by David Pascoe
|Beam||11'0"||Engines||Cat 3116, 300 Hp|
|Draft||3'0"||Fuel Cap.||Not determined|
|Weight||14,900 lbs.||Top Speed||30 knots|
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 out 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, it 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 was no power output from the unit.
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 bilge pumps.
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.
Posted April 28, 2001