The Newport Boat Show is an annual tradition for the boating community in Orange County. Regardless if we are in the market to buy or sell, anglers and power boat enthusiasts alike attend the show to see all the new models from many of the best boat builders in the country. Take the Albemarle 29 Express for example.
This year, I was invited to give the ‘fisherman’s perspective’ on an Albemarle 29 Express offered by Big Bay Yachts. Walking to the very end of the dock, there she sat, looking like a sexy Florida transplant ready to fly like a frigate bird (steady and smooth) out to the islands or maybe pull a spread of jet heads on the local banks for early season yellowfin.
The first thing to catch my eye on the Albemarle 29 Express was a set of twin Yamaha 300 HP outboards. Having spent the last decade on my dad’s boat with twin Yamaha outboards – I am a believer in the power and reliability of Yamaha outboards. These outboards have electronically monitored sweet spots to optimize both your speed and GPH at both cruise and trolling speeds. Although I prefer inboard diesels for billfishing, we have raised our fair share of bluefin, yellowfin, and dorado on my dad’s twin Yamaha outboards and have plenty of confidence in our trolling spread offshore. Furthermore, anytime you want to pull in the gear and make a move to some new water – Yamaha outboards will not disappoint.
The outboards are mounted on a transom bracket which is not a big disadvantage as far as boating a gamefish. On similar transom brackets, we just learned to always take a fish on either the port or starboard side of the boat. For tuna fisherman, the deck space on the transom bracket is also a perfect spot to place a large insulated fish bag and cleat it off on each corner. Storing the fish bag here opens the squared-off cockpit and easy access to transfer a gamefish from the water right into the fish bag.
Welcome Seakeeper technology! Just forward of the transom and below the deck – I stared with great admiration the engineering behind a Seakeeper on a 29- foot boat! I have experienced the Seakeeper first hand on larger yachts and the technology is mind blowing. By combining the speed of twin Yamaha outboards with the stability of a Seakeeper- Albemarle has created a fast and extremely stable fishing platform. Friends, family, and anyone who struggles with motion sickness suddenly enters a whole new world with the touch of a button! Think flat calm bays, no ‘in the trough’ scenarios, and a platform that moves vertically with the swells with no rolling action, you really must experience it to really appreciate how comfortable the ride is with Seakeeper onboard. Thumbs up on every level.
Working my way up towards the helm station, I decided to try out the ergonomic Llebroc Billfish helm chairs. These helm chairs are something you would see on a yacht or East Coast style billfish battle wagon. First class all the way, plus integrated drink cooler and tackle cabinets. Since it was 5 o’clock in Newport, I cranked up the Jimmy Buffet on the Fusion MS-UD650 helm stereo system. That fifty-mile run out to San Clemente Island or banks south would be reached in complete comfort!
Another seating arrangement I was really impressed with on the Albemarle 29 Express is the Mezzanine-style aft-facing cockpit seating. Having at least one person always watching the trolling lure spread is critical when pulling squid chains and dredges for billfish. This aft-facing cockpit seat is also a suitable place to be when anchored up in the dark and soaking a dropper loop rig for white seabass or watching the kids pull on bass, barracuda, and bonita at the islands.
The fiberglass hardtop comes with everything you need for West Coast style fishing – full enclosure, LED spreader lights, and a large electronics box. If this was my boat, I would place a bean bag up on the hard top to create a spot for glassing in gyro binoculars. It works great on my dad’s boat, a similar express model.
This boat was loaded up with the Raymarine electronics package and included all the newest technology along with a AIRMAR B164 1KW thru-hull transducers – key for all types of inshore and offshore fishing applications. We had this same transducer on our 28’ Ditmar and could mark bait, tuna, and other gamefish clearly in depths up to 1,200’.
In the cockpit, there are two below deck storage boxes that are a suitable place to stow dock lines, fenders, tail ropes, extra bait nets, and dive gear. On boats under 30’, you need lots of dry storage spots to keep the cockpit area free of clutter. This model has rod holders in all the right places and additional rod holders going up the rail to the hard top.
For an angler wanting to fish locally or offshore, the Albemarle 29 Express has clearly been designed with West Coast style fishing in mind. Overall, I was very impressed with the direction Albemarle boats are going with their new 2018 models and its revived focus on sport fishing.