If you must test a boat at the Miami International Boat Show, it’s a good idea to pick a Carolina-inspired vessel like Albemarle’s new 33 Express. Offshore winds usually howl during the show, kicking up rough conditions as hundreds of boats head out of the same channel on never-ending sea trials. Heck, it usually gets plenty rough right in the harbor. Carolina boats thrive on such conditions. In other words, if a boat is built to transit Oregon Inlet on a nasty day, the conditions in Miami aren’t going to touch it.
You may never experience a challenge to your boat-handling skills quite like maneuvering your way out of a slip at the in-water display of the Miami show. Bad cross-currents, huge bows sticking out of slips, and boats constantly coming and going conspire to embarrass you at every turn. The Albemarle’s QSB 5.8-liter Cummins diesels, putting out 425 hp each, purred as we pulled out of the slip with a modest lurch. Whether in low or regular idle, the 330 handles with inch-by-inch control around the dock.
The 330 XF slow-idles at 550 rpm, which pushes the boat along at 5 knots with both engines in gear. Standard idle boosts that to 620 rpm and a knot faster. Both use about 1 gph. And honestly, it doesn’t matter what boat you might be considering – pay the extra money for the power-assist steering like the one that comes on the 330; you won’t regret it. A single finger turning the wheel to the lock results in a course reversal in just five boat lengths at cruising speed.
Offshore, in the lee of the beach, I revved the Cummins to their 2,950 rpm top end and generated 30.2 knots while burning 44 gph. Cruising at 2,500 rpm, the 330 ran at exactly 26 knots and burned a modest 31 gph.
For fishing, an 8-knot trolling speed produced blue-water alleys as wide as the Florida Turnpike. A slower troll of 6 knots generated slight surface turbulence and nothing more.
Albemarle’s executives would all rather fish than build boats. Consequently, this boat doesn’t lack any hard-core fishing features. Chasing down a sailfish, the boat spun so fast that the poor fish could barely keep up. Backing down at more than 5 knots proved totally controllable. We didn’t experience even a moment’s discomfort while drifting beam to the seas looking for bait around the range markers off Miami’s Government Cut – a notoriously rough area in the wind-against-tide conditions we experienced. A short roll moment and gentle transitions cradle your passengers rather than tossing them about.
Another great thing about Albemarle is that you get entire packages rather than an a la carte menu. In other words, when the factory installs your optional tower, the company also includes spreader lights, side and top rocket launchers, a fiberglass buggy top and a full, zip-down enclosure.
You’ll find the 330’s cockpit large enough to easily accommodate multiple anglers. And though the gunwale coaming pads met my legs at mid-thigh (engendering a truly secure feeling), I could still reach the water’s surface to comfortably revive and release billfish. Just like much larger express fishermen, the Albemarle 330 sports modules on the aft deck containing a livewell, sink, optional freezer and tons of tackle storage.
Design and Construction
Albemarle finishes each boat with a covering of Armourcoat gelcoat, a skin layer of vinylester resin to prevent osmotic blistering. The topsides and other long expanses boast rot-free Baltek coring. Engine spaces – coated with bright white gelcoat – resist dirt and oil while making cleaning much easier, and Albemarle completely encapsulates its marine-grade fir stringers in fiberglass prior to installing them. The company pays such attention to construction details that it offers a 10-year transferable hull warranty.
The bridge deck provides settee seating on both sides, and each bench hides loads of storage – though I personally prefer a centerline helm on an express since it allows you to readily view both corners of the cockpit while seated. Seeing the starboard cockpit corner becomes harder with a starboard-side helm.
I appreciate that Albemarle supplies a wiper for each large windshield. I’d like it more with a healthy dose of freshwater rinse.
A switch under the port gunwale raises and lowers the bridge deck for access to the spacious engine compartment. I must comment here that I’ve been aboard 50-foot express boats that didn’t have the space to work on the engines that this little 33-footer provides. I qualify it as simply incredible. I could easily work 360 degrees around both power plants.
A visit belowdecks finds an interior that really belies the rugged, offshore-fishing demeanor of the above-decks areas. Beautiful woodwork, rich fabrics, Corian counters and a handsome teak-and-holly cabin sole make this an elegant and sophisticated living space, not a workman’s holiday.
For those of you who remember way back when, and don’t hesitate to say so, you’d be amazed at the features and impressive space today’s 30- to 35-foot express and flybridge boats offer. Compared to “the olden days,” you now get a mansion where you used to get a broom closet.
POWER……T 425 hp Cummins diesels**
Albemarle Boats / Edenton, North Carolina / 252-482-7600 / www.albemarleboats.com