An innovative express design loaded with fishing features and high-tech engineering.

There are lots of express boats on today's market that offer large cockpits, along with helm stations set on raised bridge decks that make it easy to fish with only two people aboard. Cabo's new 35 Sportfisher is also an express design, but it stands apart from the crowd, much as their popular 35 convertible did when it was introduced a few years ago.

For one thing, the 35 comes with a lengthy standard equipment list. This is no stripped-down platform that must have hundreds of options added before it's ready to fish. The boat also features some very innovative and intelligent engineering features that aren't found on many other boats in this size range. As Henry Mohrschladt, President and co-founder of Cabo puts it, "We made every effort to make this the best express boat available in its size range. There isn't another boat around with this level of engineering.

"When my partner Michael Howarth and I set out to build the Cabo 35 Express, it was our intention to produce the best-engineered and best-built boat to be found anywhere. That we have succeeded is best demonstrated by the people who have chosen to purchase the Cabo 35 over some well-entrenched competitors.

"Michael and I have built nearly 2,000 are sure boats over the last 20 years, yet I can say without reservation that the 35 Express is the finest boat we have ever produced."

After a statement like that, SWS was obviously curious to check out this boat, and we finally got our hands-on one through Cabo's Fort Lauderdale dealer, HMY Yacht Sales of Dania. Broker Larry Caldwell showed us around the boat, then took us offshore Fort and extended sea trial. We started at the dock by looking over the engine compartment, which lies beneath the bridge deck.

Easy-Access Engine Compartment

The aft end of the deck raises via two hydraulic rams, and the entire compartment becomes easily accessible with the deck raised. A hydraulic hand pump will raise the deck manually in case of a power failure. Our test was equipped with the top-of-the-line engine option, the 435-hp Caterpillar 3208-TA diesels. There are four Caterpillar 3208 diesels options available, in 320-, 350-, 375-, and 435-hp configurations. There is also a Crusader gas engine option, and other diesels power options are available upon request.

The engine compartment allows easy access to the huge raw-water strainers and fuel filters found on the forward centerline. Access points on the big Cats are easy to get too, and the Westerbeke generator at the aft end of the compartment should be a snap to service as well. The second fiberglass fuel tank lies at the forward end of the compartment amidships, with easy access to valves and sending units. Battery switches are mounted on the forward the bulkhead, and the batteries themselves or forward of the starboard motor. It's a slight squeeze to get at them, but it's not a big problem.

Big Cockpit

The Cabo's cockpit is spacious, with about 81 square feet of room in which to move about. Although claims a total of 105 square feet, but that figure includes the bait-prep and transom door is 24 1/2" wide, beneath a hinged covering board. Fishboxes are located port and starboard of the centerline beneath the cockpit sole. They measure 56" long", by 13" deep and 13 1/2" wide. The boxes, like all day catches on the boat, are rubber-gasketed for a tight and quiet seal, and have twisting cam locks for a tight fit when shut. There are positively no squeaks or rattles from these hatches.

The lazarette patch concealed to the aft bilge pump, the hydraulic autopilot unit, the Bennett trim-tab pump, the rudder posts and steering mechanisms, as well as the macerator drainage pumps for the fishboxes. A spare anchor was stored here in our test boat, and there was easy access to the tops of the struts.

Rod and Tackle Storage

Rod storage was good, with a three rod racks per side beneath the gunwales, two per side. The steps along the aft edge of the bridge deck opened to reveal storage areas. A sure-power receptacle and a salt water washdown bib was located to court, while to starboard was a fresh water washdown hose. It is 36 1/2" from the tops of the covering boards to the water's surface, and if you have to get to the bow, there's a six-inch-wide side deck with a good non-skid surface.

The Cabo had the considerable tackle storage build into the bait-prep stations at the forward end of the cockpit. The port units held a sink and cutting board, with a swinging door that concealed additional storage for six rods. The starboard unit contained a huge bait icebox that could easily be converted to a freezer. It also had three large tackle drawers.

Stepping up to the bridge deck, we found another molded unit to starboard, with a built-in refrigerator and five more tackle drawers. And L-shaped settee with lots of storage was to port, and the helmsmen's seat had even more storage, and an ice maker to boot! The helm station had the switches arranged low and directly in front of the helmsmen, with the engine gauges located high along the upper edge of the console. This left a reasonably large, angled area which the electronics could be mounted.

Three Cabin Designs

The Cabo comes with three basic cabin configurations: one with the centerline "Island" berth forward with convertible settee aft; another with a forward dinette that converts to V-births and an aft two-bunk stateroom; and one with the diagonal berths forward and a convertible settee aft. Our test boat had the latter arrangement.

The galley and head were to port, and the cabin sole was covered in the optional teak-and-holly veneer. The fit and finish in the cabin was extraordinary for a production boat, 
with burnished wood and polished surfaces all around.

After our dock side inspection, Caldwell fired up the Cats and we headed toward Port Everglades Inlet. The boat created very little whitewater in the wake as we titled along, but it increased somewhat at faster trolling speeds. Caldwell ease the throttle's forward as returned the corner in the boat inlet and headed east, and the boat climbed onto plane effortlessly.

View from the Helm

The pleasant surprise was that the boat remained remarkably level while rising onto plane. Many express boats prevent the helmsman from seeing over the bow as they climb onto the plane, but the Cabo's bow lifted only slightly, then immediately settled down into a very level running angle. The 35 maintained to this same level angle at every throttle setting -- an important consideration when running in rough head seas, where a fast cruise is impossible.

The boat was very quick with the big Caterpillars, yielding a relaxed crew speed of 26 knots at a mere 2300 rpm. At 2500 rpm, the GPS fluctuating back and forth between 29 and 30 knots, while 2850 rpm produced a top speed of 34 knots.

The 35's deep-V hull, with a 17 1/2-degree transom deadrise, handled of the three-foot seas with no problem. The only negative was that are test boat like windshield wipers as standard equipment.

Cabo is clearly aiming to for the top of the production express-boat market, and has put a lot of clever design innovations into the 35, along with an extensive list of standard features. These innovations set to the 35 apart from the rest of the fleet, and may someday a make it the standard-bearer for the industry.