Boat Review: Davis 50 Express

Performance that lives up to its looks.

davisbg.jpg

I first saw the Davis 50 Express at the head of one of the docks at the Miami Boat Show. The bow was facing shore, and the effect it had upon all the people walking down the dock was extraordinary. The foredeck, at just about eye level as you turned the corner onto the dock, stopped traffic constantly as the pronounced Carolina flare atop the gleaming hull fairly shouted, "Give me head seas!"

Two months later, I found out firsthand that this 50 lives up to its impression. Several days prior to our running this new Davis, the largest high-pressure front of the year roared through Florida. Fortunately, it left pretty calm waters - a mere 2- to 4-foot sea. Many boats would consider those moderate conditions. The Davis 50 reacted as if it were running in virtual-reality mode - you could see the waves but couldn't feel them.

Even larger waves offshore that came from passing ships and other yachts had virtually no effect. With the bow trimmed down just a tad, the razor-edge forefoot of the bow carved through the head seas effortlessly. Fishing Sailfish Alley off Palm Beach can be pretty tiring in a beam sea. The 50 proved stable while drifting on all points to the sea, and the quiet at idle speeds added to the stress relief of fishing on a beautiful day. Down-sea, this Davis tracks like an arrow without swerving, despite the sharp bow. Additionally, as you'd no doubt expect, the exaggerated bow flare keeps the spray in the ocean where it belongs.

Admittedly, we didn't have 10-foot waves to back into. However, the 50 Express backs down under control at 4.5 knots. Although you'll want to shift to low idle when docking to ease the lurch when shifting gears, this Davis generally reacts at a stately pace when turning to fight fish, rather than snapping to commands like a raw recruit. I found the response comfortable and predictable.

Bridge
The 50's large bridge deck provides settee seating galore on both sides. Specially favored guests can sit next to the captain in one of the beautiful teak helm chairs and help scan the broad expanse of flush-mounted instruments. You'll find loads of storage under the seats and in cabinets on the bridge deck. But one storage area, the overhead rod storage compartment, needs rethinking. It opens like the bombay doors on a B52. I'd prefer to see a single hatch that opens from the forward edge, with pneumatic rams to control the weight and descent rather than cables with clips.
In typical Davis style, the classic, varnished-teak helm pod matches the helm chairs, yet bows to function with single-lever Mathers MicroCommander controls.

Fishability
Buddy Davis started his career as a charter captain fishing out of Oregon Inlet and Hatteras on North Carolina's Outer Banks, so no boat leaves Davis' shop without being meticulously prepared to fish.

The leading edge of the cockpit holds a large livewell on the port side, an equally large freezer to starboard of the centerline engine access and a full-featured rigging station with numerous tackle drawers outboard of that. Since more time is spent standing at the rigging station than at the freezer, I'd opt for switching the positions of the rigging station and freezer as the support leg for the tuna tower partially blocks access to the rigging center.

Fish boxes in the deck provide plenty of room for even the largest bigeye tuna, and an additional stainless-steel-lined box in the transom will handle plenty of wahoo, dolphin, cobia or whatever your target species might be.

I backed down as hard as I dared, trying to get some water in the cockpit but was unable to wet the deck. What came in under the tuna door ran out just as quickly through the oversize scuppers.

Since this 50 qualifies as a custom-built boat, you may choose not to adorn it with the beautiful teak deck and covering boards that Reel Comfort had. But teak still provides the best non-skid of any surface known to man, and it looks great. The 50's cockpit will handle a quad of sails without the need to bump into your fellow anglers. This is a great boat to fish.

Interior
Davis offers two interior configurations on the 50 Express: one stateroom/one head or two staterooms/two heads. Our test boat with the single stateroom layout could easily sleep five or six in comfort, if not in total privacy. A double berth in the forepeak runs along the starboard bow curve while below it a single berth runs along the port bulkhead. Two singles at the portside settee augment these and finally, the L-shaped settee to starboard can accommodate one more.

Davis carries the elegance of the exterior finish and lines into the belowdecks area with rich fabrics, Corian counters and innovative, deluxe lighting and plumbing fixtures throughout. One particularly slick feature can be found under the counters. Davis provides more space than a stand-up refrigerator/freezer would but all in under-counter drawers.

Engine Room
The heart of the Davis 50 Express is accessed via the centerline engine room hatch in the cockpit. It's a tight squeeze through that hatch, but the section then opens up into a quite spacious compartment with about 5-1/2 feet of headroom. Everything you regularly need to access is conveniently situated either on centerline or against the forward bulkhead.

Buddy Davis has impeccable taste. Whether your favorite aspect of a boat is its lines, offshore performance, luxurious interior, outstanding fishability or beautiful fit and finish, you'll find your tastes suitably satisfied by this new 50 Express.