By admin ~ January 11th, 2012. Filed under: New Boats.
Running With The StallionsStory By Chris Caswell / Photos by Deep Impact
Hard as it may be to believe, there was actually a time when the center console boat simply didn’t exist. No one had invented it yet. Really. I saw my first center console boat, a 16-foot Boston Whaler, in 1961 and I thought, “Wow, what a great idea!” Over the intervening decades, I’ve spent literally thousands of hours running center consoles and now, half a century later, I still say, “Wow, what a great idea!”
But the new Deep Impact 399 bears as much resemblance to that early Whaler center console as my first bicycle does to a new Ferrari Fiorano and, come to think of it, the speed differential is about the same, too. That early Whaler would pound your fillings loose at 35 mph in 3-inch chop, but the Deep Impact lopes along at 70-plus mph in ocean swells and is as comfy as Granny’s rocking chair.
Deep Impact, which launched in 1998, is a relative newcomer to the center console wars but, in spite of the down economy, is doubling their factory space to keep up with the demand. They’ve built a solid reputation on four facets: innovative engineering, high-quality materials, exceptional performance and their willingness to fully customize each boat to fit an owner’s needs.
The starting point for the 399 is a deep-V hull designed by John Cosker that uses a traditional 24-degree deadrise updated with twin steps to reduce wetted surface at higher speeds. Deep Impact uses an infusion process to build the hulls, with vinylester resin backed with Divinycel coring and further reinforced with layers of Kevlar. The result is a rigid structure that has a consistent resin ratio throughout for the lightest weight possible.
Moldwork on the 399 is impeccable and, for the first hull, they were so confident in their craftsmanship that they chose a black finish which is unforgiving, but the surface was mirror-like and unrippled. Even better, I noted that the joints between different panels were crisp and tight: too many builders just get the panels close and then conceal the gap with silicone sealant.
The 399 stands apart from other look-alike center consoles because of the trademark Deep Impact sheer line, which swoops rather than curves from bow to stern. Some hate it on sight, but I found it both appealing and modern.
Step aboard and you quickly realize how much room you get in a 39×10 foot package. The area from console to transom can easily carry a Little League team without crowding the coaches and, like everything on a Deep Impact, is designed to suit each owner. In this case, General Manager, Tim Gallagher, pointed out that the first 399 was sort of a “neutral” arrangement with fold-down lounge seating for guests aft, but there were also hatches for bait wells in the wide transom coaming. Facing aft, the back of the helm seats held four rod holders and also doubled as bench seating with a padded ice chest. Rodholders in the gunwales and big fish lockers in the cockpit sole make the 399 attractive to fishermen, while the comfy seating and open space make this a family boat as well.
LOA: 39′ 8″
Beam: 10′ 7″
Weight: 13,800 lbs (dry with triple engines)
Fuel/Water: 480/50 U.S. gals.
Power: 3x Mercury 350 SCi Mercury Racing Verado
Top/Cruising Speed: 62.8/ 43.4 knots
Range: 450 nm @ cruise
MSRP Base Price: $369,955 w/triple 300hp Mercury Verado
Price As Tested: $405,955 w/triple 350 Sci Mercury Racing Verados
OK, I admit it: I loved the helm. This surely isn’t the console from that old Whaler. A pair of big Garmin monitors provide touch-screen capabilities for GPS, 3D chart plotting, radar, satellite weather and bottom topography, while Mercury’s SmartCraft VesselView panel between the screens keeps the skipper posted on all onboard systems. Toggle switches are clearly marked in a tidy panel and I liked the triple mechanical fuel gauges front and center on the dash.
Drawing on offshore racing technology, there are three seats behind the helm, each with deeply padded sides and drop-down bolsters for standing, and this arrangement puts the skipper directly on the centerline. Overhead, a beautifully finished T-top is supported by a framework so solid it could serve as the rollbar on a racecar.
It takes a moment of study to realize why this T-top is such a clever design. The overhead electronics on most T-tops either bolt to the top (thus hanging in your face) or are fitted into a box, which also hangs in your face. The Deep Impact crew built a bubble into the T-top, so the electronics are neatly recessed, angled for easy viewing, and are virtually unnoticeable. The only item hanging down is the microphone cord and, with the advent of wireless mikes, that will soon be gone, too. At the back of the top are six rocket launchers for rods and, with recessed lighting and speakers, it’s truly an exceptional T-top.
Unlike that old Whaler which barely had room for a sweatshirt and a soggy sandwich under the console, the 399 console stretches forward past the windscreen to allow quite a remarkable head compartment. If you’re thinking, oh no, dark and depressing, you’re wrong. Not only does the cabin have more than 6-feet, 6-inches of headroom, but it is bright and cheerful with a skylight in the glossy white liner, plus Corian counters, a porcelain electric head and, ta-dah, a full shower! Even better, there is a watermaker tucked away aft, so you never run out of water. After a day of sun and salt, you can disappear into this head and reappear fresh and scrubbed. This is a center console to please James Bond.
While the after cockpit serves both families and fishermen, the forward area is for loafing. A pair of bolstered seats face forward, while a U-shaped lounge wraps around the bow with padded coamings. But, like everything else on the 399, there is some clever thinking in play. Both seats have tilt-up backrests that converts them into lounges from which to watch the world drift pass. Pure hedonism.
As cleverly as this Deep Impact is designed, the real heart of this beastie is the trio of Mercury Racing 350-hp SCi Verado outboards hanging on the transom. But looking at the three seemingly benign black clamp-ons is one thing. Imagining a corral with more than 1000 very healthy stallions pawing and snorting is another.
Opening those corral gates or grabbing a handful of the three throttles on the 399 and shoving them forward is not for the timid of heart. At that moment, a lot starts happening aft as three 23-inch four-bladed Mercury Revolution 4 props struggle to get a bite on the water.
A result of both the hull steps and the full length strakes, the Deep Impact 399 comes onto plane fast and flat, with none of the usual bow rise and horizon loss during acceleration.
And acceleration is, hmmm, what’s a good word? Impressive? Ferocious? Those are good starts, but hardly descriptive enough. You simply have to experience it.
The 399 carries a total of 480 gallons of fuel in fiberglass tanks but, with a half load and several people aboard, she easily topped out at nearly 63 knots—that’s 72-plus miles per hour, or a rate that would put you on a first-name basis with a judge if you were to try that on the streets.
But why three outboards? Well, because you can go fast, of course, but also because they provide a nice margin of safety for families. If you have an engine problem, say, out on the Bahamas Banks, the 399 will still plane on two engines at 45 knots so you can get back across the Gulf Stream quickly and comfortably.
Underway, the 399 is nothing if not solid and predictable. The hydraulic steering is light and precise, and she dances across ocean swells gently and with grace. No crashing and smashing… just clean slicing and spray flung far to the side. This is the Ginsu knife of center consoles.
Fast enough to satisfy anyone with speed lust, sure to please the offshore fisherman and great fun for families, the Deep Impact 399 stands out as a must-see in the center console world.