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Bust big seas and even bigger fish on the great performing Cabo 38 Flybridge. DAVID LOCKWOOD reports

Cabo 38 Flybridge

There's nothing covert about Cabos, nothing left to chance, nothing that requires second guessing. Clearly, these are muscle boats built for serious fishing. It shows with their handling, the way they charge into the fray and back down with alacrity, as well as the stunning engineering below decks. Then comes the great spread of built-in fishing features back up top.

But the American yard's 38 Flybridge featured here will sate the single-minded pursuit of catching fish while also appeasing fishwives and small fry. The boat, you see, is accommodating not compromising. And it proves that good design need not preclude anyone from the pleasureboating.

Local Cabo importer Graham McCloy is a gamefishing devotee and well-known tournament captain. The 38 pictured hereabouts was his demonstrator, a 2010 model with twin Caterpillar C12 705hp diesel engines and about 200 hours on the clock. He took delivery of the boat in January and quickly set about making his presence known.

McCloy's lifelong crew Carmen is among the most high-achieving female gamefishering anglers. Together they fished the Sunshine Coast Game Fishing Classic in February and promptly picked up Champion Lady Angler for a nice blue marlin. Then they cruised south for the almighty Port Stephens Interclub, before heading back home and docking the 38 outside their offices, Game & Leisure Boats, at Runaway Bay on the Gold Coast.

Meantime, there's been a lot of drinks between Cabo tests at <I>Trade-a-Boat</I>. In the interim, the revered American boatbuilder has gone from being privately owned to another feather in the Brunswick Corporation's multinational marine stable. Some pundits thought that would spell an end to build quality and attention to detail. Baloney. I'm here to tell you the 38 is Cabo to the core. As McCloy says, the investment in R&D now surpasses what private boatbuilders could ever achieve.

As a result, this writer was once again reminded of the Cabo difference. Starting with a tour of the stunning engineroom and ending with a smile I couldn't wipe from my face while driving, the 38 is a boat that is a pleasure to command and crew. It's smart, safe, seaworthy and, while you pay a premium, the boat is special.




While Cabo can mix it with anyone in the engineering department, with the upgraded C12 engines on this 38 there's not a lot of room outboard of blocks. With the coolant overflow bottle outboard on the forward bulkhead, you will need to send a nimble crewmate across to top them up. Creaky old anglers will do it tough. With that out of the way, there's a lot to embrace.

As ever, Cabo makes a point of fitting emergency engine-driven bilge pumps. I'm not sure what these manifolds add to the bottom line, but what cost staying afloat on the high seas? Every serious fishboat manufacturer should have the factory option of engine-driven pump-out.

I also like that the seacocks are all labelled, the 2.5in shafts are upsized compared with some pleasureboats, and the engine vents are designed to go the extra distance and keep salt mist at bay. The main 240V breaker panel is a veritable work of art, the AC/DC wiring a model of excellence, but the Phase Three battery charger isn't a personal favourite.

The raw-water intakes don't have sea strainers, with Cabo considering the grills in the hull good enough. The oil dipsticks are on the centreline, the fuel filters include redundant Racors for each engine, and the gleaming white full fibreglass liner will make it easy to spot leaks. The generator, a 7.5kW Westerbeke unit sans sound shield, sits under the liftout ladder, with access to all parts (impeller changes will be easy). And with the generator running, the boat's nice and quiet.

Indoors, under the steps leading from the saloon to the accommodation, is a cavernous hold for all the main plumbing items including hot-water service and air-cons. Basically, nothing is left to chance, with the boat designed from the keel up. The only major downside is that, perish the thought, you might have to rebuild an engine in situ rather than crane one out.




The style of the Cabo 38 is very much open American convertible, with a swept-back or raked blanked-in forward windscreen and a decent cockpit. For a 38-footer it's an exceptionally beamy boat - the Riviera 38 is longer but 30cm narrower and the 38 is as wide as the Cabo 43 - thanks in part to the Carolina-style hull with signature flare. And the big footprint on the water translates to great stability despite the pretty sharp 17 degrees of deadrise at the transom.

Finish-wise, the boat teams utility with quality. The mouldings are first class, the fit and finish well executed, even in out of the way areas, and there's an element of fishboat practicality in the semi-gloss joinery and lift-out saloon carpet. Elsewhere, such as the high-gloss bird's eye maple dinette, you'll find statements of handcrafted rather than production boatbuilding.

In respect of tournament fishing, the 38 was loaded with a stunning heavy-tackle Release fighting chair ($11,300), Rupp alloy twin-spreader outriggers and shotgun or centre rigger, a spread of heavy-duty rodholders and a rocket launcher, plus four clear-way side-holders.

The in-transom livebait bin is just huge, there are raw and freshwater deck washes, hawsepipes and pop-up cleats to help keep the decks snag free, gaff racks, a bait-prep station and tackle drawers, as well as two expectant infloor 1.5m-long lined fishboxes. Add ice and you keep the mahi mahi fresh.

Indoors, there's rod storage in what otherwise appears to be a hanging locker in the second cabin. Thus, you can go from family to fishing mode in a matter of minutes. It's also worth mentioning that the boat is a safe one to get around at sea or at anchor. There are aluminium bow and grabrails, but the anchor locker can only be accessed internally, forward of the bedhead.




