REVIEW: 320EX BoatTest.com
The Everglades 320 EX seems to be at a very interesting nexus of boat-buying migration. We say "migration" because we are told that every owner comes from another boat, and usually another fishing boat. The 320 EX is expensive ($420,977) for her length, somewhat narrow (10'8"/3.25 m) -- yet despite all of that, anglers are leaving some of the biggest and most prestigious names in boat building to get into the Everglades 320 EX. What is going on here, and why does the 320 EX appeal to certain boaters from all over the waterfront?
The Everglades 320 EX was first launched in the summer of 2008 and since that time many have sold despite the MSRP of over $420,000.
Why are people buying them?
There seem to be several major reasons why discerning buyers gravitate to the 320 EX. Her enclosed bridge deck, styling, sophisticated approach to virtually every detail, and her speed all rank high among the reasons. But the one attribute that we kept hearing over and over as we talked to people about her was her comfortable ride in rough-water at speed. That is evidently the key factor that buyers are willing to pay-up for. Her deadrise at the transom is 25-degrees and her deep-V averages 41-degrees.
Who is buying the boat?
We interviewed four Everglades salesmen to find the answer. Not surprisingly all of the 320 EX's customers were wealthy anglers, but there were some surprises. We were told that the Everglades 320 EX's customers are not the die-hard, hard-core fisherman type. Capt. Quint does not buy an Everglades, even if he has the big bucks.
According to our sources, the typical buyer for the 320 EX is a professional, business owner, or top corporate executive who appreciates style, modern design and the clever, innovative design touches that have been Everglades trademark since its beginning. He is an angler looking for more than just all the normal fishy features - which is to say good "fishability" is a given.â€¨Rather, it seems that generally the 320 EX is purchased by reasonably-seasoned anglers who will give no quarter to the fish in the heat of battle, but who also want to provide creature comforts, such as A/C and an enclosed bridge, to keep their significant other contented. We're told that they are people who appreciate the artistry of Everglades' build. For the most part they are connoisseurs of good production boat building, which is obviously another reason why Everglades owners are willing to pay the price.
One Everglades salesman told us the biggest competitor to the 320 is the Everglades 350 EX. Even though it has the same 10'8" beam and is over $100,000 more, buyers who want a bit more room and speed go for the 350 EX which spreads those precious 3' mostly over the cockpit and bridge deck. The larger boat can also handle three 350-hp engines and therefore has a WOT speed about 10 mph faster - something in the low 60s.â€¨The Migrationâ€¨When we asked the four salesmen what kind of boats the 320 EX buyers were coming from they told us from three directions:â€¨1) Down from big, lumbering battlewagons because their owners are tired of the hassle to operate and their slow time to get out to the fishing grounds;â€¨2) Up from out-dated center consoles and small express fishboats by people searching for a better-looking, more modern boat that is also larger; and,â€¨3) Sideways from similar-sized express fishermen or center consoles by anglers who want a better, more comfortable ride at speed and more protection from the elements.
Speed is Important
Because virtually all of the people buying the Everglades 320 EX were fishermen, it is not surprising that time taken to get to the fishing grounds and back is important. The Everglades buyer does not want to spend four hours getting to the fishing grounds, we're told. He wants to be out there in an hour or two. Then he can fish for a few hours and get back home in time for cocktails. "He wants a pleasant day on the water, not a pre-dawn to past night-fall operation," said one dealer.â€¨There is no doubt that the Everglades is made for speed. Her somewhat narrow 10'8" beam, her relatively lightweight 10,800 lbs hull (dry, without engines), and her four running strakes are very much like those of an offshore racer. That together with her prodigious horsepower can only mean speed is the result. Powered by twin Yamaha 350-hp V8s, the Everglades 320 has a weight-to-horsepower ratio of 15.42. That is relatively close to the horsepower-to-weight ratio that some offshore racing hulls have that have been turned into fishboats.
