Are Center Consoles the Future of Go-Fast Boating?

Nor-Tech 39-foot Center Console

I grew up in the coastal community of Malibu, California. Yes, that Malibu, California. Now, before you start making assumptions I should say that back then—I am 50 years old and we moved there when I was two—Malibu had a middle class and we were part of it. We lived on “the hill” rather than “the beach,” which meant we had a panoramic of Palo Verdes and Point Dume the two peninsulas that form what’s known as the South Bay.

Yeah, it was rough.

A lot of celebrities did live there back then, but they did so to avoid the spotlight rather than bask in it, Anyway you look at it, Malibu is pretty remote and, frankly, a pain in the ass to get to—and from. Aside from a few “secret” canyon routes there’s one way in and one way out, and when the highway closes—as it does once or twice a year—you’re stuck.

As you’d expect, I grew up surfing, fishing and diving, and the latter two activities pulled me into the powerboat world. I started diving when I was 13 years old, and by the time I was 14 I was driving my former dive instructor and other buddies to Anacapa Island in a 16-foot Boston Whaler with a single outboard. (My instructor would give me a compass heading then fall asleep, regardless of how nasty the 11-mile crossing from Ventura was.) Three air tanks worth of spearfishing, and then it was back to the docks.

So for me until I joined Powerboat magazine in 1995, boats were simply a means to an end. They were just transportation. And 16 years later, much as I’ve come to appreciate and even love high-performance catamarans and V-bottoms, they still are.

Don’t get me wrong, covering the go-fast boat world is an honor and a privilege. It has taken me all over the country and overseas, exposed me to incredible hardware and introduced me to wonderful people, some of whom have become dear friends. Not for a second do I forget my good fortune.

But if you ask me what my perfect day of boating would be, it would involve fishing, diving or both. (You definitely can do both in the same day.) That’s why I love center consoles. And apparently, at least to some degree, that’s why you love them, too.

Take Dave Patanaude and Joe Nasso, two fun-loving characters from New Jersey. You won’t find two guys who are more into performance boating. And yet, each has a center console. Both cite versatility and reliability as the primary reasons for their vessel choice. Both also say their boats are still fast enough to be fun.

Guess what? Go-fast boat builders get it. In the case of Fountain and Donzi, they got it a long time ago. And now there are custom players in the game including Cigarette, Nor-Tech and Statement. I recently wrote a custom and semi-custom center console round-up story for Powerboat—it’s at the printer as I write this piece—and it reminded of just how many options there are.

I try to offer good news on Fridays—and to me this is good news. Someday, if I’m really lucky, I might just own a high-performance boat. And if I do, you can bet it will be a custom center console that runs 70 mph on triple outboards and is decked out with rod holders and Scuba tank racks. And you can also bet it will have a state-of-the-art Northstar or Gamin GPS.

Because holding a compass heading is, like getting in and out of Malibu, a pain in the ass.