While production for Howard Custom Boats is reportedly sold out through early next year, that isn’t stopping the company from introducing a new model for 2014. Dubbed the 288 Sport Deck, the new deck boat is currently being tooled up at the company’s facility in Valencia, Calif., and is expected to be available next February or March.
“The new boat is being built on our successful 28 Sport Deck bottom, but it’s not a replacement for that model—it’s just a new version of the deck boat,” Gene Willen said after returning home from last weekend’s Howard Custom Boats Regatta in Lake Havasu City, Ariz. “Our 28 Sport Deck has been around for nine years and since customers want change we decided now was a good time to update the Sport Deck.”
Willen, who owns the company with his son, Mike, the talented designer behind the company’s catamaran and V-bottom models, said the new boat will be 28′ 8″ long and offer a more streamlined appearance from bow to stern.
Because the deck was designed a bit more vertically coming up from the rubrail, the bow section will be six inches wider than the previous model. It’ll also be six inches longer than the space in the 28 Sport Deck because the consoles between the bow lounges and driver and passenger seats are being shortened. Another new design feature is a folding seat up front, which when in the down position provides access to the swim deck and when up creates a U-shape lounge as well as an obstruction to prevent wind flow down the middle of the boat.
The higher sides will give the new model more freeboard as well, making it feel deeper and more secure. Howard is keeping the steps on the port side of the boat for access to the swim step, although in a unique configuration, the entire back section of the boat will lift hydraulically to reveal a hidden bimini top. Essentially the bimini, which is mounted on the inside of the gunwales, will fold down in a recessed section of the floor when the seats, steps and engine hatch are raised all at once.
As an added safety feature, the company is also creating a deeper swim platform—35 inches compared to 27 inches on the previous model—that completely covers the drive and propeller below.
Howard also plans to redesign the dash for both the driver and passenger seats as well as come up with new interior styling. And along with adding more bulkheads to stiffen up the boat, the company redesigned the fuel tanks to sit inside the tunnels so the boat can hold 120 gallons of fuel rather than 80.
Although pricing has yet to be determined, the 288 Sport Deck will be available with or without a 1/2-inch-thick acrylic windshield, hence the two renderings above.