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Review: Cabo 44 HTX Express Sportfish

Discussion in 'Cabo Yacht' started by YachtForums, Aug 28, 2011.

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  1. Cabo 44 HTX Express Sportfish
    The Best Express Sportfish Ever?

    Review by Loren Schweizer​

    Behold the new Cabo 44 Hardtop Express. Could this be the best conceived
    and arguably the most handsome mid-sized sportfish express for our times?
    If not, it's certainly the best bang for the buck in the express sector.​

    Permit a tiny digression. I am walking down the docks at Ocean Reef and pass by a sportfisherman and in the cockpit fighting chair is a geezer. The salon door suddenly opens and a babe in a bikini steps out, hands our boy a cold drink and disappears back into the salon. I guess my jaw must have dropped and the guy noticed me and said, ”Never forget, young man, it only costs a few pennies more to go first class.”

    Let’s begin with the looks (the HTX, not the girl). Gone is the old generic add-on two-dimensional top with canvas patches to keep out the elements, now replaced by the new integrated stylish hardtop resulting in the fully hard-enclosed bridgedeck. There’s a smooth transitional line from windshield to top to trailing edge draped over the shapely side window curve following the line of the pilaster. The end result is a design classic that looks all of one piece, something that Jack Hargrave and Emil Rybovich might have sketched over a beer. The shear break begins well aft and rises forward in a graceful manner, thus allowing low freeboard aft to suit anglers and yet with sufficient freeboard forward to yield expansive accommodations below deck. The look is one of pure power and strength. The shear—that is, the sidedeck/rubrail line—remains an important styling characteristic. There are numerous express boats out there with either no shear break at all, or worse, a combination of lines bordering on busy and confused.
  2. Whether loafing along at 26-27 knots (2000rpm cruise) or putting her hard into a turn at 33 knots (WOT), the 44HTX is a dry-riding boat no matter what angle you are to the wind & waves. In a two-foot chop, the windshields and side windows remained free of spray. Save the windshield wipers for the rain. A side benefit of this is that the huge sliding side windows can admit plenty of fresh air if desired. By the way, they are large enough to allow even burly types to step through and access the 11” wide sidedecks: handy when docking, for example.
  3. The boat runs roughly 3-4 degrees bow up when just up on a plane. Adding some trim tab reduces this, but, interestingly, as you goose the throttles, no tab is required since she runs flat. So, helm visibility is very good and made even better with the 8” raised deck sections that the Stidd helm & companion seats are bolted to. The hull design, replete with sixteen degree deadrise, comes from the pen of Michael Peters who has been collaborating with Cabo since the 40 model in 2002 and has also done Naval Architectural work for the likes of Garlington and their 78-footer. It is an efficient bottom: compared to the 45 that she replaces, she displaces more yet draws less, yet runs just as fast. Good work.
  4. As is the increasingly common practice, the cockpit, measuring around 100 square feet, features a mezzanine, just like on Big Boy boats. Not only does our intrepid angler have her own cheering squad, but there is also under-seat, stainless-lined storage; some of which is convertible to cooler or refrigerated fishbox storage. A smaller section hinges up to reveal the companionway entrance to the engine room. The foot of the mezzanine has a radius, ostensibly to allow a mate to rotate a fighting chair, keeping the angler’s line pointing to Mr. Billfish. Even if no chair is added, there is a ‘glassed-in' plate in the cockpit sole for future installation of a chair or rocket launcher. Two fish boxes, parallel to the port/starboard gunwales, measure a respectable 56” X 14” X 13” deep, and flank a center hatch aft for access to the lazzarette.
  5. As befits a boat suited for the serious fisherman, the gunwale coaming is padded at 25” off the deck, offering the necessary balance between bracing one’s thighs when stand-up fish-fighting and being able to get down and set a gaff. The transom door & gate is a big-boat-sized 30” wide and is latched with Hatteras-type hardware. Unlike Hatteras, the dockline hawsers are gunwale—not hullside—mounted. We backed down on an imaginary fish and slopped enough water into the cockpit to prove that the scupper drains, aided by a generous crown to the cockpit sole, are sized well. The radiused mezzanine seating, more clearly seen here, melds nicely into the sidedeck/pilaster joint. The non-skid is notably diamond style: this offers great wet deck traction and yet is a lot easier to keep clean than a sandpaper-type finish. We wondered about the eight Rupp-type rod holders and their placement. This particular boat, hull #4 (hull #6 is in the finish shop), was due to be shipped off to her new owner in the Far East. This will be his fifth Cabo, so he probably knows what he’s doing. And, this says something about Cabo management.
