As Capt. Travis Butters steered the 70-foot American Custom Yacht Que Mas along the reef, I glanced over at the GPS. It indicated 32 knots, and we were turning only 1,800 rpm. The twin 16V-2000 MTUs still needed another 550 rpm before they reached full throttle! Crank them up to 2,350 and you're traveling at over 40 knots.* Everybody knows that American builds fast boats, but until you've actually ridden on one, you can't fully appreciate the exhilaration of traveling that fast on a rig this big.
As we started offshore toward Alligator lighthouse off Islamorada, Florida, for a photo shoot, the captain wove his way through the local charter fleet. Jaws dropped on each of the boats we passed as the fishermen and captains marveled at the speed, beauty and sheer size of the Que Mas. This is a boat that demands attention, and once you get your eyeballs on it, it's hard to look away.
Wally and Sue Whitley built the boat specifically for extended cruising and fishing adventures, and it will soon leave for the Panama Canal and the Pacific Ocean, eventually making its way north to Alaska. The Whitleys wanted to be intimately involved in every aspect of the boat's design, along with Captain Butters and mate Ben Ekblom, because this boat will be their home on lengthy trips. Their attention to detail, combined with the expert craftsmen at American, produced a remarkable boat.
First and foremost, American built the Que Mas to fish, and it sports a massive cockpit to facilitate that mission. The cockpit features bilevel storage cabinets forward, a design we're seeing more often these days on larger boats, which provides a large amount of storage space while leaving plenty of cockpit area for fishing. This arrangement also creates lots of rear-facing seating for guests who want to watch the baits, and the custom cabinets reflect the owners' needs. For instance, the port boxes on the Que Mas contain a massive chill box in the top portion and both a livewell and a hidden air compressor for filling dive tanks in the lower half.
To starboard, there's a huge tackle locker in the top half of the cabinet, running the entire width of the starboard unit. It holds just about every item a mate might need in a hurry, all within arm's reach of the pit.
Four lids on the lower half of the starboard unit conceal engine-room access, a throw box and two freezers, from left to right. And if that's not enough storage for you, an in-deck transverse fish box forward of the fighting chair does double duty as a truly gigantic livewell. The Release Marine chair rests atop an offset stanchion, with a spacious lazarette beneath the sole just aft of the chair.
The cockpit also features bridge overhang lights that pull down and become air-conditioning vents for trolling on those dog days of summer. Clearly, a lot of thought and planning went into this cockpit, and it's hard to envision one better conceived.
The engine room offers a centerline workbench between the main engines, greatly simplifying minor repairs and maintenance chores. American installed mirrors above the MTUs so you can easily see all parts of the engine, and the finished wood floors add an elegant touch to the engine space. Twin 25-kW Northern Lights generators sit aft beneath the cockpit sole, along with the boat's air-conditioning units.
Battery boxes and fuel filters are positioned along the forward engine-room bulkhead, keeping everything within easy reach and well lit by numerous overhead fluorescent lights. A separate, air-conditioned pump room forward of the engine room contains the watermaker, chillers for cooling the freshwater supply, the air compressor that operates the pneumatic salon door, and another toolbox. An overhead hatch leads to the galley above, so you can enter the pump room without going through the engine room.
Interior decorator Sam Rowell worked closely with the Whitleys to create a stunning living space, abounding in rich woods and fine fabrics. Upon entering the salon, you first notice large storage cabinets in the galley, all crafted from beautiful matched grain teak. An L-shaped sofa lies to starboard, with a triangular table that contains storage for trolling reels and the attached rod butts. Clips inside the table hold each reel securely in place, a very innovative use of space, but that's a theme you see again and again on this boat.
The flat-screen TV rises out of a cabinet to port, with a full complement of audio-visual equipment. There's a complete video system concealed to starboard, with remote video cameras mounted all over the boat - including one on each outrigger. A storage space to port contains both wine glasses and the boat's satellite phone.
|In the galley, granite countertops cover the L-shaped bar, which contains the refrigerator and freezer units, as well as an ice maker. In keeping with the stated mission, you could easily live on this boat for a long time.|
|Three staterooms accommodate owners, guests and crew. The companionway lies to starboard, with the master stateroom aft. All the staterooms feature cedar-lined closets and flat-screen TVs. The master offers up a roomy head outboard along the port side. Along the companionway to starboard, American mounted display racks for storing numerous fly rods. The guest stateroom lies forward of the master and also contains a private head and flat-screen TV.|
The crew quarters are situated at the forepeak. The innovative use of space continues up here with four bunks, two of which fold up like a Pullman berth and conceal additional rod storage racks. There's a third head forward and to starboard.
The boat has no bow rail, nor does it have a bow pulpit, which would seem to make anchoring a problem. But on closer inspection, we found an ingenious folding pulpit that disappears below a deck hatch when not in use. It simply folds up into the anchor locker. Likewise, a retractable davit disappears into a storage space in the foredeck, but pops out to lift a flats skiff onto the deck. The cradles for the skiff fit securely in the same compartment. This system keeps the bow clean, yet provides ultimate utility upon demand.
Our test ride took place on a breezy day with 4-foot seas rolling onto the reef. The Que Mas basically ignored them, as we repeatedly circled the photo boat at different speeds and angles to the waves. Being 70 feet long doesn't hurt, of course, but with power steering this boat handles like a much smaller craft. It feels agile, responsive and, above all, quick. When we hit the throttles, the instantaneous acceleration impressed us all.
It should come as no surprise that the latest beauty from American Custom Yachts performs superbly - the company built its reputation on performance. American uses cold-molded construction utilizing fir stringers wrapped with diagonal layers of Bruynzeel plywood. Stringers are also laminated with fiberglass and Kevlar for superior strength and light weight to add both efficiency and speed. Three layers of plywood set at opposing angles make up the hull bottom, with two layers in the hull sides for additional weight savings.
The Que Mas combines high-tech construction with distinctive styling in a boat that's fast, beautiful and loaded with design features that make it truly functional. That's standard operating procedure at American Custom Yachts, one of America's premier custom boatbuilders. It just doesn't get any better than this.
American Custom Yachts
* Marlin's test numbers reflect higher speeds because of extensive prop tuning done between sea trials.