The second unique 57-footer built by Blackwell Boatworks, Hybrid is designed with features you would find on a smaller center console, yet proportionate to a much larger day boat. The owner was looking for a sport-fishing concept boat to be used as a yacht tender and a fast fishing platform in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates. Those famed waters host a multitude of species, including blue marlin, swordfish, tuna, dolphin and king mackerel, among many others, so Blackwell designed the boat’s layout to accommodate various fishing methods: trolling, drifting and utilizing a green stick for tuna.
Cockpit and Mezzanine
The cockpit is where the owner and his family will spend the majority of their time, so the mezzanine was constructed a bit differently to accommodate their needs.
Each side of the mezzanine contains a stand-up cabinet and aft-facing bench seat. The port cabinet houses a tackle center and a two-burner cooktop. “The owner really enjoys catching fish and cooking meals with his friends and family while at sea,” says Craig Blackwell. The starboard-side cabinet offers a refrigerator below and a stainless-steel sink/bait tray up top. In addition, each bench seat can be utilized for dry storage or as a cooler.
The owner wanted to have a green stick available for tuna fishing. Since this is not the sole purpose of the boat, Blackwell and his team crafted a green stick, which can be raised and lowered on a swivel base. Moreover, it can be removed and stored on board along the port side, completely out of the way.
Moving aft to the cockpit, Hybrid continues to offer more unique features, including a massive in-deck livewell that is more than 6 feet in length and nearly 3 feet wide. Aft, there are two transom doors and a removable teak swim platform, which allows for easy boarding from a rigid-hull inflatable tender. As expected, there is a traditional Carolina-style fish box in the transom; it doubles as a second livewell and is set up for tuna tubes.
Since the boat offers 360-degree fishability, the walkaround area cannot be missed. Just two steps up moves you quickly beside the bridge deck and forward to the bow. Each side of the area below the gunwales contains rod storage and open bins for additional storage. A large bench seat is built into the trunk cabin, allowing for even more dry storage. Forward of the bench seat is the hatch to the truly massive segmented ice hold fed by two high-capacity ice makers. The 600-plus-cubic-foot area reminded me of an ice hold you would find on a Northeast swordfish boat — it is cavernous.
With the focus on serious fishing and having access to a larger yacht for overnight or longer trips, the living areas were constructed to be minimal yet functional. Access to the living area is gained through the port side of the bridge deck. Walking down the stairs, to port is the electrical panel and hanging locker. Once below, there are two bunks to port, and a guest wet head aft. On the starboard side is the owner’s stateroom with a bunk and private head. In keeping with function and low maintenance, Lonseal vinyl flooring is used throughout the living areas and bridge deck, making for easy cleanup.
The focal point of the engine room is a pair of Caterpillar C18 diesels with ZF gears. The engine room is large and yet quite low-profile, accommodating all of the equipment you would expect to find on a custom Carolina boat, including a 20 kW Caterpillar generator, watermaker, pumps, tool box and ice makers. Every component except the watermaker has a backup unit for quick fixes while fishing.
The low-profile height allows for a lower floor height and higher gunwales for safety in the cockpit. As I traversed the walkaround area, the gunwales were at midthigh in the cockpit to waist level near the bow.
The bridge deck is large and spacious, with room akin to a convertible’s salon. The helm hosts a wide array of electronics, including three 16-inch Garmin multifunction displays. Forward of the satin teak-finished helm pod are the Caterpillar engine readouts and a Garmin GSD 26 sounder. To starboard is a pair of Standard Horizon GX5500 VHF radios, Garmin autopilot, FLIR remote, Fusion stereo and a Bocatech switch panel.
The helm seating is unique in that it resembles a center island with a set of Sub-Zero refrigerator drawers below and a removable helm seat facing forward. Above and starboard of the island is a fold-down 32-inch television, which allows for viewing throughout the bridge deck. Aft against the bulkhead are settees on each side, containing additional storage below. The island also houses a four-leaf foldout table for guests sitting on the rear settees.
A feature important for fishing on a vessel with walkaround capability is visibility, and Hybrid‘s is outstanding, even with a completely enclosed bridge deck. This is due to the numerous windows and two side-sliding doors and one rear cabin door. The boat’s layout allows an angler in the cockpit to see another angler on the bow through the bridge deck.
The boat’s hardtop contains a pair of 18-foot telescoping Taco outriggers. In addition, there are LED lights built in on all four sides to illuminate the decks and the water around the entire boat.
Another unique feature is the placement of the life raft in the aft section of the radar bump. Storing the raft on the hardtop allows for manual or hydrostatic release and makes efficient use of the space.
Unlike other Carolina builders who were once captains, Blackwell’s background is strictly in boatbuilding, having worked for the Gougeon brothers at West System Epoxy and Buddy Davis before beginning his own business in 1989. With 80 boats under his belt, his knowledge of building techniques and materials is vast and evolving.
Hybrid is the first big boat Blackwell has built with an all-composite hull, deck and bridge, utilizing Divinycell. The transom is constructed with Coosa. The only wood used in the boat is in the keel, stringers and chines. In addition, it is also the first hull designed entirely by Darron Roop, of Roop Yacht Design.
Hybrid is designed to be towed by a larger yacht, so it has a massive polished-stainless-steel tow strap that is through-bolted to the keel and chine with multiple backing reinforcements, which are also fiberglassed for additional strength. “You would have to rip the front of the boat out to pull the tow strap from the stem,” Blackwell said.
Hybrid displays exceptional handling throughout the tight turns in the sound off Wanchese, North Carolina. The boat appears to dance on the water as it turns, showing the responsiveness of a much smaller boat. It ran comfortably at 1,850 rpm, making 33 knots. On the top end, it is fast: 42 knots fully loaded. Speed was a very important factor for the owner because they may encounter pirates in the waters where they fish. The need for a fast boat that could outrun and outmaneuver pirates was a priority.
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Blackwell’s goal with Hybrid was to create a unique walkaround fishing-focused battlewagon that would be suitable for a variety of species. After watching the build process and spending some time on the boat, I would agree this highly experienced builder may be on to something.