Albemarle 360 XF IPS - Boat Review

Albemarle recently repowered its 360 Express with Volvo IPS drives...

0810boat_albemarle_368

0810boat_albemarle_368

Fans of Carolina offshore fishing boats might ask, "Why write about the Albemarle 360? It's been around for years!" That's true, but then again it's not. Albemarle recently repowered its 360 Express with Volvo IPS drives. When you do that, you must completely change the hull's running surface to accommodate the pods and the different placement of the engines. This results in a completely different, brand-new boat. I got to put the 360 through its paces in the exceedingly crowded conditions surrounding the Miami International Boat Show.

To get the pods into the 360, Albemarle, Volvo and Donald Blount Associates worked together on the new hull design. For power, Albemarle paired the IPS drives with twin, inline, six-cylinder Volvo IPS 600s rated at 435 hp each. The propulsion comes via Volvo's forward-facing, counter-rotating Duoprops. Unlike standard running gear, the IPS drives direct thrust parallel to the water's surface rather than at a down angle for greater efficiency and economy per horsepower. Duoprops also offer more propeller-blade surface area, which lets you use higher gear ratios while also reducing cavitation.

While you certainly can drive pod-equipped boats in normal fashion with gears, throttles and a steering wheel, you also get the option of using an innovative joystick that allows you to maneuver sideways, diagonally, forward and back. Two other optional performance features make pod propulsion unbeatable for fishing: The Sportfish Mode lets you outmaneuver even the swiftest fish in the sea, and dynamic positioning allows you to hold position and heading automatically - an incredible function for bottomfishing or holding position in a ripping inlet. You'll never have to reposition your anchor again!

On our test day, southeast winds at 25 knots roiled the Gulf Stream, making for a challenging sea trial. Drifting in a beam sea, the 360's deep-V exhibited a pretty long roll moment but with gentler transitions than its predecessor. Up-sea, it wanted the bow trimmed down for the smoothest ride; however, I believe that pods allow the 360 to accelerate faster, turn tighter and offer better fuel economy than the standard propulsion package. In addition, the exhaust exits through the pods underwater, so the ride is quieter and odor-free.

At a top speed of 40.1 mph, the 360 burned a mere 43 gph total at 3,630 rpm. Best cruise seemed to run at 29.9 mph (3,000 rpm), burning 27 gph and offering a range of 411 nm, which figures 95 percent usable capacity.

The express layout affords flexibility to anglers who want to stay in the thick of things rather than be isolated up on a flybridge away from family and friends.

The spacious 78-square-foot cockpit in the 360 provides a livewell, insulated cooler and a tackle/bait-prep center in the modules along the aft end of the bridge deck. The transom houses a 56-gallon fish box to augment another large under-deck fish box.

Often, changing over to IPS drives results in a substantial gain in usable interior space, as the engines commonly mount under the cockpit sole. Some boats even gain an entire extra cabin, a tackle-storage center or freezer space. In the case of the Albemarle 360, the company chose to keep the engines amidships, as in previous standard propulsion models, to maintain the proper center of gravity. The power transfers to the azipods via jackshafts. This configuration does allow the company to move the fuel tanks forward, however, freeing up space for fish boxes.

The living quarters down below contradict the 36-foot LOA. Albemarle provides a queen-size island berth on centerline in the bow, as well as a convertible sofa that folds out into another double berth in the galley/lounge area. To augment those sleeping accommodations, Albemarle replaced the large rod-storage locker over the convertible settee (standard on previous models) with a Pullman-style berth, providing yet another sleeping accommodation, so you can host six good friends on your offshore excursions. Volvo Penta charges extra for many of its features, such as dynamic positioning and auto-trim, but once you try IPS and its associated functions, you'll never want to go back to standard propulsion again! It truly makes driving a boat fun again.

Specifications

LOA......37'9"
Beam:......13'11"
Deadrise......16.5 degrees
Draft......4'
Weight......25,000 pounds
Fuel......535 gallons
Power......T 475 hp Volvo IPS diesels
Price......$499,995 (base boat w/ IPS drives)

Albemarle Sportfishing Boats / Edenton, North Carolina / 252-482-7600 / www.albemarleboats.com