Okay, let's cut to the chase here. You're a serious fisherman, and you don't care if a sportfisher's interior is lined in ultrasuede, the cushions are tufted, or the vanity has a lighted mirror. You know, the stuff you hear in most boat tests. What you want to know is how this boat backs down hard on a fish, how quickly it spins, and if the cockpit is big enough to do some serious fishing without everyone stepping on each other.
Bottom line: The Cabo 35 is the best-built sportfisher that I've been thoroughly thought out, engineered, and built to a seaman's credo: seaworthy, fast, agile, accessible, and comfortable.
The fiberglass work simply doesn't get any better, with hatches that fit perfectly into their frames, flawless non-slip from rail to rail, and crisply molded contours. Unlike most other manufacturers, the hulls was built using 100 percent vinylester resin, with bi-directional stitched fabrics. Below the waterline, the hull is soft fiberglass, with vacuum-bagged Airex coring above the water, while the deck is backed with end-grain balsa core reduce weight. A thoughtful diet and careful design keep the weight of the Cabo 35 to 20,000 pounds, including a pair of Cat 3208s.
The Cabo 35 began when Henry Mohrschladt and Michael Howarth sold their Pacific Seacraft Corporation in 1988, after 12 years of building a company that Fortune picked as one of the 100 best American manufacturers. Pacific Seacraft boats are chosen by more sailors going around the world than any other. Prevented from building sailboats by non-compete clause, Mohrschladt was secretly delighted because he was always fascinated over Rybos, Merrits, and other famous sportfishers. He and Howarth promptly set out to build a sportfisher that couldn't be rivaled. The hull lines came of famed naval architect Bill Crealock, while Mohrschladt's superstructure was intended to "capture a look that is sportfishing." After a decade of wrangling with the Air Quality Management District in the Los Angeles area over the use of common boat building chemicals, the duo noted the boundary of the AQMD and then picked the nearest town outside the line, which happened to be Adelanto, a tiny burg in California's high desert.
There they established a factory that followed their previously successful concept: Build a quality product from excellent tooling, and allow no compromises. That they have achieved their goal is easily seen the minute you step into the cockpit of the new Cabo 35.
Unlike most designers, Mohrschladt started with the cockpit, since that was the critical area for fisherman. The Cabo ended up with more than 130 square feet of fighting room on one level. The big fishboxes (five feet by 16 inches) are insulated, gasketed, and securely latched against rattles, and the lip drains are hidden under the deck so there are no ankle-twisting canals across the cockpit. Full-length, piano-style hinges are used on the hatches, and they're not just screwed in, they're through bolted hinges that won't pop even with a cockpit full of water.
Our test boat had optional tackle drawers over the engine boxes which, with pads, provide comfortable seating for spectators. One item of interest to fishermen is the elimination of cockpit bulwarks, so the cockpit floor stretches to the outer hull, allowing you to lock your knees under the gunwales for security.
If you're a foredeck fighter, there's plenty of room to walk around on each side, and on the oversized 1.25-inch, stainless-steel bow rail extends all the way from the wide-open foredeck to the cockpit. The pulpit not only has a toe loop for casting, but the Fortress anchor is recessed so the shank is flush with the deck, eliminating yet another toe stubber. As Howarth says, "this is the most engineered boat ever." Referring wryly to his partner's constant fiddling to improve the product. Another noticeable feature is the stainless steel of the bow rail. Not only is it way above the average in quality here and throughout the Cabo, but every weld is picture perfect.
The bridge is available with either forward or aft steering, and our aft-placed helm gave ample visibility to both foredeck and cockpit. Enough space has been included in the design so that the helmsman doesn't have to move when someone wants to sit in the companion Pompanette seat, and there is easy access to the bench seat, forward of the helm. Storage space is long enough for rods on the bridge, and there is ample foot room under the console for the helmsman. Hynautic steering is standard, and this boat had optional, Kobelt, single-lever engine controls.
So how's she handle you ask? Great! Our boat had a pair of 3208 Caterpillars of 375 hp each, and she averaged 28 knots running from San Diego to Newport Beach at just 2,200 rpm! Without tower, Cabo 35 easily tops 40 mph with a half-load of fuel.
We didn't have rough seas for out test run (you rarely do!), but we ran through mega-yacht wakes to get a sense that this is a seaworthy hull. With 17.5 degrees of deadrise aft and a fine bow, she cuts through swells cleanly. Running strakes extend about two-thirds of the way aft from the bow, and double chine throws spray out flat. Best of all, while stopped broadside in the trough, the Cabo 35 had no tendency to "snap-roll" like a full V-bottom. Part of that is because of the hull shape, and the rest is because the Cabo was designed to have a low center of gravity for superior stability.
At trolling speed, there are a pair of perfect "blue alleys" just half a boat length off the transom, and the wake holds lures in a tantalizing spot, even during turns. You can slam the levers astern and the Cabo backs down nimbly without the fearsome cavitation found on many sportfishers, although the low swim step on our test boat did act as a scoop (Cabo is raising it on future boats).
A hole shot from a dead stop also produced little of the usual bow-in-the-sky routine, and the Cabo gets onto a plane in a level attitude, and throttling back lets you drop off plane the same way. Our test boat was running a pair of 22 by 24 three-blade, lightly cupped props, and there was plenty of bite even in the tightest turns.
I said that you probably didn't care about the interior, but on look and you'll take a sudden interest. A fishing machine yes, but definitely not a Spartan fishing machine. Our test boat had the galley up, with Corian counter filling the port corner of the salon, an Origo two-burner electric cooktop, Quasar microwave, and Norcold AC/DC reefer took care of the chef, while the port aft corner had an L-shaped settee.
To starboard is an eight-foot, circular couch with a table that cleverly spins off center for dinning or entertaining. The teak joinery is superb, and there is storage space everywhere. Standard equipment includes such surprises as recessing halogen lighting, mini-blinds, polished double sinks and even cedar lining in the lockers.
Down two steps is the forward stateroom, with a central double berth, a huge hanging locker, and a private rod locker to hold an even dozen of the skipper's short rods (eight-footers go in a locker behind the settee). Three big drawers are under the bunk, five more are in the bureau, and you'll work to fill all the Cabo's storage.
With either galley up or down, the enclosed head is open and airy, with white fiberglass for low maintenance. A separate shower is an option, but that cuts into the size of the salon couch.
Power options range from the standard twin Crusader 454s, through various Cummings and Volvos, up to a pair of 424-hp 3208TA Cats. Our test boat had a five-kw Northern Lights generator neatly tucked into a flat spot under the cockpit. Other options to consider include forward windows, cockpit or interior helm stations various heights of tower, a guest stateroom, and air conditioning.
To really see how perfectly engineered the Cabo 35 is, you need to spend an hour, as I did, poking into all the nooks that most companies would prefer you to overlook. In the process, I found that the entire bilge (not just the visible bilge) is gelcoated for easy cleaning. Every wire and hose is grommeted for protection where it passes through the bulkhead. Every exhaust hose is double-clamped with T-clamps (five times more expensive than hose clamps). All the electrics are neatly run and accessible, leading to a recessed and backlit master panel. In fact, everything is readily accessible, from the rubber posts to the outboard sides of each engine, and from the fuel manifold system. It's obvious that this boat was designed, engineered, and built by someone who has barked a few knuckles on less accessible boats.
Mechanically, the Cabo is a marine dream. From the Paneltronics backlit electrical panel (with full indicator lights) to the twin rudders forged from type 316 stainless steel, from fiberglass fuel tanks to the all-white Lewmar forward hatch custom-made for Cabo, this is truly a yachtsman's sportfisher.