Exit Strategy: Cabo 52

A tricked out Cabo 52 is ready for anything.

November 8, 2008


In the beginning, Tom Brinkerhoff was simply searching for a newer used boat. Already the owner of a Venture 34 and an Ocean 58 at his home in the Turks and Caicos, as well as a Cobalt 29 on a lake in Montana, he was ready to step away from the grueling demands of his oil-exploration and drilling business and the various boards of directors that had occupied him for the last thirty years. He felt he’d reached that getaway age, when it was time to simplify his life, have some fun and, well, follow his dream.

When Brinkerhoff was fresh out of college, he spent several months on an immigrant ship voyaging from Italy to Australia. He still clearly recalls the impression of freedom the sea journey made on his youthful mind. “I’ve always loved adventure,” says Brinkerhoff, who is a fervent heli-skier and owns a heli-ski business in Canada.

Years later, in 1996, he made a 900-mile solo trip through the Pacific Northwest on a 13-foot Metzler inflatable, traveling through Haines, Skagway, up the Yukon River, and into Glacier Bay.


“On that trip I sure got my dosage of adventure, as well as solitude—perhaps too much solitude,” he adds, recalling the sobering sights of the area’s many giant tidal whirlpools.

Now, Brinkerhoff, a bit older and wiser, had another “major adventure” in mind. This time on his own boat, not solo, and surely not a 13-footer! He wanted to take his time visiting, fishing, and diving anywhere that he could reach in the Pacific basin.

After test-driving several Cabo yachts at a Florida boat show, he found he liked the boats’ ride, speed, and handling, and began gravitating toward the larger Cabos. But he still wasn’t finding exactly what he had in mind.


Brinkerhoff appreciated his Venture’s easy solo operation, but also enjoyed the space and comfort the Ocean afforded. He was looking for something smaller and more manageable than the Ocean, yet larger than the Venture-in other words, he wanted to downsize but upgrade-precisely what he was doing with his life, too.

Since he liked the Cabos he’d driven, Brinkerhoff decided to go right to the source. At the Cabo Yacht headquarters in Adelanto, California, Sales Manager Dennis Close gave him a tour of the facility and then introduced Brinkerhoff to John Buettner, of Stan Miller Yachts, Cabo’s only dealer on the West Coast.

Buettner, together with his brother, Brad, own and operate the three Stan Miller brokerages in Long Beach, Newport Beach, and San Diego, and each have upwards of 33 years as agents for Cabo, Hatteras, and Grand Banks.


Brinkerhoff selected Cabo Yachts’s 52 Express model as his base boat, choosing the design that offered a bridge area with social space, melding the work and play areas of the boat. On the bridge of his Ocean, he’d learned the hard way that while he was running the boat, guests were having fun a level below, without him.

But Brinkerhoff made it clear that this design was just the just the jumping-off point for what he had in mind.

And so, for Brinkerhoff’s varied and specialized demands, John Buettner assembled a top-notch team of subcontractors to do the build-Steve DeGroote, owner of the well-known and highly respected marine fabrication company C-FAB, and Bill Johns, owner of Crew West Electronics, as well as a number of others.


The 52 Express is Cabo Yachts’s longest hull configuration to date. Although Brinkerhoff’s boat is hull number 15, it is, surprisingly, the first to remain on the West Coast.

After a nearly yearlong build, we toured the boat with Buettner, De- Groote and Johns. Even from a distance, the Cabo 52 Express stands out-both literally and figuratively. The stainless steel tower glistens brightly in the sun, immediately catching your eye. From tower to keel, from bow to transom, this yacht is a showstopper.

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“It’s the most customized Cabo ever built,” according to Buettner. Brinkerhoff knew what he wanted-essentially, the newest and best of everything.

Stepping aboard you notice that even the smallest details have been addressed. These are built-ins, not add-ons! All the plumbing and wiring was carefully planned in advance. The cockpit has flush, in-set tuna tubes and large bait tanks.

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Can’t find the rods and reels? Although Pacific Adventures carries a full complement of tackle, it has been cleverly hidden away, with the largest equipment stowed in a giant, hydraulically-operated, overhead stowage locker. It’s easily accessible and located directly above the helm station. With a simple touch of a button on the boat’s master remote control, the locker’s door drops down, and the reels and rod butts are within reach. Also stored safely away in this locker is the yacht’s inflatable tender, with its electric engine. Since the yacht will be traveling for long periods of time, the large, double-plated heavy-duty fish freezers in the cockpit are designed to hold many days’ worth of catch.

Pacific Adventures’s Rupp outriggers are mounted high up on the 52’s house, away from the deck, à la West Coast design, and afford easy access to the bow for casting anglers. DeGroote’s tall stainless rails extend from the bow all the way back, and further facilitate quick and safe bow access for baitcasting to billfish, another common West Coast technique.

