I pulled up and there was the DCB crew along with a potential customer for a future 41 build, and they had just gotten back from a ride. I could see the water dripping off the underside of the hull and the drives. My heart sank, it certainly appeared that they were done for the day. I was asking myself "How the hell did this happen? Didn't they say 10:30? Maybe it was 9:30?" That quickly turned to a tinge of anger, and I was just getting ready to say "You are putting that big, insert your own expletive word here, back in the water!" when Dave Hemmingston said "What do ya say Davey? You ready to go for a ride?" Confusion turned to clarity when I realized they had just pulled the boat out of the water because they didn't want to beach it in the cove. It was fairly easy to load and unload people out of the boat with the ladder on the front of the trailer.
Tony, Eric, Dave H, and myself all climbed up into the cockpit, and Rob backed the boat down into the water. I rigged three go pros and kept one handy for hand held usage. Eric rigged up a couple of Sony contours as well (I haven't seen the footage from those yet). The wind was unrelenting, but the cove of the Islander did offer some shelter to it. Tony didn't have much problem
As we were heading towards the lake out comes the head sets typical of any boat of this caliber. I gave them a quick once over, and I really didn't want to ask the stupid question of "Where's the chord?" Eric must have seen the perplexed look on my face because he said "Blue Tooth head sets." Of course they are, why wouldn't they be?
We exited the lagoon and Tony bumped the throttles a little. The boat was dragging a nice little white wash behind it... "Everyone Ready?" comes through the headsets, and upon confirmation, He let the games begin. He rolled into the throttles, and at first I expected the boat to just slowly lumber up on plane like most the other big cats I've been in. As soon as the 1350's came on boost the boat just "hopped up on plane." Yes I just used the phrase "Hopped up on plane in an article about a 41' Cat. That's impressive in itself. In this article though I have decided to take things to a little different level in the online media world. Don't take my word for it, check out the videos that show it!
We made a sweeping left hand turn and the boat came right up to 110 and we were heading down the lake. As we kept going the cruising speed went from 110, to 120, to 130. There was a little discussion in the headsets about the camera up on the bow and what speeds it would stick at. I have full faith in the suction cup mount, but looking through that perfectly clear, no distortion, very expensive window I couldn't help but wonder if I'd be responsible for buying another one if that thing flew off and hit it. I told Tony I'd keep an eye on it, but I think we are good. He bumped it up again and the boat found a nice happy cruising speed in the 140's.
The lake has a couple of very gradual sweeping turns as you head down it towards the springs. We didn't let up much as we went around them, the boat just leaned in and gracefully came around each one. There was no crabbing, no ratcheting of the steering wheel, no weird side to side action that a lot of cats get when you are turning them. I was actually very impressed with how refined and natural it felt. I'm not sure it's going to come across in the video as smooth as it was in the cabin because the Go Pro has a little wind vibration from the speed we were cruising at. The video will show how much the boat leans in though if you look at the Horizon.
I've known Tony a long time and he knows about what I want to see on a ride. Everybody is always so focused on the big number, but I'm more interested in how the boat performs over all. I could careless if the boat runs 200 mph straight. I want to know how it handles, how it turns, how it does at low speeds, does it porpoise at any speed?
He let off the throttles and slowed the boat way down to make a series of slow speed turns. Typically in my experience the bigger the cat, the less they like going slow, and the worse they'll lean to the outside if your turning. Now if you take the Tres Martin School of Performance Driving, they can and will teach you how to make a Cat to lean to the inside regardless of speed. That being said when your done you'll have a borderline PHD in Cat driving. You will know that there is a long series of steps to get a boat to do those things. Off the top of my head some of those steps would include:
"Setting the boat" (throttles)
Trim the boat (which may include tabs for slow speed)
Calling the boat (Tres Term),
and finally using their proprietary method of turning.
To make a long story short you had better plan ahead and get the boat prepped for the turn.
