CARIBBEAN 40 MK II FLYBRIDGE CRUISER BOAT TEST

By: JEFF STRANG, Photography by: MIKE HUNTER

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  • Trade-A-Boat

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If it’s a Caribbean, it has to be good. And true to the marque, the Caribbean 40 Mk II validates the lineage.

CARIBBEAN 40 MK II FLYBRIDGE CRUISER BOAT TEST
The Caribbean 40 Mk II flybridge cruiser. This one was blinged up with more options thn

Accompanied as it was by a warm feeling of familiarity, stepping aboard the Caribbean 40 Mk II was like an overdue reunion with an old friend. And even though the original 40 was the subject of my very first professional review back in 2001, the real strength of the bond comes from the three years spent operating its bigger sister, the now discontinued Caribbean 45, on some of the most unforgiving pelagic fishing grounds in the Southern Hemisphere, the famous Three Kings and Middlesex banks, north of New Zealand. Much water passed between the wheels of that vessel and it always delivered unfailing consistency in the good times and the bad.

Like last month's test of the Caribbean 2400 Open, the 40 Mk II was presented blinged to a standard Kim Kardashian would appreciate. Perth brothers Travis and Coby Mansfield of Mansfield Marine are masters in the craft, mostly using local suppliers to tailor vessels to the exacting requirements of their customers. Travis describes the tale of Odyssey's makeover as the dream job you hope to be offered. The perfect customer shows up, already in love with the boat as it is, and enthused at throwing the whole kitchen sink at making it the hottest property on the block.

Not that the Caribbean 40 Mk II needs a new kitchen sink. Indeed, far from it, but all will be revealed in due course…
 
REFINED, NOT REINVENTED
Officially revealed at this year's Sydney International Boat Show it takes more than a quick glance to spot the subtle changes made in the 40 Mk II. Famous for not throwing the baby out with the bath water I would describe the process International Marine uses to improves its products as evolution rather than revolution. After all, if it's not broken, why fix it.

On the foundation of arguably the greatest all-round sportsfishing hull ever built - from the legendary American yard Bertram, International Marine has built a following in the flybridge cruiser niche that is the envy of all production players with an interest in the Australian market. I can tell you from experience that the basic configuration is very, very hard to fault. So instead of risking rejection from a loyal market with a total makeover, the Mk II benefits mostly from an updated look. Its lines are subtly sleeker, with most of the hard edges knocked off in favour of generous cambers and wider radiuses in the mouldings. To my eye it gives the vessel a hungrier, more predatory look.

Given it has been some time since I last saw this boat's predecessor it took a bit of online research to pick up more changes. The flybridge overhang, which sports both the LED downlights and the cockpit floodlight, has been doubled to increase the default shelter provided to those taking care of business in the cockpit. On Odyssey this overhang has been augmented by the addition of a nicely crafted canvas awning.

The cockpit itself is also improved with a newly designed single-moulded FRP unit housing a larger capacity eutectic fridge/freezer, a sink unit and an efficient storage locker. To make room for this larger unit, the saloon door has been offset slightly to starboard, which may seem trivial but I think is one of the most significant improvements the Mk II boasts. This change also improves the use of space internally, allowing for both a larger bulkhead window that swings out open and a more spacious dinette, formerly much too compact.

SHOWING PROMISE
Back in my day Caribbean boats used to cop plenty of flak for their interiors. Many of my so-called mates associated the insides of my boat, an old-school 45 called Independence, with that beacon of '80s fashion, Miami Vice. I never took it personally choosing to do my talking on the fishing grounds. No such ridicule could be justified on Odyssey. While certainly tasteful rather than trendsetting the single-tone cream leather (which I am told will be standard) and tan upholstery, which flows right from the master cabin in the bow works seamlessly with the upgraded timber cabinetry and trim sporting a rich depth of finish by virtue of no less than six spray coats of gloss varnish.

Speaking of the master cabin, you would be hard pushed to find a bigger cot in this class of boat. Commenting as such Travis agreed pointing out that many of his customers highlighted this feature as one that helped tipped the balance over rival offerings less generously giving in this area. As is the Caribbean way, all options for storage have been optimised including the, quite frankly, vast opportunity presented by this enormous cot.

The usual crew cabin is located to port and features an inviting "king" berth under a standard single so I can see bigger siblings trying to pull rank to secure the prime sleeping position here.

Both cabins are adequately serviced by a single en suite/dayhead and sizeable shower cubical finished with more high-gloss trim and teak flooring.

PRACTICALITY & PURPOSE
Back amidships, a split-level cabin houses the galley and main saloon. Even in this updated version International Marine has gone against current trends for aft galleys preferring to stick to its tried-and-true forward-galley configuration.

Stepping down a level from the saloon proper lowers the galley floor towards the centre of gravity, which slightly reduces the degree of movement anyone preparing culinary delights has to contend with. And that is not the only feature that makes this one of the most practical boat kitchens in the business.

For starters it is big - my eye-chronometer measured between 2 and 3m² of useable bench space, although I will say that personally I would do away the stainless steel hot-dish stand next to the cooktop as it is probably surplus to requirements and permanently impacts the preparation space options.

Other features that get big ticks in terms of at-sea practicality that are seen all too infrequently include the fiddle around that ceramic cooktop, the good-sized lip that runs right around the edge of the bench top, a configuration that allows for ample opportunities to brace against any unanticipated sea-induced movement, and the easy-clean approach to the layout in general, the highlight of which is the Mansfield Marine-supplied custom-glass splashback.

