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September 10, 2004

Carolina Classic 32 Express

No flash, no hype. Just a serious offshore fishing tool.

It seems that most production builders have been forced to accommodate buyers in enough ways to virtually qualify as semicustom. For Mac Privott at Carolina Classic, it has always been so.

Performance
Trust. That's the overarching feeling I get when running a Carolina Classic. I trust that I can take the boat well offshore and it will perform predictably, bringing me and my crew home safely and comfortably. No flash, no hype. Just a serious offshore fishing tool.

The Carolina Classic 32 hides 880 hp under its bridgedeck. That's 880 hp in a 32-footer. Granted, a solid fiberglass hull and solid woodworking belowdecks make a heavy boat. But thanks to a pair of Yanmar 440-hp diesels with 2.5:1 gear ratio, the top end of 38 mph at 3,440 rpm remains respectable. Optimum cruising speed figures to be about 31 mph at 2,900 rpm burning about 29 gph total. At this speed, the Carolina Classic 32 offers a range of about 350 nautical miles with a 10-percent cushion.

I always suffer some minor trepidation when faced with docking somebody else's brand-new boat in tight quarters and adverse conditions. So many idiosyncrasies can surprise you. Thanks to the gearing, this 32 proved quite docile around the docks.

Without any tabs, the Carolina Classic 32 exhibited considerable bow rise. However, it rises onto plane so quickly (four seconds) that it really doesn't matter. Putting tabs down prior to throttling up eliminates bow rise altogether, as well as cuts a full second off the time to plane, placing this boat squarely in the outboard time-to-plane milieu. Once up and running, the helm offers excellent visibility in every direction whether you're seated or standing. Turn the wheel a little and this 32 zigs and zags like a welterweight. Turn the wheel hard over at speed, and it lays dramatically into the turn, carving a smooth 180-degree arc in about four boat lengths.

I drove this 32 in North Carolina's Albemarle Sound and not the horrendous Cape Hatteras seas for which the Carolina Classics are designed. Turning hard at half throttle didn't create a big enough wake to make a difference in the ride. You need a 3-foot sea before you even notice with this Carolina Classic.
 
Fishing
The only fishing feature listed as an option is a 50-gallon livewell. Fresh- and saltwater washdowns, custom bait-prep center with tackle storage drawers, twin

50-gallon fish boxes, coaming pads, in-gunwale rod holders and a transom door round out the standard equipment list. Our test boat sported three rod holders in each gunwale, three on each tower leg and six across the back of the hardtop. The owner also asked for three more across the transom covering board, as well as two baitwells -- a testament to the company's customizing ability. Carolina Classic provides no undergunwale rod storage.

Like most bigger boats, this 32 has stern cleats mounted under the cockpit gunwales with lines exiting through coaming hawseholes above. The cockpit is wide open and very functional. The only shortcoming I found concerns the molded-in steps for access to the gunwale and sidedeck: They are almost too small to hold your foot when ascending and may as well not exist when descending into the cockpit. Carolina Classic President Mac Privott says that engine-hatch opening constraints limit the size of these steps. My simple solution would be to get myself one of those gorgeous custom step boxes by Frank Murray or Paul Scopinich to put in the cockpit.

It's a modest reach to the water's surface from the rail, and the gunwales hit at just the right height to lock yourself in securely when fighting or wiring a fish.

Design and Construction
Obviously you won't find multiple guest cabins aboard a 32-footer. But belowdecks is very comfortable for a couple weekending or for a night or two of fishing offshore. An athwartship double in the forepeak augmented by a narrow, straight settee affords three people comfortable berths.

Galley aft starboard side and stand-up head with shower to port just at the bottom of the stairs round out the accommodations.

Many who read my profiles have realized that I am a stickler for personal safety offshore, so I particularly appreciate the well-placed handholds throughout the Carolina Classic 32, especially on the bridgedeck. I would put a below-the-waterline step and a handle by the tuna door on the transom to facilitate getting back aboard if you fall in. The foredeck and cockpit both have noticeable crowns to help any green water run off quickly.

I discovered an amazing amount of storage under all seats and belowdecks. Fill them all up with gear and you may have to raise the bootstripe.
I feel that Carolina Classic does a good job of insulating the engine compartment.
The boat runs very quietly whether you're in the cockpit, at the helm, or below.
Certainly there's nothing special about the construction of a Carolina Classic. Carefully hand-laid solid fiberglass makes a tough, durable hull. However, if you want to discover what's special about this boat, take it out an inlet with a stiff wind against a strong tide. You'll instantly see what I mean about trust.

Notable Standard Equipment

  • Air conditioning
  • Recessed trim tabs
  • Teak-and-holly cabin sole
  • Fresh- and saltwater washdowns Generator
  • Algae-X fuel optimizing system

Impressions
This boat reminds me of today's quality pickups. They may have been fancied up a little, but they're still old-school workhorses.