Rampage built a solid reputation during the 1980s with a line of tough, modified-V sportfishermen from 28 to 36 feet long. The company was purchased in 1991, then mothballed until 1998, when owners KCS International reintroduced and expanded the brand. Industry veteran Alton Herndon took the helm, refreshed the line and built a state-of-the-art facility on the Cape Fear River in Wilmington, North Carolina.
In fall 2001, the Rampage 45 Convertible was introduced, designed to play a competitive and leading role in an already crowded segment of the convertible market.
Rampage started with a clean piece of paper when it designed this boat. The old company built a poorly received 40-foot convertible in the 1980s, but the market has dramatically changed since then, along with this builder. The new 45 Convertible marks a milestone for Rampage in terms of sophistication, styling, fit and finish.
An S-sheer, biased by the bow, gives her an aggressive posture reminiscent of older Rampage designs, but her rakish profile casts aside the previous builder's conservative bent. Large, curvaceous air-intake vents are sculpted into the hull side, and the chine rises in an even sweep forward. The deckhouse has a soft look, accented by gently curved house and bridge faces. Window lines flow easily with the house lines, and a low trunk extends forward before vanishing into the foredeck and an integral bow pulpit.
Rampage sees the design as a blend of modern and traditional influences. I agree. Styling, however, is window dressing if it lacks purpose, and the 45 Convertible's design complements her mission. Hurricane Michelle's approach prevented us from leaving the inlet during our test, but a stiff 20-knot breeze had stirred the Indian River in Jensen Beach, Florida, into a nasty, short chop. This proved no problem for the 45, which had a solid feel in the gusty crosswinds.
Her hull has a fine entry forward and 10 degrees of deadrise at the transom. Shallow propeller tunnels allow for a draft of just 4 feet. Her chine seemed quite effective in controlling spray, and I would expect a dry ride in more challenging conditions.
The 45's cockpit has a bulkhead console equipped with a bait prep center that incorporates tackle stowage, a sink and a 36-gallon live well. I would get the optional freezer. Two 5-foot-long fishboxes in the cockpit sole flank the fighting chair, and their removable liners drain overboard via a macerator. There is an additional fishbox/live well molded into the covering board aft, and the transom door has a lift gate. The cockpit deck is finished with an aggressive molded nonslip, and all sole hatches are fitted with positive locks and deep gutters that drain overboard. Our test boat was topped with a factory tower and outfitted with Lee outriggers. From the helm, the skipper has an unobstructed view of the cockpit. The modular-design console easily accommodated Caterpillar's instrumentation panel and a complement of electronics, including two large monitors.
The 45 is available with a pod-style helm and single-lever side controls, or a conventional helm with horizontally mounted controls. As a fisherman, I would opt for the pod-style helm. It not only looks right, it feels right. The cast aluminum levers are interfaced with Twin Disc electronic controls and are as smooth as butter. A custom-style stainless wheel and power steering let you twist the 45 about with a fingertip.
In addition to the helm and companion seating, there is bench seating forward and adjacent to the console with rod stowage beneath. Access to the dead space within the bridge overhang forward is sized to allow rod stowage, as well. I prefer the 45's exterior stowage, as it is more easily accessible. Tackle, no matter how expensive, is still deck gear. Rampage managed to squeeze in all the things I expect to find in the interior layout on a convertible in this size range, plus a bit more. The saloon has L-shape seating, an entertainment center and a raised dinette. The galley is down a step and divided from the saloon by a serving counter.
Belowdecks arrangements benefit from relatively full forward sections above the chine. The master cabin is forward with a queen-size island berth and a private head with stall shower. There is an entertainment center with space for a TV, a lighted, cedar-lined hanging locker, and a cabinet for an optional washer/dryer combo.
A second cabin has a good-size hanging locker and two single berths that convert to a queen. A portion of this stateroom tucks under the galley to allow foot space for the berths. The second head is accessible from the passageway and can serve as a day head. It has a separate, cylinder-style shower that would be a bit tight for those who have lost control of their waistline.
Typically fussy fishboat buyers will be pleased by this interior. Well-executed, satin-finished cherry cabinetwork, Corian surfaces and high-quality fixtures and fabrics place the 45 Convertible at the high end in her category.
The machinery space is accessible from the cockpit. There is 5 feet of headroom, and good access to the main engines and auxiliary equipment.
Our test boat's pair of 800 hp electronically controlled Caterpillar 3406Es accelerated evenly with minimal smoke. We recorded a top speed of 35.2 knots at 2220 rpm. These engines should turn 2300 rpm and will certainly do so with a bit of prop tuning. (Rampage says there may be another knot to be had.) At 2100 rpm, I recorded a speed of 31.3 knots, and the Caterpillar electronics indicated a fuel burn of 62 gallons per hour. Several Caterpillar and MAN engine packages from 660 hp to 800 hp are available. I'd go for the higher horsepower, since the 45 handles it well.
The boat I inspected was the prototype, and I was particularly impressed with the level of detail and finish. The overhead has a fiberglass ceiling, and the sole is covered with fiberglass diamond plate. Bilges are gelcoated, and systems are properly labeled. Air intake plenums are fitted with screens and mist filters. Hearty 23/4-inch Aquamet 22 stainless-steel shafting passes through dripless shaft seals, transmitting power from the 800 hp Cats to four-blade wheels. A 13kW generator is fitted with a sound shield, and an isolation transformer prevents shorepower problems from coming aboard.
Such details are worthy of note, as builders moving up sometimes transfer small boat thinking to larger designs. This does not appear to be the path Rampage chose.
Hull and superstructure are a hand-laminate with woven and stitched reinforcements. The bottom is solid fiberglass, and end grain balsa-coring is used in the hull sides and decks. Stringers are fiberglass, and bulkheads are a foam-cored fiberglass composite. All exterior surfaces have a gelcoat finish, and a blister-resistant vinylester skin coat is used on the entire hull. Fuel tanks are aluminum.
The $880,000 price tag includes a long list of significant standard features. The list of options and accessories is quite short; tower and outriggers are the significant items. She is quite competitive in terms of value, style and performance. This boat serves notice that Rampage is once again serious about fishing in a big way. I can't help but wonder how long it might be until the builder ups the ante again. Perhaps a 55?
Contact: Rampage Sport Fishing Yachts, Division of KCS International Inc., (910) 371-3663; fax (910) 371-1275; www.rampageyachts.com.