One thing of which you can always be sure if you test a boat at the Miami International Boat Show: The conditions will be rough and challenging. This test proved no different, with a cold front bringing high winds and record-low temperatures - my favorite boating weather. Albemarle introduced its newest offshore express fisherman here, and if it can pass muster in these conditions, you won't need to worry about it anywhere else either.
The Cummins QSB 5.8-liter diesels, putting out 425 hp each, purred as we wove our way out of the chaotic dock area of Miami's in-water boat-show venue. What a zoo for any boat driver! Bad currents and foul winds make getting in and out even more challenging than do the oversize boats sticking out into the channel, creating mammoth blind spots around corners. Pulling out of the slip showed that the Cummins provided a moderate jump when you put them in gear, but I've seen much worse. Whether in low idle or regular, the 330 handles with inch-by-inch control around the dock - thanks be.
However, waiting for bridges to open showed another trait: Get into a stiff crosswind, and you notice that you're driving a mere 33-footer with lots of freeboard.
The 330 XF slow-idles at 550 rpm with both engines in gear, which produces 6 mph. Standard idle boosts that to 620 rpm and 1 mph faster. Both use about 1 gph. And honestly, it doesn't matter what boat you might be considering - pay the extra money for the power-assist steering, like the 330 has. You won't regret it.
Offshore, in the lee of the beach, I revved the Cummins to their 2,950 rpm top end and generated 34.8 mph using 44 gph total. A cruise speed of 2,500 rpm worked well, running along at just over 30 mph burning a more modest 31 gph. A single finger turning the wheel to the lock results in a course reversal in just about five boat lengths.
For fishing, a 12 mph trolling speed exhibited alleys behind the boat that looked like the lanes on a turnpike. A slower troll of 7 mph generated very slight surface turbulence and nothing more.
All the Albemarle staff members live to fish. So as you'd expect, the fishing features on the 330 meet the most rigorous demands. The boat spins so fast that I question whether a fish could keep pace. Backing down topped 6 mph, and I had no problem keeping it straight. We drifted beam-to while looking for bait around the range markers off Miami and never felt uncomfortable. A short roll moment and gentle transitions cradle your passengers rather than toss them.
Another great thing about Albemarle is that you get entire packages rather than an a la carte menu. In other words, if you want the factory to install your optional tower, the company also includes spreader lights, side and top rocket launchers, a fiberglass buggy top and a full, zip-down enclosure.
The 330's large cockpit easily handles multiple anglers, and though the gunwale coaming pads met my legs at mid-thigh (engendering a truly secure feeling), I could still reach the water's surface to comfortably release fish.
Modules on the aft deck include a livewell, sink, optional freezer and tons of tackle storage along the bottom halves of the modules.
Design and Construction
The design of the Albemarle 330 meets some of the same criteria as all Albemarles. Each hull slightly exceeds a three-to-one length-to-beam ratio. Each vessel receives an Armourcoat gelcoat and a skin layer of vinylester resin to prevent osmotic blistering, and the topsides and other long expanses have Baltek balsa coring. Engine spaces sport a bright white gelcoat for impermeability to dirt and oil. Marine-grade fir stringers are completely encapsulated in fiberglass prior to being installed in the boat. And the list of attention- to-construction details goes on for days. The bottom line with Albemarle is: Each boat exceeds NMMA and ABYC construction standards, allowing the company to provide a 10-year transferable hull warranty with confidence.
The bridge deck offers settee seating on both sides, and each bench hides loads of storage. Though I personally prefer a centerline helm on an express since it allows you to readily view both corners of the cockpit while seated, the starboard side helm seemed to work fine on a boat this size.
I appreciate that Albemarle supplies a wiper complete with freshwater rinse for each large windshield. I wish they supplied freshwater wash with them. It would be really handy on those spray-laden windy days.
A switch under the port gunwale raises and lowers the bridge deck for access to the spacious engine compartment. I must comment here that I've been aboard 50-foot express boats that didn't have the space to work on the engines that this little 33-footer offers. I qualify it as simply incredible. Even I could easily work 360 degrees around both power plants.
A visit belowdecks finds an interior that really belies the rugged, offshore-fishing demeanor of the above-decks areas. Beautiful woodwork, rich fabrics, Corian counters and a handsome teak-and-holly cabin sole make this an elegant and sophisticated living space, not a workman's holiday.
Those of you approaching an age that remembers way-back-when will be amazed at the features and impressive space today's 30- to 35-foot express and flybridge boats offer. Compared to "the olden days," you now get a mansion where you used to get a broom closet.
|LOA......35 ft. |
BEAM......13 ft. 5 in.
HULL DRAFT......4 ft.
MAX HP......T500 hp diesels
MSRP......$329,995 (w/ T425 hp Cummins diesels)
Cummins QSB 5.8-liter, 425 hp common-rail diesels
Albemarle Boats / Edenton, North Carolina / 252-482-7600 / www.albemarleboats.com