John page williams
The following review was written by John Page Williams, Editor-at-large, Chesapeake Bay Magazine. John, senior naturalist for the Chesapeake Bay Foundation, has been a regular contributor to Chesapeake Bay Magazine for 30 years, specializing in environmental issues, nature, wildlife, fishing and boats. He has been testing new and used boats for the magazine's Time-Tested and New Boat News departments since 1998.

MARCH 2013
 
   
LOA  28' 10"
Beam  9' 9"
Draft 3' 4" (engines down)
Displacement 7,053lb
Fuel 106 gal
Water 26 gal

Beneteau's new Barracuda 9 (so named because of its nine-meter hull) is a new take on what some call a commuter boat—a class of fast, seaworthy boats with pilothouses set in the center of open cockpits. Powered typically by twin transom-mounted 225-hp four-stroke outboards, the Barracuda offers useful cruising speeds in the 20s and low 30s, with fuel burn in the range of 15 to 20 gallons per hour. That's good performance for a boat that displaces more than 7,000 pounds.

The key is her AirStep hull, a proprietary Beneteau design in which a forward-facing scoop on each side of the pilothouse forces air through a hose down to an outlet at the keel, about 60 percent of the way aft from the bow's stemhead. There it flows over a pair of forward-facing steps to provide a cushion of air upon which the after part of the hull rides. Unlike the stepped hulls of go-fast boats, which are designed to vent air, the AirStep hull holds the air inside the chines.

On a breezy, chilly December day, our test boat rose quickly onto plane with minimal bow rise and rode easily over a 2- to 3-foot chop in the open Bay. We confess to grinning broadly, because we were piloting her from the (optional) flybridge, securely enclosed as she played in the seas.

In addition to the AirStep, the Barracuda 9 offers seating for four in the pilothouse, with fold-down tables, a forward V-berth and an enclosed head, and comfortable seating both forward and aft of the pilothouse. A small generator with A/C and heat is optional, as is a bow thruster. Base price is $140,000 with a pair of Yamaha 225s. Beneteau USA, Annapolis, Md. 410-990-0270; www.Barracuda9.com.