We skipped all of that, Tony slowed down to 50 and turned the wheel to the right. The boat leaned in and turned to the right.. He let up a little more and turned left, and the boat leaned over to the left, then he accelerated a hair we did another right for good measure. That might not sound like much, but this in my opinion is the most important part of this article and the most impressive feature of this boat! The boat is extremely well mannered and docile in conditions that would normally "trip up" a large cat. Cats usually aren't happy until they start packing air, and working as the hull was intended too. The M-41 displayed handling both at low and high speeds that can only be described as "perfect." When he was done with the slow speed demonstration, he got after it. I was blown away at how hard those 1350's pulled. Even though that sounds like a lot of Horsepower, coming from the small boat world where HP to weight ratios are considerably different then big boats, I was actually shocked to get pushed back in the seat. You can hear me actually say "WOW" in the handheld footage.
We buzzed her up one more time into the 150's for good measure and then Tony decided it was time to start heading north again. He entered the turn around 120 mph, and the boat leaned in as expected. You have to remember the wind is blowing 20-25 with gusts to 30 up the lake right now. This puts us into a position that cats aren't super fond of historically. If you're turning left and wakes or waves are coming from the right you can get a lot of that crabbing, grab and release action going on. It's a kind of side to side motion that isn't abnormal to a cat, but makes guys like me a little "nervy." The M-41 would have none of it. It leaned in with grace, and as we slowed and cornered harder and harder it just leaned in and took a harder and harder set. There was zero crabbing, zero rocking, zero side to side. This would honestly be the toughest test of the day for any cat to perform and it did with grace, and felt very "natural." This is officially the safest feeling cat I have ever ridden in.
We exited the turn doing around 90, and Tony again laid the sticks down but this time he was in it to win it. He was going for a number and it became very evident the boat was happy to oblige. I watched the digital speedo ratcheting so fast you couldn't even read it, so a quick glance to the analog on the big screen and you can see things are starting to happen in a big hurry.. 90, 100, 110, 120, 130, 140, and we are making a slight right then back to 150, 160, 163, 164, 166. The boat didn't run out acceleration, it flat ran out of prop. The tachs on the big screen are slammed on the limiter, and with the wind at our back the best I saw in the boat that afternoon was 166.7.
It should be noted that the very next day they threw a set of 41's on her and ripped off 175 mph with no issues, a couple guys and 1/2 tanks. As the drives break in and loosen up, and they tweak the setup a little bit there's little doubt this boat will be knocking on 180 with factory stock Merc Power. There's even a little more in her if they send the lowers out and get them blue printed. For the sake of being conservative I will call it a legit 170+mph rocket anytime, anywhere, with your friends and the coolers.
Overall the boat was amazing, but there's a lot more to this M-41 then just sheer performance. The boat is the very definition of refined. It's hard to put into text, but the boat gives off an extremely exotic yet luxury car feel to it. It's not some crude muscle car that would have you clawing at the windows after a four hour drive. This is the "BiTurbo" Benz by Brabus." Styled to the 10's, the performance of a supercar, and the luxury and comfort that makes you never want to get out of it.
After we got back to the Islander I found myself really analyzing the whole experience. I was floored that a boat that had such performance in it's blood was as docile as a baby kitten on the low speed maneuvers. Dave had told me as we were getting in the boat "Your wife could drive this boat at 160 no problems" and I thought to myself Rrriiigghhhttt... After the experience I think he's right. Anybody could get in this boat with minimal instruction and operate it pretty competently. When we got out of the boat there was the usual questions "What did you think?" "How did it compare in your opinion?" etc.. etc.. The one question that really sticks out in my mind was from Dave Hemmingston "Is this the nicest riding & handling cat you have ever been in?"
I will answer that one Dave..
The answer is yes, that is the nicest riding and handling cat I have ever been in. I'll take that a step further factoring in the refinement level, it's the nicest boat I've ever been in period.
If that makes me a drinker of the proverbial Kool-Aid to the peanut gallery in the online communities, then make another pitcher because I'd love another taste.