FISH TRI­ALS

A Solid Fish­ing Ves­sel with All the Crea­ture Com­forts

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•HCB 39 SPECIALE •IN­VIN­CI­BLE 40 CATA­MA­RAN

TThe Florida Keys weather fore­cast called for scat­tered thun­der­show­ers and a 50 per­cent chance of rain on the May morn­ing I fished HCB’s new cen­ter-con­sole yacht — the 39 Speciale. But the weather ser­vice was a lit­tle off: Key Largo got del­uged. It was the wettest day of off­shore fish­ing I can ever re­call. Dark storm cells hov­ered nearby, and while I heard thun­der, I thank­fully never saw light­ning.

Given the conditions, we might have been over­con­fi­dent. But the Speciale inspired that with its ex­pan­sive hard­top, broad beam and solid feel. And, of course, it had the speed to out­run the storm cells that en­cir­cled us. You can do that pretty eas­ily in an out­board cen­ter-con­sole with 1,050 horse­power.

Out­board boats, in gen­eral, keep grow­ing by leaps and bounds, but the demand for big­ger cen­ter-con­soles equipped to chase pelag­ics seems un­stop­pable. HCB aims to ride that swell, pro­vid­ing an­glers with all the speed of per­for­mance out­boards and all the com­forts of a cus­tom yacht. This boat was packed with evidence of that ef­fort.

COM­FORT AT SPEED

On our damp day, bury­ing the throt­tles brought us quickly to a top speed of 58 mph. The hole shot

of the HCB was a thing of beauty. The 39 didn’t stand on its tran­som like a trained dol­phin; it hugged the water, shoot­ing for­ward with min­i­mal bowrise. The triple Yamaha F350 white out­boards of­fered their best fuel econ­omy — 0.8 mpg — at 46 mph, turn­ing 5,000 rpm.

To ex­pe­dite our trip out to the Hump off Is­lam­orada, our cap­tain for the day, Gaby Pacheco, kept the 39 near that 50 mph mark. At speed, it was easy for two pas­sen­gers plus Pacheco to duck be­hind the curved wind­shield to dodge the rain.

The 39’s wheel is cen­tered, with the throt­tles mounted to the right, half­way be­tween the star­board pas­sen­ger and helms­man. The hard­top runs nearly to the gun­wales on both sides, and a molded gut­ter drains any water aft of the con­sole.

With the solid con­struc­tion of a MilSpecs hull, the ride was also easy. HCB mod­eled its hull de­sign from a mil­i­tary-ap­proved stan­dard. It em­ploys stringers and cross­beams on 12-inch cen­ters. The keel is laid with Kevlar, and the en­tire struc­ture is as im­mov­able as cast iron — un­til you ap­ply the horse­power.

Triple bucket seats at the helm fea­tured supple, leather­like vinyl stretched taut over in­jec­tion-molded foam, which holds its shape over time, hug­ging a body se­curely enough to di­min­ish that feel­ing of slid­ing out in turns.

The helm face car­ried one 16-inch and two 12-inch Garmin elec­tron­ics dis­plays with in­te­grated en­gine gauges and au­dio, plus chirp sonar. Even though all sys­tems op­er­ated through the dis­plays, HCB added two pan­els of switches for those who love but­ton push­ing more than touch­screen con­trols.

FISHWORTHY FEA­TURES

Once at the Hump, we started rig­ging baits and setting lines. We took the build­ing seas abeam. A nearby in­board sport-fish­ing boat wal­lowed in the seas, rock­ing its crew side to side, while the 39’s deck re­mained rel­a­tively level — one rea­son more an­glers pre­fer the low cen­ter of grav­ity of out­board­pow­ered boats.

Aft of the helm unit, a rear-fac­ing lounge seats three. Con­tours in the in­jec­tion-molded foam seat bot­tom keep pas­sen­gers from slid­ing aft and out when the Speciale ac­cel­er­ates.

The neat­est trick, though, was hid­den be­neath and be­hind the seat cush­ions. Our mate, Blythe Hof­stet­ter, folded down the seat to re­veal tack­lestor­age com­part­ments and a rig­ging

ta­ble. He tucked away the re­mov­able cut­ting board, re­plac­ing it with a util­ity tackle box that fit per­fectly in the socket left by the board. Even more tackle stor­age is lo­cated be­low.

Our mate did plenty of rig­ging but didn’t need much tackle; we were drag­ging dead bal­ly­hoo and also cut­ting them to chunk to the fish that fol­lowed our baits.

