When Charleston, South Carolina-based construction contractor and lifelong fisherman Jimmy Hightower and his brothers decided to start building boats, they tapped the talents of a new, relatively young designer, 27-year-old Jesse Rhodes. This complementary collaboration resulted in the Hightower 62, a sleek, clean, curvy Carolina-flared sport-fishing machine sure to end up on the short list of anyone looking for a custom boat.
On the day of our test ride, the entrance to Charleston Harbor showed its snotty side thanks to an autumnal low-pressure system swirling offshore. The wind, out of the southeast at a stiff 20-plus knots, pushed five- to seven-foot seas right up through the channel jetties. As the turbos on the big CAT diesels spooled up, the boat seemed eager to show off, coming up onto plane smartly with real “hold-on-tight” acceleration. With twin 1,650 hp CATs, the Hightower claims a 40-knot cruising speed.
Turning proved tight and crisp, and at all speeds she took the head and quartering seas in stride with absolutely no pounding. At test time, Hightower hadn’t completed the flybridge enclosure, but thanks to her Carolina flare, spray only reached us when the wind came directly abeam. As we ran back inshore through the troughs, the boat refused to wallow, and in the confines of the harbor, she backed down well with very little rumbling cavitation that’s so commonly felt on many sport-fishing convertibles.
Rhodes wanted the Hightower 62 to exude a smooth look and feel, so you’ll find no hard corners, just a seemingly natural flow to all lines and angles. Interestingly, Rhodes located the helm pod to port and provided ample bench seating both to starboard and in front of the console. Although the Furuno displays mount directly in front of the helmsman, the NavNet controls hide in the pop-up console just to the left, and, I might add, at an ergonomically comfortable level for convenient operation. Another thoughtful touch: equipping the flybridge with its own isolated battery, so even in the case of catastrophic power loss, the navigation electronics stay powered up. I also found excellent visibility back to the cockpit.
The uncluttered cockpit – a bit larger than average for a boat this size – boasts 162 square feet, plus the mezzanine seating area. Hightower locates coolers and freezers in the mezzanine level, and the Eskimo ice maker dumps into the oversized transom fish box.
Finished out in burled olive and ash, cabinets in the salon and galley areas conceal everything from the flat-screen TV to the coffee maker. As on the flybridge, you won’t find any hard corners. Even the doors to the staterooms curve on top and camber slightly outward. This boat’s layout places the owner’s stateroom to starboard amidships at the foot of the companionway and cabin with twin bunks to port – a third stateroom sits forward. Of special note are the large sizes of the shower stalls, especially in the owner’s suite.
The engine room puts a priority on making all components and systems readily accessible. The engine oil-change pump, located in the vestibule area between the cockpit and engine room, makes a potentially dirty operation easy and clean. The boat also incorporates an advanced Von Widmann underwater exhaust system, attenuating what little exhaust odor and noise the common-rail CAT diesels emit and providing the ideal back pressure for optimum performance.
Hightower cold-molds its hulls with the superstructure consisting of a combination of wood and closed-cell foam-core composite. Thanks to the insulation of every panel in the boat’s construction, the boat just “feels” exceptionally quiet – even when under way. Hightower pays equal attention to finishing details.
All in all, the Hightower brothers and Jesse Rhodes hit one out of the park with this first-off 62, entering the upper echelon of custom boatbuilders.
POWER……T 1,650 hp CAT C32 diesels**
PRICE……Price on request
Hightower Boatworks / Goose Creek, South Carolina / 843-514-7894 / www.hightowerboatworks.com