As we headed out toward open water on the Gulf of Mexico, lead test driver Bob Teague slalomed the Fountain 38 Sportfish center-console through a series of left and right turns.
"Fountains always handle nicely," he said, almost under his breath.
He was right. The 10-foot, 6-inch beam center-console transitioned from side to side just as it should, with no grabbiness on entry or bobbles on exit, all the while still "on the bubble" and freed up from the water's surface. It felt just right, the way a boat should.
Powered by triple Mercury Verado 275 outboard engines with lab-finished 15 1/4" x 26" Mercury Bravo One props, the 38-footer hit 75 mph on radar and 72.4 mph on the GPS on Sarasota Bay. At top speed, the triple inline six-cylinder Verados sounded like a trio of hot-rod UPS trucks charging from behind. At low and midrange speeds, the only noise was the sound of the wind rushing by and the water splashing as it passed beneath the hull.
The light wind chop was ideal for making speed runs and performing handling drills in a stepped-bottom boat, and it really showed the efficiency of the hull and engine package.
For example, at 45 mph, or roughly 4,000 rpm, the boat yielded 1.42 mpg. That's a healthy cruising speed and respectable mileage for a 10,000-plus pound boat. Based on its 420-gallon fuel capacity, that efficiency translates to a range of nearly 600 miles at 45 mph.
Though buyers for this kind of boat demand fuel efficiency, they also demand that it be quick. You already knew it was fast, but it also was quick enough to hit 42 mph in 10 seconds and 63 mph in 20 seconds. In other words, it got right with the program for a boat of this ilk, and tracked well at all speeds.
It climbed on plane in less than 5 seconds with the Mercury 380S K-Planes down, but more importantly, it came up flat. Visibility was excellent at all speeds thanks to a large plexiglass windshield bolted to the console.
Fountain built the 38 Sportfish with vinylester resin cured over bi-, tri- and quadraxial fiberglass cloth, which sandwiched a high-density foam coring. The stringer system also was constructed of composites rather than marine-grade plywood.
Mold work and gelcoat exhibited above-average smoothness and luster. Inside, every surface your feet touched had molded nonskid, and that included the decking atop the forward cabin.
The forward decking featured a nice high bowrail and a built-in anchor locker. Inside, the locker was finished in positive-molded gelcoat, had a permanent eye attachment for the anchor line and the hatch was notched so you could close it even if the anchor was out.
The forward cabin, which was accessible through a bifolding door and a lift-up hatch, featured a V-berth, with rod racks on the hullsides and beneath the side cushions. The rod racks were a nice touch, though they would have been better with some form of retainer for the rod and the handle end. Built as they were, the racks would allow the rods to bounce out in rough seas. Given the price of good rods, this might not sit well with anglers.
What will sit well is the way Fountain fitted the boat with cleats mounted vertically inside the gunwale. To tie off the boat, you dropped the dock line through a stainless-bezeled opening in the gunwale. It's a common setup on sportfish boats because it frees the gunwales of any cleats, which can snag lines and result in lost fish.
Owners also will appreciate how easy it is to access wiring and plumbing. Beneath the center-console, there's a panel door, which was supported on a breakaway spring that provided access to under-dash wiring, all done in a production-like manner. That meant the wiring was often gathered in bunches with zip ties rather than snipped to the ideal length. There also was belowdeck access just forward of the rear bench seat to the three 24-series batteries, bilge pumps and fuel-switching valves. Trim pumps for the K-Planes were located behind hatches at the rear corners in the gunwales.
Also beneath the center-console was the head compartment, which was large enough for a 6-footer to stand in without stooping. Anyone taller will need to duck a bit, but there is a lot of room to get in and sit down. The fiberglass-liner-style head also came fitted with a sink with a spigot that doubled as a shower head and a real porcelain commode, just like home.
The helm was equally welcoming, and though our test boat was the base model, it could be equipped with a full complement of marine electronics. Beneath the rattle-free T-top, the fiberglass electronics locker was fitted with a clear plastic door, which would protect electronics from the harsh marine environment, but allow you to see their displays.
At the helm, Fountain fitted the boat with Mercury Racing Zero Effort throttles and analog SmartCraft instrumentation. In addition to the electronic trim indicators in the gauges, Fountain installed mechanical indicator panels for the trim tabs. Rocker switches, with corresponding circuit breakers, were set in a row above the glove box, below which was a grab bar for the passenger and two cupholders. The aft edge of the dash was padded and upholstered, which was a welcome touch in heavy seas.
At the transom the 38 Sportfish had a door to the motor well and a bench seat large enough for two people. The live well was beneath the cushion. Fish boxes—all four of them—flanked the console area. Each had its own drain. All totaled, they had a 706-quart capacity, which is far more than most bag limits allow.
Fountain blended its expertise in building fast offshore boats with the angler-friendly features and creature comforts center-console buyers demand. The 38 Sportfish was reasonably quick and plenty fast, roomy and efficient given the triple-engine configuration. But more important, it was fun and rewarding to drive.
Hull and Propulsion Information
|Deadrise at transom||22.5 degrees|
|Hull weight||10,600 pounds|
|Fuel capacity||420 gallons|
|Engines||(3) Mercury Verado 275|
|Lower-unit gear ratio||1.85:1|
|Propellers||Lab-finished Mercury Bravo One 15 1/4" x 26"|
|Base retail price||$273,052|
|Price as tested||$283,521|
Upgrade to triple fuel tanks ($2,386), Taco Metals outriggers ($1,846), Vacu-flush head with overboard discharge ($1,674), AM/FM CD stereo ($1,154), removable rear bench backrest ($838), bracket-mount swim ladder ($617), life jacket stowage in T-Top ($591), freshwater washdown ($462), additional transom rod holders ($385), gold-tone rod holders ($362) and additional T-Top rod holders ($154).
|5 seconds||26 mph|
|10 seconds||42 mph|
|15 seconds||55 mph|
|20 seconds||63 mph|
|Time to plane||4.9 seconds|
|Minimum planing speed||18 mph|
|30-50 mph||6.3 seconds|
|40-60 mph||8.4 seconds|
Rpm vs. Mph
|Radar||75 mph at 6250 rpm|
|GPS||72.4 mph at 6250 rpm|
|At 25 mph||1.2 mpg|
|At 35 mph||1.4 mpg|
|At 45 mph||1.4 mpg|
|At 55 mph||1.2 mpg|
|At 65 mph||0.92 mpg|
|At WOT||0.84 mpg|
|Wind speed||1-3 mph|
|Sea conditions||2' to 3' chop|
For More Information
P.O. Drawer 457
Washington, NC 27889