Fighting Lady

Tiara's 3800 is a tough express fisherman with style.

Trucking eastbound out of Port Everglades Inlet into the Atlantic Ocean off Ft. Lauderdale with a pair of 450 hp Cummins cackling under my boat shoes, I was tempted to head the new Tiara 3800 Open across the Gulf Stream to Bimini some 48 miles away. This express boat is made for going places and looking great when you arrive. Putting business before pleasure, I gently bent the wheel to port and headed north as we passed the red-and-white sea buoy. The Tiara's 18-degree transom deadrise made small change of the swells and left a foaming trail in the earnest blue water.

You can't help but notice that Tiara builds a good boat. The 22" stainless-steel wheel, for example, is large enough to control with a couple of fingers whether you are sitting in the adjustable power helm seat or using it as a leaning post. The 3800 Open easily doubles as a serious fishing boat, and if you like to troll, you can sit back, watch the baits and steer with your foot. Axe head rudders give her a comfortable turning radius at speed with 41/2 turns lock-to-lock from the Teleflex hydraulic steering, and good response coming into a tight marina at idle.

The fiberglass composite windshield with its bright white gelcoat looks like an ice sculpture that flows seamlessly into the aft-raked radar arch. There is a practical benefit, too: The non-corrosive material means you can forget about unsightly metal snap enclosure fasteners bubbling in an aluminum frame. Curved safety glass in the corners eliminates bulky support braces, noticeably increases the field of vision and clears up distortion. Windshield wipers are common on express boats, but Tiara does better than most by making three standard. This eliminates blind spots when a sea comes over the bow. The wiper motors are at the bottom of the windshield, so the blades can clean more area with each swipe and the motor housings don't interfere with the view. Freshwater washers swish away salt spray.

From the helm, you can activate a center vent opening in the windshield that's good for bringing fresh air aboard at rest or under way in calm seas. I like the air-conditioning vents at the helm the best, especially when the boat has the optional fiberglass hardtop or bimini top and side curtains. In cooler weather, the reverse cycle will blow heat to extend the boating season.

To reduce glare, the dash is finished in gray gelcoat that is easy on the eyes and a definite safety factor for the operator. While most buyers will likely opt for a chart plotter, it's nice to see a recessed chart flat built into the portside dash beneath a clear plexiglass lid. Suction cups hold the helm in place, and it tilts to expose electrical and mechanical components underneath. This makes for easier and neater flush-mounted electronics and speeds any needed service to vital systems housed inside.

An L-shape settee to port seats four without crowding, and the split backrest allows cool air to circulate around your back so you avoid that clammy feeling on hot, humid days. Cushions are constructed with self-draining foam so they won't absorb moisture or washdown water. Supports are made from Starboard plastic instead of wood, which can rot. The cushions are hinged, which makes it easier to lift them and reach the stowage area and built-in cooler. The molded fiberglass seat base is tall, giving those seated an excellent view ahead for running and aft for watching baits in the wake. A molded footrest adds convenience and comfort.

The 6'8" long by 11'2" wide cockpit is a step below the helm deck. The molded nonslip sole grips wet feet, yet cleans easily. A recessed fish well and stowage bin lift out to access mechanical systems in the lazarette, and several fishing options are available. Coaming bolsters and a transom door are standard.

For the strictly cruising set, the boat has a wet bar abaft the helm seat and a pair of aft-facing jump seats. A folding aft bench is available that spans the transom with cutouts to mount an optional dinghy davit. The reverse transom is an upscale look, and while the standard plan does not provide for an integrated platform, a bolt-on swim platform that looks just like one can be installed.

Tiara obsesses the details. All the hatches have locking pulls. A small centerline hatch lifts to expose one set of fuel tank shut-off valves; the second is in the engineroom next to the Racor filters. Port and starboard molded steps topped with nonslip lead safely to the side decks. Beneath the starboard step is a 30/50 amp plug for shoreside power; the boat can handle either service with a single cord and adapter. Hardware is heavy-duty, yet classy. Transom corner hawsepipes in the fiberglass covering boards keep docklines flowing neatly. Dedicated fender cleats also are included. Grab rails are mounted by the companion seat, on the sliding companionway door, on the radar arch and along the windshield sides to move you safely forward. The stainless-steel bow rail catches you securely at mid-thigh.

Engineroom access is through a hatch in the helm deck with a live rubber gasket that kills diesel chatter effectively. For maintenance, the deck lifts on electric actuators. There is more detailing inside the engine compartment, such as raw-water strainers for the mains, and genset and air-conditioning pumps. Double hose clamps are everywhere. A Rule 2000 bilge pump is mounted on a Starboard plastic board to fit into the deepest reaches of the compartment. The twin Racor 1000 fuel/water separators also are mounted quite low. While it is no bother to replace the elements, draining the filters is a long reach.

The cabin has a queen-size island berth forward with a privacy bi-fold door and private access to the head. The settee converts to a double-size berth, or to upper and lower singles. The head and galley feature Corian countertops, and the optional ash (teak is standard) joinery throughout was first-rate on our test boat.

The 3800 replaces Tiara's popular 3700 Open. While one of the most noticeable interior differences is a more spacious head with an enclosed circular shower, the 3800 is a prettier boat with an unbroken sheerline, hull vents that follow the shape of the flowing windshield and a stylish reverse transom. She's a beauty that says classic right out of the box.

Contact: Tiara Yachts, (616) 392-7163; www.tiarayachts.com.