  6. Visibility from the helm is excellent: the windshield sections are large and the mullions are skinny enough that they are not obtrusive. The helm pedestal is bolted to a platform raised 8” above the bridgedeck sole. The surface finish in the helm area was so smooth and free of imperfections, paint was suspected. “No”, according to Don Smith, who is Cabo’s Vice President of Sales and was along for the ride, “it’s gelcoat”. It takes magnificent tooling (read: major bucks ) to achieve a finish like this. They will paint your boat if you so desire, such as some whimsical shade of Mary Kay pink. In fact, it was quickly becoming apparent that Cabo has a lot of custom boat-builder genes in it’s production line DNA. More hints to the pro-fish nature of this beast are the Rybovich-type wheel and the single lever clutches & throttles. The digital readouts are supplied by MAN whose inline six-cylinder 800HP Common Rail motors resided beneath our feet. While the style of the companionway sliding door appears generic, it is most decidedly not one of the flimsy types offered by some builders.
  7. Rather than just two FRP skins slapped together, this one is a sculpted, styled, and a well-thought out thing of artistry. Bridgedecks on express boats have been air conditioned before, but this one exhausts the cool air from above at a prodigious rate—imagine going from the 95F/90RH swamp that is Fort Lauderdale in late July and stepping up onto the helm area where it’s meatlocker chilly and without benefit of an aft curtain—which is what 32,000 BTU’s of A/C will provide. On that particularly nice day, requiring nothing more than some gentle ventilation, there is a small hatch above the helm seat. The curvy center section forms a recess so that the helmsman doesn’t hit his noggin getting out of the chair, and those two small vents means he may need earmuffs. The center rectangular overhead hatch accesses shallow storage with a cargo net for life jackets or bait rods. In olden times, teaser reels were typically cast-off, corroded 3/0s or 4/0s. Fast forward in time: the two trapezoidal overhead hatches hide a Star Wars version which contain more buttons than your Blackberry but will help attract more fish, no matter how many apps it might have. You’ll probably need to read the manual. And, in case you do after the sun goes down, the overhead Lumatech LEDs offer choices of red, blue, or white light.
  8. The companion seat is also a Stidd and is mounted atop a molded-in box that can house an icemaker and refrigerator, sink, Jenn Aire grill… you get the idea. Blocked by the seatback in the accompanying photo is that Godzilla sliding window also found on the port side; it may sound silly, but you’ll find yourself exiting it in docking situations, not wanting to go all the way back to the cockpit just to go forward along the sidedecks. Over to portside is an L-shaped settee that offers decent side/aft visibility, and if you’d like to offer your guests a better view ahead, Cabo will raise that section 8” above standard or add a third Stidd chair here. One of the observed issues attributed, however, with this hardtop, is an acoustical resonance noted at no particular RPM or speed; an odd thing where cockpit-to-bridgedeck communications were made null as if there was an invisible sound curtain between the two. Whether it was a mechanical engine or exhaust cause, combined with the trailing edged hardtop “capturing” a sound node (think noise-cancelling earphones), it is something a potential buyer should take note of.
  9. Readers who are familiar with the previous 45 model (15’8” beam)might well wonder if this new 16’6” beam offers any enticement. Not only more cavernous down below is the 44, but given the option of the “Angler’s Area”, i.e., no starboard side cabin , the entire deck below becomes an open concept. This particular boat had rod & reel mounts custom fitted to the hullside: practical stowage as well as a trophy room of sorts. The extra square footage is enhanced by a plethora of overhead natural lighting: there are three fixed skylights in the salon overhead and larger escape hatches in the overheads in the master stateroom and the head. This is one of the few express boats with great natural lighting below. Overhead LEDs light up at night. Coming down the companionway steps at night, that back-lit etched fish window really sets the tone. Cabo has been known for it’s excellent interior joinery and this 44 did not disappoint. Even the nitpicker’s nitpicker found no flaws.
