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Howard Boats brought two phenomenal examples of their work to the LA Boat show this year. A 28 Sport Deck and a 28 SDS (Sport Deck Series). Before we get into the two boats at the show I think it's important to discuss a question that I get a lot. "What's the difference between a 28 Sport Deck, and a 28 Sport Deck Series?" To answer that we must discuss three boats, the Sport Deck, the 28 SCS (Sport Cat Series) and finally the 28 SDS (Sport Deck Series) and the evolution of one to another.

The Sport Deck is Howard's answer to the Magic Deck Boat, and the Conquest that became very popular in the mid 2000's. Howard took what everyone else was doing and "made it better." They incorporated a sliding door in the front that doubled as a windscreen (and is surprisingly effective), they tooled a dual helm (deck boat term, it's not actually left or right steering for the offshore crowd) in the initial tooling and just made a deckboat that absolutely looks sinister no matter what angle you took a picture at. From the side it looks like a low profile cat, from the top, it looks like an evil party platform, and from the back.. Well that's the view most the other deck boats see out on the water because after all.. It's a Howard.

From the 28 Sport Deck Bottom the 28 SCS was born. They added 4 full inches of free board, which added a bit of tunnel compression (we will get into that in a minute), they completely restyled the deck into an absolutely stunning 28' Rocket with a wrap around windshield. The boat can have large single power, or even accommodate twins (which we are really looking forward to somebody building one with twins, preferably big inch aluminum small blocks if you are asking me). They then offered it in a closed bow, open bow, or a split window walk through version which is the beginnings of a 28 "SDS" (Sport Deck Series)

In late 2011 early 2012 the idea was born that if someone was going to steal business from Howard, they were going to steal it from themselves. Mike Willen began tooling the 28 SDS. What's important about this though is while the boat shares the "SCS" bottom the top is something altogether different and somewhat exciting for a boat freak like myself. The boat shares the same styling as the SCS with the very cool split windshield, but when they did the tooling for the top they made the tooling "modular." Now I know what you're gonna say next, and it's exactly what I would say if I was in your shoes... "What the hell does that mean Dave?" What it means is they made inserts that can be popped in and out of the mold to change the configuration, look, and functionality of the boat on the fly.

In Gene Willen's words "We can put this boat together like Lego's." Lets say Mom loves the functionality of a Deck Boat, and the easy beach access for her kids, but Dad loves the idea of the fire breathing Hot Rod that Howard is known for building over the last 50 or so years. You can choose the walk off front, with a traditional back bench, or my personal favorite the Poker Run interior with 4 bucket styled joined seats with billet T handles. It's as simple as placing the deck insert in the front, and keeping the traditional styled back or upgrading to the Poker run interior. In the reverse example lets say a family does a lot of water sports, but very little beaching. You can keep the Cat styled front and they pop in the deck insert for the rear of the boat, and the rear bench and large sun pad now becomes an "L" shaped bench with a three step stair case leading you out to the massive swim step. As in the case with others maybe they want a pure deck with the walk off front, and back, but are looking for a little more free board then the 28 Sport Deck offers, you can just opt for everything deck boat. This might sound like nothing new, but I can tell you every manufacturer talks about "modular tooling" and inserts, but Howard is the only one that I know of using it to completely change the dynamic of a boat on the fly.

So now that we are Howard aficionados we will get into the boats at the show. First up we are going to talk about the Orange and Grey 28 Sport Deck.
Being that my picture taking skills are not nearly that of some of my board members, we are going to borrow a few pictures from "Take the Long Way Home" in his thread right here on RDP

1st the specs.

Length - 28'6"
Max Beam - 102"
Approximate Weight - 4800 lbs
Seating - 14
Fuel Capacity standard - 80 gallons
Bottom - Modified Tunnel
Freeboard - 53"

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This Sport Deck featured a 525 that should push it right to 82 mph (power boat magazine), with a lighter load.

Some of you will remember this boat had a WakeBoard tower on it originally and was built as a stock boat. I examined every inch of this thing looking for a repair, and Gene even pointing to the spots where the tower was, the repair was absolutely flawless. You couldn't tell it was ever there. Howard has been doing so many capped boats, and half cap boats that they have become absolute masters at secondary (out of the mold) gel work.

The Sport Deck features two sliding doors that come together and close, and they actually follow the rake of the outside lines of the boat. This kind of doubles as a wind deflector and is surprisingly effective at calming down the normal "wind tunnel" effect that deck boats often get. The doors are on a detent when they are open to keep them in place and latch really tightly when they are closed. What that means is I'm guessing they wouldn't rattle like most the gates and cabinets on other deck boats while under way.

