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April 08, 2010

Albemarle 360 XF IPS

The Albemarle 360 XF IPS is a small yet serious enough offshore boat for even the most demanding angler that is totally fun to drive.

As a rule, we don't profile boats a second time simply because they've been repowered. However, in the case of this Albemarle 360 (and other boats that have crossed over to pod propulsion), the running surfaces have been completely redesigned and retooled to handle the different propulsion system and engines have been relocated aboard, so these boats truly qualify as "new."

Performance
We ran this 360 during the Miami boat show, which is always a challenging venue, as even with calm weather, the number of boats running around makes for a very nasty chop. Albemarle has paired the IPS drives with twin Volvo IPS 600s rated at 435 hp each. These inline, six-cylinder blocks drive Volvo's forward-facing duoprops, which can then be controlled in standard fashion with gear/throttle levers or with a joystick. The latter allows you to make this boat dance like Baryshnikov - sideways, diagonally, forward and back. Add to that what Volvo calls "Sportfish Mode," and I guarantee the fish doesn't swim that can outmaneuver this propulsion system.

Volvo's IPS also allows people unskilled in boat handling to become adept in a very short period of time. Your wife and children will be able to dock this boat with just minutes of instruction. But if you don't think that an advantage, consider these others: The thrust parallels the water's surface for greatly improved fuel economy and performance. The boat accelerates faster, turns better (and tighter the slower you go), and since the exhaust exits underwater forward of the transom, this boat is measurably quieter than its standard-propulsion predecessor.

The Atlantic off Miami Beach proved rough: winds to 25 knots out of the southeast and seas to match. Drifting broadside to them produced a long roll moment but with amazingly gentler transitions. It likes significant tab running straight into a big head sea at cruising speed but had no problem providing a very smooth ride. I won't say "dry" because in winds like those, every boat that ever existed will be taking spray.

I expected about a 30 percent improvement in fuel economy on this boat over its standard-propulsion predecessor, and that's almost exactly what I found. At a top speed of 40.1 mph, the 360 burned a mere 43 gph total at 3,630 rpm. Best cruise seemed to run at 29.9 mph (3,000 rpm) burning 27 gph and offering a range of 411 nautical miles figuring 95 percent usable capacity.

Fishing
In addition to the terrific fishing features born and bred from Albemarle's history on the Outer Banks around Hatteras in North Carolina, the 360 XF capitalizes on another fabulous feature that the Volvo IPS provides. How many anchor drops does it usually take before you situate your boat exactly where you want it when bottomfishing? With wind and current to consider, even experienced captains rarely make it on the first try. With IPS, you'll never have to drop anchor again. Simply watch your sounder and place your boat right where you want it; then push a button! Volvo's IPS dynamic positioning system holds your boat on the spot - and on the same heading - until you choose to move. I don't know about you, but to me, when I'm fishing in several hundred feet or deeper, that convenience alone is worth the price of admission.

Certainly, this boat will appeal to anglers who either want to spend time with family and friends without being separated up on a flybridge or those who fish shorthanded or want to be in the midst of the cockpit action.

The spacious 78-square-foot cockpit in the 360 provides a livewell, insulated cooler and a tackle/bait-prep center in the modules along the aft end of the bridge deck. The transom houses a 56-gallon fish box to augment a second large under-deck fish box.

Should you choose to mount a half or full tower on the 360, you'll find the electronic controls for the Volvo IPS to be the easiest part of the installation; just plug and play.

Design and Construction
Designing any boat to accommodate pod drives changes the running surface dramatically. In fact, each time a builder introduces a boat with IPS or Zeus systems, you can rest assured that naval architects redrew the bottom and the hull has been completely retooled. But it all is for the best. The result is greater performance and efficiency as well as considerably more interior space to use as you see fit - whether that means an extra stateroom, tackle workspace or just plain massive storage. Many boats gain another stateroom or storage space by installing IPS drives, as the engines usually hide under the cockpit. Albemarle installs the power plants in the same midship engine compartment and then runs jackshafts back to the pods. It does allow the company to move the fuel tanks forward, but the center of gravity otherwise remains unchanged.

Belowdecks, Albemarle does a superb job of outfitting the living spaces with a queen-size island berth on centerline forward as well as a convertible sofa that folds out into another double berth in the galley/lounge area. On this model, the large rod-storage locker over the convertible settee has been replaced by a Pullman berth, providing yet another sleeping accommodation. You'll also find a full, stand-up shower, fixed porcelain head, cooktop and assorted modern appliances in the galley and Corian counters throughout.

IPS propulsion affords you many advantages. But perhaps the greatest one is that it makes driving a boat really fun again!

SPECIFICATIONS

LOA......37 ft. 9 in.
Beam......13 ft. 11 in.
Draft......4 ft.
Deadrise......16.5 deg.
Weight......25,000 lb.
Fuel......535 gal.
Max Power......Twin 475 hp Volvo IPS diesels
MSRP......$499,995 (base boat w/ IPS drives)

Albemarle Sportfishing Boats / Edenton, North Carolina / 252-482-7600 / www.albemarleboats.com