How much difference can one foot make? In football it could mean getting in the end zone for six points vs. falling short for a goose egg, or missing the uprights on a field goal and losing three points that could've won the game. When it comes to boatbuilding, one foot can be the difference between a good ride and a great ride.
It had been two years since I tested the Egg Harbor 42 on the outskirts of hurricane Gustav, so when a big northeast blow came sweeping into southern New Jersey recently, I thought it serendipitous to have a test set up on the 42's replacement, the Egg Harbor 43 Sportyacht.
The conditions on the 43's test day, while not the 40-plus-knot "breeze" I had with the 42, were sporty, with 20-mph winds and strong four-foot seas out on the ocean, with an occasional five-or-so-footer, too. The 43's new prop-pocketed, modified-V hull bottom parted the head seas with authority while the optional 700-hp Caterpillar C12 diesels were at 1750 rpm and the 43 was running around 28 mph. Her bow sliced knife-like, but the true "water break" is located about one-third down the hull, where the deadrise is about 28 degrees. The 43's relatively sharp entry made for soft landings while going into the chop, and her modified-V aft section with 16-degree deadrise made for a smooth V-shape profile going downsea, enabling the vessel to track true at cruise speed. The ride is simply sweet in the slop. Compare this to the 42, which offered a strong, albeit bumpy ride in a chop and whose hull, which ended in a nine-degree transom deadrise, wasn't as forgiving off a wave.
Of course it's not just the sharp entry angles and running attitude that make the 43 an attractive package for the offshore angler who Egg Harbor is targeting with this boat. You need to know that her construction backs up the lines. The hull is comprised of hand-laid solid fiberglass below the waterline, with Divinycell coring used in the hull sides, decks, and hardtop.
The 43 cut the chop nicely and performed well during speed trials on calm water in the back bays. My test boat made an average top speed of 41 mph at 2333 rpm with a 64.8-gph fuel burn. At 2000 rpm she made a comfortable cruise of 34.3 mph with a fuel burn of 44 gph. I suspect that the last trickle of her top-end speed was missing, as the engines were only showing a 92-percent load at WOT on the Cat Marine Power Display (MPD). I think adding some wheel to the four-blade nibrals (27x38) could get the boat and her powerplants in synch and slightly affect fuel burn, too. The 43 still has impressive range for deep-water anglers: 440 statute miles at cruise, 359 miles at WOT.
This boat is run from the comfort of the flying-bridge helm, which I found to have quick-responding Teleflex hydraulic steering (power-assist is optional). When I turned the wheel, the 43 reacted in real time. In addition, the Kobelt single-lever electronic controls feature a solid detent and offer a smooth transition when throttling through the Cats' rpm range. Aside from easy handling and clean sightlines at all speeds, this helm boasts a retractable electronics console (the 42's console was fixed). There's space here for those MPDs as well as a couple of 12-inch or larger displays, your VHF, and perhaps even a SSB. This may not be earth-shattering news to some, but Egg Harbor built the console to be spacious enough to permit eliminating the overhead electronics box from the hardtop.
Speaking of the hardtop, it was just one of several model-year changes for the 43. My test boat, Hull No. 9, also reflected other changes, including adding integral spreader lights into that hardtop, changing from underwater exhausts to corner exhausts, and removing the under-gunwale locker stowage to provide more room for fish fighting. Removing it also enables the optional Glendinning Cablemaster and standard fresh- and saltwater washdowns to be recessed behind push-latch doors. Last, to keep the cockpit quieter, Egg Harbor moved the engine vents from here to the hull sides.
I can't comment on cockpit-noise reduction, as I never had a chance to ride an earlier 43. But I did notice the vents take away some of the available outboard engine room space, which is already limited with the footprint of the big Cats. This area also has 3'5" of headroom, which is okay when you're 5'7" like me, but taller boaters will find the engine room tight. However, I also noted that most of the regular maintenance items on the Cats are done on the inboard side of the engines.
One area that has plenty of room is the 43's interior, which can be laid out three different ways. Layout A, on my test boat, consists of an Ultraleather lounge for five to starboard in the saloon and, just forward, the optional 20-inch Sole flat-screen TV, great for sitting on the hook waiting for the Giant bite. Snacks and full meals can easily be prepared in the galley-down to port, which is standard with a two-burner EuroKera electric cooktop, Sharp microwave, and Corian countertops. An extended galley countertop allows two guests to sit on stools on the saloon side of the galley and converse while you cook. Layouts B and C allow for a larger TV in the saloon and a shorter lounge in lieu of a dinette area, respectively.
A two-stateroom, one-head arrangement below decks is common in all the layout options. The queen-size island berth in the master forward can easily accommodate two adults. The guest stateroom with large double berth is aft to starboard of the master, and access to the head with shower stall is via the companionway or master. All layout options also feature an easy-to-maintain, high-gloss teak.
The 43 offers a solid ride in sloppy seas and strong performance when it's calm. And by adding angling amenities like a 30-gallon livewell, an in-deck fishbox, bait freezers, outriggers, and more, it appears that Egg Harbor has not only made that foot into the end zone, but nailed the extra point, too