Boating & Ships Systems
By Capt. Peter B. Wright
New Jersey enjoys a long and distinguished seafaring tradition. Boat building in particular boosted the area’s economy, and the boats that came to be known as Jersey Sea Skiffs featured rugged construction, excellent sea handling capabilities and clean, attractive lines. Egg Harbor Yachts built its first Jersey skiff in 1946.
Originally known for solid, well-built wooden boats, Egg Harbor went through several changes of management and owner ship through the following decades and eventually merged with Pacemaker Yachts, making the switch to fiberglass in the early 1970s.
In its latest phoenix-like rise, Egg Harbor was acquired by plastic surgeon Ira M. Trocki. Dr. Trocki injected more than $10 million in capital improvements into the company, doubling the size of its facilities and allowing the hire of more than 200 skilled workers. The company acquired molds from several other well-respected boat companies that built well-known hulls or lesser-known but highly regarded models with cult-like followings.
North Carolina represents yet another seafaring state with a hallowed history of fishing-boat construction, and Buddy Davis is one of her better-known sons. Davis is responsible for introducing the Carolina-flare bow shape to hundreds of boaters. Trocki acquired the Davis name and added several of the Davis hull molds noted for their head-sea capabilities to his arsenal. The Davis “ride” attracted and held a loyal cadre of blue-water anglers – just the sort of dedicated boaters who were the target group of the new Egg Harbor.
Besides getting a number of existing molds, Egg Harbor also convinced naval architect Nick Boksa, who had designed many successful hulls for Davis, to design a brand-new hull for the Davis brand – the Davis 52 Express, I got to test-ride ]oie de Vie out of Cape May, New Jersey, the day after the Mid-Atlantic $500,000 tournament.
Somebody here likes to fish, was my first thought when I stepped on board and saw all the rod holders in the cockpit. There were four in the Release Marine fighting chair’s rocket launcher, four more on the chair itself (two on each armrest sideboard), two in the transom, four in the hull-side covering boards (two each: port and starboard), six in rod holders on the tower legs (three on each side) and six more along the aft edge of the hardtop. That’s 26 rod holders – enough to satisfy even me!
You access the helm deck up a set of molded fiberglass steps with teak treads that run dead center between two large freezers that, with some fabric-covered cushions added, would provide perfect raised seating for avid anglers who care enough to watch their baits when trolling.
The engine-room access does not rely on lifting mechanisms, as is common on many smaller express boats. The steps from the cockpit to the helm deck are hinged and swing upward, revealing an access hatch similar to that on most convertibles. A simple ladder and companionway let you access the space.
To starboard of the companionway, a 15 kW Westerbeke genset sits high on a shelf spanning the starboard shaft’s dripless shaft seal. The forward engine-room bulkhead features a very clean layout, bearing only the engines’ electronic brain boxes and a Reverso oil-change pump with a well-labeled manifold identifying both main engines, their transmissions and the genset.
With the height of the helm-deck sole allowing way over 6 feet of headroom in the engine room, you won’t feel cramped in this space. Racor primary fuel filters and engine-mounted secondary fuel filters all lie inboard of their respective engines for easy maintenance. The port engine’s oil filter mounts inboard, and the starboard engine oil filter is placed on the aft inboard motor mount. Oil changes should be easy, and on the Davis 52, they will be. With the available headroom, a mechanic can work on top of and all the way around the MAN engines in the boat we tested.
The helm station is air-conditioned – a very attractive feature during long runs to the offshore fishing grounds, and not just because of the temperature-control aspects. The ability to keep the helm at a comfortable temperature in both hot and cold weather allows you to completely enclose the helm deck, which helps avoid wind-driven spray and the fine mist of the “station-wagon effect” present on all big, fast boats. The helm itself consists of the varnished pod, with steering wheel and single-lever controls, that defines the layout of the best custom sport-fishing boats. (I recently had to run an older boat with twin lever controls in a fight with a blue marlin, and I felt terribly awkward, uncoordinated and inefficient with slow, hesitant responses.)
The helm deck’s hardtop comes with a molded-in overhead electronics box that has enough room for two VHF radios, a Simrad autopilot and a small Furuno combination seasurface temperature and digital-depth machine. The major electronics – depth sounder/fish finder, GPS chart plotter and radar rise from the dash in front of the companion seat. You’ll also find a nice storage area under the electronics box.
The 52’s big 31 by 47 over-squared, five-bladed props provided a smooth, vibration-free run, and I was impressed by how well the fathometer marked both the bottom and fish at speeds in excess of 30 knots. Good transducer placement and installation are key to this kind of accuracy, which is essential for any serious captain who values his secret numbers.
On any express boat with the helm mounted forward, there are some areas with less-than-ideal visibility. Serious trolling and fish spotting is best when done from the tower. I would definitely recommend replacing the manually operated teaser reels that are recessed into the hardtop with electric reels capable of being controlled from both the tower and helm-deck stations.
In heavy weather, wind driven spray often affects the forward vision on an express boat, and I was very interested in the drawings of the coming version of he Davis 52-footer with a flying bridge and solid wheelhouse. There will be an enormous amount of extra accommodation space, including a second full stateroom and large salon and galley.
You’ll find a very clever crew’s quarters on the 52 Express, with over/under bunks, one single and one double. A crew (or guest) head and shower are tucked under the steps leading down from the helm deck.
The master stateroom sports an island-style queen-size berth. Lovely wooden lockers to port and starboard line the hull sides just below the sheer line. The master head boasts a large shower with a seat and mirrored cabinets over the Corian hand basin. A huge storage space behind the marine toilet adds a sense of roominess to an already large area.
Buddy Davis fans and anglers who admire pretty woodwork and demand a strongly built fishing boat that can take a sea and get all over a hot fish without sacrificing creature comforts should contact the Davis division of Egg Harbor. Even better would be to visit the modern plant and meet some of the dedicated, lifelong professional boat builders who proudly put them together.