The ultimate incarnation of the Hustler 50 Performance Yacht runs over 118 mph with triple 1,150-hp motors under the hood.
Nirvana, for some of us, is a larger boat. For others, it's a faster one. The Hustler 50 Performance Yacht fulfills both desires. This big boat's innovative hull design helps it fly faster and faster as you increase the horsepower. The upper limit is mainly your imagination - and, of course, your wallet.
When we first saw Nasty Girl at the dock in Miami, it was clear her owner had not lacked either resource. He had chosen to make her the ultimate version - supermodel, if you will - of the Hustler 50. No expense had been spared, no option overlooked. "Nothing is off the shelf," said Paul Fiore, president of Global Marine Performance, Nasty Girl's builder. In her engine compartment, he had installed three gleaming 1,150-hp, supercharged, custom Cobra high performance engines. Beneath her skirts he'd tucked triple MerCruiser Six surface drives.
TRIPLE THREAT: This Hustler 50's three supercharged Cobra engines call for Gaffrig gauges in triplicate at the helm.
She had not disappointed. The company's recent radar gun test off Miami had clocked her at a snarling 118.9 mph. With different props, Fiore's engineers projected that her top end might reach 125 mph.
A nasty girl indeed.
Fiore turned the boat's single ignition key and hit the three starter switches. The motors screamed to life. The engine-compartment lid shook as the big Cobras writhed inside. Looking back at the air scoops that sat atop the sunpad, I felt as if I were in an oversized Indy car about to pull onto the race course. I settled back in my bolster and prepared for a wild ride.
Nasty Girl bided her time as we idled through Biscayne Bay's no-wake zones, ran out Government Cut and turned south into the Atlantic, which was gilded by the Florida sun. Our destination was the exclusive Ocean Reef Club on Key Largo. Once we had room to run, Fiore opened the throttles and gave the boat her head.
In one- to two-foot seas the big 50 came onto plane at about 2000 rpm. In doing so she stuck her nose up, obstructing the view ahead for a few seconds, but not too long. Without breaking a sweat, she cruised at 60 mph and 3000 rpm, riding at a level attitude despite the heavy hardware in her stern. The difference between 60 and 70 mph, at 3500 rpm, was remarkable, as the faster she went, the more she lifted out of the water. The supercharger boost came on at about 4000 rpm, developing three pounds of pressure. Feeling her surge from 80 mph to the hundred-teens at 5600 to 5700 rpm was an awe-inspiring experience.
I have to admit to a tiny pang of disappointment, however. At those speeds, I had expected to be pounded into jelly and blown almost to pieces, the wind distorting my mouth into the comical expression I call "racer face." Then I really would have known we were breaking the century mark. But the venturi windscreen worked so well, and the 50's hull moved through the water so smoothly and quietly, that 100-plus mph was like going supersonic on the Concorde - a luxury ride rather than an F-14-like roller coaster. When I took the helm, only the feel of three Gaffrig throttles in my hand convinced me that I was in control of so much power.
As I talked with Paul Fiore - and we could hear each other in the cockpit even at a speed, rendering the fancy intercom system unnecessary - I realized that the 50's manners were due to her good breeding, born of the quiet innovations that Fiore and his staff have been developing ever since he designed his first stepped hull in 1985. Back then, high performance boats were strictly deep-Vs. "I went to the Webb Institute where they did a lot of tank testing," he told me. "I talked to a professor who said they used steps on seaplane pontoons. They saw a ten- to fifteen-percent increase in speed." Fiore then built a wooden plug for a Hustler 40 with steps and launched it right in the ocean. It ran 10 percent faster than a traditional or a pad-bottom deep-V.
He patented this multiple-step, variable-deadrise, ventilated deep-V hull design, which he calls "TekStep." Among its features are strakes that are narrow up front, allowing the boat to travel through the water more cleanly, and wider aft to lift the stern and the weight of the engines. The outer chines and strakes contact the water more than the inner ones do. "Not only does this allow you to go faster, it does it with more stability," Fiore says.