Once out on the bow, there’s a flush-mounted bait tank, with additional rod holders. The deck’s nonskid surface enhances safe mobility while giving chase to billfish. A sturdy toe rail on the bowsprit provides an extra foothold that’s especially useful while casting.

In the bow locker, a heavy-duty Maxwell windlass helps with difficult anchoring situations. Pacific Adventures carries only chain-300 feet of it!

A wide ladder helps simplify the climb to the tower. Separate handrails and comfortable step treads make it safe, and the ingenious one-side entry makes getting into the tower a breeze. An accomplished fisherman himself, DeGroote designs his functional yet beautiful products from years of hands-on experience. He’s equipped the tower, which is 25 feet above the water, with comfortable footrests, sturdy armrests, and grab rails-all lifesavers when you’ve spent hours, or even all day, up in the tower, in demanding seas, searching for billfish with binoculars.

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The designers thought way ahead on boat cleaning, too. A freshwater hose runs inside one leg of the tower, to deliver softened, purified water for spotless washdowns from above.

In addition to all the big stuff like the hardtop with its hydraulic controls, the tower, rails, tuna tubes, bait tanks, and numerous rod holders, there are the small, ingenious touches from DeGroote-a folding dive ladder that stows securely in the lazarette with the dive tanks, and a self-rotating flag halyard cuts down on flag fray.

Belowdecks, the engineroom has seven-foot clearance. The Cabo’s twin MAN 1550s easily push the boat along at cruising speeds of 28 to 35 knots. With a top speed of over 40, the boat will get a crew to the fishing grounds in a hurry.

A Sea Recovery watermaker will produce up to 1,400 gallons per day while down in the lazarette, the heavy-duty Brownie’s compressor can charge four dive tanks in less than an hour.

Buettner is effusive in his description of the 52 Express. “This Cabo is tricked out to the max!” It’s obvious why the boat has become Cabo’s flagship project. “I call Pacific Adventures the ‘Crown Jewel of the Cabo line,'” he said. “We’ve crammed an 80-foot boat into this 52 Express. Just check out the electronics.”

Pacific Adventures is an electronics lover’s floating dream. “Absolutely, totally big boat” is the way that Bill Johns describes the installation. Every component is fully integrated into a sophisticated, high-powered VEI computer system, and then, instead of the dozen remotes that would have been necessary to control the yacht’s dizzying helm array, Johns integrated them all into one main remote RTI Yacht Controller. Cost: $9,000.

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The electronics in the tower are designed so that everything can be controlled from this second station. “I’ve put the whole world up there, so, if need be, the boat’s captain can spend days in the tower,” says Bill Johns. Start and stop switches, the boat’s entire sounding navigation, and communications systems, and access to the FLIR infrared night-vision camera are here. Even video operation is available in the tower. Watch a movie if you wish. Or phone home from the tower. “About the only thing I didn’t put up there is a head,” Johns adds, jokingly.

Cameras are everywhere on the Cabo 52. The FLIR night-vision infrared camera permits the boat to travel long distances faster and safer by night-with this camera night sight becomes nearly as clear as day. The high-res Axis onboard camera situated above the tower tilts, zooms, and pans, shooting both video and stills, and can record all activity-from fun in the sun to serious tournament fishing action, when big money is at stake. Recorded onto the boat’s powerful hard drive, all the activity can easily be burned onto DVDs later.

Below the waterline are a pair of Ocean LED underwater cameras- one ahead of the running gear to aid in spotting coral heads before it’s too late, and another behind, to capture the fishing action.

At night, turn on the boat’s four underwater Sea Recovery lights, then the underwater camera, and voilà! You can view what Johns calls “the aquarium effect” on any or all of the boat’s monitors, in the salon on the giant plasma screen, in any stateroom, even on the tower’s 10-inch monitor.

Should the crew yearn for a taste of “civilization” while traveling, the boat is equipped with four different satellite networks: Dish Network, Direct TV, the VLA Canadian Network, and Sirius satellite music network.

Thanks to Michael Peters’ hull design, the 52 accommodates all kinds of sea conditions well, yielding a comfortable, dry ride.

With a name like Pacific Adventures, you’d expect Brinkerhoff to have some major “adventure” plans for this special boat. Unlike his other boats, Pacific Adventures “won’t have a home, per se,” says the owner. It’ll continue on the move “following the fish, following the bite.”

“I’m not in a big hurry, either,” he says, “I’m taking time out now to slow down, fish, dive, play. My goal is to see as much of the Pacific as possible-to see what others drive by and pass over.” He’s a serious scuba diver, as well, so he plans on seeing vast amounts of the Pacific from below, too.

With his well-planned “exit strategy” now firmly in place, Brinkerhoff and Pacific Adventures are ready for anything.

Cabo Yachts, (760) 246-8917;


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