Cabo 52 Express Review

A great boat that rides smooth and is extremely comfortable.

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Every great company holds constant improvement as a primary goal. When Brunswick Corporation - parent of Mercury Marine, MerCruiser, Hatteras, Albemarle, Sea Ray and a host of other marine entities - purchased Cabo Yachts, I had misgivings that such a large company could continue the innovation and quality levels instituted by Cabo's founders. I guess I needn't have worried, as the 52 shows the same performance and design improvements we've come to expect with the debut of each new model.

Performance
A balmy, gentle breeze out of the northwest created 1- to 3-foot sea conditions in Sarasota, on Florida's Gulf Coast, that offered little challenge to the Cabo 52. Once warmed up, the twin 1,550 hp MAN diesels spooled up and got us on plane in 10 seconds. The 52 topped out at 40 knots, turning 2,360 rpm while burning 168 gallons of diesel per hour. A comfortable cruising speed of 30 knots at 1,800 rpm used 90 gallons per hour.

I'd describe this Cabo's turning ability as smooth and stately. A hard-over turn to port takes about four boat lengths, while the same maneuver to starboard uses up about three. Roll moment is quite long with relatively gentle transitions. But it does scribe a considerable arc.

Overall, the 52's ride qualifies as remarkably smooth and dry. We never took a drop of spray on the windscreen despite my best efforts to get messy.

Should you want dramatic response while fighting a fish, the 52 won't disappoint you. It backs down at 7.1 knots, but doesn't like backing straight at that speed. Lose a knot or two, and the Cabo backs down straight as an arrow.

Fishing
Cabo provides storage for three rods under each gunwale. The PipeWelders tower sports four additional rocket launchers on each leg and eight across the back. Unfortunately, you need Shaquille - or a ladder - aboard to reach the upper rods.

Hawseholes in the gunwale corners each sport a large cleat beneath, and Cabo's signature livewell with its eye-catching Lexan window showcases the transom by turning the daytime baitwell into the nighttime lighted aquarium.

The owner of this particular hull opted to install a separate Eskimo ice maker in each fish box. The third hatch in the cockpit sole affords access to fuel valves, pumps and other parts.

I was unable to back down hard enough to take water over the transom. But if you should ever get a wave in the cockpit, rest assured that the huge scuppers draining straight overboard will rid you of the water quickly.

The gunwale met my legs at upper-thigh level. Though it might be a stretch to hold a billfish by the beak to revive it pre-release, the tools exist to make this process easier and safer, so it shouldn't pose a problem.

Design and Construction
Cabo builds each boat using stitched, biaxial fiberglass and Core-cell composite in the hull, ISO/NPG gelcoats and premium vinylester resins for maximum protection against osmotic blistering. Each hull and deck gets vacuum-bagged to ensure optimum glass-to-resin ratios, as well as air-bubble prevention.

A semicircular stairway to belowdecks ends at the day head. The L-shaped settee to port normally morphs into another double bed. However, this owner declined that, opting for storage instead.

The entire aft bulkhead hides the signature Cabo electrical-distribution panels behind cabinet doors. Each panel has quick-release screws to tilt the face out in order to access the most incredibly well-organized wire runs and terminal strips you'll ever see on any boat. Nobody does it better.

A lighted locker in the port valance opens on rams, revealing more rod storage. Similar storage hides on both sides of the forward stateroom. Access the deep bilge through a centerline hatch in the sole for a mammoth storage area. This compartment also contains the AC compressors and other assorted plumbing.

The galley features under-counter refrigerator and freezer drawers. A dual-level sink, four-burner cooktop and a monstrous-deep, in-counter wastebasket augment all the latest and greatest appliances, making this galley worthy of Emeril.

The portside guest cabin has over/under single berths, while the master cabin features an island-berth double on centerline. Another private head with a separate shower stall rounds out the owner's quarters.

The hatchway from the cockpit affords easy entry, and once below, I discovered loads of headroom in the engine compartment. Though it got a tad tight passing between the breathers, even my great bulk had no difficulty working 360 degrees around the power plants.

Safety at sea is one of my main concerns. To that end, I applaud Cabo for making the entire foredeck nonskid. Having taken a few spills on high-gloss foredecks, I don't believe aesthetic concerns should ever trump safety of the crew.

Overall, the Cabo 52 Express qualifies as a truly beautiful boat that runs smooth, runs dry and is incredibly comfortable.