Patrick Haughey, the owner of Active Thunder Powerboats in Pompano Beach, Fla., has never been shy about sharing his feelings when it comes to performance-oriented center-consoles. He doesn’t like them. But with the upcoming release of his new 29 Defiant, the open-bow sibling of the 29 Savage sportboat currently under construction, Haughey may have found a “compromise.” And it’s one he can live with as a diehard custom performance-boat builder.
"I have always said that hell would freeze over before I built a center-console," Haughey said, then laughed. "But through my son, Casey, we have discovered that 'Global Warming' is starting to melt the ice. Since I brought him into the picture I have had constant conversations—meaning arguments—with him about building center-consoles. He's pointed out that boating is changing, and the future boaters of the world don't just want to go from Boca Raton to South Beach for lunch in less than an hour anymore. There is more interaction both on the water and at the docks. So slowly things warmed up around Active Thunder, and the ice began to melt."
Haughey is quick to reiterate that, despite warming to the idea of a sportboat with greater versatility than that of a traditional closed-deck model, he still has no intention of ever adding a center-console to the Active Thunder line. Yet with the 29 Defiant—named in part as a tribute to his son—he's creating a crossover model. Haughey is so confident that the open-bow 29-footer will succeed that he is creating its own deck and hull tooling, separate from that of the 29 Savage. And unlike the Savage, which can be ordered with outboard or stern-drive engines, the 29 Defiant will only be offered with twin outboards.
Of paramount importance to the builder is that his open-bow creation be comfortable and secure for all passengers in open water.
"Every 29 will have two front bolsters, forward seating, and wraparound lounges in the back," said Haughey. "But the one thing that kept sticking in my mind when looking at center-consoles during poker runs was the lack of security for the passengers. The answer in my mind was a second row of bolsters for safety when running. However, that second row eats up precious cockpit space, and people want room to hang out.
"It came to me while I was shaving one morning—a leaning post on the forward side of the aft seating, just enough room for a passenger to 'lock-in' and safely ride at 70 mph," he continued. "With a footrest and two grab handles, the second row of passengers can be as secure as the front passengers in the bolsters. And for idling or cruising, the aft seating will have a cushion on top for sitting. We also are incorporating speakers and drink holders in the coaming pads for the second row."
A social platform to be sure, the 29 Defiant will feature comfort-enhancing amenities including a forward sunpad and plenty of grab handles and drink holders in the bow area and throughout the interior. The boat's nose will house an anchor locker with a Fortress FX-11 anchor. Remote controls for the stereo system will be located in the bow as well as in the cockpit.
Haughey has no use for sportboats with mid-cabins that force passengers to stoop as they move between the cockpit and the open bow. Instead, he opted for a clean, wide walk-through with plenty of shoulder room in the 29 Defiant. The area under the port-side dash will feature an enclosed head locker with a Porta-Potti. The area under the starboard dash will be outfitted with a built-in cooler, a wet bar, and a built-in waste receptacle.
Haughey said plans to have the first 29 Defiant finished in the next three months.
"Yeah, I just invented a non-center-console center-console," he said. "That would be 'off center', right? It's a people mover/party boat with more seating than the consoles, and is much more secure for passengers when the boat is underway. A couple of the West Coast builders seem to be doing well with them in smaller cats. Let's see how it works in a V-bottom that you can run in the ocean."
Haughey paused, then chuckled. "Next up—fish on Saturday, family on Sunday. What's this next generation all about anyway? I really liked it better when we would go from Boca Raton to South Beach for lunch in under an hour."