Boat Review: Harrison 39 Express

Compare this custom boat's construction, styling, price and performance to anything else in its class, and it's likely you'll want to meet Patrick Harrison yourself.

March 27, 2009


A relatively young boatwright with old-school flair, Patrick Harrison is a native of eastern North Carolina, a place where building fishing boats runs in the blood. Harrison honed his skills under the renowned Outer Banks builder Robin Smith – now his main collaborator. The wonderfully nimble and versatile Harrison 39 Express represents the pair’s most recent achievement.

Outside Pirate’s Cove, I pushed the throttles all the way up and instantly thought that someone had cracked a bullwhip on the transom as the twin 480 hp Cummins QSB5.9s sprang to life. We jumped up to plane in about five boat lengths with extremely little bow rise – a real advantage for shorter fellows like myself.

But all that power doesn’t burn a lot of fuel when pushing this little beauty. Turning 2,750 rpm, the Harrison 39 reached her 31-knot cruising speed while consuming just 28 gph. At wide-open throttle, the tachometers hit 3,460 rpm, yielding 37 knots at a mere 50 gph.


Although we experienced remarkably calm conditions in Roanoke Sound, this hull, combined with a classic Carolina flare, will no doubt provide a dry ride. She offered up a very sea-kindly feel and boasted a flat running attitude even without the tabs. She heeled gently into turns, and when backing down, let’s just say a billfish won’t stand a chance against this boat’s speed and agility. Harrison attributes these handling characteristics to a running surface that starts with a sharp 44-degree deadrise at the stem, transitions to 24 degrees amidships and finishes with a moderate 11-degree deadrise at the transom.

Since Harrison leaves the entire dash area open for the navigation suite, the bridge has an extremely roomy and uncluttered feel. In this traditional layout, Harrison mounts a companion helm chair to port with dual bench seats running the entire remaining length of the bridge area, providing great space for rod storage.

Harrison incorporates several design elements that you rarely find on boats this size. Measuring 100 square feet, the cockpit easily accommodates the full-size Nautica fighting chair with plenty of runaround room to spare. An ample transom fish box complements dual coolers situated forward, providing mezzanine-style seating (yes, on a 39-footer) from which to watch the baits in comfort. And in true big-boat fashion, Harrison installed Delta-T aspirators (one inhaling, the other exhaling) underneath the gunwale coamings. This system provides all the air the engines need while eliminating exterior engine-room vents. This keeps the engine room cooler and cleaner, and the unbroken hull exterior looks better.


Access the living quarters through the starboard-side companionway, and you’ll find a quarter berth to starboard, a full double V-berth forward, a head to port sporting an unusually oversized shower – a creature comfort the owner insisted upon – and galley forward. In terms of aesthetics, Harrison’s old-school touch comes to the surface in the exposed, solid-wood deck beams. You’ll find Spanish cedar used throughout as well as on all the exterior brightwork.

The entire bridge deck tilts up on pneumatic rams revealing a mechanic’s dream: a well-laid-out engine space finished in Awlgrip.

Because the boat was built to fish the Outer Banks area (where runs offshore are generally shorter), this first 39 carries only 400 gallons of fuel. However, the design allows enough room for an additional 200 gallons if needed.


As with any custom boat, the owner can dictate any variety of configurations – from an express to an open bulkhead day boat. Compare this custom boat’s construction, styling, price and performance to anything else in its class, and it’s likely you’ll want to meet Patrick Harrison yourself. – L.J. Wallace


WEIGHT…….18,000 pounds
POWER…….T 480 hp Cummins diesels
DEADRISE…….11 degrees at transom
FUEL…….400 gallons**
WATER…….30 gallons


Price On request

Harrison Boatworks / Manteo, North Carolina / 252-473-0161 /


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