Sure, sometimes I get carried away when I've had a really great boat ride, but this one was one for the record book. In order to give you an idea of how I responded to this boat, here are some raw, unedited notes I made just after running the Davis 58 out of Stuart, Florida, with the legendary Buddy Davis himself:
'Out of the inlet and out into the Gulf Stream, it was - I have to watch my superlatives, because if I use them all up on this boat, I won't be able to top it, but that was one of the most exhilarating rides I've ever had. Running 31 knots into the wind, loping over two-foot waves like a thoroughbred steeplechase mare. Not a drop of spray makes it over the flare of the bows. The tracking was so keen, you could drive -look ma! No hands! And the compass heading hardly moved a hair. The hydraulic power-assisted steering was Audi-like, no - Porche-like. Incredible.'
There we were, heading south against a three-knot current in the Gulf Stream, slicing through a two-to-three-foot swell. We were skirting a thunder squall that was coming onshore just to the south of us, down toward Jupiter. The sequential turbos kicked in one after the other as the twin 1480 HP Detroit Diesels came smoothly up to speed, and what a speed that was. With the throttle wide open, we were making that 70,000 pounds of sportfishing machine do 39.5 knots. Buddy grinned at me up there in the flybridge and said, 'This is a lot of boat to be going that fast.'
Truer words are rarely spoken. The Davis 58 is a lot of boat, and it was a real privilege to give it a go with Buddy Davis as a guide. Call me star struck, I can take it. Buddy started out as a charter boat mate at the age of 13 in Wanchese, North Carolina, up at the top of Pamlico Sound, just inside turbulent Oregon Inlet, then worked his way up to become the captain of his own boats. Like other professional fishermen, Buddy spent his off seasons building boats, learning his craft from the old-timers. The definitive characteristics of boats built for these challenging waters is that exaggerated 'Carolina flare' and the sharp entry of the bows, features that have graced all the boats Buddy has built over the past quarter of a century.
He started out in 1974, building custom boats with juniper-planked hulls, then turned to cold-molded construction techniques, and then fiberglass. He dropped out of the business in the early 1990's, when the slow economy combined with the dreaded luxury tax on yachts to deliver a devastating one-two punch to the whole recreational boating industry. He came back on a smaller scale in the mid-90's, building boats to order, and in 1999, teamed up with Jeff Dickson, whose investment allowed the company to expand its plant in Wanchese to 100,000 square feet of manufacturing space and practically double its production. The new Davis 58 is built as what Buddy calls a 'customized production' boat.
'The fundamental change in the business philosophy was the commitment to new tools and molds and a regimented production flow,' Buddy explains. 'Because of our customization experience, we have determined a pretty good selection of what would normally be considered custom features, and pre-engineered them and pre-priced them so we can give the customer lots more options. If we were totally custom, we'd have no control over cost. I really think we've got the best of both worlds.'
There is no more customization on the exterior of the boat, because of all the new tooling, he explains. 'But we're real flexible within that fiberglass envelope. Between the bulkheads, we can do just about anything within reason. It's not quite Ft. carte blanche', but mechanically we're flexible with engine selection, generator selection, equipment selection and placement. For example, if want an Eskimo ice maker to discharge into your under-deck fish box instead of the bait well, you may want it in the lazarette , we can work with that. Of course, there's some things we can't move, like the engines.'
The engines are positioned precisely to achieve the superb balance that is the hallmark of the 58's performance. Buddy and his design team figured out the physics not just from computer-generated plans, but also from three separate prototypes built from limited production molds. 'That took all the guesswork out of building the molds for the finished models,' he explains. 'We learned a lot from those first boats. Number three to number four, we added 18 inches to the boat length to accommodate a four-cabin, three-head layout for the standard boat. We shortened the cockpit to allow us to add more length to the forward cabin. And we shifted the longitudinal center of gravity aft,' which made all the difference in the boat's stability, he says.
They've concentrated their production efforts to building the new 45 Express, the 58, and a new 70-foot sportfish. These models are marketed primarily through Davis-owned retail facilities, like this new one at Pirates Cove Marina in Port Salerno, just inside the Stuart inlet.
The interior is just as impressive as the performance. Enter the main salon from the spacious cockpit, and you'll be in a big, open area, with an L-shaped settee to port, a dinette to starboard opposite a wide-open galley. The refrigerator and freezer are in drawers under the spacious Corian countertop to one side, the double sink and stovetop on the other, with loads of storage in cabinets and cupboards above and below.
Step down to the accommodations deck underneath that long, wide bow, and you'll find the master stateroom to port with a private head and shower. There are two guest staterooms to starboard, each with over/under bunks. These share a head with a separate shower stall. A 'VIP guest' stateroom in the bow has its own private head and shower and a double island berth.
Up in the flybridge, the helm is on the centerline and features Davis' custom teak helm 'bubble' console with single-lever controls, stainless control handles and steering wheel. There's a wrap-around lounge area forward of the helm station.
The cockpit features a circulating baitwell, insulated drink box, large insulated fish boxes built into the sole and the transom, a hatch down into the cavernous engine room, a tackle center, and a top-loading freezer with a removable bait tray.