It's one of those situations that harried businessmen daydream about. First, you're in the sailboat business, which means that you get to wear Hawaiian shirts, live in a temperate climate, and fool around with boats all over the world. Then your boatbuilding company is picked by Fortune magazine as one of the 100 best manufacturers in America, and in 1988, a conglomerate comes along with a suitcase full of cash and offers to buy you.
So there you are: happily out of the business and without a care in the world.
But wait a minute. You've always liked boats, but because of a non-compete clause, you can't get back into building sailboats. What do you do? If you're partners Henry Mohrschladt and Mike Howarth, you look around the sportfishing market, decide you have a better idea, and set out to build the best sportfishing boat in the world.
As step one, you ask the top saltwater fishermen to put together their list of good points and bad points for all the boats available. Then, you gather a team of skilled builders, and the next thing you know, your new company, Cat Harbor Boats, is building the Cabo 35 sportfisher and reaping the kind of editorial acclaim that your sailboats once achieved.
For Mohrschladt and Howarth, none of that was a dream. Since it was launched in 1991, the Cabo 35 has been called "extraordinary" by Sportfishing magazine and "one damn fine sportfishing machine" by Power and Motoryacht. Boating says it combines "clever thinking and incredible detailing," while Powerboat Reports rates it as superior to the respected Blackfin 33. Not a bad start for a fledgling powerboat builder, but consistent with Mohrschladt and Howarth's goal: build a quality product from excellent tooling and allow no compromises.
Like all good stories, however, there's more to the tale. Even such a mundane task as finding a location for their plant demonstrates the duo's approach to problem-solving. Since they had spent a decade wrangling with the Los Angeles Air Quality Management District over the use of common boatbuilding chemicals in their sailboat factory, the duo decided they wanted to avoid any chance of such conflict with their new company. So they drew a line to mark the jurisdiction of the AQMD and then simply picked the nearest town outside the line and set up business there. It happened to be Adelanto, a tiny burg in California's high desert.
As I pointed out in the "1995 Boating Preview" (Robb Report, March '95), express cruisers are the hottest boats in the marine market. Most are aimed at the family audience with amenities such as lounge seating and ice makers in their cockpits, but the Cat Harbor boys have created an express cruiser that should help redefine the sportfishing market. If you think that fish only respond to names such as Rybovich, Striker, and Hatteras, then take a stroll through the Cabo Express.
The hull, a modified V-bottom that is identical for both the original Cabo 35 and the new Express, comes from well-known naval architect W.I.B. "Bill" Crealock, who has introduced several innovative touches. The modified V-bottom has the expected planning strakes, but it also has a wide, flat section below the waterline at each chine with an "end-plate" ridge running its length. This flat width not only provides additional surface for planning speeds, but it also improves stability when trolling or lying beam-on, or sideways, to the seas.
A second set of chines is just above the waterline, but since it only comes into play when immersed, it doesn't add drag while the boat is running at speed (and it doesn't slap water at rest, either). A 16-foot-long, 7-inch-deep keel ends five feet forward of the stern, which aids tracking as well as reducing roll. All in all, the lines of Cabo are a clever solution to the V-bottom's natural tendency to roll, while still retaining all the sea-softening characteristics.
Unlike most designers, Mohrshladt's vision started with the cockpit, since that is the critical area for fishermen. No surprise then that the Cabo ended up with everything you'd expect to find on a 50-foot sportfisher. The big fish boxes 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 hinges are used on the hatches, and they're not just screwed in, but are through-bolted. The same sturdy construction applies to the fish door in the stern, which has massive through-bolted hinges that won't pop even with a cockpit full of water.
A cockpit console to port holds the bait prep station, and rods stow neatly underneath in a dry and safe locker. The console to starboard can either be used as the standard ice chest and storage area or, as an option, be converted into a freezer.
The lower cockpit has more than 85 square feet of open space in which to fight fish, while the upper level is comfortably civilized with a curved sofa to port and a counter with a sink and a refrigerator to starboard. The skipper's seat is raised to provide good visibility, and before him is a neatly arrayed dashboard with plenty of space for flush-mounted electronics.
The Cabo 35 Express sportfisher has three cabin configurations: one with a diagonal double-berth forward, another with a convertible dinette forward and an aft stateroom, and a third with a centerline island berth forward. In each case, the finish is flawless, with burnished teak trim, teak and holly flooring, and the quality of joinery that earned the team kudos from so many magazines.
In addition to ample storage space, the galley has a refrigerator, a hidden cooktop, a microwave, and Corian countertops. There is a dinette opposite. An enclosed head compartment includes a shower, so the Cabo 35 Express is suitable as a weekend floating apartment.
Twin Caterpillar 3208T diesels of 320 hp are standard, although you can opt for up to 435-hp Cats for more speed. Engine access is superb, and the entire bridge deck lifts on hydraulic rams to expose both engines for easy servicing.
The hull construction on the Cabo is impressive--but no surprise, since that is where the two men had excelled with their previous company. The hull is built using 100 percent vinylester resins (a rarity in production boats) to eliminate blistering, and stitched bi-directional fiberglass cloth is used for reinforcement. Below the waterline, the hull is solid fiberglass. A vacuum-bagged Airex core stiffens and lightens the topsides, and the deck is backed with end-grain balsa core to provide stiffness without added weight. Unlike most powerboat builders (who simply bolt on underwater fittings with no regard to drag), the Cabo has flush through-hull fittings, and all the struts and shafts are faired into the hull to reduce resistance, which shows up on the speed curves.
Push the throttles forward on the twin Cats, and the Cabo proves to be a very quick boat. With the 425-hp diesels, she tops out at 39.5 mph and cruises easily on 430 gallons of fuel at about 27 mph. Range depends on speed, of course, but you can expect well over 325 miles with an ample reserve.
The base price on the well-equipped Cabo 35 Express is $249,200 with the 320-hp Cats, or $279,800 with the 435-hp diesels. Add bait to that price, and you're ready for some saltwater action. And don't forget you heard it here first: You can look forward to a little sister for the Cabo 35 Express in the near future. Cat Harbor currently has a 31-foot Express sportfisher under construction, with a choice of either Crusader gas V-8s or Cat diesels, and all the quality you've seen on the 35. I've seen the line drawings, and it is a very pretty boat.