Multi-tasking: the raison d'être of both modern American society and the Fountain 38 SFC. You'll find this vessel ideal if you want stylish good looks, way-better-than-average speed, stout seakeeping ability and amenities to please wives, sweethearts, children and your own desires for some sybaritic comfort.
When it comes to running fast offshore, nobody does it better than Reggie Fountain. His boats presently hold the world speed records for V-bottoms, and he regularly blows the highly touted catamarans out of the water. No, our test boat didn't fit into such hard-core racing or fishing categories, but multi-taskers can't be pigeonholed like that.
We met our test boat at Fountain's factory on the Pamlico River in North Carolina and depended upon the heavy boat traffic for any facsimile of a challenging sea state. Like a copier low on toner, the facsimile proved pretty weak. Even the wake from a Hatteras 65 running upriver didn't register as much more than a speed bump for the 38 SFC, even at wide-open throttle. Drifting broadside what waves we created, the 38 SFC exhibited a slow roll moment with moderately gentle transitions.
Generally, props on performance boats target top-end speed, not hole-shot torque. But the 38 SFC posed an exception, taking a mere three seconds to reach plane. And as Reggie explains in the video he gives every new owner, the best way to start out and minimize bow rise is to trim the engines all the way down and use full tabs. As the boat builds up speed, trim both back up to cruising configuration - hence the trim and tab controls clustered together by the throttles.
Our test boat sported a new power combination for this hull - triple 275 hp Mercury Verado outboards. Top speed touched 65 mph at 6,300 rpm. Usually, top speed includes about 3 degrees of tab, which effectively lengthens your running surface. We reached our top end with barely 1 degree of tab, a real testament to the efficiency of this hull. I found a comfortable cruising speed of 37 mph at 4,000 rpm. Reggie Fountain also offers several inboard power choices, both gas and diesel. But to my way of thinking, you lose a lot of living and storage space when you go that route. The outboards offer blistering speed, a quieter ride (especially with Verados) and easy maintenance.
Trim the engines down, crank the wheel hard over, and the 38 leans heartily into the turn, transferring any centrifugal force straight down through the floor, keeping all the passengers comfortably inboard. Maneuvering around the dock proved predictable and easier than two outboards would allow since the outboard engines of the triple-engine package provide greater pivoting leverage because they're farther apart. But for those who want a little more flexibility, Fountain offers an optional bow thruster.
The almost-50-square-foot cockpit has plenty of room for multiple anglers, but the optional fighting chair takes up much of that space. You'd do better with a rocket- launcher mount instead. Despite its cruising amenities, this Fountain doesn't run short on fishing features. Two 30-gallon livewells, a transom door, two insulated 63-gallon fish boxes, a bait- and tackle- rigging station, an ice maker, loads of tackle storage, padded coamings and fresh- and saltwater washdowns all make the 38 SFC eminently fishable. And though you don't get horizontal rod holders under the gunwales, you'll find 11 rod holders around the cockpit, so feel free to target multiple species with confidence.
Design and Construction
Astute readers will ask, "The 38 SFC's been around for a while; what's so new about it?" Fountain has completely redesigned this hull and deck, coming up with an all-new boat and bumping up the comfort level considerably in the process. The designers have carried the max beam all the way down to the chine, providing much more volume in the interior, greater lateral stability and a wider chine for a drier ride. Also adding to internal space is the more vertical stem, actually making the running surface longer and adding about a foot to the overall floor length inside. A smooth ride in a head sea depends greatly on waterline length - longer is better.
Below, the stateroom sports a double V-berth bed, built-in dresser, cedar-lined hanging locker, stand-up head with a shower and VacuFlush toilet, and a galley with sink, microwave oven and refrigerator/ freezer. The salon area provides comfortable seating for four, a removable table, a TV, stereo and DVD/CD player, and an aft cabin with sleeping accommodations for one or two, depending on the sleeper's size.
Ask anyone familiar with the stresses that running offshore at high speeds puts on a boat, and they'll tell you that Fountain builds boats right. Each hand-laid hull and deck consists of multidirectional fiberglass, high-density coring and Interplastic vinylester resin for maximum protection from water intruding into the laminate.
So here's the bottom line: Were I a fisherman with no one to answer to, I'd probably opt for a 38 center console. But my wife loves this boat - and she signs the checks. Better an excellent multi-tasker than an unhappy wife.