It was at the powerboat show in Annapolis that I met up with this pretty sportfisher built on a classic lobster boat hull by Nauset Marine on Cape Cod. I hopped onboard at the closing moments of the show, when the crowd dwindled on the floating docks and the dealers started itching to hit their starter buttons for the big breakdown. That's when the dock crews unleash the controlled chaos of more than 400 new boats that have been penned in at the Annapolis City Dock all weekend long. At precisely 6 p.m. they begin to break loose and head for home, eager to get going whether they're just slipping across the harbor or making the mad dash a thousand miles down the Intracoastal Waterway for the next show in Ft. Lauderdale.
David Deschamps, the tall, mustachioed craftsman in charge of Nauset's boatbuilding division, and Jack Rogers, the bearded charter captain who's the new owner of this custom 38 Sport Fisherman, were taking off at dawn the next day, taking advantage of a weather window to run the boat back to Orleans on the outer elbow of Cape Cod. I had about an hour to check out the boat before the October sun set over the State House dome. But that was enough time to get a good impression, from the steering station on top of the custom tuna tower to the cleanable finish in the bilges.
David Deschamps explained that the hull is the old Bruno Stillman 42 hull, shortened to 38 feet. 'With a beam of fourteen and a half feet, it was a little narrow for a forty-two hull by modern standards, and so we shortened the mold four feet and now it's ideal.'
The new owner, Jack Rogers, grew up in Orleans, near the Nauset yard. 'I had them build this boat to run charters,' he explained. 'We fish for stripers and bluefish and run about one hundred fifty miles from Chatham to the canyons for yellowfin tuna and marlin and mahi mahi in the summers, and for bluefin tuna in the fall. I spend enough time going to and from the tuna grounds at night to know I wanted top-shelf electronics and an inside steering station where I'd be warm and safe, and stock boats didn't offer that. The tuna tower separates at the hardtop, and I'll run it for the rest of the season without the tower. That's the great thing about Nauset. You can have it the way you want it.'
Other custom touches include the foam-insulated fishbox in the cockpit sole big enough for two 600-pound tuna, a 600-pound-per-day chip icemaker, 8 kilowatt generator, a 600-gallon fuel tank, and an extraordinarily large livewell. 'When we live-bait fish for tuna we use seven or eight pound bluefish, so the livewell is one hundred gallons, circulating 1750 gallons per hour, which is what you need to keep fish that big alive. I can stay out until I run out of food or fuel,' Rogers noted with some satisfaction.
Rogers reported his wife Brenda loves the boat for its 'fairly plush' accommodations, including a good-size V-berth in the master stateroom and the layout of the galley in the main saloon. One Corian countertop runs along the starboard side aft of the inside helm station with two refrigerator drawers and a freezer underneath. A second L-shaped counter on the other side features a two-burner electric stove, a deep sink, a microwave oven underneath, and storage in drawers and cabinets. The dinette just forward of this area is raised so you can appreciate the 360-degree vistas through the windows surrounding the saloon while seated at the L-shaped settee. The dinette converts to a double berth. Accommodations include a forward stateroom and a second stateroom with over/under berths. There are separate head and shower compartments.
The cockpit features that huge livewell in the transom, underneath a truly handsome teak cap rail. The transom has a big tuna gate and no swim platform. Massive cockpit lights mounted on the flybridge hardtop provide 2.5 million candlepower, sure to make the boat stand out while drift fishing in the shipping lanes at night.
The bait prep station is mounted on the forward bulkhead to the left of the sliding door to the saloon, and the icemaker lies to the right. Above the icemaker, there's an outside helm station with throttles and bow thruster controls, plus a repeater for the chartplotter mounted above.
The ladder leading up to the flybridge runs athwartships, angled for an easy climb. The flybridge is quite spacious, with a long bench seat forward of the console. The helm is just slightly off center, to starboard. We dodged the other boats heading out the harbor and slipped up the Severn River, underneath the highway bridges. The wind and squalls that had plagued the show all weekend had left behind a placid evening. The view from the flybridge was stellar,not just the scenery, but also the visibility across the high bows as well as aft over the big, open cockpit to the stern.
The twin Cummins 480-hp C-series diesels provided plenty of power. We clocked 17.7 knots at 1940 rpm for a slow cruising speed, burning 23 gallons per hour; 20.5 knots at 2150 rpm with a burn rate of 30 gallons per hour; and a top speed of 27.3 knots at 2660 rpm, burning 38 gallons per hour, according to the Cummins engine monitors on the dash.
The ride was smooth and steady, thanks in part to the silky Mathers electronic controls with the one-lever synchronization mode, but mostly due to the classic lobster boat hull designed by the legendary naval architect Royal Lowell. The boat made tight, controlled turns with absolutely no heeling, and even though you'd expect the flybridge, fiberglass hardtop and tuna tower to make it a bit top-heavy, it stayed quite stable in the troughs generated by the wakes.
We headed back through the harbor and found a berth just as dusk set in. When I checked in with them by cell phone the next afternoon, they were already off Atlantic City, New Jersey.