In our last article about the 330 Deep Impact we invented a term "Partyable." Well I'm going to broaden the horizon of that term to include cocktail and beer storage. Lets take a look at this 82 mph rockets ability to haul the drinks for a minute. Howard took one of the helm storage lockers and put a large cooler on sliding rails in there. The cooler itself is actually bolted to the rail system (non removable) and has a drain hose that drains it right out the side of the boat. If you look closely in the picture below you will notice two things. One the trash bin that is to the left of the cooler for disposal, and second there is a little piece with a screw in it on the rail system. That piece locks the cooler into place to keep it from sliding around while underway. You pull the pin and out comes the cooler.

So we start making our way towards the back of the boat and we will come to the rest of our liquid fun storage capacity. When you get to the rear of the boat there is an "L" shaped bench, the bottom cushions pull up to reveal two storage areas under the seats for gear. These storage areas also pull double duty as coolers as they are completely fiberglassed and have drains installed that will drain into the bildge of the boat. In triple duty they also act as false walls to protect the speakers ahead of them from getting damaged while you are throwing things in and out of the areas. This is somewhat important as a lot of manufacturers don't think about that aspect of boating. In my old boat I actually had to fab up sheet metal guards so that the clips on ropes etc.. wouldn't puncture holes in the speakers. Cooler # 1 across the back bench, and cooler # 2 on the side bench.

So again I know what you are thinking.. "Dave what is that metal white looking thing in the gunnel next to the side cooler?" A great question indeed and before I answer it, I'd like to ask you the readers a rhetorical question and that is "Pardon me.. Do you have any Grey Poupon?" This boat has it all including.... Wait for it... Wait for it... Bottle service!

The Cut Outs are as follows
Front : 12 Volt Blender Storage
Large Circle : Holds a stainless steel Ice Bucket (for those like myself that prefer their ice in clean storage away from dirty cans and bottles)
The following cutouts towards the rear are typical of 750 ML bottles that you would find in any brand of your favorite adult beverage. Howard boats forever being "custom" though will have those cut outs made into any shape you like if you have a particular favorite that has an odd shaped bottle such as Patron or the Old #7 Jack Daniels. Partyable has officially been redefined as Howard has in one shot dual purposed the boat for all tastes.

I have this mental image in my head as soon as I saw that ingenious little contraption. We have a somewhat average well to do river family. The sons or daughters can take all of their friends out on the water, break off just about any other hot rod that comes their way (It is a Howard after all), get to the sand bar or their favorite party spot and rage all day. The older parents are at home playing their peanuckle and staying out of the heat hoping and praying that their boat is safe. The kids get home, empty the trash bin, a quick hose out of the boat and a wipe down of the interior and she is now ready for her second job of the day. The twilight "booze cruise." I see them walking down with their stainless ice bucket, a quick flip on the radio from Nellie and Lil Wayne over to Neil Diamond and George Straight and they are idling down the river with their Chivas Regals or whatever the hell they drink on the rocks enjoying the sunset and the more calm side of the river. Except when their buddies show up next to them in that fancy smancy Pontoon, they quickly again get "broken off." (It is a Howard after all, Just making sure you are seeing that trend there of the "broken off" and it being a Howard)

Now I feel we might have strayed pretty far away the actual boat and more into it's "potential" and it isn't by accident. Every year we go over Howard Boats and every year we come back with the same conclusions, and this year won't be any different. "IT'S A HOWARD!" They are quite simply one of the best boats money can buy. Every single thing in the boat is through bolted, the Hulls are dead straight. The tooling and joint lines are perfect, they use only high quality components. Partner that with the fact that they have 50 years of dominating Heritage on the West Coast and you are going to be very hard pressed to find something wrong with any of it. They are fast, they handle well, they are built to take a beating on a race course yet docile enough that you can let even a novice boater at the sticks with little fear of getting in trouble. I will wrap this up with what really stood out to me this year from previous years in the Howard camp, and ultimately was "best in show" as far as all the manufacturers are concerned. This year Howards interiors were absolutely the best displayed (in my opinion) and most comfortable interiors of the show. They put stitching and graphics that were "classy" yet aggresive enough to appeal to a younger guy. The graphics also gave the seats a nice three dimensional feel of cushion and "grip" that made you feel like you were sitting "in the seat" as opposed to on it.

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To get to the brass tacks of the boat I'll say it again "It's a Howard." the rigging was flawless, and it will absolutely perform with the best of them.


Next up is the 28SDS, which I promise will be a much shorter article as we have already covered most of the basics of Howard in this one. We will focus in on the modular tooling, and the differences between it and the Sport Deck.

For more information on the 28 Sport Deck call Gene Willen at Howard Boats and tell him RiverDave sent ya.