The offshore performance category has its share of pretenders – sleek, expensive sporty-looking craft – but few are able to deliver. Sometimes, though, I strike a genuine article that allows me to indulge in my love for speed on the water.
Having control of that speed in a boat that can be “read and felt” by the driver produces a pure adrenaline rush. It is the thing that has kept me behind the wheel of various race boats for the past 40 years.
I tend to become blase these days about what many manufacturers or dealers call fast. Then every once in a while a boat comes along that I simply can’t – don’t – want to get out of.
The Baja 33 Outlaw is one of those boats. Cigarette, Scarab, Wellcraft, Cougar are others that spring to mind but the Outlaw simply blows them away!
Admittedly, this boat is the latest in design, construction and engine technology, which somewhat dates most of those older offshore performance boat tests. The Baja 33 is without question the most efficient, comfortable and forgiving offshore performance boat that I’ve run.
While my 100mph test of Bill Barry-Cotter’s offshore race boat may have been faster, and certainly the most exhilarating when it came to sheer speed and control, the Baja is as good as you will get from a production boat.
The brochure states that “the Outlaw is designed to do one thing and do it very well – attain total, mind-bending speed with exacting control”. It achieves that goal with perfection.
Power comes from a pair of high performance MerCruiser 500EFI V8 engines producing 470hp each and driving a pair of high performance stainless steel propellers on Bravo 1 sterndrives.
These are the official race engines for the American Powerboat Association “Factory Offshore Race Series” so they can surely take the punishment that any weekend offshore warrior would care to dish out.
Open the throttles, ease the trim tabs up and trim the drives out a little and its possible to squeeze the speedo to 80mph (almost 70 knots). Unless you have good face-hugging sunglasses that aren’t going to be blown away in the rush, this performance quickly rips a continual stream of tears beyond your ears!
The brute power and speed is bettered only by the handling, ride and performance on the open sea. It’s in these conditions that the efficiency of the Baja hull comes to the fore.
On the day of our test the seas were running a steady 1.5m plus, with about a 15 knot sea breeze whipping up a few whitecaps. Not big seas, but when you run at them at 50mph (43 knots) those swells become launching pads.
An ill-prepared or badly balanced boat will lose control in no time at all. The Baja didn’t put a foot wrong.
At 3000-3500rpm, with the outdrives tucked right under and about 25% down on the trim tabs, the speedo flicks between 45 and a shade over 50mph. The hull literally skips from one crest to the next. There’s no thump, no jarring, no slewing off line.
The driver has total control and an instinctive feel for the conditions. Whether the seas are tackled head-on, taken on the quarter, side or following, the hull simply doesn’t want to bury itself nor slam. The words “ease up” are not in its vocabulary.
It’s also an exceptionally dry ride, other than for a little spray that is blown aboard.
Adjustable bolster seating gives both the driver and passenger a nice, secure ride, whether standing or in seated comfort. Other passengers get to sit on a well-padded rear lounge or stand behind the bolster seats (and hang on).
Sports enthusiasts will love the “office”, which is equipped with a custom sports wheel, Keikhaefer controls for throttles, gears and tabs, and an array of Gaffig performance gauges that swallow all the space on the driver’s console.
No sportsboat is complete without a throaty exhaust note, though this is not welcome in enclosed waterways or around the marina. The dual exhaust system solves that.
With the simple flick of a switch, the driver can use the through-transom extractors to give the throaty rumble of the big block V8s when out on open waters, then switch to the muffled sound of the underwater exhausting in enclosed waters.
Don’t expect too much in the way of comforts and space below deck. This is a boat built for on-water performance; living and entertaining facilities come a distant second. If you want to wine, dine and entertain, it doesn’t take long to zip to the nearest waterfront restaurant.
The cabin sleeps two in the forward berth, with lounges running either side of the saloon. Headroom is (just) adequate. There is little in the way of galley facilities, while a portable toilet and basin comprises the “bathroom”.
The entertainment console comprises a high quality radio/CD and stacker …
This boat is for the guy who has a Ferrari in the garage and is looking for the same performance on the water. It’s not to be measured by its luxurious appointments but by the level of testosterone it generates.