Black Fin proves a little salt is good for you.

Considering the rapid acceptance and success of the other hulls in Black Fin's Combi series, which include the 27 and the 29, the new 36 should come as no surprise. Although the hull is exactly the same C. J. Jannace design as the 36 Convertible, quite a few changes have been made in the topside and belowdecks design to create a truly "open-air" configuration for those who wish to enjoy good weather, scenery, and boating in general to the utmost.

This isn't to say that the bridgedeck cannot be completely enclosed with canvas and clear vinyl when Mother Nature is in a not-so-pleasant mood. And in fact one buyer has already ordered exactly that with optional air conditioning (and heat) that includes the bridgedeck when buttoned up. A neat way to enjoy the best of all worlds with great versatility.

Bone In Her Teeth - Mixing it up offshore with Marlin tower from Atkinson. 

From an angling standpoint, the 36 Combi could probably be best described as a day fisherman with limited short-term cruising capability. Certainly she has the bunk space for several adults. And while her 420-gallon fuel tankage is more than adequate for a long offshore haul to fish a distant canyon (with twin 6-71TIB diesels her max range at best planing cruise is 278 miles at 20 mph, 1600 rpm, 24 gph), she hasn't the capacity (or design) for long-range self-sustained cruising.


There are some major differences between the 36 Combi and the 36 Convertible. The Combi isn't just a Convertible with the deckhouse removed, but rather a completely different topside design. There are another 18 or so square feet of open cockpit space aft for angling, the result of extending the lower cockpit forward by another 18 inches (it's now 12 feet 4 inches wide by 8 feet 6 inches long).

Incidentally, while the aft cockpit is under discussion it's worth noting that the deck is slightly cambered, and the drain scuppers are exceptionally large; both are features that will be especially appreciated if a wave is pooped over the transom while backing down on a big fish. The cockpit sole is also braced with a heavy aluminum I-beam to add support for a big league fighting chair, if that's what you need.


The bridgedeck is two steps and 14 inches higher than the aft cockpit, another big plus in keeping transom splashwater from intruding into pleasant conversation. The extra bit of elevation helps the helmsman; in fact, the visibility from that position is exceptionally good. I particularly like the instrument console's placement - conveniently just below eye level in two neat rows so that monitoring their information doesn't require totally removing your eyes from the road.

In fact, the entire helm position is exceptionally well engineered. The seat is a two-person-sized padded bench, movable fore and aft, with stowage inside and a three-drawer tackle locker in the aft side. A molded footrest below the wheel adds to seated comfort.

Civilized Departure - Our Combi plays the part, but she'd rather be outside. Businesslike helm has line of sight gauge placement for easy scanning. Comfortable owner's stateroom is forward. Sensible galley has traditional varnished trim. Compact dinette is visible at left; converts into upper and lower bunks.

Immediately abaft the windshield is an extremely large flat, extending the full width of the cockpit and nearly 3 feet deep. There's more than enough room here for all sorts of depthfinders and navaids, even radar.

Instead of a companion seat on the port side of the bridge deck, there's an L-shaped cushioned settee (stowage inside, of course) that's large enough for at least four adults. A 22-by-25-inch hatch in the center of this area provides quick access to the engine room below. Sound insulation is good, certainly sufficient to keep the growl of the two big diesels at reasonable decibel levels.


Belowdecks the 36 Combi is exactly the same as the current version of the Convertible with the lower galley option. A few running changes have been made since the Convertible was first introduced, but these have been incorporated in both 36s.

Four steps (stowage in the two lower) take you down into the galley, located in the same spot occupied by the guest stateroom in the Convertible with the galley in the main saloon. It's not quite as spacious as the saloon version, but there's still plenty of room for an electric stove, microwave oven, refrigerator/freezer, stainless steel sink, and a two-seater dinette. There's even a fair amount of counter space, as well as cabinets above and stowage below.

Somewhat to my surprise, the dinette actually converts into an upper and lower bunk combination. A small recess in the side molding provides for a total length of 70 inches in the upper bunk, while the lower is limited to 66 inches. Both are 24 inches wide, and obviously a bit on the small side for most men, but the average woman or a small child would have no problem making it work.

The main electrical panel is located in the aft bulkhead above the dinette, along with the AM/FM cassette stereo system, a Kenwood with four speakers in the test boat. Everything on the electrical panel is clearly labeled and protected with circuit breakers. Wired for both a.c. shorepower as well as the vessel's d.c. systems; gauges monitor all critical circuits. All wiring and switches throughout are also properly color-coded, neatly bundled, and labeled where necessary.

The unusually roomy (for a 36-footer) MSD locker is on the starboard side, directly opposite the galley. The MSD is a Galley Maid electric, and the molded fiberglass sink has a manmade marble countertop around it. The shower is a stall type, of molded fiberglass, with no less than 6 feet 3 inches of headroom. A large locker immediately abaft the sink provides a dry spot for towels. There is additional stowage in all of the usual places.


