The 36 Cuddy from Contender has its roots in the successful and tournament-proven 36 Open. With the addition of a spacious and eminently useful cuddy cabin in the bow, the new model offers a significant increase in versatility, be it tackle storage, stay-aboard amenities or the space to accommodate a family more comfortably.
The cabin on our test boat was fully cushioned, with a giant storage box down the center, providing nearly eight feet of stretch-out space. The interior design is left to the owner, from straight tackle storage to a miniature stateroom with air conditioning.
Beyond the hull and the cuddy, virtually everything else on this boat is an owner-chosen option. Contender builds semi-custom boats. Every Contender sports a layout that reflects the owner's particular needs and fishing methods. From storage areas to console to live wells to the leaning post, nothing is standard. No two Contenders are ever alike.
The huge anchor locker with tie-off is accessed topside. Recessed lights and bow cleat provide 11.5 feet of snag-free bow deck. Jumpseats molded into the corners where the cuddy bulkhead meets the deck have dry storage underneath and offer convenient step-ups to the bow deck. Under the forward deck and just aft of the cuddy door are three huge lockers. The port and starboard bins are long enough to hold about as many rods as you're ever likely to need, while the center compartment serves as a large dry-storage area.
The console sports a low profile, yet still offers 6 1/2 feet of headroom inside. Access is through a full-height split door on the front of the console. As on all of Contender's consoles, the helm area is designed to accommodate the electronics that serious fishing demands. Passways on each side of the console are wide and clear, allowing you to run from the bow to the transom while fighting a fish without having to squidge sideways to get by. Generous toe space all around increases the usable deck space and allows you to lock into a fish from just about anywhere. The exception is up forward, where you have to get up on the cuddy deck to work a fish around the bow.
Live wells are designed for positive pressure. With 1100-gph pumps and gasketed lids, they fill to the top, eliminating air space and consequently the slop that takes a toll on delicate live baits. Aft of the transom bulkhead, motors are mounted on a minimal platform. Combined with foot space under the transom, the setup makes it easy to work a fish around the stern.
All under-deck space is used for storage areas or fuel tanks, and what can't be used is foam-filled so there are no large areas to take on water. The standard fuel tank holds 420 gallons, but if extended range is important the capacity can be super-sized to 600 gallons. The hull, deck and liner are 100-percent vinylester-resin-cored construction. Balsa coring in the hull sides increases the overall low center of gravity, resulting in a solid ride and exceptional control.
Our test boat was powered by triple 250-hp Yamaha HPDIs. The triple-outboard setup offers some distinct advantages over duals, including double redundancy in get-home capability. Speed control and handling are exceptional. With one engine running, trolling speed can be slowed to half a knot - barely enough to offset wind or tide, but just enough to keep live baits in place without slack in the line.
The 36 loped along smoothly at 50 miles per hour, with no tabs and just a slight trim on the engines - about four bars on the Yamaha controls - over steady one- to three-footers in the Gulf Stream. The hull rode free and loose, with a steady and easy bow rise and fall as it met the seas and quartering waves.
The trim tabs - Kiekhaefer K-planes - are mounted on the rear of the platform, rather than inset under the hull, and have an instant and positive effect on both side-to-side and fore-and-aft trim. However, the hull runs nicely with no tabs at all, finding its own attitude and adjusting for long, comfortable runs, as well as tight turns at speed.
On our test ride, Contender Boats owner Joe Neber showed off some of his tournament-winning secrets: Cut the wheel hard in the direction of the intended turn, and accelerate the motor on the outside of the turn. The hull spins around in its own length. It's a way to get on a fish fast when there is money on the line. The spacing of the triple outboards makes it work.
The 36 Cuddy maintains its pedigree as a serious fishing machine first and foremost. The addition of the forward cabin only increases the range of possibilities when it's time for this boat to go to work.
Contender Boats, Homestead, FL, fax (305) 230-1700 for nearest dealer;