Hatteras left a pretty big hole in the water when it decided to discontinue its 65-foot and 70-foot convertible sportfishing yachts, which ceased production in 2004. Such decisions are not made lightly and you can bet the North Carolina-based boat builder had a plan of action to fill the gap left by these two popular models.
This plan comes in the form of a brand-new 68-foot convertible sportfisher, which gave Hatteras an opportunity to take design and innovation to new heights while staying true to building customs and methods its customers have come to rely on.
The 68C is built on a solid fiberglass convex hull that starts with about 20 degrees of deadrise amidships and tapers to a virtually flat 2 degrees at the transom. This design, coupled with deep propeller tunnels, makes for smooth head-sea riding by reducing impact acceleration. We ran into about an hour's worth of fairly stiff weather during our sea trial off Key Largo. While the ride was understandably bumpy, we still were able to hold our 29-knot cruising speed without any real discomfort.
The double-reverse chines taken together with the most exaggerated bow flare of any Hatteras to date worked together to keep the ride bone dry in most situations. The only wetness we experienced came from a strong wind blowing on our port quarter forward. Terry Stansel, who is with Hatteras's product development team and was our host for the sea trial, added that even though the deep propeller tunnels provide excellent tracking, a good wind can still push the bow around if you're not paying attention. (He also mentioned that a bow thruster, while an expensive option, is a good idea because a strong wind can make tight docking a challenge.)
With a pair of brand-new 1,800 hp Caterpillar C-32 ACERT (Advanced Combustion Emission Reduction Technology) diesels spinning seven-blade props at 2,340 rpm, we reached a top speed of 33.1 knots on GPS. While our test load consisted of about 1,400 gallons of fuel (about two-thirds of total capacity), 200 gallons of water and five people, Stansel said he has had the boat fully loaded with fuel and water along with about 20 people and didn't notice any dramatic decrease in speed. He also said that going from empty to fully loaded will only take the draft down about an inch or two, which is an obvious advantage while docked in an area during low tide.
We found we liked to cruise at about 29 or 30 knots at around 2,050 rpm (about 80 percent on the engines), which ran us 68 gph per engine for a total of 138 gph. Assuming 90 percent of the 2,100-gallon fuel capacity, this would deliver a range of about 441 miles — more than enough for a full day of cruising. And the ability to cruise at 30 knots certainly will be an advantage during those high-stakes fishing tournaments.
The centerpiece of the 68C in terms of fishing is the 192-square-foot cockpit, which is wide and includes the kind of customization anglers in different parts of the world will appreciate. In what it calls its mezzanine level are a number of storage areas that can be modified for use as fishboxes, ice storage, freezers, coolers or tackle storage, depending on your preference. One nice touch is a tackle area for the mate on the starboard side beneath the ladder going to the flybridge. This allows the mate access to all the gear he or she needs to keep lines baited while not getting in the way of guests or other anglers in the cockpit. The mezzanine also is topped with cushions.
In the deck of the cockpit there are two large storage boxes that can be used as livewells, fishboxes, ice storage or dry storage, depending on what the captain wants. In the center of the transom cap rail there's the option for a large fishbox, which also can be plumbed as a livewell.
The transom itself has a rounded shape, which allows the water to peel away to the sides rather than come over the top and into the cockpit. We spent a few hours dropping in for bottom fish and were amazed at how close the water level would come up to the rail, but would never actually pour over — even while backing down at a decent clip. We can see how there would be no problem getting a hand over the rail to assist in landing and we appreciated the forgiveness of the rounded teak cap rail, which provided plenty of leverage to work a stiff line.
Our test boat was rigged with a number of rocket launchers, a tower bridge and other necessities of a dedicated fishing tournament platform (Stansel mentioned they've had more than 200 baits off the back of this boat at one time).
One final note here is that a center area of the mezzanine lifts for access to the engine room (which is finished with a hard, nonporous polyurethane). The engine room is clean and spacious thanks to the vessel's wide beam and the fact that it is ventilated via fans that suck air from under the cockpit coamings, which means there's no need for space-hogging airboxes. There's plenty of room to do routine maintenance and monitor all the boat's systems, and thanks to the clever ventilation system and cockpit design, the engine room remains virtually salt-free and bone dry with no standing bilge water.
While the fishing cockpit certainly deserves high marks for its roominess and fish-fighting space, the interior of the 68C deserves its share of attention as well. In fact, one of the first things Stansel said is that from a fishing point of view, the 68C is on the money, but from a cruising point of view, it's more in line with what you'd find on a motoryacht than a sportfisher.
We agree. The interior of the 68C is as massive as it is well appointed. With a beam of 21 feet, 6 inches, the 68C is considerably wider than many other vessels in its class. In fact, it's even wider than the Hatteras 90 Convertible and 80 Motoryacht, so it's no surprise that the interior engineers and designers had fun with this bounty of space.
The saloon features a large U-shaped settee to port facing a starboard cabinet with a 42-inch plasma TV and a built-in computer laptop area. Forward and up a step is a large galley to port that would rival any high-end home kitchen. All cabinetry is finished cherry wood and the large refrigerator and freezer doors are done in the same finish to match. There's a four-burner stove and convection oven for cooking as well as a stainless sink with a garbage disposal. The countertops on our boat were granite, which is an option — Avonite is standard.
To starboard of the galley is a large dining area with a matching table and finished storage drawers beneath the seats.
A center stairway leads down to the stateroom area, which includes a full-beam master suite to the rear with a king-size bed and a spacious guest cabin in the bow with a queen-size berth. To starboard of the passageway is another guest cabin with side-by-side single berths separated by a nightstand. To port is a crew cabin with a double bunk berth. All the cabins have full facilities with marine heads, sinks and stand-up showers (all heads drain 100 percent to the holding tank). They all have flat-screen TVs except for the crew cabin. There's also a stacking washer/dryer in a passageway closet.
The 68C we tested had the standard berthing layout, but there are optional layout configurations. There's also the option of enclosing the bridge, which will be popular with those who are into cruising as much as fishing.
Stansel said Hatteras will be making only about 10 of these boats a year and that the company is already backed up with orders going well into 2006.
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