Central to the saloon and forming the kick-back-and-relax-in-good-company centre of the 40 Mk II is the usual Caribbean U-shaped dinette and double lounger combo. As mentioned earlier the dinette benefits from a slight increase in volume due to the altered saloon door setup, but those unfamiliar with these boats should pay special attention to that lounger. In one of the simplest yet most effective innovations you are ever likely to see, the comfortable settee converts to an additional twin single-bunk configuration in less time than it took me to type this sentence. Describing the lower of these two surprise beds as a single is a huge understatement, it is at least the equivalent of a king single and probably closer to a double.

SENSIBLE SEPARATION
Ticking yet another box, and one that will put a smile on the faces of those that appreciate a nod towards sensible engineering, a pair of 8.3lt Cummins QSC 500 diesels sit in a surgically-white engineroom, while an entirely separate ancillary space houses an Onan generator, a watermaker and the like. Separated by a sealed bulkhead this is the sort of arrangement that used to be the reserve of the more pricey custom-built stables like Palm Beach and Fleming but is becoming increasingly popular on production boats like the Caribbean.

Here again International Marine have taken the pragmatic approach, not opting to offer dedicated access to these spaces, which means a carpet on the saloon floor hides the inbuilt access hatches. While this is an economical option it is important to take extra care whenever mechanical work is undertaken, as even simple pre-trip inspections can easily lead to inadvertent grease stains messing up the carpet. Still, it's a system that works and works well, provided strict cleanliness procedures are followed.

FISHERMEN'S FRIEND
Clearly as the photos hereabouts prove the Caribbean 40 Mk II can happily pull double-duty as a sundrenched platform for al fresco dining and cocktail cruising, particularly with the tidy little drop-in and foldout cockpit table, which is great and means a very important part of the buying decision - aka your better half - is more likely to be looking at things favourably. But if you are seriously looking at buying a Caribbean it's a better than even bet you love fishing.

At the business end this spacious teak cockpit provides a solid platform from which a wide variety of angling options can be explored. Although Odyssey still has some customisation to go to be a genuine heavy-tackle contender, standard features like the wide transom gate, flush-mount cleats and fully moulded bait tank as standard will get blue-water enthusiasts thinking pretty hard about their options.

Professional crew will appreciate the efforts made to provide a quality rigging station, with ample working space, extra handrails, side protection clears and bucket loads of refrigeration. Just as pleasing are the little features, like the inbuilt cupholders, moulded side-access steps, toe-kicks and a generous lazarette. It's these touches that have lifted the Mk II into a class above.

THROTTLE JOCKEY'S DELIGHT
A gameboat that doesn't perform in the heat of battle is like a boxer with a glass jaw - all shirt and no trousers. Fortunately the Caribbean 40 Mk II most certainly has its pants on. While the twin 500hp Cummins QSC powerplants are relatively small, when compared to the excessive engine outputs we often see in such offshore hunting weapons, these quality common rail diesels deliver a nice balance of performance and pertinence.

Ace gameboat drivers understand that precision rather than power is the secret to consistent results, and controlled from the bridge via a slick set of Mercury digital controls, the Caribbean 40 is one the most accurate sportsfishing boats I have ever driven. A few minutes' toing and froing is all it takes to get a feel for its behavioural characteristics and a few minutes more and you are pirouetting like a prima ballerina - no need for a bowthruster here. And if they are good in tight spots, they excel in the rough, where the original Bertram sea-handling pedigree speaks for itself.

Not surprisingly I got a real kick out of jumping behind the wheel of one of my favourite boats and I have to say that in my mind the old-school flybridge helm station still takes a lot of beating. That extra bit of elevation makes a big difference to the visibility of your surroundings and its confidence boosting to be able to clearly see all the extremities of the boat when parking in tight spots.

THE VERDICT
In value-for-money terms this is a boat that seriously rattles the cage of the more exclusive stables. Indeed there is plenty of anecdotal evidence to back-up claims that "realising value" is a key factor in the decision process of many who have invested in this brand, which is why I think the headline The Smart Money is so appropriate.

The few subtle improvements in the Mk II are all spot-on, but it's good to see Caribbean has stuck to its guns and done what it is famous for - building excellent boats the market loves, with quality engineering and class-leading sea-handling on rock-solid hulls. For these reasons I'm happy to say the Caribbean 40 Mk II remains a known quantity that should inspire confidence in those new to the brand.

So whether you're a hard-core professional blue-water hunter, a weekend warrior who likes to get into a bit of everything, or a family man who just wants to be happy in a sound purchase, I highly recommend a good look at this or any other Caribbean in the range. While it may not be the right boat for you, I guarantee it comes pretty close.

(Facts&figures)
CARIBBEAN 40 MKII

AVERAGE PURCHASE PRICE
$700,000

GENERAL
MATERIAL: GRP
TYPE: Planing monohull
LENGTH OVERALL: 12.19m
BEAM: 4.3m
WEIGHT: 12,000kg

CAPACITIES
PEOPLE (NIGHT): 6+2
FUEL: 2000lt
WATER: 650lt

ENGINE
MAKE/MODEL: 2 x Cummins QSC
TYPE: Common rail electronic diesels
RATED HP: 500 (each)
DISPLACEMENT: 8.3lt (each)
WEIGHT: 206kg (each)
GEAR RATIO: 1.92:1

SUPPLIED BY
Mansfield Marine,
Shop 3, 45 Northside Drive,
HILLARYS, WA, 6025
Phone: (08) 9448 1100; 0419 911 560; 0418 958 658
Fax: (08) 9307 9391
Email: mansfieldmarine@bigpond.com; coby.mansfield@bigpond.com
Website: mansfieldmarine.com.au

From: Trade-a-Boat Issue 433, Nov-Dec 2012. Story: Jeff Strang Photos: Mike Hunter.

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