Last winter Cabo introduced its newest boat, the 44 HTX, a hardtop express fishboat. In most ways she is a typical Cabo, but there is one word that stands out to best describe her – big. That bigness starts with her 18’6” max beam which falls forward in the interior accommodations and bow flair. At 43,200 lbs. displacement (light) she is a good compromise between a light open express and heavy battlewagon – and there is nothing quite like her on the market.
|Length Overall||47' 7'' /|
Currently no test numbers
2 x 715-hp Cummins QSM 11
2 x 800-hp MAN R6
2 x 1015-hp Caterpillar C18
2 x 1150-hp Caterpillar C18
Michael Peters Design
One of the hottest powerboat designers these days is Michael Peters and he has designed the new Cabo 44 HTX, as well as all of the rest of the Cabo line. He designs boats in several other categories as well and we admire his sense of American ergonomics, his practical approach of functionality, and his good sea-keeping design features. The style of the new 44 melds in with the Cabo family, which carefully combines traditional lines with those more modern.
The Peters design firm is not a one-trick pony and its wide-ranging experience in other types of boats has held it in good stead with the new 44, in our opinion.
Peters has taken the best lines of the Rybovich brothers, the practicality of Jack Hargrave, and some of the cleverness of Tom Fexas, mixed all of that together with empirical evidence gathered in the test tank, and has designed a line of boats that are good performers and fishy as they come.
A Man-Sized Boat
As we said, this boat is big, roomy 44-footer and anglers or yachtsmen who want a rugged offshore boat that is man-sized should be pleased at what they find here. The bridge deck has three individual Stidd seats so the captain and crew can all be riding forward, and get in and out of the seats without bothering each other. There is 5’5” headroom in the engine room, reversing a trend among some brands to make the superstructure lower (therefore sleeker) and take it out of the engine room headroom. The master cabin is in the bow and it is largest we have seen in this size and type of boat, with good access on the sides of the bed, good room at the foot, and a large hanging locker.
Peters’ has created a large, open salon below with the galley along the aft bulkhead and an L-shaped settee to port. The 16’6” beam pays off in a salon where grown men can actually pass each other without going belly to belly, and there is also room for a guest cabin to starboard. This bunk room is ideal for crew or guests. All we need now is an option for twins in the bow.
The New 44 Compared to the Old 45
This boat replaces the 45 Cabo that has a beam of 15’8” at the bow flair and displaces 33,000 lbs. The waterline footprint of the new 44 is significantly larger than the old 45 which allows her to carry 10,100 lbs. more in displacement – 33% more! – yet draws only 3”7” instead of the 4’6” of the old 45. This makes the new 44 not only more comfortable offshore because she is heavier, but also a fishing boat that can squeak into skinny water.
C-18 Cats at 1015-hp and 1150-hp are on the option list along with a Man and A CMD diesel. Since the horsepower offerings are about the same as on the old 45, and the boat is 33% heavier, we deduce that the WOT speed of the new 44 will be less than the relatively light 45. Clearly, Cabo has changed its emphasis on speed and redirected it to offshore comfort and better shoal water capability.
At the business end the old 45 was getting a bit dated with its traditional freezer and bait prep center along the forward side – the place where crew and guests often hopped up to sit while trolling. That has been replaced with the au currant mezzanine seating made popular in the battlewagons a few years ago.
There is a fish box in the cockpit deck and in the transom there is a fish box or live well should you choose. Up a step to starboard is a counter, below which is a handy and versatile cutting board over a large sink. There is space in lockers under the step up to the mezzanine seating for all sorts of options. Typically coolers or freezers are put here. We will miss the convenient step up to the side decks that existed on the old 45, but the step up to the mez will suffice for the purpose.
The Engine Room
Access to the engine is under the center mez seat where a ladder leads to the engine room which is under the bridge deck in this conventional inboard-power design. There you’ll be happy to find 5’5” headroom, plenty of room between the engines—and most important, enough room outboard of the engines for a 240-lb. skipper to check on things. Again, the engine room is a place where the extra foot of beam (and maybe even more at the waterline beam) pays off in the new 44 compared to the old 45.
We have come to expect immaculate, orderly, and handy engine room installations from the folks at Cabo, and we were not disappointed. Fuel filters and fluid checks are all possible from between the engines, raw water strainers are forward and also easy to get to. By going across the front of the engines a skipper can get outboard of them.
The Bridge Deck
Up three steps from the cockpit is the bridge deck. There is a large L-shaped lounge seat here, pretty much as on the old 45. So we know owners like it.