He was also forward-thinking when it came to the hull's raceboat construaion. Hustlers have been vacuum-bagged since 1985. And Fiore is no stranger to high-tech fabrics. Nasty Girl was built using Kevlar, carbon fiber, and Baltek AL600 balsa core for her bones and skin. While such an exotic layup is optional, standard construction calls for high qualiry bi- and triaxial rovings, Divinycel coring and vinylester resins. The 50 has five full-length stringers and 15 transverse bulkheads for strength and stiffness in offshore conditions. "The structure, that's one of the things I won't compromise on," said Fiore. "I overbuild our boats."
I once took a trawler on the 35-mile run from Miami to Key Largo, dawdled along the way at Elliott Key, and wound up taking all day to get there. On Nasty Girl, after cruising mostly at 60 to 70 mph, we pulled up at the dock at the Ocean Reef Club in well under an hour.
With her blazing graphics, she was a revelation to the lunchtime crowd that sat under the yellow-and-white striped umbrellas at Ocean Reefs outdoor patio restaurant, right across from where she was docked. But in her own way - for her class of yacht - she was every bit as luxurious as the big, white motoryachts and sportfishermen that passed her as they chugged up the channel to the marina.
In the cabin below, the Hustler 50 Performance Yacht's headroom is an amazing 6'5" at its maximum height. This is partly because the walkway that runs down the foredeck overhead is two inches higher than the rest of the deck, disguised by graphics and toerails. "When I design something I try to eke out every bit of space I can, whether it's headroom or storage. That's why our boats always feel big inside," Fiore said.
The yacht's lines, lean for speed, dictate that she have a traditional performance-boat interior - as you might expect, there's a berth forward, facing lounge seats in the main cabin, and a small galley and enclosed head compartment aft. Within that framework, however, Global Marine Performance's designers have created an elegant, contemporary living space.
On Nasty Girl, the V-berth area is a separate forward stateroom with a vanity. The entry is a keystone-shape cut out of the bulkhead - flip a switch and two space-age, smoked-acrylic doors slide shut for privacy.
The main cabin is full of graceful curves, such as the swoop of the galley counter into the salon area. Mounted securely in the bulkhead facing the lounge seats is an entertainment center with a TV and VHS, a remote telephone, and a Kenwood stereo with a face that disappears when the unit is turned off. The speakers are cleverly hidden behind floral upholstery in the cabin's corners.
The galley has a top-loading refrigerator in the counter, near the sink - which on Nasty Girl is gold-plated. A fun Hustler touch is the set of plastic glasses that actually screw into the headliner - they won't budge when you're running over 100 mph. The head has a separate shower space, his-and-her medicine cabinets, and (on Nasty Girl) a gold-plated towel rack.
In short, the 50 Performance Yacht's interior is perfect for entertaining or for spending the occasional weekend on board. For the owner who is more interested in the furnishings of the engine compartment than the cabin, however, the company offers another version. It's the Hustler 50 Poker Run edition, a lowdeck, stripped-down day-tripper that can take up to four muscular motors.
When we finished our leisurely luncheon, it was time co race back up to Miami. I took the wheel and once again experienced this jumbo jet's smooth, solid flight across the water. Handling the 50 wasn't difficult, but it did demand complete concentration as the water ahead disappeared beneath Nasty Girl's long nose at an amazing race. I truly appreciated the switches in the innermost throttle that allowed me to trim the drives and cabs without having to take my hand off the gas. We were back at the dock at the Biscayne Bay Marriott in 37 minutes. The Hustler 50 Performance Yacht had proved that you don't have to choose between bigger and faster. Even with standard power, triple HP 500 MerCruisers, it tops out at 85 mph - still outrageously quick for a 50-footer with a full, stand-up interior. And at speeds approaching 120 mph, Nasty Girl is the 50's ultimate incarnation.