Fountain 38 Sport CruiserBy Jack Hornor
Revised by BoatUS editors in October 2012
Fountain's 38-foot Sport Cruiser is capable of speeds that could get you a ticket on I-95 so it's no wonder that even though the model is no longer in production, it remains popular among boaters for whom getting there fast or just going fast ranks high among their boating pleasures.
Since Fountain Powerboats was founded by powerboat racing legend Reggie Fountain in 1979, the name has been synonymous with speed and performance. Fountain's reputation for fast, low profile, narrow beamed performance boats with limited or no accommodations was well established when "cruiser" entered the company's lexicon for the first time in 1991 with the introduction of the 38 Sport Cruiser. Still sporting Fountain's trade mark, or should I say "trade dress", clipper-style bow, there was no mistaking this new design was a Fountain but for the first time the company sacrificed some performance for creature comforts. For the most part, the appearance and arrangement of the 38 Sport Cruiser remained unchanged throughout its production from 1991 through the 2000 model year. The hull was modified in 1995 to include two ventilated steps, a keel pad and notched transom. These features had been successfully incorporated in Fountain's racing boats and resulted in a slight improvement in speed over the original deep-V hull form.
Today, there are any number of boats capable of speeds in excess of 50-mph however only a handful are built to stand up long-term to the punishment these speeds can inflict on a boat.
Built on the same hull as the 38 Lightning & Fever offshore race models, the 38 Sport Cruiser is constructed of hand laid, knitted, bi- and tri-directional fiberglass fabrics and vinylester resin. Vinylester resin is considerably more expensive but is stronger, more flexible and bonds better than polyester resin used by most production boat manufacturers. Hull sides and high stress areas are reinforced with foam core for strength and light weight.
The deck and hull of all Fountain boats are securely bonded together with adhesives, mechanical fastener as well as fiberglass and resin. A large majority of structural problems that occur on boats are either directly or indirectly the result of excessive flexing. Bonding the deck and hull in the manner that Fountain does makes for a much stiffer structure that is less likely to develop problems as they age. Bottom line - the 38 Sport Cruiser is built to take the punishment 50+ mph dishes out and still hold together for more than a year or two.
Awhile back I had an opportunity to visit the Fountain factory in Washington, NC, on behalf of a client and was fortunate enough to get a tour. As I expected, quality control measures are good resulting in consistent, high-quality parts. I was also impressed by the fact that nearly everything that goes into the construction of Fountain boats, except machinery, is manufactured in house in order to maintain the quality of the finished product Fountain demands.
The foredeck of the 38 Sport cruiser is narrow, sloped, and although there are two deck hatches for access and a grab handle down the center, the decks are slippery and passengers and crew should avoid the area unless absolutely necessary.
The cockpit is deep, secure and where passengers should be when the boat is underway. There is a double bolster seat at the helm and a full-width bench seat across the back of the cockpit. Underway passengers should be seated or standing and supported by the bolsters. Passengers should not be permitted to stand unsupported, sit on seat backs or side decks while underway because at 60 mph the slightest boat wake or wave could cause injury. The large engine compartment is aft of the cockpit and is covered with upholstered cushions.
Although the 38 Sport Cruiser has some comforts, it by no means would be considered spacious or even comfortable by many cruisers. Head room is only 5' 10" at the aft portion of the main cabin and diminishes rapidly so there is only sitting headroom forward of the galley and crawling space in the V-berth. The cabin layout is typical of this style boat and features a V-berth forward followed by a U-shaped dinette. Aft there is a fully enclosed head to starboard and a small galley to port.
Accommodations add weight and the raised foredeck adds windage, both of which make the Sport Cruiser a little slower than other 38 Fountain models. Even so, she will top out at a 60 and 75 mph depending on year and engine which is a very respectable speed for a boat that weighs in at over 10,000 lbs.
The standard engines originally were twin 350-hp MerCruiser engines and Bravo One outdrives although a number of other gas and diesel engine options were offered up to 550-hp each. Standard equipment included hydraulically controlled Kiekhaefer K-planes, Kiekhaefer Zero Effort shift and throttle controls and hydraulic steering. This is a very responsive boat and inexperienced operators will need to be careful not to over trim and steer a boat that responds so quickly.
Fountain's customer service department offers complete restoration services for owners or purchasers of used Fountain models. So, if you find a boat you like, but things are a bit frayed around the edges, a complete factory makeover is an option. A complete renewal of the interior of a 38 Sport Cruiser costs $9,600, and complete renewal of the dash and instruments an additional $2,200. With the cost of a new 38' Fountain topping $300,000, a used model with a little sprucing up could be a good choice. (Calculated September 2004.)
The features of the 38 Sport Cruiser are a reflection of Fountain's racing heritage with enough creature comforts thrown in that this boat will appeal to a wider market. Fountain boats have an excellent reputation for being well built and they have a distinctive style that has held up so models are not easily dated. All this results in their generally holding their value and appeal better than average for performance oriented boats.
Naval architect Jack Hornor is the principal surveyor and designer for Marine Survey & Design, Co., based in Annapolis, MD. He is on the board of directors of the American Boat and Yacht Council, the National Association of Marine Surveyors, and the Society of Boat and Yacht Designers. He and his wife sail their 42-foot Catalina, Legacy, based on Maryland's Eastern Shore.