More than ten years ago during a magazine photo shoot, I became an instant fan of Concept center-console powerboats. That’s because shortly after a photography session for the 36-foot-long Concept I was driving, sea conditions fell apart. And when I say they fell apart, I mean the swells kicked up from one to two feet to four to six feet—and even beyond—in a matter of minutes. The clear skies got dark in an instant, as they can in the Florida Keys, and the lightning and rain once far away on the horizon were headed my way. The wind went from 5 to 25 knots in a hurry. We’re talking squall.
So I did what any right-minded, self-preserving magazine writer/powerboat driver would do. I pointed the 36 Concept toward home—home that week being the Hawk’s Cay Resort—and hammered the throttles.
Running 50-plus mph in following 4- to 6-footers, the 36-footer was rock-solid. With my co-pilot Vicki Newton, the former publisher of Powerboat magazine, hanging onto the T-top for dear life, we flew from the back of one swell to the next, at times creating geysers of seawater that shot high above the T-top. It was a wild ride to be sure— one of the two or three wildest in my 15-plus years writing for the magazine—but the boat got us back to Hawk’s Cay without breaking itself or us.
“I like this boat,” I told Vicki as we idled in the channel leading to the docks. “I really like this boat.”
At the time, the 36-footer was the largest model in the Concept line. But two years ago at the Fort Lauderdale International Boat Show, the company introduced a 44-footer called the 4400 Sport Yacht. The boat, which comes standard with a full-cabin as well as small aft “crew berth,” is available with either a T-top or a completely enclosed helm station.
“The 4400 Sport Yacht is still very much like our other boats,” said Susan Patterson, vice president of sales and marketing for Concept. “The whole idea of it was to create as large of a platform as we could and still have outboard engines, which give you better access to shallower water and 40-percent better fuel economy than gasoline inboards. You can dive off it. You can fish off of it. You can go to the Bahamas and stay overnight on it.
“We see it is as the ‘ultimate island-hopper,’” she added. “We’re from Miami, and we make boats all the time for people who want to go to the Bahamas.”
For the design of the 4400 Sport Yacht, which has a 10’6” beam that still makes it legally trailerable in most states, Concept turned to trained naval architect John Cosker of Mystic Performance Boats, which builds high-performance offshore racing and performance boats. To date, eight 4400 Sport Yachts have been built. The most popular power choice has been triple 300-hp Mercury Verado outboard engines. According to Patterson, that propulsion package enables the boat to run more than 60 mph.
Located forward, the previously noted cabin has a queen-size berth with 6’2” of headroom. Between the main cabin and the crew berth is a full-sized head locker that can be equipped with a complete shower.
Of the eight 44-footers built so far, seven have been ordered with fiberglass and aluminum T-tops. The housing for the enclosed-cockpit version actually was constructed of aluminum.
“Believe it or not, it was more cost-effective to build the enclosure from aluminum than create tooling for it,” Patterson explained. “If we get more orders for the fully enclosed version, then we’ll make tooling and build them from fiberglass.”
For Manny Garcia, the 4400 Sport Yacht is the perfect compliment for his 51-foot Rivera with an enclosed flybridge. Garcia bought the second 44-footer Concept produced, and he ordered it with the triple 350-hp Mercury Verado outboard engines. Right out of the box, Garcia said, the boat topped out at 66 mph.
“And I haven’t even had time to play with props,” he said.
But what most impresses the South Florida resident is the boat’s handling and rough-water ability.
“I live in Fort Lauderdale and have a house in the Keys,” said Garcia. “I like to go to the house in the Keys by water in the Concept, especially on long weekends when the traffic is bad. It’s faster, and the boat is just beautiful in rough water. The first time I took the boat over to the islands, it was really rough. My family was in the Riviera. One of the motors (on the Concept) wasn’t working right, and the big boat still couldn’t keep up with it.
“One other thing,” he added. “Wherever I go with the boat, everybody looks at it. It’s beautiful.”
Though the people at Concept are diehard outboard engine proponents, the 4400 Sport Yacht will be offered with diesel power.
“We have a customer who wants one with diesels, so we’re going to build it—we’re excited about it,” said Patterson. “We’re a semi-custom builder, so we can do things like that.”
Prices for the T-top version of 4400 Sport Yacht with triple Mercury Verado 300 outboards is $310,000. For the enclosed-cockpit model with the same power package, the price is $374,000.
Bi-weekly columnist Matt Trulio is the editor at large for Powerboat magazine. He has written for the magazine since 1994. Trulio’s daily blog can be found on speedonthewater.com, a site he created and maintains, which is the high-performance arm of the BoaterMouth group.