||Cat 3116, 300 Hp
Everybody's been asking about
them. We've gotten hundreds of requests for reviews
on Albemarle boats, the only problem being that we hadn't
surveyed one. That state of affairs recently changed when
this 1997 model 305 came our way.
Fully loaded and with a tower, this one
is powered with 300 HP Caterpillar 3116 engines that are
the first pair of this model engine that we've run across
that did not have any problems. At least other than the
fact that the starboard aluminum engine beds had gone
loose because these were improperly installed.
Which leads me to say that I was somewhat
disappointed with this boat after having heard so much
raving about Albemarle boats. Let's start with the fact
that it's certainly good looking and, despite its small
size does tend to attract attention. But once I got beyond
the ooh, aah, stage and started looking closely, my enthusiasm
started to wane. And why, I wondered, did this four year
old boat already have two owners going on a third?
To begin, the gel coat on all the upper
surfaces was wiped out after only four years; heavily
oxidized and looking like occasional polishing hasn't
done it much good. Then, when I walked up to the foredeck,
I was astonished to feel it flexing under my feet. Stress
cracks showing up around the windshield coaming were apparent
symptoms of the deck weakness. The windshield is painted
aluminum and was notably weak in the center section.
The hull is a moderate deep vee with
an unusually full bow for a Carolina boat. Unfortunately,
the broker would not allow us to take the boat out into
the Gulfstream, so we haven't a clue as to how well it
performs in rough water. Though it was hard not to notice
that the vee bottom is very heavily rounded in the mid
section. While this will increase speed performance, it
will definitely cause a harder ride. I would expect a
good, but not great ride.
Our trial run consisted of a series of
short blasts up the Intracoastal and on into Lake Worth
in Palm Beach. Although not a real speed burner, topping
out at 30 knots, this boat is very fast to accelerate,
proven by a driver who knew two speeds: full and stop.
With a 1.5: gear ratio it turns 20 x 23 four blade props
for a vibration-free run.
Chine flats are 4" wide at the stern
and angle downward, and would presumably be more effective
at retarding roll that horizontal chines.
Hull construction seems to be solid glass
all the way around as we did not find any sign of coring
with the possible exception of the transom. The deck is
bolted to the hull. No external stress cracking on the
hull was found. Internally it was a different story. Glass
tabbing was found broken or fractured in three areas,
the cause of which was not immediately clear.
Bulkheading is the usual plywood; we
could not determine the nature of stringer construction.
One peculiar thing is that there is a
false bottom on the inside of this hull, the reason for
which we didn't understand, yet it caused a costly problem
that soon became apparent.
When opening the hatches and looking
down into the bilge, we didn't see any water, though along
the centerline a number of holes showed that there was
space below what looked like the bottom of the boat. There
is a generator aft under the cockpit deck; when looking
in that area, no water was visible either. However, once
we got underway, a very a large amount of water
ran aft, so much so that the generator partly went under
water. The armature cooling fan caught this water and
was throwing it all over the compartment. Moreover, is
was obvious that this was not the first time this had
happened, judging by the amount of corrosion on the genny.
That explained why there w as no power output from the
Moreover, we did not discover any provision
for dewatering this hidden compartment, though such may
have existed at one time. The bilge pumps were positioned
above the hidden compartment, so that water had to rise
to that level before the pumps would actuate.
Gaining access to the generator is not
fun either. The cockpit deck hatch has one of those huge
fish boxes installed in it that requires two persons to
remove it. To complicate matters further, this hatch does
not lift up all the way, because the bait well built into
the transom prevents full opening of the hatch. To get
the box out, you have to remove the hatch, which is another
two man job to put it back into place. I spent a half-hour
alone attempting to get it on and failed.
Ah, one other minor detail: the generator
exhaust is installed lower than the water line. . . .
Moving along toward the engine compartment,
an hours worth of looking for the switch that actuates
the electric lift failed to locate it, so I had to await
the arrival of someone who knew how to open up.
Turns out the switch is up under the gunwale where no
one would dream of looking.
A tall helm pedestal chair is mounted
on the hatch in front of the lower helm. Obviously, to
lift the hatch the helm chair has to be removed. Unlike
some of the Tiaras, this gigantic hatch at least opened
far enough to allow reasonable access to the engine compartment.
Just one problem: once the hatch is open, one cannot get
to the helm or anything else forward of the hatch, nor
can you operate the boat from the lower station with the
hatch open. This boat had a tower control station, but
for boats without a tower, it would not have been possible
to complete the engine survey/sea trail.
The engine compartment is tight what
with the engines being installed very close together.
I could not get my body between the engines to reach the
area aft of the turbochargers. I wouldn't want to own
this boat if I did my own maintenance.
Yet another unfortunate situation involved
the engine room insulation, which is foam padding glued
onto the under side of the deck, which was falling off
and crumbling, burning on hot manifolds and fouling the
Somewhere under the cockpit there is
a fuel tank, but there is no access to it and not even
a glimpse of it could be seen. Condition of aluminum tank:
unknown. Nor does is there a removable deck section. To
get at it the deck has to be cut out.
The cockpit area is separated into forward
and aft sections by molded cabinets on each side, both
of which block sliding door storage lockers in the gunwales
rendering them unusable. The forward cockpit area is rather
tight, what with the pedestal chair mounted smack in the
middle of the traffic pattern. The helm itself is simplistic
and angular, with a broad surface area for flush mounting
electronics. Three items will fit here, including a nice
Northstar 961X. Wheel and control positioning is acceptable
and the opening vent section of the windshield is nice
for cooling off, though it's got some really cheap aluminum
hardware that functions poorly. There are also vent openings
on the windshield sides.
Our test model had a full size fighting
chair and it was nice to be on such a small boat with
plenty of cockpit room even with a chair. This is offset
by the badly cramped forward cockpit half. The upshot
is that this is a good layout for serious bill fishing,
but less so if general entertainment figures into the
your picture. You quickly get tired of doing battle with
that pedestal chair.
The cabin area is somewhat larger than
similar boats with a rather unusual berth/seating arrangement.
One side starts out as a vee berth, but then on the opposite
side the berth/seat is set more perpendicular to the centerline,
making for an odd angle, but giving a bit more floor space
that permits easier movement around the table which, for
most vee berth set ups, does not work well. This
one works out better.
The galley is across the aft bulkhead,
again unusual, though the amount of counter space is small,
it's not as bad as some. The head compartment is large
enough to avoid complaint. The interior is fully linered
and there were no significant cabin leaks.
Another squawk point: the electric panel
is located immediately inside the cabin door. Accidentally
leave the door open and a sudden rain storm comes up .
. . . well, you get the idea.
Many of these complaints are things that
used boat buyers will put up with seeing as how they're
paying a lot less than a new boat price. But when buying
a new boat, and paying a premium price, a discriminating
buyer will likely turn his nose up at so many design glitches.
For all the rave talk we've heard about Albemarle, perhaps
we expected too much.
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of these reviews is educational, to help you discern the differences in
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