The Big Picture: Center Consoles Rule

Looking for a versatile powerboat with a bit of attitude? Check out a center-console model from a high-performance boat builder.

19th August 2009.
By Matt Trulio

What I’m about to write could get me fired from my sweet gig as a writer for Powerboat magazine, but here goes: Go-fast boats are useless. OK, allow me to amend: They’re useless for anything other than going fast.

Yes, I love go-fast boats, but that love has not blinded me to their flaws. (Hell, they’re boats, not my children.)  Those of us in the high-performance boat world call them  “purpose-built,” which is lovely way of saying they can only do one thing.

A Donzi 38ZFX heads out to the fishing grounds... fast

A Donzi 38ZFX heads out to the fishing grounds... fast.

Can you imagine dropping close to $1 million on 40-plus-foot-long go-fast catamaran with four seats, a cramped cockpit and no cabin? Of course you can’t. You’re sane. But there is a certain madness in those of us who have what Fred Kiekhaefer calls “the speed gene.” (Kiekhaefer heads Mercury Racing, which builds engines from 525 hp to 1,200 hp for go-fast boats.)

I have the speed gene, and I have it bad. I bomb down hills on a mountain bike several times a week. I used to bomb out of airplanes every weekend. Going fast on the water still lights me up.

But I also have other genes, like the Scuba gene and the fishing gene. And when those genes become Joneses, go-fast boats become useless.

Still, the idea of getting to the dive spot or fishing grounds as quickly as possible appeals to me. The speed gene is, after all, dominant, not recessive. And the average fishing or diving boat is painfully slow. We’re talking glacial.

There is a compromise, and unlike most compromises it’s a good one. Several high-performance V-bottom boat builders including Cigarette, Donzi and Fountain offer center console versions (meaning the helm station or “console” is roughly in the center of the boat and there is plenty of open space ahead of and behind that station) of their go-fast boats.

These center-console offerings ride on the same or close-to-the-same speed-efficient, stepped hulls as their go-fast siblings. They merely have a different and more versatile deck layout.

Cigarette's center console tops out at 70mph

Cigarette's Top Fish tops out at over 70 mph.

Cigarette offers just one center-console—the 39 Top Fish—but it’s a beauty. With triple or quad outboards on its transom it tops out in the mid-70-mph range and cruises easily at 60 mph. Being a Cigarette, the 39 Top Fish is a big-buck, custom-built boat that, depending on the options a buyer chooses, prices out in the high six-figures.

Donzi’s series of  “ZF/ZSF/ZXF” center-consoles includes models from 26 to 38 feet long. With the exception of the 26-footer, the builder offers each model in either an open cockpit or “cuddy” (translation: small) cabin version.

Fountain center console models range from 31 to 38 feet. For buyers who want a little more cabin, Fountain offers its 38-footer in a “Sport Fish Cruiser” package with either outboard or stern-drive power. (The 38 ZSF is the Donzi equivalent.)

The 38' Fountain center console has plenty of space for guests

The 38-foot Fountain center console has plenty of space for guests.

Unlike Cigarette, Donzi and Fountain are relatively high-volume “production” boat builders. As such, their prices are lower. Depending on options, you can expect to pay from the low- to mid-six-figures for a center console from Donzi or Fountain.

Are they as flat-out fast as each builder’s sport boat offerings? No, not even close. But they make a whole lot more sense, even for this high-performance boating magazine writer—assuming I still have my job after my editor at Powerboat reads this column.

Editor’s Note: Bi-weekly columnist Matt Trulio is the editor at large for Powerboat magazine. He has written about boats and boating for more than 14 years.

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About the author:

Matt Trulio

Matt Trulio is the co-publisher and editor in chief of, a daily news site with a weekly newsletter and a new bi-monthly digital magazine that covers the high-performance powerboating world. The former editor-in-chief of Sportboat magazine and editor at large of Powerboat magazine, Trulio has covered the go-fast powerboat world since 1995. Since joining in 2000, he has written more than 200 features and blogs.
Connect with Matt Trulio on Google+

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