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August 24, 2010

Fountain 38 Open Bow Center Console

From the deck up, the Fountain team spent $300,000 upgrading loads of little things that make a good boat great. It worked!

Most boat tests go smoothly in nice weather. Not this one! Conditions with winds at 15 (gusting to 35) from the southwest met us as we left the shelter of the Pamlico River in Washington, North Carolina, raising some horrendous waves. And it only got worse from there.

Performance
We transited Ocracoke's serpentine inlet, where the shifting sands and breaking surf make moving the channel buoys almost a daily affair. Then we headed another 35 miles offshore in six to eightfoot, square seas that came only about three seconds apart. A long, hard day of fishing, followed by an absolutely brutal 50-mile ride straight down Pamlico Sound's four-foottall chop back to the river, capped our day.

Our triple 300 hp Mercury Verados cruised ably at 57.4 mph (5,400 rpm), burning 57 gph. The next morning, in the calm of the Pamlico River behind the Fountain factory, I topped out the 38 at 73 mph (with a light load and just me aboard), turning 6,150 rpm and burning about 90 gph. Triple 350s move that benchmark up to the low 80 mph area. Quads would be scary fast! Check my Better Boating column on page 30 to see a picture of how well this boat turns!

Fishing
From a fishing standpoint, this 38's biggest improvement is the new deck. There are no more drainage troughs that capture fish guts and water or hard edges that seem to be stress-crack magnets. An all-new scupper system with flat, seamless decks and new hatches and gasketing make this sole immensely better.

Fountain fishing team members fine-tuned much of the boat. Twin 52-gallon livewells with new ports eliminate the need for adjusting outflow. This particular boat had in-gunwale rod holders (and 12volt outlets) all the way around. In fact, this boat had too many rod holders on the T-top, transom and back of the helm seat to count. Five huge fish boxes - in the bow, amidships and in the cockpit - provide a total of 437 1/2 gallons of insulated fish storage! The cockpit's new design, without the helm-module livewell, seems much roomier.

One of the few changes I'd make would be to put padding on the inside and outside of the helm-seat armrests instead of just on the top. That way passengers standing outboard can lean against them comfortably, and the helmsman can turn and lean back against his armrest while watching the trolling spread.

Trolling at 5 to 7 mph, I saw considerably less subsurface turbulence than I would have expected from triple 300s. The vessel tracks with control while trolling in the downsea swells.

Finally, Fountain now uses diaphragm pumps in the fish boxes instead of macerators. Macerators represent the single most common warranty claim in the marine industry. You can pump an entire baitfish out through a diaphragm pump.

Design and Construction
Fountain helmEach Fountain fish boat consists of a hand-laid, composite-cored hull and deck with multidirectional fiberglass, high-density composite coring and Interplastic vinylester resin. Changes include thicker and more durable longitudinal stringers. The T-top now has a molded electronics box and fore/aft LED flood lights rather than bolt-ons. Fountain increased the size of the stanchion supports for the top from 112-inch diameter to 2-inch, but I'd place the cross-member support for the T-top about three inches higher so it doesn't block the helmsman's view of the larger dashboard, which can now accommodate twin 15-inch displays. And I love the new latches on the dashboard cover that keep it both open and closed - a vast improvement over the old Velcro system.

The transom now boasts a polished, stainless-steel engine-mounting plate rather than the old problematic powder-coated one. Another first: a Garelick tube ladder in the transom! Reggie Fountain is somewhat circumspect when asked what changes he made when redesigning the hull of this boat. "It's highly secret," he claims. But he does admit to improving the angles of attack and locations of the hull steps, increasing the beam and changing the deadrise (a degree flatter). The result is that the boat is considerably more stable in a drift, runs more smoothly in rough water and is much quieter. In fact, every performance characteristic of this boat has been improved in the newly designed hull.

"Whatever makes you go fast," Fountain says, "makes you burn less fuel because it's easier to push with the same horsepower. At 50 mph, the 38 gets around 1.3 mpg with a normal load. That's amazing with triple 300 Mercury Verados that are inherently pretty fuel-efficient. It even runs home on two engines at 55 or 57 mph!"

Our long day of fishing heaped way more abuse on this new Fountain 38 than I am used to giving someone else's boat. Back at the Fountain factory dock, the 38's owner and Fountain sales rep Alden Thornton, wind-burned and half-drowned from spray and rain, smiled and said, "Thanks. That was cool!"

SPECIFICATIONS

LENGTH.......38 ft.
BEAM.......10 ft. 6 in.
DEADRISE.......22 deg.
DRAFT.......1 ft. 8 in.
WEIGHT.......11,000 lb.
FUEL.......460 gal.
MAX HP.......(4) 350 hp OB
MSRP.......$301,224 (base)

Fountain Powerboats / Washington, North Carolina / 252-975-2000 / www.fountainpowerboats.com