I love crawling around in bilges and engine rooms. I've found them exciting-even mystical-ever since I discovered an antique goop-encrusted Sears screwdriver in the lowest reaches of dear old Dad's 31' Trojan. Many years and bilge-archeology projects later, I still keep my fingers crossed whenever I creep belowdecks. So stepping under the helm of the Cabo 31', raised via hydraulic rams, I felt like Indiana Jones on the verge of a great discovery.

I looked for a rough edge, unfinished surface or unlit area. I tried to find seams, exposed glass or sharp burrs. But instead of merely gelcoating the engine room (a procedure many builders don't even bother with) Cabo actually built another section for the boat-a molded engine-room liner, mounted between hull and deck. The Cabo's engine room is, in short, finished as well as or better than the salons and galleys on most boats.

After dragging myself out of the first engine room I've ever been tempted to weekend in, I checked out the cabin. Teak and holly deck and teak trim throughout give it a woodsy glow. All the standard goodies are present, along with Lewmar portholes, rod stowage cabinets for eight rigs and a freshwater head. Then I opened the electric panel on the starboard bulkhead. The wiring inside could be photographed for any electrical textbook. Every strand of tinned-copper wire (which holds up to the saltwater environment better than more commonly used copper wire is color-coded and tie-wrapped neatly in place. The whole affair is as organized as a column of army ants.

Cast off the mooring lines and the Cabo continues to impress. Pouncing through a 2' chop in the Nantucket Sound, the Cabo exhibited only one performance flaw: Significant bowrise, probably the result of her far-aft fuel tanks, blocked visibility for a few seconds as we came on plane. But once over the hump, the Cabo provided a very stable, smooth ride thanks to the 45-degree entry and beefy 18,300-pound displacement. Many express fishboats with the same LOA as the Cabo weigh thousands of pounds less-and while you'll pay for this extra weight with higher fuel consumption, you won't lose your fillings on the way to blue water.

With our test boat's twin Caterpillar 3116TA's, the Cabo 31 retails for 208,800. That puts it in the same class as Bertram's 30' Moppie, which lists for $196,200 equipped with the same power. Add the fishing features that come on the standard Cabo and the Bertram will cost $205,000.