Although stormy weather prevented us from spending Sunday on the water running the San Joaquin River, San Pablo Bay and other parts of San Francisco’s Bay Area as planned, Dave and Shaliece Cook, Ed Champion of Big Thunder Marine in Lake Ozark, Mo., and I still had a great time conversing over lunch and at Cook’s home in Napa, Calif., about the Cooks’ new boat—a Fountain Powerboats 32 Thunder Cat powered by twin Mercury Racing Verado 400R engines.
Fortunately for the Cooks, who took delivery of the fifth 32-foot cat to leave the Washington, N.C., production facility, the weather was nice enough on Saturday for them to take the boat out for the first time with support from Champion, who was instrumental in selling the boat along with Conrad West, a representative for Iconic Marine Group, the parent company of Fountain, as well as Baja Marine and Donzi Marine.
A lifelong California Delta boater and former offshore racer (he raced his twin outboard-powered 28-foot Activator in the Pacific Offshore Powerboat Racing Association series for a few years in the late ’90s), Dave Cook clearly was on cloud nine despite not getting to run his boat for a second day in a row. In fact, he was nowhere near disappointed because he plans to run the boat next weekend—a much better forecast is expected—and because it’s been almost 15 years since the home contractor gave up his boating hobby to focus on his kids and their passion for dirt bike racing. The thinking is, he’s waited long enough, what’s one more week?
“We were lucky to have Ed come out to get on the water with us,” said Cook, who is looking forward to becoming more comfortable with the boat over the next couple of months before taking it to the Desert Storm Poker Run in Lake Havasu City, Ariz., at the end of April. “Luckily we had some good weather on Saturday but there was a lot of debris out there from all the rain we’ve had so the boating wasn’t the best. Plus it’s January on the Delta—it’s not like there’s a lot going on. It would have been nice to have a second day with Ed, but we’ll get him back out here again. Although we’ll have to treat him to a better lunch on the water since the polish sausages at Windmill Cove didn’t quite cut it.”
Check out the slideshow above for detail images of the 32-foot cat powered by twin Mercury Racing Verado 400R engines.
Cook said when he decided a year or so ago that he was going to get a boat again that he traveled to the Los Angeles Boat Show and was blown away by the technological advances in construction as well as all of the digital controls and displays. He and his wife got so energized by the show that they made a decision to fly to the Miami International Boat Show a month later.
That was pretty much all it took, as Cook said he was in awe with the Fountain the day he saw it at the Virginia Key docks in Miami.
“I told Shaliece, ‘That is the boat,’ and then Ed arranged for us to go for a ride in the orange demo boat,” Cook said. “We spent about an hour in the boat with Jim Watson from Big Thunder and when we got back I said to Ed, ‘I don’t want to be rude, but I know the factory has been down for a while so is there any chance we could come for a visit before we commit?’ Ed said ‘Sure, when do you want to go?’ We decided to go in April when the weather was a little nicer. Conrad came out and showed us around—it was an awesome experience.”
Awesome is an understatement as not only did Cook get to demo the company’s third 32-footer (the same boat that served as a paceboat during November’s Super Boat International World Championships in Key West, Fla.), he and his wife were treated to a boat ride and tour with the one-and-only Reggie Fountain.
The slideshow above includes additional photos from Saturday’s day on the water in the Delta.
“What’s funny about that story is that Conrad let me know ahead of time that Mr. Fountain is kind of quiet so don’t be surprised if he doesn’t say much,” Cook said. “I said that’s cool, I just want to go for a boat ride. The minute Reggie got in the boat and we started idling out, he started telling us things about the boat, asking us questions about where we’re from and showing us around by pointing out his dad’s old house and other sites on the river.
“The boat was perfect and we gave Conrad a deposit right when we got back to the docks,” he added. “We even picked a bunch of stuff out while we were at the factory. Like what color purple we wanted. That took some time, but we ended up finding a Dodge color called Plum Crazy that Shaliece and I agreed on.”
Shaliece said she loves the boat “so much,” especially the purple they ended up choosing for the accents on the straightforward paintjob that was handled in house.
“To me it’s a perfect boat,” she said. “I know everyone has different tastes, but this boat is beautiful. It really is fantastic.”
Dubbed Cookin’ like the other boats he has owned in the past, the 800-hp boat topped 100 mph with ease, Cook explained.
“This boat is so incredible,” Cook said. “The interior is perfect and it’s very comfortable to drive. It’s also cool to be able to see everywhere you go on the GPS and to have all of your controls and information in one place.”
The Cooks, who seemed to really bond with Champion over rental cars, sea lions, polish sausages, their love of seafood and more, said they can’t wait to take the boat to Lake Havasu—they’ve been there before but only for motocross races not to go boating—as well as Lake Powell for the Lake Powell Challenge in September.
They’re even considering a visit with Champion and the Big Thunder Marine team for the BFD Fun Run in mid-July. For now though, they’ll have to settle for exploring the California Delta and having people stop them to ask questions or take pictures of their unique new ride.
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