Cabo 44 HTX - Boat Review

The 44 HTX evokes the "always ready" demeanor of an express fish

Fishability — a term as elusive as the last bait in the livewell. Cabo's 44 HTX exhibits, by way of example, an embodiment of the definition that you can easily grasp. Since this boat replaces the venerable 45 Express, of which more than 130 have been sold, that came as no surprise.

**Fishing
**The 44 HTX's cockpit sports Cabo's signature trio of hatches — two concealing massive, macerated fish boxes and a third providing access to the lazarette. Fitted with cold plates, the fish boxes keep a tuna chilled for hours without any ice. The livewell, with a viewing pane for keeping tabs on the bait, is on centerline at the transom. Let the hatches fall shut and all you get is a silent whoosh as the air escapes. If you prefer to fish lures or rigged dead baits, you can opt out of the livewell altogether.

Anticipating anglers' desires for a fighting chair, Cabo laminates an aluminum plate into the sole, ready to be tapped for the pedestal bolts. Additionally, the platform on the portside mezzanine deck is molded in a curve, to make room for a mate to stand behind the chair and swing an angler through 270 degrees unimpeded. Now, if you want a bait tray on the back of the chair, things might get tight. The cockpit bails quickly, and reaching the water while leaning over the gunwale is doable.

That cutaway platform is only one of the many attributes I admired about the mezzanine that seats five anglers while the battle rages. Naturally, it's a great perch for watching the spread, and it's fitted with a bait freezer and two additional insulated stowage compartments below to keep the refreshments coming.

The starboard-side tackle locker has drawers complete with drain holes and stops. The former prevents corrosion; the latter keeps your tackle from getting dumped on the sole. The washdown, plus tube stowage for gaffs or mops, resides behind a hatch below and beside the tackle locker.

**Design and Construction
**

The hardtop constitutes the signature element of the 44 HTX's design. Its rigid enclosure provides climate control, obviating the need for Isinglass - the benefit of which you'd have trouble getting any owner who's struggled with canvas to dispute. The side windows slide open, creating a shortcut to the bow if you're nimble, and make the skipper's commands easily heard by any crew on the foredeck or at the dock. The hatch overhead also helps to provide ample breeze.

The centerline pod helm, served by a Stidd chair and flanking companions, all mount on a platform several inches higher than the helm deck, ensuring that the helmsman's view is unabated with plenty of visibility. Sightlines are often limited aboard an express.

The view of the cockpit is also first rate. From the helm, I could easily see both transom corners. Many expresses lack a clear shot at the portside corner, unless you stand on your tiptoes, because the backrest of the helm lounge blocks the sightline. However, thanks to the raised, centerline helm and the single-lever engine controls, even this 44's expansive six-person, L-shaped settee with hidden rod stowage never blocks your visibility while working fish or docking the boat.

Other helm-deck amenities include a fiberglass console along the portside containing a refrigerator as well as a tool and tackle locker complete with drawers, again fitted with stops and drain holes. Lay a towel atop this console and it serves as a great place to rig baits out of the spray while under way. An electric grill also fits under a hatch at this console's aft end.

Practical as it is, the hardtop also makes the boat's lines pop. Words like sleek and clean fall short of doing it justice. If you're like me, you enjoy throwing that last glance at your boat while tromping down the dock at day's end - you won't be disappointed in the aesthetic rendered by the stance of the 44 HTX.

You also won't be able to see how this aluminum-reinforced composite hardtop is attached to the boat. There are no seams, the joint expertly handcrafted post-molding. And thanks to the rugged strength of the hardtop, you can put a half tower on it, using the top itself as the floor or go higher with a full tower.

Belowdecks, Cabo rises to new heights of functionality and comfort. The galley, positioned across the aft cabin bulkhead, provides a huge salon with a convertible six-seat settee that doubles as a dinette to port. Additionally, since the galley doesn't take up one side, the head is located between the master, with its island queen berth, and the guest staterooms. This provides more privacy than boats where the staterooms share a bulkhead. My test boat featured under/over berths in the guest stateroom, but Cabo showed me plans for a revised layout that uses this space as a tackle room, complete with rod racks, a workbench and a leaping billfish etched in backlit glass. Whichever you choose, the 44 HTX's cabin rivals the amenity and luxury of dedicated cruising yachts with its teak sole, book-matched cabinetry, solid surface vanities and counters, all bathed in tons of natural light, thanks to the multitude of skylights and deck hatches overhead.

The 44's hull consists of ISO/NPG gelcoat, vinylester resins and stitched biaxial fiberglass sandwiching Core-Cell - all vacuum-bagged for a perfect laminate with optimum strength-to-weight characteristics. The skeleton of this Cabo boasts foam-cored fiberglass stringers combined with fiberglass web framing. And finally, marine-plywood bulkheads covered with beautiful wood veneers provide the vertical structural support.

Certainly the Cabo line has seen lots of change over the past several years: new owners, new models and now a cross-country move to join sister company Hatteras Yachts in New Bern, North Carolina. What hasn't changed in the slightest is the painstaking effort and attention to detail you'll find in the engineering of plumbing and wiring. These two facets set the benchmark for all other boatbuilders! Also unchanged is the distinctive Cabo teak cabinetry with its handsome crosshatched ventilation strips hiding not only regular storage, but also additional rod storage on either side of the forward berth.

**Performance
**In whitecapped 3- to 5-foot seas, the Michael Peters-designed running surface of the 44 HTX didn't balk at 35 knots, and topped out north of 37. (Cabo designed the above-waterline structure and interior in-house.) Powered by twin Cat C-18 ACERTs rated at 1,001 hp, its best combination of speed and comfort was evident at 29 knots, turning 1,860 rpm, at 70 percent load. I was mightily impressed by how well she sits in the trough. She rocked, to be sure, but with a frequency and depth that never challenged my ability to keep my feet. Working a fish, she spins with the authority that comes from excellent balance and big props working in clean water.

Equipped with a PipeWelders tower, the 44 HTX evokes the "always ready" demeanor of an express fish while its hardtop, cockpit mezzanine and unique accommodation plan deliver the attributes of larger, bridge-style boats.

Specifications

LOA......47'7"
BEAM......16'6"
DRAFT......3'7"
DEADRISE......16 degrees
WEIGHT......50,000 pounds (fully loaded)
FUEL......800 gallons
MAX POWER......T 1,150 hp Cat C-18 ACERT diesels
PRICE......$949,000
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Cabo Yachts / New Bern, North Carolina / 252-637-CABO / www.caboyachts.com_