Between a long list of performance boats from the likes of Cigarette Racing, Skater Powerboats and Nor-Tech Hi-Performance Boats—not to mention a list just as long with cruisers, fishing boats, wakeboard boats and even a couple of rare Riva models—Dave Branton has owned more boats than most people could dream of having.
Dave Branton’s next Skater catamaran, a 388 “Platinum Edition,” is going to be painted by The Art of Design in Indiana.
The Louisiana native currently has more than a dozen boats in his stable, and while he said in an interview several years ago that “some people search for the Holy Grail of boats—the one boat that can do everything—but that doesn’t exist,” he may be closing in on his most radical boat yet.
To complement his other performance boat—a Cigarette Racing 42 Huntress powered by quad Mercury Marine Verado 350 engines he took delivery of a few months ago—Branton said that it was time to get going fast again so he turned to Douglas Marine in Douglas, Mich., to build him another Skater catamaran. But not just another Skater catamaran—a “Platinum Edition” 38-footer under the guidance of Florida’s Bill Pyburn, a poker run enthusiast who build the first Platinum version that made its debut at the 2015 Miami International Boat Show.
“My son and I were talking last year about possibly getting another cat to go to some of the bigger poker runs around the country, but we were thinking we’d get something that was easier to manage than the 50-foot Skater we had before,” said Branton, who enjoys boating with his wife, Leeann, their son, Jim, and their two daughters, Elizabeth and Abbee, as much as possible. “A couple of weeks later we were at the Tickfaw 200 Poker Run here in Louisiana and of course Bill Pyburn shows up with his new Pure Platinum Skater. I told Bill how much I loved the boat and that I was thinking about building another one but that it just takes too much time and hard work.
“Bill told me he loves the build process, and that if he could do his over again there’d be a few things he’d do differently,” he continued. “So I said ‘Why don’t you do it over again and build me one?’ He said ‘You know what, that would be a blast.’ Now we’re going ahead with it and I can’t wait to see how it comes out. It’s going to be a really nice piece.”
Branton seemed genuinely excited to let Pyburn handle much of the build process of the 38-foot Skater, which is going to be powered by Goodwin Competition engines and painted by Dean Loucks and the crew at The Art of Design in Elkhart, Ind., just like Pyburn’s boat. The interior also will be handled by Cutting Edge Interior’s Jamie Borg.
“Bill decided to change a few things with the transom and the way the engine room was laid out,” Branton said. “He’s also redoing a couple of things on the dash and the console. The paint should be fantastic—we all know how good Dean is—and the interior is going to be a little different. We’re using some wild colors and the stitching is going to look like something out of an Aston Martin.
“I’m letting Bill deal with everything power-related,” he continued. “I don’t know Todd Goodwin and the guys up there—plus that’s Bill’s strong suit so it’s best to let him run with all of it.”
According to Todd Goodwin, president of Goodwin Competition Racing Engines in Omro, Wis., the 38-footer’s twin 1,850-hp engines are being built and will be going through an advanced process called “in-cylinder” testing. Goodwin said the procedure involves installing tiny sensors inside each combustion chamber to measure parameters such as cylinder pressure and wave location.
Just like Pyburn’s 38-footer (pictured here), Branton’s Skater is going to feature twin 1,850-hp Goodwin Competition engines.
“In-cylinder testing is an expensive process—the sensors alone cost $3,500 each—that goes above and beyond what most engine builders do,” Goodwin explained. “The automobile industry spends millions on it when they’re developing and testing high-performance engines.
“Basically, we’re trying to make sure the engine is happy so it doesn’t detonate,” he continued. “The testing helps detect knock, which is super important because we don’t want it, but we also don’t want an engine to be lazy and lethargic.”
To manage the 650-cubic-inch engines, which are equipped with 4.0-liter Whipple Superchargers running approximately 19 pounds of boost at peak horsepower, the builder is using a system from AEM Performance Electronics. Goodwin said his company has developed custom “firmware”—electronic updates—for the AEM system so the engines can run more efficiently and “safely,” meaning without damaging themselves in the event of a problem.
Once the engines are installed in the cat and it’s been delivered to Branton, Goodwin will fly out to handle final tuning on the water.
“There are so many parameters in the marine environment, so the fuel-injection mapping has to be completely thought out and well developed,” he said. “Cars typically drive through transitions. A boat is like a truck pulling a trailer—a full trailer—up a hill all day.”
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