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January 28, 2009

Fountain 38 Sportfish Cruiser

Fountain's 38 Sportfish Cruiser with outboard power is a stylish multitasker.

In most boating situations, cruising and speed are not synonymous. Cruising normally involves a slower, rhythmic pace for maximum range and optimum fuel efficiency. Speed, on the other hand, is usually associated with wind-in-your-face, white-knuckle performance, the kind found on the offshore powerboat racing or competitive tournament circuits.

That's why the 38 Sportfish Cruiser OB (for outboard power) is such a unique craft. Thanks to its stepped performance hull honed by racing legend and company namesake Reggie Fountain, this model is the ultimate sport-utility vessel. It's quite capable of serious fishing duty, as I discovered during a jaunt off Mississippi's Gulf Coast. But its layout and refinements also make it suitable as an overnight cruiser to the islands or remote fishing grounds.

Accompanied by Fountain pro angler Clayton Kirby and Robyn Dawson of Bent Marine, we left the beautifully restored Isle Resort in Biloxi on a southeasterly course. My hosts were competing in the upcoming SKA National Championship, so we planned to scout the nearby rigs for worthy king mackerel. A short chop and stiff breeze greeted us as we rounded the protective barrier island.

In true Fountain fashion, my GPS read more than 66 miles per hour as we opened her up, pushed along by triple 300 hp Verado four-strokes. That's impressive speed for a boat of this size and weight. The cruising numbers were equally noteworthy. Pulling back to a midthrottle mark of 4,000 rpm, we loped along just over 38 miles per hour. The SmartCraft gauges reported 1.3 miles per gallon at that pace.

Despite its size, this 38-footer is extremely nimble for a so-called cruiser. The stepped hull ventilates the surface water to reduce friction and add lift, and the smooth Verado power steering gives fingertip control. Response to course corrections was quick and sure. The boat handled the quartering waves well, and it wasn't long before we pulled up to one of the many oil and gas rigs located throughout the Gulf.