The master stateroom is all the way forward, immediately abaft the forepeak. Like the Convertible, the bed is queen-sized with lots of stowage underneath in the form of four large drawers in the base. There is even a little footroom around the two sides of the bed. In addition, there's a two-thirds-height, cedar-lined hanging locker with a 17-inch bar in the port aft corner of the stateroom. Directly opposite is a combination vanity/locker of approximately the same size. Above the bed, and running the length of each side, is a handy tapered shelf for loose articles. An excellent cross-flow of heated or cooled air is ensured by the proper placement of six 3-inch adjustable outlets; three per side.

Fishing is what the 36 Combi is all about, and for this she comes properly prepared. There's a 7-foot-long fishbox immediately forward of the transom, accessible via two hatches. Another hatch in the lineup gets you into the aft bilges. Rod stowage under the gunwales (three per side) is limited to a maximum length of 84 inches, perhaps a little short for some big game trolling rods but certainly fine for standups and casting gear. There are four angled rodholders in the flat gunwales just forward of the transom, with plenty of space for additional gear as needed. There are no line-catching cleats on the covering boards; they're down in the transom corners with hawses above, as they should be.


A large, oval raw-water circulating baitwell measuring 32" l x 17" w x 22" d - certainly big enough for most large live baits - is located in a molded unit on the starboard side, atop the step between the cockpit and the bridge deck. Directly opposite on the starboard side is a combination freezer and bait prep station, with a sink equipped with both fresh and raw-water faucets. An aft-facing six-drawer tackle station is located in the base of this unit.

The test boat was equipped with an optional full tuna tower (around $16,000, by Atkinson Marine), plus the latest in full-sized Lee outriggers ($3,000). The tower comes complete with controls and a radio box on the underside of the lower hard top. A half-tower hardtop is also available as an option.

'' ... excellent running bottom and 18 degrees of dead rise:'

Adding a full tower is going to reduce top speed by 1 to 3 mph. Our Combi, however, with her hull weight 1,000 pounds lower than the Convertible, plus 220 more ponies in the engine room, turned in a top speed of 37.8 mph on the radar gun. And that was in restricted waters, where we didn't have that extra mile to run that probably would have yielded another mph or so. Steve Harris of Black Fin indicated that their speed tests in open water show around 40 mph.


Pushed by a 12-knot easterly wind, the seas were running 3 to 4 feet when we poked her nose out through South Florida's Jupiter Inlet last February. A little adjustment of the recessed trim tabs, and she soon settled into a comfortable running attitude that permitted any throttle setting we wished. As far as I could tell, her overall sea kindliness is excellent, and differs little from her Convertible kin. It's the product of a solid hand-layup fiberglass hull with an excellent running bottom and 18 degrees of deadrise at the transom. But, since she's a Black Fin, I would have been surprised with anything less. Her Hynautic hydraulic steering made moving the rudders as effortless as power steering, thus quick turns and sudden course changes will never require anything more than fingertip control.

As is typical of Black Fin, all finish work is neat, simple, and very well done. Brightwork is kept to a minimum, as it should be in a serious fishing boat, but what little exists is done with good craftsmanship. And of course all metallic materials are either a high grade stainless steel or marine grade aluminum. And speaking of aluminum, the test boat sported bowrails of this material instead of the more traditional stainless steel. Lest you think they aren't as sturdy, let me hasten to point out that they're welded of heavy-wall, 1 1/2-inch tubing - a better grip in the hand than 1-inch stainless steel. I expect we'll see these sensible, sturdy rails on other boats in the near future.

It's easy to predict the 36 Combi will be a success. The track record of the other Combis already in the line, plus a satisfying number of advance orders on the new model, make this a sure bet. I was also hardly surprised to hear that there's yet another new Combi coming in the near future, a companion to the 32-foot Flybridge. Plus a rumor or two about "something over 40." We'll see. But Black Fin has been on a roll for quite a few years now, so why not?


You're As Old As You Feel - With horsepower output up to 485, Johnson & Towers' 6-71TIB is practically wet behind the ears.

Fifty years old and now up to 485-hp! The Detroit Diesel 6-71 just keeps getting better and better. The Johnson & Towers 6-71TIB diesels in our Black Fin 36 are the best yet. The most noticeable improvement during our tests was the complete absence of smoke, even when throttling up after long periods of idling. Certainly a far cry from the black clouds so typical of the WWII vintage 165-hp 6-71 (naturally aspirated, naturally) I remember only too well. The main reason for the smokeless behavior comes from - no surprise to many of you, I'm sure -the world of computers. The new advance is an electronic fuel metering system. Besides making life more pleasant in the cockpit, the results of this technology include faster throttle response time and obviously longer injector life (no small consideration in view of the slow decline in the quality of today's diesel fuels).

Cramming a pair of 6-71s into the engine spaces of the 36 Combi does make things a bit tight down there. You'll have to crawl over the tops of the engines (when cool, fool) to reach some of the outboard components, including the fuel filters, although there is sufficient room to move around between them even when they're hot - if you're careful. Fore and aft engine room space is good; the optional 8kw Westerbeke generator is easy to get to and work on.