The crewman kept glancing from the gauges to the megayacht to me as I piloted our new Egg Harbor 37 test boat through the tight channel. The closer the yacht got, the faster the glances came. I suppose he was waiting for me to pull back on the throttles. After all, I did have them open to cruising speed, and the megayacht was throwing up a killer wake. But what the heck Ė Iím supposed to find out as much as I can about every boat I test, and these were the first serious waves we had seen all day. Besides, thatís what insurance is for right?
We coasted up the hump of the first wave, hovering for a moment between crests Ė ohmigodIshouldasloweddown Ė and met the next wave head on. No harsh impact, nothing broken, and barely any detectable movement. The most significant result was a minor but sudden slow down. And in my book, thatís a hallmark of a well-built sportfisherman. Physics prevents you from eliminating the slowdown, but where does the impact land? Does it reverberate throughout the boat, up the bridge and into the helm, and right up your spine? Or is it the wave that gets battered and bruised, in this case, the wave lost.
INSIDE ADDITION. What does it take to make a relatively small sportfish into a wave buster? Start by looking where youíll spend the least amount of time: the engine room. Those stringers you see are fully encapsulated, XL-10, lifetime guaranteed, rot-free plywood, beefed up with stainless-steel plates in the engine beds. Now look up. Between that overhead and the salon sole is honeycomb coring, providing maximum strength with minimum weight. Same goes for the hull sides, which is cored with end-grain balsa from the chine up. The countertops are Corian. The full tank is epoxy-coated welded aluminum. Shaft seals are dripless. Is everything in sight made from top-shelf construction materials? You bet, thought I did spot one item that should be improved. The stateroom has spring struts on two stowage compartment hatches, and in my experience, they break within the first 50 hours of a boatís on-the-water use. Egg Harbor assures me gas-assist struts will be put on future hatches.
If youíre a boater who spends sometime in the engine room, youíll like the 37ís cockpit entry. No shuffling tables, no seats to remove, no greasy footprints across the salon carpet as is usually the case on a sportfish this size.
Thereís enough headroom below to sit up straight while you work on the iron horses, and such amenities as an engine room washdown, an oil exchange system and primary and secondary fuel filters are all present and accounted for. Better yet, every plumbing and electric line and every seacock is well marked and clearly labeled so you can perform on-the-water repairs without causing on-the-water problems.
OUTER SPACE. Of course, to handle the seas well a boat must be designed well, and the 37 has some unique tweaks below the waterline. There are steps, for example. No, not the ones you see on kingfish tournament boats or ocean racers. Instead, these steps are in the strakes. What gives? Common sense tells us that aerating the hull bottom will increase speed. But with an inboard sportfish, that means you risk aerating the props. Not good. But the 37ís designers managed to find that-just-right sweet spot on the strakes where stepping them increases lift and boosts speed, without shooting bubbles at the screws. And yes, the 37 does perform impressively, running 40 mph at wide-open throttle. Compare that to 37.9 mph for the Bertram 390 Convertible ($442,000 with twin 480-bhp Volvo Penta diesel inboards) and 32.6 mph for the Luhrs 360 Convertible ($280,000 with twin 420-bhp Caterpillar diesel inboards). Even better is that the 37ís extra speed doesnít come at the expense of increased fuel consumption. In fact, it burns slightly less fuel than both the Bertram 390 (which because of its 120 additional horses is to be expected) and the Luhrs, rigged the same.
Wait a sec, the fun hasnít ended yet. There is one more special touch below the waterline. The exhaust ports vent through the boatís bottom. That means exhaust fumes wonít be a problem in the cockpit, even when youíre trolling down wind - they wonít reach nose level until theyíre yards behind the boat. Okay, weíve seen the high-tech beef put together intelligently, but what about the bouquet? Detail work in the salon is better than expected.
When is the last time you spotted bookmatched grain cabinetry, solid-brass fittings and satin-varnished finish on a 37í production boat? I expect these touches on megabuck custom jobs and 50í battlewagons, but in a relatively small production-built convertible, itís rare. Compare that to the Bertram 390 and the Luhrs 360, which both have their own strengths, including the Bertramís woodwork with its satin glow and the Luhrsí low price and an impressive list of standard features. You wonít find the bookmatched grain in either of these boats. Nor will you find solid-brass fittings.
FLAT LINE STRIKE. Performance, construction, and looks are great but does the 37 put the "fish" in this fish boat? The cockpit spans 78 square feet, thatís six more than the Luhrs but not enough to beat the Bertram, which has 93 square feet of fish fighting territory. The 37ís four gunwale-mounted rod holders are Lees, and the coaming pads ring the cockpit. The transom houses a livewell; add a grand to list cost to have it plumbed for recirculation, and toss in two more to have the bait box rigged as a bait freezer. The six rocket launchers and spread lights in the hardtop are included in the topís $15,950 cost. For more overbuild-it attitude, check out the hinge on the transom door. Iíve seen hinges this size on boats 60í long; a kicking bluefin wonít bend or break it. Northern anglers and bottom fishers will like the 37ís standard anchor roller (add $4,175 if you want a windlass). But whoever plays anchor boy, wonít enjoy going forward to handle the gear. The non-slip on the bow is too slick. Iíd like to see a more aggressive pattern used there.
On a boat 37í long, you might expect to have a problem stowing all your rigs. Not on this baby. Bench seats on the flying bridge lift up to stow your Internationals, and a tackle station in the forward starboard corner of the cockpit provides plenty of room for table, too. After you put the tackle to good use, hopefully, youíll also use the macerated, lift-out fishbox in the deck. It has enough room to hold a dozen gaffer dolphin or four fat yellowfin. One more thing about the cockpit Ė it has a plate laminated into the deck for fighting chair reinforcement. Again, a battlewagon feature thatís rare on boats under 40í. Then again, Iím not so sure Egg Harbor designers planned to build a 37í production boat. From the looks of things, they put together a 45í custom-finished package and managed to fit it into a 37 Convertible.
LAST WORD. No, itís not huge and itís not a custom job Ė it just looks, feels, and performs that way. For more information contact: Egg Harbor Yachts, Department B, 801 Philadelphia Avenue, Egg Harbor City, New Jersey 08215, 609-965-2300, www.eggharboryachts.com.