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September 21, 2007

Davis 45 Express

The legendary North Carolina boatbuilder's latest express design is fast, stylish, comfortable and a joy to fish

I have to admit that I've always admired express boats, especially the truly good-looking ones like the new 45 Express from Davis Boatworks. They are the inboard, diesel equivalent of the center console, boats set up to fish as efficiently as possible. Buddy Davis has always built serious fishing boats, but the 45 may be the baddest of them all. It features the famous Carolina flare and broken sheer that define the Davis look, but while some Carolina boats look better than others, this one came together just right. It combines beautiful styling with a near-perfect cockpit and plush accommodations down below. Even though you can buy a bigger express (Davis makes a 50-footer), this is all you'll ever need to catch anything that swims. Perhaps the best thing about the 45 is that it runs as good as it looks. We tested the boat off Marathon in the Florida Keys on a day when a stiff onshore wind had the seas whipped up to a steady five to seven feet. No problem. The 45 was powered by twin 12-liter, 700-hp Detroit Diesel DDC-MTU Series 60 diesels, and cruised effortlessly at 27 knots at 2100 rpm, no matter which direction we pointed it in. To call it a superior sea boat would be an understatement. The sharp entry kept us from pounding, and we took almost no spray on a day when most people were decked out in full foul-weather gear. Wide-open, the 45 hits 30.5 knots with the 700-hp 60 Series engines. Not fast enough, you say? Davis can accommodate you by dropping in a pair of 14-liter, 825-hp 60 Series Detroits, thereby providing cruise speeds of around 30.2 knots at 2100 rpm, and top speeds of over 33 knots. These are real-world speeds too, with full towers, canvas, and real-world loads. After an extended sea trial (it's so much fun to drive the 45 that you don't want to stop), we turned our attention to the cockpit. Buddy Davis knows how to build a cockpit, and this one should please everyone. There's plenty of room for moving around, of course, and thick coaming pads encircle the 'pit. A heavy-duty transom door to port opens under a hinged section of the covering board, and large hawse pipes lead to oversized cleats in the transom corners. An in-deck, transverse fishbox is accessed through a hatch to port, and extends 5 1/2 feet under the sole. A similar hatch to starboard houses a large lazarette for stowage. The forward end of the cockpit contains freezer and tackle-storage boxes, with the freezer to port and a large live well and sink to starboard. The steps to the bridgedeck are located on the centerline between these two units, and open to provide engine-room access. Tackle lockers are built into a bulkhead that sits above and forward of the freezer and live-well units, giving you a substantial volume of tackle storage right at your fingertips. Opening the steps reveals the ladder down to the engine room, where you'll find a surprising amount of space for a 45-footer. The engine-room sole is coated in gleaming white paint, so any type of oil leak will be spotted instantly, and all of the systems associated with the big Detroits are easy to get to. This is one of the cleanest and neatest engine rooms we've seen in some time. The bridgedeck features a unique two-level arrangement that provides the best visibility we've seen for the helmsman of an express boat. The first level is a full 32 inches above the cockpit (that helps explain the generous engine-room headroom), and the helm itself is up another step, on the centerline. The helm has single-lever controls, of course, and a large electronics surface to starboard. Two wraparound settees provide both guest seating and additional storage, with the starboard couch containing rod racks. The deck on our test boat had the optional teak decking, a very nice feature. Down below, there's a choice of two floor plans. Our boat had the "A" plan, which features a single stateroom forward, with a compact galley to port as soon as you come down the stairs. There's a dinette and a table aft and to starboard, and a spacious head with full stall shower is just forward of that. The difference in the two plans is that our boat had a couch with storage to port, between the galley and the master stateroom, while the plan "B" layout puts a second stateroom there with over-under bunks. As with all Davis Yachts, the 45's interior is superbly finished in rich woods and fine leathers. It's truly beautiful. The Davis 45 Express is clearly at the top of its class, and will certainly be an instant hit on the big-game trail. It's fast, agile and, best of all, it's a remarkably comfortable and stylish ride. Such quality doesn't come cheap, of course, but you get what you pay for. In this case, what you're getting would be hard to improve upon. Davis Boatworks, Inc., Wanchese, NC; (877) 779-2248; www.buddydavis.com.