  10. The nicely finished satin teak is accented by classy yet understated brushed nickel cabinet hardware. A teak & holly sole lives beneath the bound Berber carpet. Companionway steps are properly treated with non-skid. The twin doors adjacent to the steps hide the main distribution panel—Cabo is to be applauded for their restraint in eschewing the ubiquitous smoked plexiglass doors (“Hey, nice breakers and pretty indicator lights, eh?”). An A/C vent & return is forward. There’s a lot of possibilities to consider here depending on how you’d use this boat: settee with freezer beneath? Pullman berth? Sailor-type nav table?
  11. This is the galley you want if, God forbid, you want to use it while underway. The four drawer-type reefers & freezers won’t spill their contents when conditions aren’t so perfect. If anything on the countertop tips over, it merely ends up against the backsplash. On center is the flush in-counter two-burner stove with flush top that disappears down behind the stove when you’re cooking. Likely, that micro/convection oven above will get more use—throw the stuff in, push some buttons, and forget about it. Manly cookin’, arrrrrhhh! A few inches below the overhead is a valance running fore/aft and which is the supply & diffuser for the air conditioning which is dead quiet. Outboard storage above the settee is surprisingly deep.
  12. Downsizing from your old 60 Wavecrusher? No worries; you’re not giving up what really counts. The 44 Cabo is a big ‘small’ boat meant for big people. Headroom is a very generous 6’6” much like any Bertram or Hatteras of much larger size. The L-shaped settee is a full 80” in length and converts into a berth for either Captain Beerbelly or two skinny friendly-types. A 31” flatscreen just about fills up the wall behind which is the head shower enclosure. Elbow room abounds.
  13. Behind the sliding pocket door is the Owner’s Cabin. The raised pedestal berth measures 79” down the center and 64” at its widest. The mattress hinges up to reveal some storage and there are two drawers to add to this. As for the hanging lockers (and that’s the larger of the two in the photo), better tell Mrs. Howell not to bring those evening dresses. Yes, even though this is a shorts & tee shirt kind of boat, these are on the small side. Cabo does, however, get major cleverness points with their proprietary (never seen this before) “safes”. Don’t tell anybody, but under the hinged berth are two small enclosed volumes appearing as innocuous fixed joinery. The key locks are semi-hidden—you’d have to know they were there to discover them. This is useful and just roomy enough for stashing a couple of spare Glocks and maybe some large wads of cash. You never know. Of the 800 gallons of diesel onboard, the smaller 250 gallon tank is under your feet.
  14. The mark of any great boat is its head. The only true tests are A) Can you sit on the W/C with an outstretched copy of the Wall Street Journal and not bang elbows? And B) if you are a tad burly, can you stand up in the shower stall and touch your toes without banging your elbows? Everything else is secondary, so that’s why Cabo gets bonus points for the VacuFlush (they work and everybody has parts for them) toilet, dry storage for towels and TP. The overhead hatch provides light and ventilation and a privacy screen so you won’t possibly give a fright to whoever’s washing the foredeck.
  15. A brief history of engine rooms circa 1975 to present to provide reference: once upon a time, every strand of 22 oz. woven roving in the layup, plus every wire and hose and spare nuts & bolts & sawdust was visible. This begat the Hiding Of Things: whole wiring looms disappeared, then hoses, then the overheads became as bare as my bank account. Bilges got gelcoated/painted out. Hospital personnel called on boat builders to copy ever cleaner machinery spaces. Then Cabo upped the ante on this new 44 HTX. Seems they build this boat with just four castings: the hull, the deck, the hardtop and….the engine room pan. This isn’t just a drip pan under the engines. It is a FRP part that covers the entire bilge of the engine room from bulkhead to bulkhead, from port hullside to starboard. It is seamless—no nuts or bolts or sharp edges—uncanny and, I believe, an industry first.

