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Sunsation 36 Dominator XRT A Dreamboat Revived For Kentucky Owner

Nothing on the water stops your heart faster than seeing the nose of a submerged go-fast boat bobbing up and down. And nothing restores it faster than learning no one on board was injured, much less perished in the incident that led to the ghastly sight.

Back in action, Tim and Amie Erwin’s 36 Dominator XRT was a hit at the second-year Sunsation Sun Run in August. Photos courtesy/copyright Scrapyard Media.

Such was the scene on Lake Barkley in early June during the Kuttawa Cannonball Run when Tim Erwin of Fancy Farm, Ky., his wife, Amie and friends struck a submerged tree in their Sunsation 32 Dominator sportboat on their way back to Kuttawa Harbor.

“I saw a log in the water off to the left, not knowing it was 40 feet long, so I swerved to the right,” Erwin explained. “When we hit it, I thought we pushed it down and cleared it. The boat was still running fine and gaining speed. But when we looked down and saw water coming in around the cuddy cabin door we knew we had a big problem. We were in the main channel, and I all could think of was getting to shore 600 feet away.”

The group made it halfway there before the 32-footer’s stern sank and settled on the bottom—leaving 12 feet of its foredeck above the waterline—in less than two minutes. That left them treading water in their life jackets until three nearby boats in the run stopped and hauled them on board.

After settling with their insurer, the couple sold the boat. “We weren’t sure if we wanted to boat again or not,” said Erwin.

An incident during the 2023 Kuttawa Cannonball Run set a chain of events in motion on the way to the Erwin’s acquisition of their 36-footer.

But their trepidation was short-lived. Earlier that year, Erwin had learned of a 2011 model-year Sunsation Dominator 36 XRT for sale through Seabound Yachts in Clayton, N.Y. The boat, which was in storage in Canada and was powered by Mercury Racing 700 SCi engines upgraded to produce 800-plus hp per side, had significant history. It graced the final cover of Powerboat magazine in 2011.

“While part of the Powerboat magazine test team in the mid to late 2000s, we reviewed our fair share of boats from Sunsation, but there are two I never forgot,” recalled Jason Johnson, who finished his tenure with the magazine as editor-in-chief before becoming the co-publisher of speedonthewater.com. “One was the company’s first 43-foot F4 V-bottom, which was a solid performer and the most impressively detailed Sunsation our test team ever got its hands on. The other happened to be the last boat featured on the cover of the well-known publication before it folded at the end of 2011–a stunning new 36 Dominator XRT that we tested during the 2011 Desert Storm Poker Run in Lake Havasu City, Ariz.”

Still a stunner, the famed 36-foot sportboat has a new home in Kentucky.

The boat reached 112 mph on the mile-long course at the Lake of the Ozarks Shootout in Central Missouri. To save weight and eke out every last bit of speed, the Sunsation crew minimized amenities in the boat’s cuddy cabin.

“I remember how proud Wayne Schaldenbrand was to be delivering such a fine product at the largest poker run on the West Coast,” he continued. “And I remember how excited the owner, Iowa performance boater Jared Morris, was to get his new boat at the popular event. A few months later I caught up with Morris and Schaldenbrand at the Lake of the Ozarks Shootout in Central Missouri, which is where the cover image was taken, and their smiles were as big then as they were at Lake Havasu.

The boat was in storage in Montreal, Quebec, when Erwin spied it and he made an offer. The seller didn’t bite, so he and his wife stuck with their 32-footer.  

“We made a bid on it for what we wanted to pay and was told it would never get that low,” he said. “So we were satisfied with what we had and went on enjoying the spring.”

And then a submerged log in Barkley Lake made finding another Sunsation a bit more urgent.  

“We had been watching the 36 and saw the price come down,” said Erwin. “We also knew how much money we had to go toward a different boat—without being able to sell one to help buy one. Then Jeremy called and said it had got to my price if we still wanted it.”

That the 36-footer was located across the border in Montreal made completing the sale and title transfer trickier than it would have been if the boat were stateside. But Cohen was determined to make it happen.

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Here’s a closer look at the sportboat’s details.

“With this specific boat, there were more hoops to jump through because it was in Canada,” he said. “But we were able to navigate through that process and bring it home to the States.”

The paperwork alone took two weeks, and the process involved not just Cohen and the Erwins but marine surveyor Pierre Richard and Canadian customs broker Don Marton. Erwin said he didn’t actually believe the boat was his “until we could see the border in our rearview mirror.”

Once he had the boat back home in Kentucky, Erwin contacted Tres Martin of the Performance Boat School that bears his name. Martin, who was instrumental in the hull design of the 36-footer before the first model debuted in 2010, conducted his classroom sessions with Erwin via Zoom. Then he traveled Kuttawa to take his new student through the three-hour, hands-on part of the course.

“It was a great help—I really learned a lot,” said Erwin. “With Tres driving, we ran it up to 110 mph. With me driving, 108 mph was fast enough.

“Every time we go out, we like it better—we love everything about the boat except for the interior,” he added, then chuckled. “If you don’t cover it with towels you can’t touch it because it gets so hot when the sun is really shining. We had a white interior before and this one is silver—and it’s a big difference.”

News of the famed Sunsation 36 XRT Dominator back in action stateside thrilled the team at the company’s Algonac, Mich., headquarters. Better still, Erwin brought it to the second-year Sun Run on Lake St. Clair in August.

“On the Wednesday before our Sun Run, I pulled into the shop and saw the 36 in the parking lot,” said Ryan Wenk, Sunsation’s national sales and marketing manager. “Me and the guys were pretty much shocked as we didn’t know it was back in the states, or that it would be at the Sun Run. Tim showed all of us the boat, and it was just as cool as we had imagined.

“Tim was nice enough to let one of our rigging guys join in for the run, and he’s still talking about how much fun that boat was,” he added.

A few months ago, Erwin began searching for the Powerboat magazine issue with his Sunsation 36 XRT Dominator gracing the cover. It wasn’t easy as the magazine has been shuttered since 2011. Other than for Johnson, no one bothered to save Powerboat’s issue archives—some 30-plus years of them—when the new publisher shut it down.

But Johnson came through. He found a copy and sent it to Erwin. And Erwin even had him sign the issue as Johnson wrote the performance report on the 36-footer that appeared in it.

“I never expected some 12 years later that I’d come full circle with the 36-footer and be communicating with the boat’s new owner about finding an old copy of the magazine with the article I wrote about the boat,” he said. “It’s funny how that works sometimes. All I know is that the boat ended up in the hands of dedicated members of the Sunsation Nation who seem to truly appreciate the boat for what it is. And that’s the best part.”

Said Erwin, ““We love everything about the boat except for the interior.”

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