SURRY — Boatbuilder Steve Wessel seemed relaxed last week, at least by his usual high-energy standard, as he showed Backstabber, the latest creation from Wesmac Custom Boats, to a pair of enthralled sportsmen. He had a lot to be relaxed about.
Like many prospective Wesmac customers, the two Massachusetts sport fishermen inspecting the super luxurious 54-footer resting on a mooring off Newbury Neck already own one of the company’s boats, but they were salivating at the thought of having a new Wesmac that would be bigger, faster and more competitive in the high stakes world of big money fishing tournaments.
That’s exactly where Backstabber is headed. Though it sports a Palm Beach hailing port on its transom, Wessel said the new boat, one of 20 kept by her owner, will be based “wherever the tournaments are” that draw big-time fishermen competing for big money prices and big-time bragging rights.
The pursuit of giant billfish — marlin, tuna, sailfish and the like — draws fishermen from around the world to a tournament circuit with venues stretching from Central America through the Gulf of Mexico, into the Caribbean, out to Bermuda and the Bahamas and up the Atlantic Coast as far north as New Jersey. Prize money can be in the millions — with the biggest marlin caught at one tournament bringing a reported $1 million bonanza.
Although Wessel wouldn’t disclose the owner’s name, or say what it cost to build the boat, whoever had Backstabber built is serious about fishing to win and doing it in comfort.
Backstabber is a big boat, 54 feet long overall with a beam of 17 feet 6 inches and a 6-foot draft. With a cored superstructure, and solid fiberglass hull, her design displacement is 54,000 pounds.
A boat that heavy needs plenty of power if it’s going to go after big fish and Backstabber has it. Concealed beneath the platform is a 1,902-horsepower Caterpillar diesel that turns a five-blade 38-inch-by-44-inch propeller on a 3½-inch shaft through a 2.24:1 marine gear. All engine controls are fully electronic and there are three separate control stations: at the helm in the salon; at the cabin bulkhead on the starboard side of the cockpit; and high aloft in a “crow’s nest” atop a custom built, welded aluminum tuna tower.
While the big Cat is reasonably economical to run, for its size, Backstabber carries 1,700 gallons of diesel fuel divided among four tanks. Fuel consumption at the anticipated cruising speed of about 23 knots remains to be determined when the boat is fully loaded and ready to go, but during sea trials, Wessel said, at a top speed of 30 knots the boat burned fuel at the rate of 101 gallons per hour.
Backstabber’s purpose is evident from the outside. A welded aluminum bow pulpit with a small platform for harpooning fish extends perhaps 20 feet forward of the deck. Under way, the bowsprit assembly can be folded back onto the boat with an electric crane mounted on top of the pilot house.
Aft, two large live bait wells with salt water circulating pumps are located beneath the cockpit sole. A hydraulic deep water trolling reel is mounted on each aft cockpit corner and there is provision to mount a “green stick” that acts like a vertical outrigger and elevates the main fishing line high over the stern of the boat.
At the forward end of the cockpit, at the control station on the starboard side, are a big, hydraulic, stainless steel pot hauler and custom built davit that likely will be used primarily for hauling large fish aboard though a wide transom door for storage in the chilled wet tank fish holds beneath the cockpit sole.
Inside, the fully air-conditoned Backstabber is a genuine head-turner. Salon and forward accommodations are all built from Sapeli mahogany — lockers, furniture, doors, draws — that glows with a satin varnish finish. The trick is that all that virtually all that mahogany is a veneer applied to composite panels to keep the weight down.
The salon features large windows along both sides and includes comfortable U-shaped dinette seating, an entertainment center for the boat’s high-definition satellite television system.
With a Bose sound system and a dual seat to port and huge galley to starboard, behind the helm station, there is also a big refrigerator-freezer, a ceramic cook top and an electric range. Galley countertops are Corian.
In the engine room beneath the salon’s cork sole, a Lugger 16kW diesel generator provides electrical power for the boat’s myriad systems.
Forward are an owner’s cabin and a crew’s cabin, neither large, and a small head compartment with shower. The forward area is reached via an extra-tall companionway that hides the center-mounted transducer for a Furuno scanning sonar unit.
Backstabber is equipped with all Furuno electronics, radar, GPS, AIS and autopilot among them, all interfaced via multiple touch-screen displays at the main helm. There are repeaters at each auxiliary helm station.
Anyone interested in having Wesmac build them their own custom version of Backstabber should get their order in soon. Wessel said the boat took just under three years to complete.