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April 23, 2009

Albemarle 288 OBXF

The Albemarle 288 OBXF provides the space, amenities, family cruising comfort and fish-ability one often only comes to expect in a bigger boat.

Albemarle recently exchanged the corporate embrace of the Brunswick Corporation for the more family-oriented small-business model when the company was purchased by North Carolina businessman Scott McLaughlin. And in these perilous times, Albemarle has displayed its confidence and faith in the future of its product line by moving forward with the introduction of four new models in the past two years. You can bet that this is one boat company that won't be closing its doors anytime soon!

Spending almost two hours maneuvering on a large tarpon in the dark can be both tiring and frustrating if the boat doesn't respond handily. When we fished the height of tarpon season in Miami's Government Cut, this 28 juked and jived with the best of them. Not once - even when the fish took off under the boat - did it fail to dance around the issue with aplomb.

According to the Mercury VesselView display and a separate GPS, the twin 300 hp Mercury Verado outboards lifted the 288 onto plane and up to 30 mph in nine seconds and topped it out at 53.2 mph, turning 6,250 rpm. Expect fuel economy of 60 gph (0.9 mpg) at wide-open throttle and 21.7 gph (1.4 mpg) cruising at 31.1 mph (4,000 rpm).

Like many of its very deep-V'd predecessors, the 288 handles head seas handily. But that same deep-V causes the 288 to lean rather dramatically when turning hard over at cruising speed. No, it's nothing dangerous and it does scribe a tight arc, but if you aren't prepared for that degree of bank, you might be surprised.

Three anglers in the 60-square-foot cockpit and one skipper at the helm worked just fine as Albemarle's director of marketing and sales, Ted Haigler, hooked into his first big tarpon. And I promise that he was glad for the standard coaming pads around the cockpit, especially after the first hour.

We needed only a fraction of the capacity the twin, 22-gallon transom livewells provided for our shrimp and pinfish. And since we release all our tarpon, the pair of 54-gallon in-deck fish boxes went unused.

Albemarle supplies a very complete inventory of standard fishing equipment. For example, in addition to the considerable tackle storage in both cockpit modules with their integral aft-facing seating, Albemarle installs Lee sidewinder outriggers with lay-down mounts in the standard-issue hardtop (the underside of which matches your hull color). You get six rod holders around the cockpit, plus four more on the hardtop legs and five across its back. The hardtop also holds spreader lights, an electronics box and a full enclosure. I also appreciate the foldaway cockpit seat but would prefer it to be a legless model.