Fishability — a term as elusive as the last bait in the livewell. Cabo's 44 HTX exhibits, by way of example, an embodiment of the definition that you can easily grasp. Since this boat replaces the venerable 45 Express, of which more than 130 have been sold, that came as no surprise.
The 44 HTX's cockpit sports Cabo's signature trio of hatches — two concealing massive, macerated fish boxes and a third providing access to the lazarette. Fitted with cold plates, the fish boxes keep a tuna chilled for hours without any ice. The livewell, with a viewing pane for keeping tabs on the bait, is on centerline at the transom. Let the hatches fall shut and all you get is a silent whoosh as the air escapes. If you prefer to fish lures or rigged dead baits, you can opt out of the livewell altogether.
Anticipating anglers' desires for a fighting chair, Cabo laminates an aluminum plate into the sole, ready to be tapped for the pedestal bolts. Additionally, the platform on the portside mezzanine deck is molded in a curve, to make room for a mate to stand behind the chair and swing an angler through 270 degrees unimpeded. Now, if you want a bait tray on the back of the chair, things might get tight. The cockpit bails quickly, and reaching the water while leaning over the gunwale is doable.
That cutaway platform is only one of the many attributes I admired about the mezzanine that seats five anglers while the battle rages. Naturally, it's a great perch for watching the spread, and it's fitted with a bait freezer and two additional insulated stowage compartments below to keep the refreshments coming.
The starboard-side tackle locker has drawers complete with drain holes and stops. The former prevents corrosion; the latter keeps your tackle from getting dumped on the sole. The washdown, plus tube stowage for gaffs or mops, resides behind a hatch below and beside the tackle locker.
Design and Construction
The hardtop constitutes the signature element of the 44 HTX's design. Its rigid enclosure provides climate control, obviating the need for Isinglass - the benefit of which you'd have trouble getting any owner who's struggled with canvas to dispute. The side windows slide open, creating a shortcut to the bow if you're nimble, and make the skipper's commands easily heard by any crew on the foredeck or at the dock. The hatch overhead also helps to provide ample breeze.
The centerline pod helm, served by a Stidd chair and flanking companions, all mount on a platform several inches higher than the helm deck, ensuring that the helmsman's view is unabated with plenty of visibility. Sightlines are often limited aboard an express.
The view of the cockpit is also first rate. From the helm, I could easily see both transom corners. Many expresses lack a clear shot at the portside corner, unless you stand on your tiptoes, because the backrest of the helm lounge blocks the sightline. However, thanks to the raised, centerline helm and the single-lever engine controls, even this 44's expansive six-person, L-shaped settee with hidden rod stowage never blocks your visibility while working fish or docking the boat.
Other helm-deck amenities include a fiberglass console along the portside containing a refrigerator as well as a tool and tackle locker complete with drawers, again fitted with stops and drain holes. Lay a towel atop this console and it serves as a great place to rig baits out of the spray while under way. An electric grill also fits under a hatch at this console's aft end.