If I felt any better about this boat, I’d be triplets,” remarks Jarrett Bay president Randy Ramsey, his words flavored and seasoned with that most appealing and special North Carolinian cadence. “You see, this is the fourth boat we built for the Huddle family, and well, when you have established that kind of relationship, it’s not just about the job.”
Indeed, Builder’s Choice, one of the latest to splash at the company’s sprawling 175-acre facility right off the Intracoastal Waterway, in Beaufort, North Carolina, is more than another beautiful custom build from Ramsey and his veteran crew of designers, fabricators, technicians, workers, support staff and all the others who have helped put Jarrett Bay in the rarified air of this particular sector of the industry.
With this boat, given the Huddles’ involvement as the company’s exclusive contractor in the early days of Jarrett Bay’s growth, the project was all very personal. “This was about family,” says Ramsey. “And we set out to deliver a beautiful and functional boat.”
That personal touch is quite evident inside Builder’s Choice, and the attention to detail and the excellent fit and finish by Jarrett Bay’s on-site Crystal Coast Interiors is exceptional.No matter where one looks, the hand-picked black-walnut motif stands out in beautiful contrast with the light-colored couches, each with plenty of storage space beneath, found to either side. A gorgeous Release Marine table not only expands for additional surface area but also opens up for extra storage below. With the Huddles, it most likely will be used for fishing-related items.The island galley is forward and to port, with a dinette just opposite. The beautiful veneer work is found throughout, and well, the eyes don’t lie; everything matches perfectly. To save weight, Tricel Honeycomb is used in all the doors and cabinets.
The living accommodations, reached via centerline stairs from the salon and galley area, are a three-stateroom, three-head layout. Elegant and comfortable quarters surround the Huddles and their guests in all of the staterooms. There is also plenty of storage space throughout for those times when Builder’s Choice will travel to far-flung ports in search of the boat’s prime directive. In addition, there are full-length tackle closets on both sides of the hallway, with dedicated space allotted to rods and reels, making for a very impressive showing.
“While we always look to make our boats lighter and more efficient, we never sacrifice quality, safety and the kind of outstanding build we have become known for,” says Ramsey. To that end, and instead of a molded house, Builder’s Choice features closed-cell foam throughout the entire topsides.
As far as Jarrett Bay’s cold-mold process, the boat is triple-planked, with significant amounts of fiberglass and extra planking in high-impact areas. This same beefy technique is used in sections such as the struts and rudders.
“Unlike some builders, we not only glass the exterior of the hull but encase its entire interior as well, including the stinger system, grid, bottom and side planking,” continues Ramsey. “The end product is an encapsulated wooden hull that should last indefinitely.” And finally, to get that beautiful Atlantic-blue paint job on Builder’s Choice, Jarrett Bay used Alexseal coatings, as with all of its boats.
For all her beauty and her boatbuilder’s obvious artistic quality, this is a hardcore fishing boat, and one that fulfills all the needs of the Huddle family’s legacy of claiming its place in this highly competitive arena. Because the family usually fishes with a large group of anglers, she offers 140 square feet of effective space. The teak work underfoot, and that on the upper and lower mezzanine areas, including the coamings, is exceptional. One would be hard-pressed to find a line in the sole that doesn’t meet the definition of straight.
As expected, there are the requisite ice and chill boxes, storage areas, baitwell, stunning Release Marine chair and easy access to the engine room.
As expected, and for any hands-on owner or skipper, the engine room aboard Builder’s Choice is as functional as it is spacious. With a pair of big Cat C32As, at 1,925 hp each, sharing the space with a duo of 29.5 kw Cat gensets, I found getting to all critical maintenance areas, as well as all pumps, switches, hoses, systems and just about anything else that needs tending to, easy. There’s enough working space in which to swing any tool without getting a knuckle busted or an elbow bruised.
Also of note was finding the pump room aft. This alleviates any noise, whether it is harmonic vibration or the actual sound of the various pumps and systems cycling off and on, and enables the owner and guests not to be disturbed when settling in for the evening. And as with the engine-room space, with many of these systems under cover and in cabinets, I found everything had easy access for checking and for any necessary maintenance work or cleanup.
The bridge totally reflects the boat’s fishing profile and is truly worthy of admiration. With its Bausch-American hardtop, this deck presents a thoughtfully planned layout and easily places the captain, and any guests watching the action from up on high, right in the bite. For the skipper and co-pilot there is a pair of Release Marine pedestal helm seats, with additional seating along the starboard side. A comfortable L-shaped couch is forward and to port of the helm. Freezer and refrigerated storage areas are also found here, as well as additional cargo space beneath the seating.
Using the expertise of Offshore Marine Electronics, Builder’s Choice has an extensive array of Icom, Northstar, Si-Tex, Garmin, FLIR, Simrad and JL Audio systems, resulting in a helm design affording maximum control with ease of use.
Driving Builder’s Choice across the waters off Palm Beach, Florida, is like taking the wheel of a finely tuned sports car.
This boat is power personified, and due to the balance between those high-horsepower twin Cat diesels and the spectacular fine entry, with its sharp attack angle that transitions to abundant planing surfaces, she easily jumped out of the hole, spooled up to 2,000 rpm and reached a cruise speed of 35.6 knots. When hooked up, we flirted with 41 knots. I found Builder’s Choice to bank easily into turns at speed, track straight and true, back down with all the expected nimbleness she was designed for, and be compliant and responsive to the most finite of helm commands during close-quarters docking maneuvers at Sailfish Marina.
How do you balance the art of custom boatbuilding with power and performance and the right amount of Carolina flare? As with Builder’s Choice, you get Jarrett Bay to put it all together for you. It will be very personal. Just ask Randy Ramsey.