator and a/c; 30a shorepower; 30a battery charger; flat-panel TV/DVD player; removable transom bench; cockpit bar and drinkbox; electric grill; windlass; transom door and boarding platform. Fishing: Two 110-gal. fishboxes; two 45-gal. livewells; rigging station; chilled baitbox; tackle stowage; 4 gunwale rodholders; raw-water washdown.
HIGHS & LOWS ****
HIGHS: Aft cabin a real plus. Best fishboat of the three. Proven hull delivers a predictable ride with no quirks. The midsize boat if you go by the specs, it felt the biggest. Built-in cubbies in cabin are what boaters need for stuff. ****
LOWS: Grit nonslip tough to clean and doesn’t look as good as the molded diamond pattern of the other two. Underwater metals not bonded. No ventilation in head. Custom boat means lots of decisions and, perhaps, a long wait for delivery.
FOUNTAIN 38 LUXURY EDITION, www.fountainboats.com 252-975-2000
|Displacement (lbs., approx.):||13,600|
|Fuel capacity (gal.):||300|
|Water capacity (gal.):||31|
|Price (approx.;****w/triple 275-hp Mercury Verados)||$349,924|
PERFORMANCE: We hit 63 mph, making it the fastest. Best economy is at 48 mph, burning 39 gph for 1.2 mpg. It gets better than 1 mpg between 21 and 45 mph so count on 360 miles of range. The double-stepped hull delivered nimble high-speed handling, a quick holeshot, and a satisfying thwap as we skipped over the chop. Hardover turns at 30 mph induced excessive lean until I learned to trim the engines “neutral” with hull bottom.
DETAILS: The hull and deck are glassed and bolted together. The layup has foam coring in the hullsides and solid glass in the bottom. With a proprietary water pickup, the genset can be used at top speed. The leaning post adjusts, and the washdown through-hull is plumbed to two pumps. The V-berth sleeps two. There’s a single-burner stove, refrigerator, microwave, and sink. The head has a commode and a folding shower seat.
CRUISING AND FISHING: Cruising: V-berth sleeps 2; full galley; all-in-one head/shower w/vacuum-flush commode; generator and a/c; 30a shorepower; 30a battery charger; water heater; flat-panel TV/DVD player; AM/FM/CD stereo; integral transom bench; transom shower; half-tower w/canvas enclosure; windlass; anchor chute w/ss strike plate; transom door. Fishing: Two 37-gal. fishboxes; 55-gal. livewell; 4 gunwale rodholders; rocket launchers; raw-water washdown.
HIGHS & LOWS ****
HIGHS: Fastest of the three. Metal fabrication is top-notch: Check the standard half-tower’s pipework. Wide-flange stringer grid distributes hull loads. Unlike the others, it’s a stock boat, so you won’t have to wait long to get one.
LOWS: You’ll curse the small anchor-locker access plate the first time the windlass snarls the rode. Through-hull fitting access not as good as the others. Bow access okay, while others are excellent.
INTREPID 390 SPORT YACHT, www.intrepidboats.com 954-922-7544
|Displacement (lbs., approx.):||15,500|
|Fuel capacity (gal.):||400|
|Water capacity (gal.):||60|
|Price (approx.;****w/triple 275-hp Mercury Verados)||$355,000|
PERFORMANCE: We hit 55.5 mph. Best economy is at 42 mph, burning 41 gph for 1.0 mpg. Its best mpg threshold is between 18 and 42 mph, yielding a 400-mile range. This single-stepped hull is so well designed that the trim is built-in, barely affected by engine angle. It punches through waves, riding over crests and through troughs without falling in a hole. It comes around when you turn the wheel regardless of speed or trim.
DETAILS: The hull and deck are glassed and bolted together. The hull is vacuum-bagged with PVC core in the sides and solid glass in the bottom. Deck and liners are resin-infused. Urethane paint is used instead of gel coat. The cockpit has an electric chaise lounge. There’s a sink under lids, microwave, and drawer refrigerator. Topside windows, skylights, and hatches provide light and ventilation. Check out the separate stall shower in head.
CRUISING AND FISHING: Cruising: Forward V-berth and convertible settee sleeps 3; galley w/sink, microwave, and drawer refrigerator; head w/separate shower stall and electric commode; 30a shorepower; 30a battery charger; water heater; reclining lounges/benches forward; integral cooler; electric “hide-away” helm electronics pod; windlass; anchor chute; 2 dive platforms; transom door. Fishing: 210-gal. fishbox; 11-gal. livewell; raw-water washdown.
HIGHS & LOWS ****
HIGHS: Most livable cabin of the three, in part because it’s the largest boat, but mostly due to generous light and ventilation. Fiberglass headliner (the others are vinyl) another plus. Best finished, from hull paint to “hidden” hatch hinges. ****
LOWS: Through-hull fittings are bonded, but some wire ter-minals lacked sealant to thwart corrosion. Shortest standards list of the three — it’s truly a custom-production boat. Yikes! A year-plus wait for delivery.
The Bottom Line
The Contender 38 E could fish the tournament trail, cruises nicely, and sleeps the most. But its sand nonslip is a faux pas, and its performance doesn’t offer the excitement of the others. Fountain’s 38 Luxury Edition provides true go-fast thrills and weekend cruising. It’s an easy-to-buy turnkey package, but that means giving up some of the customization offered by the others. Also, its aft bench will get in the way of anglers. That leaves Intrepid’s 390 Sport Yacht. It has terrific cruising attributes, great fishing, and a fun-to-run ride, making it our king of waterborne do-it-alls. But because most amenities are à la carte, purchasing gets complex, and you’ll have to wait.