I headed to the Sunset Marina just inside the Ocean City, Md., inlet where I met up with Roger Mooney from the Jarrett Bay dealership, based in North Carolina with offices in Baltimore, and the captain, Scott Steffy, local charterboat and delivery skipper. The boat was impressive from first sight. Of course, the first thing you have to do is scale the tuna tower to the steering station way up top and marvel at the elevation and the view directly down onto the fighting chair in the cockpit and forward across the broad foredeck. The 150-square-foot flybridge features a molded fiberglass lounge to port and an L-shaped bench seat to starboard, plus an expansive helm pod with a pop-up electronics dash.
Then you scramble down into the engine room and check out the twin 1,550-hp CAT diesels housed in an immaculate white setting, which, owing to the relatively skinny 4-foot-2-inch draft, does not have stand-up headroom, but certainly provides plenty of access to these behemoths. The shallow draft is made possible by recessing the shafts and props in partial tunnels.
Then you pop open every hatch in the cockpit, inspecting the bait freezers, the bait-prep station, the 80-inch macerating fishbox under the sole at the foot of the custom Pompanette fighting chair and the transom gate that opens underneath the broad teak cap rail.
Jarrett Bay teamed up with Hatteras last December, providing sales as well as service support from their 175-acre industrial park located on North Carolina's Intracoastal Waterway in Beaufort. Additional service facilities will be established in both Virginia and Maryland. Jarrett Bay is best know for its own custom sportfishermen, and this new partnership allows them to present what they call a 'Carolina edition' of the Hatteras production boats, providing semicustom touches like bright-finished teak toe rails, teak cap rail around the cockpit, and teak trim on the helm pod. 'It gives the look of a custom boat without all the expense,' Mooney explains.
The generous 17-foot-3-inch beam provides vast interior space. The saloon provides a full 195 square feet of room for entertaining and lounging. It's stylishly finished in high-gloss cherry paneling and cabinetry, with faux marble counters on the U-shaped galley and the dining table. An L-shaped settee upholstered in fawn faux leather has a burled cherry cocktail table, the top decorated with an inlaid compass rose. Air conditioning is routed through fluted wood valances extending the full length of the ceiling.
In the forward bulkhead, the entertainment center hides behind a pair of attractive cherry doors obviously cut out of the paneling so the grain matches perfectly. You can plop down in the settee and enjoy the 27-inch TV with a DVD/CD player and an AM/FM surround-sound stereo receiver.
Under the faux marble counter separating the saloon from the galley, an open expanse a full seven feet across, there are Sub-Zero refrigerator and freezer drawers and an optional trash compactor. Against the forward bulkhead, forming the other side of the U, a deep molded sink and a four-burner flush-top electric stove are mounted in another expanse of faux marble. Cupboards above provide deep storage, and hide the Sharp Carousel convection-microwave oven behind those beautifully finished cabinet doors. There's plenty more storage in six deep drawers and cabinets underneath as well. Check out the sole in the galley, made of Amitco vinyl strip flooring that's just as pretty as real teak and holly, but much more resilient and easier to maintain.
A staircase leads down the companionway to a central passage. Immediately to starboard lies a guest cabin with twin berths and a huge cedar-lined hanging locker. A mirrored door leads to the head shared by the forward guest cabin. This head has a cherry vanity with a bowed face and a faux marble countertop. The separate shower stall has a molded-in seat and plenty of elbow room and headroom.
The forward guest cabin is equal to the owner's stateroom on many other boats of similar size. There's a centerline island double berth flanked by large cedar-lined hanging lockers and loads of storage in a large cedar-lined bin underneath the mattress. The mattress rests on a hinged platform that lifts with the help of gas-assisted pistons.
A Sharp flat-screen TV is mounted in the bulkhead. The bulkheads in this cabin are upholstered in fawn-toned vinyl. In the passageway leading aft to the door to this cabin, a hatch in the bulkhead hides a Whirlpool over/under washer/dryer, perhaps one of the more accessible arrangements of any such convenience I've seen onboard a boat.
The owner's stateroom is amidships, to port of the passageway. This features more of that high-gloss cherry paneling. A semicircular four-drawer bureau is built into the forward bulkhead underneath the Sharp flat-screen TV. Side-by-side doors open to reveal a really enormous cedar-lined hanging locker. The queen-size island berth has a hinged mattress with cedar-lined storage underneath as well. A door leads forward into the private head and shower, again featuring a curved-front vanity similar to the guest head and a large separate shower stall with a molded seat.
After the tour, we dropped the lines and Captain Steffy guided the big boat away from the slip and out through the Ocean City Inlet into the Atlantic. The wind was blowing about 10 knots out of the southeast and the waves were about a two-foot chop. While this wasn't anything like the water off of Cape Hatteras that these boats were designed to tackle, it was evident that the trademark Hatteras double chines in the hull, the sharp entry and the variable deadrise that provides flatter sections aft, plus the exaggerated 'Carolina flare' of the bow made for a soft, dry ride as we boxed the compass, taking the waves easily on all sides.
The helm station with its pod console features power steering and single-lever electronic engine controls fitted with mechanical backups and trolling valve switches. The only negative impression was that the CAT engine monitors were mounted in the overhead electronics box, and the hard top is so high it was awkward keeping an eye on them. Still, driving this boat was a delight. The steering and the controls were smooth and responsive. We logged a top speed of 38 knots at 2290 rpm heading north and 36.6 knots heading south, taking the waves on our port quarter. To give you an idea of how smooth the ride was, I can actually read the notes I jotted down in my little book. Backing off a bit, we cruised at a comfortable 33 knots at about 2000 rpm.
After hailing a passing fisherman to take me onboard to take some running shots of the boat, we headed back into the marina.