By Captain John B. Wenz
A recent writing assignment took me to New York Harbor to cover the annual Poker Run. I expected to see the usual suspects—high-performance deep vees and racing catamarans from all the go-fast builders. As I walked the docks, one boat stood out from all the rest. Smack in the middle of the fleet was what appeared to be a production center console fish boat. As I drew near, I realized that this wasn’t just any production boat. The hull looked fast, and she was fitted with four Mercury 300 OptiMax XS motors from Mercury Racing. Yet the deck and cockpit layout left no doubts that this boat is intended for some serious fishing. “What’s up with this?”
I realized that I was standing alongside Bob Kolenberg’s Fountain 38TE “Corporate Cars.com.” I had heard about this boat. She holds the world center console speed record of 87.6 mph. Once I got to talking to Bob, I began to understand the boat, the owner, and why he brought a fishing boat to a Poker Run; an event which is all about speed. He’s a lifelong boater, and he and his family use their boat every weekend for lots more besides tournament fishing (which they also participate in, of course). Eventually we negotiated a test ride at a later date. As for that day, I was offered a ride aboard another Fountain; this one a sport boat. I’d be able to watch the center console boat-to-boat first, so that I could get my first impression without being on board. I’d get to bring the test gear aboard at a later date to “run the numbers.” This began to sound like the kind of boat testing that I really enjoy.
About the Builder
Although this is a special boat, she’s every bit as “production” as most of what Fountain produces. That is to say that the folks at Fountain will work with you to create a boat that’s just right for you. But make no mistake, each one of their boats is special. The Fountain team is very customer oriented, from Reggie Fountain himself right on down the line and out the door to the individuals who make up the dealer network. My local dealer, a guy known as “Tuna” at Norwest Marine in Norwalk, Connecticut, is a case in point. He’s proud of the product he represents, and his enthusiasm is as contagious as that of the Fountain owners who I’ve met. It’s not unusual for some to be back to Fountain four and five times for a new boat as their needs change. Forget about all the facts I can quote from the builder’s brochure. A track record with repeat customers like that says everything I need to know about customer satisfaction.
Just like the entire Fountain fleet, the 38 has got a Super-ventilated Positive Lift hull, a notched transom and pad keel. Reggie Fountain has devoted his career to developing the best boat he can build, based on a formula of “Miles per Hour per Dollar Spent,” and this hull shape represents the latest evolution. There’s a lot of extra time and effort taken to do things right; for example, the manufacturing team takes the extra step to beef up the hull-to-deck joint with fiberglass after they’ve fastened it like everybody else does. In addition, the entire Fountain lineup is made up of really complete packages. Option lists are not very extensive, simply because you don’t need much in the way of additional equipment- they’ve thought of everything. And almost every part is made in-house. Once they’ve built your boat, they test it and tweak it right out on the water. When you take delivery, you’ve got a boat that’s ready to go.
About the Boat
Fountain’s center console 38TE is the largest fishing boat in their fleet at 37’ 11” long. Her 10’6” beam appeared to be just right in terms of maintaining enough fishing deck space for ride quality. After all, the 38’ fishing boat is two feet wider than her 38’ sport boat cousin. Somehow the engineers have figured out how to give you the same legendary Fountain ride with slightly different geometry. With a dry weight of 10,600 pounds, the 38TE has a deadrise of 22 degrees and comes factory rigged with your choice of eight different engine packages from Mercury Racing, ranging from 750 horsepower to 1200 horsepower.
The TE, or Tournament Edition, differs from her Open Bow sister in that she’s got a cuddy cabin up forward. This boat isn’t really designed to be a liveaboard, though, so the accommodations are pretty Spartan. Given the standard air conditioning and heat, you wouldn’t exactly be “roughing it” by spending an overnight or two aboard during a weekend outing.
The deck and cockpit layout execution has got what an experienced fisherman would describe as “exactly what he needs.” Things like hidden mooring cleats, padded bolsters, and convenient-yet-out-of-the-way washdown hose bibbs indicate attention to detail from a design and engineering team that had both an eye and an ear for all the right input. Rocket launchers and flush-mounted rod holders seem to be everywhere, from the T-top to the leaning post to the gunwales. And storage spots for about a dozen or so rods and reels are located in the cuddy and beneath the bolsters. A sink with pressurized water is on the port side of the transom. To starboard is a relatively small, walk-through transom door. This is about the only obvious compromise I could find on the boat. The diminutive size of this door, along with limited access around the four big outboards hung on the stern makes it appear impossible to boat a big fish without hoisting it over the rail. The upside, though, is uniform, symmetrical strength throughout the hull structure here at the aft end.
The console arrangement is pure Fountain: perfectly laid-out for high speed running. A thoughtful combination of Livorsi analog gauges and Mercury SmartCraft digital instrumentation complements the positive, solid feel of custom throttle and shift levers and a rugged aluminum wheel. A row of toggle switches for pumps, lights and accessories is right at hand, and a full-width electronics locker is all ready for flush installation of a full complement of all the latest in electronics. Our test boat was outfitted with the optional extra fuel tankage, but the standard layout includes a full stand-up head and shower with a Vacuflush toilet under the console. Helm seating is at a rugged leaning post with electrically activated seat pads. Bob Kolenberg described to me an aft-facing seat which the factory is fabricating for him. It will provide his family and guests additional seating for when he’s got the whole gang aboard, which he often does.
I forgot to describe the Poker Run. New York Harbor, with a fleet of about a hundred go-fast boats, commercial traffic and ferries can provide some of the nastiest confused slop you can find within sight of land. I was impressed to watch from alongside as the Kolenbergs and their guests enjoyed the ride on the 38TE in complete comfort. And with less motor noise generated by the outboard package, their conversation was equally as relaxed. Once the pace boat let us go, we soon got left behind by “Corporate Cars” as she flew over the chop at speeds in the low 80s. Bob and his friends were waiting for us at the dock when we got back.
Our test day offered more docile conditions; hot and humid with flat seas. That’s not quite right for record-breaking speed, but I did see 85 mph a couple of times on the GPS. I was immediately impressed by the handling when I took the wheel, and as we accelerated we were on plane from a standstill in 6 seconds, and reached 30 mph just three seconds later. We were cruising along at 60 mph before I knew it, and our official top speed for the day was 84.7 mph.
I am totally impressed by how comfortable it was to cruise along effortlessly at nearly 60 mph. I also prefer the throaty sound coming off the quad 300 outboards over the sound of inboards or I/Os that you’re accustomed to when you go this fast. The motors purr, and the sound and the feel of the whole package is just right; a perfect match of hull and machinery. Our test gear indicated an optimal cruising speed at 54.5 mph with a range of 515 miles utilizing the optional fuel capacity totaling 420 gallons. The net result was an impressive total of 40 gallons per hour at cruise. Those are the kind of numbers that I like to see for quad engines.
Fountain has every right to be proud of the level of performance, comfort and economy that they bring to the market on this and all their models. If you’re considering a quality boat that’s capable of more than just serious fishing, you owe it to yourself to go for a ride on the 38TE from Fountain. It’s an awesome experience.
For more information, check out www.fountainpower.com