HORSEPOWER was as much a part of Halloween weekend as was candy bar overindulging. River Dave, Stacy and the crew kept west coasters busy on Havasu waters during the RDP Regatta and on the other side of the Divide... little kids counted Kit Kats and big kids counted mounted 450R outboards at the 60th Annual Fort Lauderdale International Boat Show (FLIBS).
If you're a performance boater, center consolennial or just a fan of fastness and innovation then you know what I am talking about. The Mercury Marine motors we've marveled over since June 17th when the drapes were dropped at the Nashville, Tennessee unveiling had arrived.
The 450R V-8 outboard is a game changer and it's no wonder the boating world is singing its praises. Fueled with easily attainable 89-octane at the pump, boosted by a 40 percent torque differential from the 400R Verado, 300 pounds lighter in weight, and installed with a three-year (optional five-year) warranty -- What's not to love?
Accessing the FLIBS with my all-mighty media pass, I landed right on the HI high-performance dock being that, it's also the way in. At that moment all I could think of was Carol Anne from Poltergeist slowly whispering, "They're here."
Mystic Powerboat's center console collection and Marine Unlimited's white cat were the first stacks of 450s saluting showgoers at the pier entrance, and inches away the next booth over, all of Marine Technology Incorporated's (MTI) aquatic authorities touted the endearing outboard eggbeaters.
Of the four-pack on preview, front and center was the custom designed MTI V-42 Platinum Addiction belonging to new buyer, Bill Pyburn. The grey and red rock-star might be an out-of-the-box model, but the Pyburn name not so much. Pyburn and high-performance boats share a lengthy history together; and if you know anything about the Jacksonville native's past portfolio of Pure Platinums, its no secret he had a thing for Skaters.
Fast forward to 2019, Pyburn now ranks as the latest crossover customer who has migrated into a fully-loaded, luxurious MTI center console. It is safe to say he has given up his 200-plus mph kitty-cat craving in exchange for reliable turn-key cruising near 90 mph, with quad 450s of course.
Crafted from professional racing DNA, any MTI stamped boat can practically sell itself; but the Missouri-based company had a stealthy post-Halloween trick up its sleeve to keep its fan-base growing, and hereby rallied all fast-boat disciples to tune into the MTI Facebook homepage for a live stream secret-reveal.
The date was Tuesday, November 5th at 7:30 p.m. the evening prior to the Florida Powerboat Club's first trek to Key West. The place was Haulover Marine Center, the mega facility where all the toy boats are housed. One HINT to what transpired: Wouldn't the MTI 340X look better with a bigger sister by her side? Check out RDP's Key West Boat Week coverage if you haven't already heard or seen how the event unfolded.
Nor-Tech Hi-Performance Boats was another heavy hitter in Fort Lauderdale, and while it didn't hype any fresh hardware on the internet; with six speedsters on display it took the prize for largest amount of entrants. Nor-Tech also trumped all other boat brands with the most registered participants on the FPC poker run, departing just 72 hours after the FLIBS.
New and improved features on Nor-Tech's 2020 allotment included 450R bundles of joy on all models, bow seats with forward facing backrests on the 340 Sport, and hand laid carbon fiber instrument panels on the 390 Sport and 450 Sport. The dashboards were a visionary work of art, and the vivacious Daytona Blue paint on select versions was beyond addictive to the eye and my camera.
As expected, the trend continued at the Performance Boat Center and Sunsation Powerboats camp -- the 34 CCX shredded some pounds with a lighter-weight top, the 40 CCX grabbed loads of upgrades, and both nabbed sets of 450s. Another sweet marine treat was the “sunsational”, black and white 32 CCX, equipped with twin 400Rs. It was love at first sight and I couldn't resist running my hands up and down the divine luxury interior from Premier Performance Interiors (PPI).
During my moment of upholstery-induced Zen on the 32 CCX it wasn't hard to hear and see the hoopla across the water; all eyeballs were fixated on the Wright Performance 420 docked in the middle of the mayhem. Win Farnsworth is the one to thank for giving PBC the go ahead to include it at their booth, since he is the new owner of the double 450R-powered teal-toned beast who easily moves about at 115 mph.
Farnsworth, like Pyburn is a familiar name around the powerboat scene with seat time in past prized possessions including his 50' turbine-powered Mystic, Low Altitude and DCB M41 Silver Lining, not to mention a string of center consoles. But that's where the similarities end, as it would appear, Farnsworth got the urge to get back in a cat for more triple digit satisfaction.