What impressed us was the expanse of the helm area with three Stidd seats, one for the skipper and one to port and another to starboard for companions. This is a good design in our opinion because it allows three friends to interact together, all facing forward. Most important, of course, is the fact that there can be three pairs of eyes scanning the water for pots, flotsam, weed lines, rips, birds and other obstacles and other fishy sign.
The helm is on the centerline as most anglers like it. The wheel is like you find on a bus or 18-wheeler. Cabo offers single stick controls that were spaced at the right distance apart for us to face aft and control them behind our back. When a big billfish is on the skipper needs to be able to keep his eyes riveted to the line and not be turning around to look.
Cabo has pretty much kept all of the same elements that it had in the old 45 in the new 44. That’s a good sign. It means that the two state rooms, single head, galley and settee were all appreciated by owners. Because of the added beam there is more width to 44 layout which is basically used to provide more “walking around” room in the salon.
Cabo has used some of that added beam to provide a slightly larger head, which is much appreciated. Also, now Cabo offers two head compartment layouts, one of which has the toilet separated from the sink by the shower. In this way two (well, actually, three) people can use the head at the same time. You never know when that will come in handy.
Designer Peters has cleverly tucked half of the guest cabin under the bridge deck. This trick has helped pick up much-need space below. This cabin is tight, but it is there. One can stand up inside and close the door without too many contortions. An alternative layout which Cabo wisely offers here is simply turning this room into a large closet for gear. It is an ideal place for foul weather gear, rods, tackle and whatever.
The master stateroom is forward. The bed is an island berth which is dictated by the marketing departments of virtually all boat companies because it appeals to women. Or, shall we say most women insist on it. We’re told by several builders that the boats actually go out of the plant about 50/50 island bed vs. twins. The twins, of course, have all of the advantages, save one.
The galley is an improvement on the old 45 because it is moved out of the traffic flow and may have picked up a bit more counter space. Cabo now offers the option of four below-the-counter refer/freezer drawers which are a big improvement of the old-fashioned single units. There is a sink to port, a two-burner cook top and a good amount of counter space. For some reason the microwave has been placed below the counter. This is a no-no for most cooks we know. There is plenty of cabinet space above the counter for a microwave.
Cabo was bought by Brunswick several years ago and it, along with Albemarle which it also bought a bit later, combined with Hatteras formed what the company called the “Hatteras Collection.” The concept was to start out fishermen in the Albemarle 20-something express boats and then move them up to Cabo and later Hatteras. Albemarle has since been returned to private ownership and Cabo production has been moved from its west coast plant to the New Bern, N.C. Hatteras facility.
Moving Cabo into the Hatteras plant obviously has its economic advantages for Brunswick. One would hope that the best of both corporate cultures will combine to produce something even better than what both had in the first place – which was very good in both cases. Cabo’s niche was always one of being a well-designed, well-engineered fisherman’s boat that was a bit on the Spartan side at a price that was not low, but was good value.
Traditionally, Hatteras was the leader in systems engineering and in fact its staff contributed mightily to setting the benchmarks for ABYC Standards over the years. Where the two brands diverged, other than in the size and type of boat, was in the interior finish work, amenities, the market niche, and price point.
It is probably too early to know how this combination will ultimately play out, but if the Cabo 44 HTX is any indication, things look good. Certainly the interior of the new 44 is a step above the old 45, and it is there where we expect to see the most obvious improvements in Cabo.
Of course Cabo cannot forget its niche, and it is not the high-end Hatteras market position. Cabos are every bit as fishy as Hatteras, but they must do so for less money. (The smallest Hatteras fishing boat is 54.’) The MSRP base price of the 44 HTX is under $1 million. The boat you see pictured here with the tower, lots of options, and powered by twin Cat C-18 1015-hp engines was on sale for $1.2 million at the Miami Boat Show last winter.
During the last decade a number of issues have hit the big game fishboat builders, not the least was the Great Recession. Today, there are surprisingly few express fishboats built in the 44’ range – Tiara, Riviera, Viking and that is about it. And most of these are opens or opens with an afterthought hardtop tacked on. Bertram no longer builds boats under 51.’ Rampage’s largest express is a 41.
When it comes to engines, accessories and equipment on the Cabo 44, the builder uses the same brands and grades that are used on the gold-platters. The engineering and installation of systems appears to be also up to that of the more expensive battlewagons. Construction techniques, materials and glasswork are all world-class on the Cabos.
Looking at what is available, we can say that because of the Cabo 44’s 16’6” beam and displacement of 43,200 lbs. there is really no other similar boat on the market and the ones that come close are 10,000 lbs. heavier or lighter. That fact puts the new Cabo 44 HTX in a class by herself.