The Department of Homeland Security provided some ideal conditions in which to really test a boat's mettle during the Miami Boat Show. Anytime cruise ships line the docks in Miami's Government Cut, DHS closes off the inner stretch of channel past the docks. When combined with the limited drawbridge openings, the southern and outer channels see eight or so 50- to 60-footers, along with dozens of little center consoles and walkarounds hitting the jetties and open water all at the same time. Needless to say, the seas got terribly confused and ugly. Belying its 31-foot size, this new Albemarle carved right through it all with a smooth, dry, graceful ride.
Twin Caterpillar 350-hp inboard diesels did a remarkable job of boosting the 310 up onto plane in little more time than it takes many outboards. From throttle forward to cruising speed in four seconds may not seem like a big deal, but when navigating rough water in tight spots -- like Oregon or Hillsborough inlets -- on a nasty day, instant throttle response can be critical. Awaiting turbo boost as a wave starts pushing you sideways is not fun. Without tabs, the 310 exhibited surprisingly little bow rise coming up onto plane.
|Caterpillar 3126TA 350-hp diesel
TYPE In-line 6 cylinder
Caterpillar has come a long way in smokeless, quiet diesel performance.
Notable Standard Equipment
Our 310's most economical cruising speed proved to be 30.7 mph running at 2,400 rpm while burning 23.3 gph (1.3 mpg). A two-way average top speed hit 36.6 at 2,800 using 32.6 gph total.
If anything, Albemarle has actually made the head-sea ride of this boat better than that of its predecessors in the same relative size range. It was already good, so I think a more important improvement is the elimination of the Albemarle's tendency to lay way over in a hard-over turn or when you misadjust one trim tab too far. Now, every performance adjustment has a predictable outcome. Drifting or slow-trolling the troughs in a beam sea, this new Albemarle exhibits a very short roll moment.
Once you become used to running bigger boats, you believe that an 80-footer can fish with the same agility as a 30-footer. I suggest that if you suffer from this delusion, step aboard the Albemarle 310 and back down or spin on a fish. It'll make you dizzy, it's so quick and responsive.
I honestly don't own enough tackle to fill all the rod-storage spaces aboard the 310. With the tower, you get a rocket launcher with 11 rod holders. Then you have the standard four in-gunwale rod holders and more lockable storage belowdecks.
Despite its relatively small square footage, the wide-open cockpit makes fishing a breeze. Three anglers can easily manage a tripleheader without stepping on each other's toes. With fresh- and saltwater washdowns in the cockpit, you can have all your tackle and the cockpit washed down before you get back to the dock, just like on the big boats. And it doesn't matter whether the water in the cockpit comes from the hose or backing down, the oversize scuppers with a deep gutter along the transom sucks out any standing water like a vacuum.
A lift-out fish box in the cockpit sole complements the one in the transom. Modules on the bridge deck consist of a tackle storage unit port side, a livewell on centerline, and a sink to starboard with additional storage on the aft face. Another unique feature finds a compartment here that stores four more rods in the engine compartment.
I felt very secure with the rail heights around the cockpit, and moving to the bow with a rod in hand could also be accomplished safely with plenty of handholds and a bow rail to brace against. Moving back from the bow to the cockpit wasn't quite as secure. Albemarle molds box steps at the forward end of the cockpit under the gunwales for getting up and down to the rail. Though excellent for stepping upward out of the cockpit, they don't protrude far enough into the cockpit for much of your foot to rest on as you descend.
Design and Construction
Boaters with a sense of history will surely ask how this boat differs from its predecessors. The running surface has been completely redesigned. Likewise, the liner and deck are all new with the deck receiving much more crown for greater cabin headroom. The generator has been moved from under the cockpit to inside the engine room, and the sharp corners on the windshield have been traded for a more rounded look. Speaking of windshields, Albemarle's enclosure curtains are all track to track now rather than those annoying old lift-dots. You'll also immediately notice that you get almost twice the electronics installation space, and the company has graduated to a Palm Beach-style helm pod. Overall, I got a sense of a more modern boat.
Belowdecks, an oblique settee to starboard and straight settee to port accommodate two couples comfortably and three if you're good friends. The back of the straight settee lifts and connects to the overhead with webbing to create a single Pullman-style berth to augment the sleeping arrangements for four in straight berths.
Certainly, the price listed below (as tested) may seem a tad high for a 31-footer. However, when you consider twin inboard, electronically controlled diesels, a tower, an enclosure, a companion chair, outriggers, a 5-kW generator, air conditioning, a stereo, a TV/DVD combo, coaming pads, an anchor windlass, bottom paint and an oil changer, the price seems much more balanced.
I feel that this represents the best-performing boat Albemarle has ever built. And that's saying something since they've never built a boat that performed badly.