Terminating a solid 20 minutes of rubbernecking with the Wright Performance 420, I was anxious to ditch the docks for a few hours and soak up some air-co inside the Broward County Convention Center… and more importantly, hunt down Deep Impact’s 99 Sport with the LED rubrails. It wasn't too hard a task because Mark Fischer, the owner of both Deep Impact Custom Boats and Blackwater Boats, had a whooping eight center consoles commanding the indoor auditorium.
The revamped 399 Sport was brand spanking new, Fischer told me, it literally went out the factory door and onto the convention center floor. It's also the first of its kind to have neon backlit LED strips added behind the rubrails, installed in a variety of shades, and tailored to change colors. Other benefits apart from the quad 450s projected to push mid 90s; the 399 Sport boasts of a gel coat finish, as opposed to the traditional custom paint application from top to bottom.
Following my encounter with Deep Impact's purple (some will argue it was blue) glowing goddess, I was determined (or maybe desperate) to see something besides 450 outboards. With 100,000 attendees and 1,000 exhibitors, I needed a stern drive fix and I knew Iconic Marine Group would feed my addiction. The parent company of Donzi was bringing a bit of “modern-vintage” styling back to one of Don Aronow's most successful lines; which is also the company originally named after him from "one" of his girlfriends.
Last year's Donzi 41 GTZ returned with a new state of the art roof capable of blocking 95 per cent of UV rays, while still being able to see out. Ed Champion, a Big Thunder Marine Donzi dealer from Lake of the Ozarks (LOTO) working the exhibit explained it’s a unique product based off technology within the aviation field relating to aircraft windshields. Social areas were also expanded to provide more entertainment choices between the front and back. The Donzi 41 GTZ now features a six-pack of swivel seats, and the cockpit chairs revolve as well.
The Donzi 38 ZRC, the nautical groundbreaker that revolutionized high-performance pleasure boats with a sit-down V-bottom back in 2002, resurfaced with new twists, and controversial feedback on the message boards. Whether you love it or only like it, the Donzi 38 ZRC is predicted to hit 118 mph with staggered Mercury Racing 860s and #6 drives (Mercury Racing 565s also available), and sports a composite string system, fiberglass interliner and cored high-density hull sides, a Positive Lift Double Step bottom (seeing that many theories circulate about the four step mold having been accidentally destroyed), and yellow faced gauges and a gold bilge. A wrap around windshield in place of the canopies would have made many happy, so I hear. There’s always next year!
The top of the line classic after Don Aronow’s 16 Classic “Sweet 16” and 18 Classic, the 22 Classic celebrates its astonishing 55th Anniversary with a Special Edition model boasting a next-generation dashboard, Livorsi shifters and engine controls, upgraded gauges, a Venturi windshield and Isotta steering wheel. Only 15 are slated for creation, hence collectors better make a move if interested.
Not far off from Donzi, on the asphalt sat another classic -- the Hermes Speedster. It screamed out Porsche and if it had German roots, it meant I had to introduce myself. Produced by Seven Seas Yachts, a small family business in Greece, the retro styled boat is inspired by the 1959 Porsche 356 and 1930s gentleman-style runabout.
The absence of straight lines really contributes to its smooth and flawless eye-candy appeal. A Rotax 1503 NA 4-TEC engine brings the Speedster to 45 mph, and the convertible top and optional heater and glass defroster (now that's a first) make boating in bad weather something to smile about.
After my old-school flashback at Donzi and meeting Greek God Hermes, the luxury center consoles reeled me back in. They really are everywhere, and as the market continues to expand -- wondering what bombastic boats will surface from future molds is anyone’s guess.
Over the last months I have written a host of articles for a new website soon to engage the boating industry like no other. With that said, it was exciting to see the Sunseeker 38' Hawk RIB center console and Ocean Alexander Divergence 45' super center console face to face at the Bahia Mar, because I recently reviewed both. Also mind-blowing to look at was the glowing gold Wally tucked in with the Ferretti Group big leaguers, since the Italian company acquired the brand earlier this year.
Strolling into Sunseeker and Ferretti territory, it was time to go even bigger and make my way to the over--300 feet million dollar darlings in a special sanctuary of their own. In celebration of its 60th Anniversary, the FLIBS introduced its crown jewel, the new Superyacht Village and Marina. The enclave was located at Pier Sixty-Six Hotel & Marina's new Pier South, and the stunning setting truly lent itself.
Weather-wise Fort Lauderdale had turned into a muggy, humid oasis from hell and I was completely relaxed as I sipped my icy-cold Whispering Angel rosé in the air-conditioned VIP of the Superyacht Village. Only another crown jewel could motivate me to leave but it was time to go check out the craft crowned Best of Show. The prestigious title went to the Majesty 140 from first-time exhibitor Majesty Yachts out of Dubai. I won't mention the asking price...
RDP will see you in Key West!