Even though HCB had not yet prepped the Taco Grand Slam out­rig­gers aboard this test boat, we still put out an im­pres­sive spread of ’hoos, pulling one line at each gun­wale and two in the shot­gun rod hold­ers.

HCB did its home­work on de­sign­ing the livewells, and it was a shame we didn’t get to use them. The pair of 40-gal­lon tran­som wells were pres­sur­ized, each fed by its own pair of pumps in their own sea chest. The livewell lids are clear plex­i­glass and gas­keted, as ex­pected. But to fur­ther re­strict slosh and drool, a stain­less-steel baf­fled vent di­min­ishes water mo­tion and drains any spillage aft into the livewell.

Peanut mahi, not gaffers, were on the catch list that day, plus a wa­hoo with delu­sions of gran­deur. The fish couldn’t have topped 7 pounds; it slipped through the gap of the gaff, re­leas­ing it­self un­harmed and dash­ing our hope for din­ner.

Though all the fish we caught were small, I found a per­fect place to fight them — in the port or star­board pock­ets be­tween the livewells and the gun­wales. I braced my feet be­tween the two bulk­heads and leaned my thighs com­fort­ably against the bol­stered tran­som.

A few of the larger schoolie dol­phin found their way to one of a pair of fish boxes equipped with 12-volt cold plates, a handy sys­tem that elim­i­nates the need to carry pounds of ice that might go un­used.

Ea­ger to raise bet­ter fish, we pulled the bait ta­ble out of its tran­som com­part­ment and set it in a down­rig­ger holder. Pacheco chopped some of our bait and used it for chum. If we’d had the am­bi­tion, the ver­ti­cal hold­ers could’ve sported down­rig­gers, pow­ered by a 12-volt out­let be­low.

CLEVER CUS­TOMIZA­TION

I spent lit­tle time in the bow, but had it been sun­nier, I might have stretched out on the cen­ter lounge. Be­neath it is a 75-gal­lon com­part­ment that can be used for gear, is plumbed for a cooler, or can be equipped with a cold plate to cool drinks or freeze fish.

For­ward of that, op­tional lounges wrap around the bow with a re­mov­able cush­ion in the cen­ter for ac­cess to clear the wind­lass, should it be re­quired.

I didn’t use the roomy cabin be­low the helm sta­tion ei­ther. It held a pri­vate head com­part­ment at the bot­tom of the three-step lad­der. In­side, in ad­di­tion to the usual ac­cou­ter­ments, were a re­mov­able tuna-rod rack and an LED lighted tackle cabi­net stacked with large util­ity boxes. Both op­tions come with the fish­ing pack­age, which also in­cludes the livewells. That sys­tem is built into a kind of “pod” that drops into the tran­som. Other op­tions in­clude a pas­sen­ger bench.

I found a dou­ble berth be­lowdecks as well, mak­ing the pri­vate head all the more im­por­tant. Some cen­ter­con­soles po­si­tion the berth di­rectly ad­ja­cent to the head.

HCB uses the best hard­ware available to cre­ate its yacht fin­ishes. From Gem­lux fas­ten­er­less rod hold­ers to re­mov­able fender hang­ers, fish­ing hard­ware is what one would ex­pect on a lux­ury cus­tom ves­sel. The gun­wale door clicks shut like a pre­mium-car door. Most builders also choose to de­sign these side en­tries to open in­ward, but not ev­ery­one has fig­ured out how to make the doors wa­ter­tight, as has HCB with the 39 Speciale.

As in any lux­ury mar­ket, HCB cus­tomers can work with the com­pany to fur­ther cus­tom­ize their ves­sels: Add a Sea­keeper sta­bi­lizer or a genset, or put in a $50,000 stereo (com­pa­nies do make those now). HCB will make the 39 Speciale any way you want it. That’s what cus­tom yachts are all about.

HCB Cen­ter Con­sole Yachts, for­merly Hy­draS­ports Cus­tom Boats, cre­ated a wellap­pointed fish­ing ves­sel with its new 39 Speciale.

Top: Triple helm seats fea­ture richly up­hol­stered cush­ion­ing. Right: Though rain and storms menaced this Fish Trial in May, the Speciale crew still caught a few small dol­phin on trolled dead bal­ly­hoo and stowed the mahi in boxes chilled with cold plates.

Top: The Speciale’s twin 40-gal­lon tran­som livewells are each fed by a pair of pumps housed in sep­a­rate sea chests. Be­low:The ex­pan­sive helm face ac­com­mo­dates a 16-inch and two 12-inch Garmin mul­ti­func­tion dis­plays.

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