After being together 20 years, couples can often predict each other's moves. So when Yamaha Outboards introduced its powerful V-8 F350 four-strokes, it was natural to assume Regulator Marine would first design another offshore center console expressly for these new engines. But in a shift, Regulator instead chose to venture back into a market it had previously left. The 30 Express is the result, and while it represents a new direction, it retains the same characteristics Regulator has embraced since 1988 - quality throughout.
Let's put this shift into context: In the traditional boating business model, once customers buy into a brand, every effort is made to keep them in "the family." Dealers cultivate relationships with service, and builders entice those same customers to step up in size with new models.
These days, there's also a growing trend of owners downsizing from larger sport-fishing yachts to reduce costs and the need for a professional crew. In doing so, they don't want to sacrifice fishability, amenities and the live-aboard option. Match all this with the range, power and dependability of today's four-stroke outboards, and it's easy to understand Regulator's decision.
The 30 Express is first and foremost a fishing machine, starting with the massive cockpit. Rather than sacrifice space by mounting the engines on the transom, Regulator uses an Armstrong engine bracket instead. This extends the overall running surface and further reduces the noise level of the already quiet F350s. The wide platform allows convenient servicing or a few extra feet to maneuver on a hot fish via the transom door.
The transom also sports a big 340-quart fishbox that will easily chill enough sushi to feed the neighborhood. Other necessities - like a 30-gallon insulated livewell, raw-water washdown and ample rod storage (on the hardtop and inside the cabin) - come standard as well. The mezzanine bench seat on the bridge deck centerline offers the perfect vantage point to watch trolled baits, and a bait prep center with sink and tackle drawers is just steps away from the action.
Despite its massive feel, the 30 Express handles effortlessly. Upon initial acceleration, the bow settles nicely, offering an unrestricted view from the centerline helm. The ergonomic layout puts everything within easy reach, and the roomy console has dedicated mounting space for a pair of 10-inch electronic displays. Power-assisted hydraulic steering comes standard with the twin F350s, and for docking in tight slips, Regulator offers a bow thruster as an available add-on.
Regulator boats are well known for their rugged seaworthiness, and this model doesn't deviate from that heritage. With a transom deadrise of 24-degrees and a hefty dry weight of more than 11,000 pounds, it'll handle some big seas. When I ran the boat at the Miami International Boat Show this past winter, we had to contend with the typical confused chop that comes from running several boats in a narrow waterway. Our test boat punched through the slop without hesitation or the slightest shudder. Like its predecessors, this Lou Codega-designed hull feels - and rides - much bigger than its advertised length.
Although we were limited to short bursts during our test, the speed potential is certainly available when it becomes necessary to outrun a thunderstorm or make it back to the scales on time. Performance trials with a half tank of fuel produced a top end of nearly 57 miles per hour. For marathon runs to the Gulf Stream, however, dialing the throttles back to 4,000 rpm results in an economical 26.9 gallon per hour fuel burn while still making 34 miles per hour.
Like all Regulator models, the express is overbuilt from the keel up. The beefy fiberglass grillage stringer system ensures rigidity and strength for the hull and deck cap. Quality components, like 316L stainless-steel hardware and the tempered-glass windshield, are evidence of the company's commitment to customer satisfaction. So are things like labeled wiring harnesses, well-organized plumbing systems and the overall meticulous fit and finish.
The most significant departure from Regulator's traditional hard-core styling becomes apparent when you descendthe few steps down into the cabin. Immediately aft of the ladder lies a midberth for two. Normally these spaces are reserved for the family Labrador or the weekend duffle bags. But in this case, the berth is spacious enough that you don't feel like a canned sardine.
The forward V-berth easily accommodated my 6-foot 3-inch frame comfortably, plus it has the requisite storage below. The Amtico teak and holly sole, matched with abundant direct and indirect lighting, gave the entire cabin a spacious feel.
For overnight chunking duty in the canyons or weekend trips to isolated anchorages, a well-equipped galley and full head with shower will keep the crew fed and clean. The freshwater tank capacity is 35 gallons. A 7,000 BTU reverse- cycle air conditioning unit is standard, but if you plan on fishing truly remote spots, you'd better opt for the 5 kW Kohler gas generator. And if your crew includes junior anglers, you also might want to add the entertainment package with flat-screen television and DVD player for those times when the bite slows down.
A fiberglass hardtop with spreader lights and a three-side enclosure is included as normal equipment on this model. Factory options for offshore pursuits include an 18-foot Lee Sidewinder outrigger package, a welded rocket launcher and an aft drop curtain.
Fans of the brand shouldn't be alarmed by this departure from the status quo. Regulator remains committed to its center-console constituency with new models on the horizon. But for those anglers who insist on a rugged fish boat with a slightly softer center, the 30 Express represents a worthy alternative.
REGULATOR 30 EXPRESS
LOA: 38' BEAM: 10'7" DRAFT: 2'3"
DEADRISE: 24° WEIGHT: 11,600lbs. MAX. HP: 700hp
WATER: 30gals. FUEL: 300gals. PRICE: $269,000
W/ TWIN F350-HP YAMAHA OUTBOARDS
Regulator ? 252.482.3837 ? regulatormarine.com