We have not tested the Everglades 320 EX, but the folks at the company tell us that when powered by twin Yamaha 350s she has a WOT just over 50 mph. Best cruise, they say, is at 4000 rpm when the boat goes 31 mph. These are good speeds, but we can think of other boats that are faster. So there must be something more compelling with the 320 EX.â€¨Clearly Everglades could make the 320 go faster with the same power if only it lowered the boat's deadrise to something like, say, 22-degrees, a number used by many fast offshore fishboats. Everglades has chosen not to be the fastest and here's why--
Ride is Also Important
For many offshore anglers ride is just as important, if not more so, than is an extra few miles per hour. The fact is, speed and a good ride must go hand-in-hand to have and ideal offshore fishing boat. The proof of this concept is that many people who can afford any boat go for the Everglades because of the ride.â€¨Offshore fishboats need to be able to take 4' to 6' seas in stride and not have to be throttled back. In order to do that the hull must have a deep deadrise and the Everglades 320 EX is as deep in deadrise at the transom as any fishing boat we know of on the market -- 25-degrees.â€¨Typical offshore monohull racing boats have long had a deadrise at the transom of 24-degrees -- so the 320 is one degree deeper. In fact, Everglades says that the average deadrise of the 320 hull from bow to transom is 41-degrees, which means she is exceedingly sharp forward. It is that bottom shape that cushions the boat as it slams into seas at 50 mph.
Details of the Enclosed Helm
For years open express fishboats have gotten away with having a hardtop that was 5" to 12" (12 to 30 cm) above the top of the windshield frame. In order to button up the boat when it rained or was cold, builders put cruising canvas on the sides and more importantly used isinglass to fill the gap between the top of the windshield and the bottom of the hardtop.
Often on these boats, when standing at the helm, the skipper had to look through the isinglass when running the boat in the rain. Anyone who has ever driven through foul weather when sheets of spray are hitting the windshield knows how hard it is to see through isinglass in these conditions. While it is nice to be able to unzip them on hot clear days and enjoy the breeze, it never makes up for the times one is trying to find a small marker in a turbulent sea peering through plastic streaked with rain and salt. And it is all worse at night.â€¨While it is not surprising that the Everglades 320 EX is sold in places such as New England which can have cold, snotty weather in the middle of August, the model also sells well as far south as the panhandle of Florida as well as on the east coast of northern Florida. That means that southerners can have a four-season boat. (Northerners can, too, because the A/C system is also a heat pump.)
Everglades solved the problem posed by isinglass above the windshield by building a bridge deck that is permanently enclosed on three sides and has a standard canvas back for days of really inclement weather. Like virtually everything that Everglades does, this job was done right, which means the windshield is high so that even a tall man can stand at the helm and have good visibility.
Important Features Are Standard
The 320 EX comes standard with a defroster for the wind screens as well as electrically actuated window vents in the top of the windshield to bring in the breeze on hot days. But on the really hot days, anglers need only turn on the standard generator and turn on the standard A/C which is directed into the cockpit as well as below on a 2-zone system.
Styling is Important
Let's face it, boats have to look cool as well as to be cool. Baby boomer boatmen who have spent a lifetime looking at fiberglass boat flesh know "clunky" when they see it and if they had their druthers they would avoid it. On the other hand, knowledgeable boaters will eschew a fishing boat with beautiful lines if it doesn't have the fishing beef.
Innovation R Us
In our opinion Everglades has incorporated on the 320 EX most of the latest state-of-the-art innovations extant. The down side of these clever amenities is that they raise the price of the boat. But the latter is not a concern for Everglades as it just wants to build the most functional boat possible and let the chips fall where they may (which is into a pretty big pile).
Level flotation is not such an important issue with express boats as it is with center consoles, nevertheless we are happy to report that Everglades states that the 320 EX has level flotation. That means that in the unlikely event that the boat should swamp, it will not sink and will, in fact, float level. While that does not necessarily mean it won't capsize, it does mean that occupants will have a large platform upon which to await rescue.
Below, there is 6'4" (1.93 m) of standing headroom in the main cabin, an enclosed wet head, galley with single burner stove, combination microwave/coffee maker and a mid-cabin bunk for overnight voyages or a nap during lulls in the fishing action. The forward area has been made into a nice round settee for lunch (candlelight dinner?) and makes into a bunk if you want.
There are really too many design details to go over in this report and the boat simply must be seen in person. However, here is a short list of items of standard equipment that caught our eye:
*10 Year hull warranty
*10" pull up cleats (larger than on most boats this size)
*Automatic anchor windlass
*Teak and holly cabin sole
*Lighted grab rail in cockpit
*Large cockpit drains
*290 gallon fuel tank
The 320 EX has overnight and long weekend capabilities and can sleep four people in a pinch. Nevertheless, its primary mission is to be a day boat for offshore fishing or other watersports such as diving. Her secondary mission is as a weekend cruiser or dive boat for the family. We think it is ideal for a weekend run over to the Bahamas, through the Florida Keys or virtually anywhere in the world that is compatible with her range.
Keen anglers will want to and the optional half-tower.
If you can afford the price tag, and appreciate a boat that has virtually everything done right, then you are a candidate for the Everglades 320 EX.