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February 20, 2009

Everglades 350 Express

The innovative Everglades 350 Express is the company's latest flagship.

A growing trend on the water started with the advent of powerful, big-block outboards and continued with diesel-fuel prices hitting record levels last year. Realizing where the market was headed, Everglades Boats reacted. In rapid succession, the company introduced two new outboard express models at the fall boat shows that generated a noticeable buzz among attendees. The 320 Express and its larger sibling, the 350 Express, are designed for owner/operators who are either stepping up from a smaller boat or downsizing from a larger one. To sweeten the deal, Everglades includes many live-aboard comforts that are extras on other brands.

I recently joined David Glenn, Everglades' Director of Marketing, for a tour of the company's state-of-the-art facility in Edgewater, Florida, where he showed me how the boats are built. The method used is the basis for Everglades' innovative approach.

Each boat is put together using the Rapid Molded Core Assembly Process. Developed by Bob Dougherty, a 50-year industry veteran and the company's CEO, the RAMCAP method uses precision-cut blocks of dense foam that are mirror shapes of the boat's internal voids from the chine down. Besides adding flotation, the foam also increases the hull's structural integrity and deadens sound. Once the foam is in place, the inner- and outer-hull skins are bonded together. The end product is a solid glass and foam craft that is virtually unsinkable.

The next morning, Glenn and I ran the 350 Express up the river to Ponce Inlet where a lingering cold front had turned the ocean into a washboard of white water and confused swells. As we eased past the jetty and into the slop, I was thankful for the hardtop and glass enclosure surrounding the helm and bridge deck. Giving more throttle, the sharp stem cut through the crests with ease, and the landings were just as revealing. Instead of the expected jarring shudder that comes from waves without backs, the boat settled with a sure, level splash. No jolts to the legs, no white-knuckle grips on the wheel. Just a soft, comfortable ride.

Turning beam-to into the swells also produced desired results. Despite its aggressive 25-degree deadrise at the transom, we maintained a level attitude without the pronounced roll that's typical of such a deep V-hull, thanks to the broad beam. That's a welcome trait when bottom fishing or working the 'pit in big seas.

For its size and weight, this is a surprisingly fast boat too. Ours was rigged with triple V-8 Yamaha 350 hp four-strokes, and we made just a smidgen under 60 miles per hour during speed trials. The standard power package is a pair of F350s for those preferring a more leisurely pace.

Everglades Boats is known for its unique features, and the 350 Express didn't disappoint in that category either. Most are practical, while others, like the integrated LED Everglades logo illuminated in the cockpit handrail, are just plain cool.

At the business end of this 95-square foot cockpit, a 66-gallon fish box highlights the transom. Just below, twin seats quickly flip down when needed for crew seating. The companion bolster also lowers to add padding for the lower back. In the port corner, a 39-gallon livewell with an acrylic lid and blue gelcoat interior will keep the day's bait frisky. A horizontal rod rack is located under the port gunwale. The cockpit is equipped with stainless-steel toe rails and wraparound bolsters. A teak rocket launcher is an option, and there's enough room for a full-size chair if it's mounted on an offset pedestal.