We were getting ready to record our first acceleration run when Formula’s executive vice president Grant Porter, who was seated at the helm, exclaimed, “Bill, look!” I knew why he was so excited because I was already squinting into the Florida sun myself, my OceanPC laptop forgotten, my mouth half open, and the hair on the back of my neck standing up like I was seeing the ghost of ol’ Eddy Teach himself.
Porter shut down our Cummins QSM11s. Then, grabbing onto the walk-through windshield’s beefy safety rail, he bounded up the steps, swung the central panel open, and hustled out onto the foredeck of our 48 Yacht. “Better view from up here,” he enthused, and I joined him immediately. We stood there, awestruck, while the voluptuously styled 48 swung unattended, adrift, utterly besieged.
“Rays!” Porter marveled. Or to be more accurate, millions of rays! More rays than either of us had ever seen in our entire lives. With wingspans of up to three feet, they were well below the surface, zooming under and around the 48 with the cohesion of a single-minded whole. It was a fabulous thing to witness but unsettling, as if we’d somehow stumbled into the forbidding depths of prehistory. We watched until the last one was gone.
“Seeing stuff like that’s what cruisin’s all about,” Porter opined as he fired up the mains at last and got us underway again. He was absolutely right, of course—beyond the technology and sweat that go into today’s boats, there are deeper, more compelling realities. Later, as I climbed behind the 48’s mahogany-rimmed Dino wheel after Porter and I had finished measuring and recording the performance data that accompanies this story, I resolved to bear that sentiment in mind. After all, there’s as much poetry behind test-driving a race-bred Formula as there is technology and sweat.
Ergonomics got the ball rolling. The comfort I felt upon settling into the half-seated position I prefer when driving performance boats belied the crisp shape of the double-wide helm seat’s flip-up bolster and the thick aluminum hinges that support it; Formula’s famous for the quality of its in-house upholstery work, and the lounges and seats in our cockpit made it easy to see why. Visibility was excellent, both over the windshield and through it. Automotive-style side windows proffered natural ventilation, plenums on the dash provided optional air conditioning, and the wheel was both three-way adjustable and easy to turn, thanks to Sea Star power-assisted hydraulics. Cool? Oh yeah!