    Access to this space is a bit tight; through a hatch, facing backwards works best. Headroom is a tick over five feet. Once below, you can turn around. The overhead is a white mirrored finish. While motive power comes in numerous flavors, our test boat came with 800 HP MAN inline sixes, so access to important bits is relatively easy. Larger available Cat C18s will mean a tighter fit outboard. The Onan 11.5 KW genset ( a 17KW unit will fit there as well) lives aft, the Glendinning shorecord bucket is outboard to port, and there is an A/C compressor ensconced in its own alcove within the forward bulkhead. White-painted Racors and numerous Groco strainers (except for the mains which use external screens) handle filtration duties. A fuel transfer pump pulls fuel from the forward tank to the main tank located aft. A nice touch is the 120VAC duplex outlet near the overhead adjacent to the hinged ladder. One tiny potential negative: there is no large opening, i.e., a fiddly hatch or removable sections of deck for big pieces to exit this engine room.
  16. In the final analysis, there are other choices in the mid-forty-foot express market costing a bit less than the 44 HTX which bases out at under $1M equipped with the Cummins QSM 11's. For a few dollars more, the HTX is the most robustly constructed and simply offers more value for the buck.

    Remember: It only costs a few pennies more to go first class!​


    <end>

    by Loren Schweizer​

    Specifications:

    LOA (includes pulpit): 47’ 7”
    Hull Length: 44’ 7”
    Beam: 16’ 6”
    Draft: 3’ 7”
    Transom Deadrise: 16 degrees
    Displacement: 43,200 (Full Load)
    Fuel Capacity: 800
    Water Capacity: 100
    Headroom Most Areas: 6’8”
    Berths: 4-5
    Height (Top of integrated radar pod): 11’ 2”
    Engine Options: Cummins, Cat or Man's from 710hp to 1150hp

    For more information contact:

    CABO Yachts
    110 N. Glenburnie Road
    New Bern, NC 28560
    www.caboyachts.com
    252-637-2226

    ***​
  17. DETAILS

    Under Step Space: Just a simple crawl space for access to more hose/wiring connections. Requirements are a good flashlight and really long arms. Note the carpeting which old knees will appreciate as well as the inboard metal faces of the step ends so the whole affair doesn’t turn rickety over the years: that’s key—high-end boats withstand the test of time and age well.
  18. Transom doors and gates are possibly the most abused moving parts of any fishing boat. They are flung open and shut during times of great excitement and hang the consequences. It might be wagered that a company that builds a top-shelf boat such as this listens carefully to its owners and beefs up things as needed. Having taken off my shoes and socks, I count 46—46!—machine screws holding a door and gate to the back end of this boat. What you may not have noticed is that the screw heads all line up. This is done in other areas as well. The last major builder to do this was Chris Craft in the Sixties when they, too, were special.
  19. In the ‘Angler’s Area’ facing aft, adjacent to the accommodations companionway, is the main distribution panel. Nothing fancy, just intuitive: digital metering, 24VDC, 120VAC, 220VAC, Gen start/stop. Notable, however, the triple (not dual) euro hinges for the doors, plus the panel is piano-hinged on the right and for EZ access are two twist tabs meaning no screwdriver is needed to check something behind. Details!
  20. In no particular order of importance, here is proper wiring:

    • Machine screw connections to the busses, not spade-types.
    • Plenty of tie-wraps so nothing can move causing a loose connection.
    • Chafe protection where wiring exits the box.
    • Magnetic—not thermal--breakers.
    • Tinned wires for corrosion resistance.
    • Plexiglass panels ensuring no unwanted contacts.
    • Color-coding facilitating troubleshooting.
    And as in Ms. Jone’s Grammar class... neatness counts!
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