Such is the ladder rake and wide tread steps that it's not much of a climb to the bridge. Twin ladder-back chairs offer driving support during ocean passages, Palm Beach-style split shifts let you chase fish, and two trick stainless steel engine ignition panels with synchro and troll switches suggest the Cabo means business.

Electronics include a $32,000 Garmin package of twin 15in touch-screen 5015 multifunction screens and autopilot, plus there are twin Caterpillar engine-monitoring panels. I also noted storage for personal effects, an in-dash icebox for the drinks and lunch, and cool LED lighting. The 2kW transducer in a wet box ensures you can see the bottom at speed well over the Shelf and mark marlin amid bait schools.

The hardtop and alloy welding work was a $46,000 option from American C-Fab, which are revered for their custom gameboat towers, although an additional rail under the hardtop might not go astray. Otherwise, you're all set for hunting and on the wide blue yonder. Vision through the EZ2C clears wasn't distorted, sight lines to the bow and down to the cockpit are clear, and crew seating is generous, with the longest lounge able to double as a daybed.




The McCloys have thus far spent up to 10 days aboard. He says the twin doors to the wonderfully generous head makes for a boat with a useful en suite. The stateroom is also big on living space and the two-cabin boat compares favourably with some 40s by our reckoning. In case you need it, the saloon lounge also converts to a berth.

The open-plan saloon with L-shape Ultraleather-upholstered lounge around the dinette is man-sized, while the galley opposite has solid counters, bench-height fridge and freezer, microwave oven and recessed two-burner cooktop. It's a loaded layout but with everything pushed to the sides, the thoroughfare is clear and floor space is maximised.

Cabo is extending its warranties and offering factory bonus deals to entice owners aboard, but we reckon the stateroom forward with big island bed is pretty enticing, too. There's also good storage in cedar-lined hanging lockers, drawers, lockers and so on. The en suite/communal head has a glorious American-sized shower, with DC-powered ventilation in place of a hatch or both, while the second cabin has twin bunks. We tested them and they rate as adult-sized. As it is, the two-cabin 38 would make a great fisher and family holiday home.




I should premise this test with the fact the sea was about one metre, calm by any measure, and perfect for fishing rather than mere testing. But I will add that even in the benign conditions the boat imparts a sense of solidity, with no rattles, creaks or groans, no bangs or curtains of spray. Such is the sweet handling that this jaded journo was positively beaming.

"She loves a head sea - there's a very fine bow," says McCloy, adding that he cruises at a swift 27kts most days. And with four-blade Veem props, the boat's also nice and smooth. The lack of sound and vibration can also be attributed to the monocoque or one-piece hull and deck structure.








As our sea trials and the official figures (for the Express model) hereabouts reveal that this is a fast boat with the upgraded twin C12 705hp engines. Top speed was 36.5kts on the day, a tad over 37kts for the Express, but 30kts cruise at 2000rpm was the real joy for us, giving a range of just over 300nm. Pull the throttles back to 1600rpm and about 22kts to 23kts and the range rises to 330nm. So anywhere from 23kts to 30kts is efficient offshore.

At the same time, off-the-wheel handling was rousing, with the Cabo responding eagerly and banking in the turns without burying its bow. Clearly, with the engines and shafts a good way apart, the boat has a tighter turning circle than some. Reversing proved she was similarly eager to go, whichever way the fish dictate.




$925,000 w/ Caterpillar electronic C12 diesel motors, and options




Garmin electronics with 48nm radar and 2kW transducer, cockpit freezer, Rupp outriggers, Release 130lb gamechair, electric-reel wiring, power steering, Y-valve for toilet, electronic controls, C-Fab custom hardtop and clears, teak and holly saloon floor, and more




Package from $757,960 w/ Cummins QSB8.3 600hp engines




MATERIAL: GRP fibreglass with foam-cored hull sides and decks, superstructure and hull sides
TYPE: Hard-chine variable deadrise planing hull
BEAM: 4.53m
DRAFT: 1.3m (max.)
DEADRISE: 17 degrees at transom
WEIGHT: Approx 12,701kg (dry w/ standard engine)




BERTHS: 4 + 2
FUEL: 1800lt
WATER: 360lt




MAKE/MODEL: Caterpillar C12s
TYPE: In-line six-cylinder electronic diesel engine w/ twin turbocharging and aftercooling
RATED HP: 705 at 2300rpm
WEIGHT: Approx 1177kg
PROPS: Veem four-blade bronze




Game & Leisure Boats,
Shop 11 Runaway Bay Marina.
245 Bayview Street,
Runaway Bay, Qld, 4216
Contact: Graham McCloy
Phone: (07) 5577 5811
Fax: (07) 5577 5822




It's in the open ocean that Cabo's hull-and-engine pairings shine brightest. Aficionados will appreciate the great performance and the 38 is a big little boat that punches well above its weight. Wherever you look, the fabulous build quality is evident. But we reckon the 38 is also a smart family boat and floating weekender. Contest the big tournament, explore new ports of call, and travel fast offshore in five-star comfort.


Find Cabo boats for sale.


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