This Express combines artillery for tournament duty and sweet accommodations. I spend hundreds of hours every year fishing from an express boat, and I'm sold on the design. I like that the helm is near the cockpit. There is no climbing ladders like you do aboard a convertible and it's easy 10 get by with minimal crew. And express boats clean up fast as a whistle, which leaves more time to use them. But the Achilles heel of an express boat is visibility. Without the vantage point of a flying bridge, the helmsman's view over the bow is limited. At slow speeds this is little more than an inconvenience. But when you're running at cruise, that broad white foredeck competes for your line of sight and makes you feel vulnerable--like you're on glacier patrol searching for polar bears toting a sack of White Castle burgers and oil-soaked fries. I don't like that feeling. There's floating driftwood and debris where I fish, and I've swallowed my heart too many times to ever get comfortable with those sudden surprises off my bow.
I've decided that a centerline helm is best for all-around fishing and navigation, but the first thing I noticed aboard the Ocean Yachts 48 Sportfish was the 8" high platform at the helm. Standing here is like wearing elevator shoes, and the view ahead is as good as you'll get aboard an express. In a lumpy ocean, compliments of 20 mph northwest winds off Palm Beach, Fla., Jim Creber from South Florida Yachts in Riviera Beach and I encountered the other express boat faux pas. While trucking along at 26 knots in 3' seas, I punched the bow into a succession of solid chunks of blue water that flew up the starboard side and buried us. The wash covered the EZ2CY enclosure, producing a total white-out. Blinded by the water for what seemed a millennium, I was itching to pull back the throttles. It's not that express boats are any wetter than convertibles, but without the height advantage of a bridge you are closer to the seas and on anything but a calm day, an enclosure is necessary unless you like getting salted. A fixed windshield is an option, but I've found the hardware and frame generally I curs into my line of sight, so I prefer a good enclosure. The Ocean's was especially near with zippered vent panels that I brought fresh air aboard to cool the helm deck. Under the hot Florida sun it's a treat that rivals the comfort of an air conditioned bridge.
The 48 runs on the same hull as the 48 Super Sport and features jogs in the chines that tuck in toward the transom to narrow the wetted surface area. It's a slippery hull that breaks free easily and is on top at 1200 rpm. Banging in head seas is minimized by trimming the bow down, and in following seas, with the tabs up, water flowing past double-molded strakes running parallel to the keel keep her bow pointing straight ahead. Lightly loaded, her top speed in calm water was 34.5 knots with the 3196 Caterpillars.
For fishing, the 48 is tournament-ready with a big cockpit, and built-in amenities, including a transom door, rod lockers, under-deck fishwells, rodholders and transom baitwell. She's all Ocean and bred to fish.
Designer Dave Martin, though, saved the biggest surprise for her interior. Many express boats give me the impression of cave mentality when I go below. Without port or deadlights for natural illumination, it can feel cramped even if it isn't. Not aboard this boat. Headroom is 6'6". There's a large stateroom forward and the galley and saloon are only slightly tighter than a convertible's. A washer/dryer combo is tucked beneath the entertainment center. There's no space for a built-in dinette, so the hi-lo table will have to do. The best feature, however, is aft. Remember that 8" rise at the helm? That also provides full headroom in a second stateroom below the bridge deck. It has a large single and a double berth. The only thing missing a board this boat is a second head.
There's more stand-up room in the engine compartment, entered from the cockpit. I could slide a round the front, back and sides of the six-cylinder in-line Cats. The Racor 1000 fuel/water separators are mounted on the forward bulkhead. All engine filters and daily check points are inboard, and the aluminum diamond-plate deck covering promises quick clean-ups. Lift a hatch between the engines to access the batteries. The 10kW Westerbeke sits on centerline abaft the mains and the optional soft-sided sound shield did a good job squelching the racket of the light plant at the dock. Our test boat had the optional refrigerated fish well and the compressor was on a shelf abaft the port engine, making it the hardest equipment to reach in an otherwise very accessible engine room. Air conditioning equipment is mounted outboard of the starboard engine.
Base price with the 660 hp Caterpillars is $597,000. The most expensive option is the tuna tower at $35,625. But it's necessary on this boat and includes a fiberglass hardtop, buggy top, three-sided enclosure, Hynautic hydraulic steering, seat, spreader lights and rodholders. Our boat also had an electronics package, Rupp triple-spreader outriggers, Lewmar windlass and several more comfort options that brought the accessories total to $65,822.
My express boat is 36' and I wondered if 48' was pushing the limit. To the contrary, the 48 Sportfish has been dialed in to combine the best fishing features in an easily managed dayboat that has no problem shifting gears to become a comfortable cruiser or overnighter after the rods have been washed and put away.