Intrepid Powerboats is in the small segment of the marine market where quality, performance and innovation count for more than the bottom line. Intrepids can stand side-by-side with many custom-built craft, so much so that large-yacht owners who developed a discriminating taste at the top end of the market look to Intrepid's hybrid form of semi-custom building when it's time for a tender.
High-end tenders are an important part of Intrepid's business, but the new 348 Walkaround is a great boat whether behind a megayacht or as your primary ride. Pound for pound, few competitors can match her sophisticated modern styling and custom-design features.
Our test boat's owner, who will use his 348 as a tender to a 112-foot motoryacht, is typical of the customer base Intrepid has nurtured for the past 10 years. Each boat is ordered with a basic specification that serves as a starting point, then is finished and outfitted to the owner's requirements.
His boat, for example, was fitted with a specially designed stem eye. The owner also requested a 5kW generator, air conditioning and a chilled drink box, gracefully designed into the console and within easy reach of the helmsman. Our test boat's bow thruster seemed a bit much, though handling a large, outboard-powered boat dockside can be a challenge. Fuel is carried in aluminum tankage with 300-gallon-plus capacity available.
At the heart of the 348's design is a high-performance hull form, tuned to deliver comfort and speed. Our sea trials were in 2- to 3-foot seas off Ft. Lauderdale, conditions common on the East Coast and in Bahamian waters the 348 is likely to serve.
She popped up on a plane surprisingly fast for an outboard of her length and beam, and bow rise was modest. This is a result of her efficient hull, which has a single transverse step that's well ventilated at the chine. Her fine entry and 22.5-degree lifting surface aft provided a comfortable, dry ride in the chop. Top speed was 42.5 knots, and 30 knots (4000 rpm) was a comfortable cruising speed.
Using the 348 as a tender will mean boarding her from the water on occasion, which can be difficult with outboards. To ease the strain after water sports, a transom door and a dive door with integral steps in the hull side were requested. A large, in-sole stowage area to port is ideal for dive gear, and two insulated, in-sole fishboxes are plumbed to a macerator and discharge overboard. Our test boat also carried a transom-mounted live well, with a generator in the live well's normal in-sole location. Sole hatches are guttered, gasketed and fitted with positive latches.
The 348's exterior space is arranged with her multipurpose mission in mind. This sets her apart from most large, open designs, which have relatively Spartan deck layouts dedicated to standup fishing.
Bench seating is abaft the helm, and an L-shape seating area is forward. A section of the forward seating lifts to allow access within the console and to a machinery space where the waste system resides. Batteries are under the console, where they will remain dry.
The helm has appropriate space for electronics. A molded bench seat has rod and drink holders, tackle drawers and a stout aluminum handrail. With the push of a button, the helm seat retracts to form a bolster-style perch.
This sort of creativity is also evident in the 348's details. The fuel fill, for example, is located discreetly in a small side deck recess covered by a hatch integrated into the deck lines. Forward, the anchor windlass is hidden from view in a similar fashion. A tip-down switch panel is designed into the helm console, as is a cabinet dedicated to the 12-volt mains. A factory aluminum-and-fiberglass T-top is stout in design and meticulously finished.
Roughly a third of the 348's length is dedicated to her interior, which is spacious compared with most other open designs. The workable galley has a sink, cooktop and microwave. The lounge area can be fitted with a table, and the berth platform rises electrically for access to stowage that houses a berth-extending insert. An enclosed head with sink and shower is aft, by the companionway.
The 348's basic specification includes a fiberglass-finished interior. The owner of our test boat specified Corian surfaces and satin-finished cherry cabinetwork.
Excellent detailing in the interior and exterior is due, in large part, to the process Intrepid uses to customize its boats. Instead of cobbling together one-off components to satisfy special requests, Intrepid builds dedicated tooling to modify a particular boat's exterior or interior design.
"Individual customer design challenges often benefit our product", said Mike Obolsky, Intrepid's executive vice president, "so we take the time to do it right.
Dive doors, for example, were originally requested by a law enforcement customer and have since proved a popular option. One customer's wife was sensitive to heavy seas and requested a longer console seat for reclining. Intrepid created a seat that extends electrically and now offers it as an option.
Intrepid's production facility in Largo, Florida, is where 150 craftsmen build the 348—a process that includes a level of hand-finishing uncommon in production boatbuilding. Each boat is identified by the customer's name, not hull number, in an effort to create a more intimate relationship between workmen and the owner.
The 348 is built in female tooling with stitched multidirectional and unidirectional S-glass and Kevlar reinforcements. The bottom is solid. Closed-cell foam coring is used in the hull sides, decks and bulkheads. Interior partitions are a foam-cored composite glassed to the hull and deck. All core materials are vacuum-bagged to ensure bonding. Computer-cut foam provides a form for the stringers, which are laminated in fiberglass. Polyester resin is used in general lamination, and vinylester is used in the bottom laminate. A gelcoat finish is standard, and custom colors are applied in Imron.
Our test boat, including outboard engines, was finished to match her mother ship. The glass-like hull finish is on par with the highest custom standards. Hardware and fixtures are hearty, and system design reflects standards normally reserved for larger yachts.
The 348 is a solid, high-performance design with strong eye appeal, exquisite detailing and features unavailable elsewhere in the market. The starting price with twin 250 hp Yamaha Saltwater Series outboards is $141,000. Our highly customized test boat-fairly typical of Intrepid's deliveries-was about $180,000 without electronics. This is a good value considering Intrepid's semi-custom approach.
Contact: Intrepid Powerboats Inc., (954) 922-7544; www.intrepidboats.com.