Shark-like in appearance, the roomy, accommodation-rich Axopar 37 is sure to draw second looks.
The first time I saw an Axopar, my head snapped around. What’s that? Sitting on a draped platform in a convention center was an outboard-powered center console with a blunt bow and a stepped hull with sleek proportions, long as a knife.
I was at a Canadian boat show, in January, so all I could do at the time was examine the twin-stepped hull. Twenty degrees of deadrise at the transom. A sharp entry. Hand-laminated layup. Enormous amount of accommodations. All packed into a sub-40-footer.
Luckily, I got a second shot at the Axopar a few months later in Southern California when I tested a 37 ST (Sun-Top) on the Pacific. Although looking at the Axopar 37 was nice, operating one was even better.
Axopar Boats is based in Helsinki, Finland, and it’s only a few years old. The company builds a range of models from 24 to 37 feet. Three hull lengths and a healthy variety of deck and house options make three base designs seem like a rather large product offering. All models and lengths share an elongated avant garde profile, but it’s the 37, with its 10-foot, 10-inch beam, that really looks like a long and stealthy shark gliding through the water.
Itching to get going, I started our test with speed runs. We stepped up every 500 rpm and reached 44.8 knots at wide-open throttle, 5400 rpm. At this point, the upgraded twin 350 hp Mercury Verado outboards burned a combined 62 gph. A more economical speed was from 20 to 25 knots, where the outboards burned 18 to 21 gph and made light work of the 8,300-pound displacement. At 4000 rpm, about 75 percent, the Axopar was running at 32.2 knots and the outboards were burning just 27.3 gph. At 3560 rpm, speed reached 25.7 knots and the engines burned 21.1 gph.
The Pacific was relatively flat, offering just a light chop and a breeze of about 8 knots. Tucked into the center forward seat, I had perfect visibility over the bow even as we came up on plane in five seconds and reached 30 knots in 12 seconds. There was barely any bowrise and the boat didn’t fuss at all out of the hole — just a smooth but serious acceleration.
With a hull this distinctive I couldn’t help but take seriously sharp turns and was delighted when the hull sliced without skipping or leaning. True to the promise of its profile, it drove aggressively — all determination and agility — just like it looked. I really didn’t want to stop.
The Axopar 37 comes in several versions including T-Top, Sun-Top (our test boat), Cabin, Sports Cabin and Aft Cabin. The Sun-Top’s sliding, electrically activated canvas rooftop delivers a convertible feel on sunny days. The aft end of the top is composite and can support rocket launchers along a rail or a radar on a gimbaled mount. The tail hinges up to allow tall boaters to stand at the wet bar below and prepare drinks or get bait ready for the hook. This optional bar module hides a sink and a refrigerator and butts up against the second row of seating; this configuration leaves plenty of room for a good-sized cockpit.
If fishing and drinks aren’t one’s focus, a buyer can fill the aft cabin with a sunpad atop a small secondary cabin, which is a good option for owners who want to overnight in comfort with kids or friends.
A second sunpad is forward, its headrest angled and its cupholders outboard. Storage for fenders, coolers and even waterskis or wakeboards abounds. An optional ski post can be mounted aft, between the engines, and dual swim platforms to either side of the outboards allow for easy water access. A built-in ladder on the starboard side makes it easy to come back aboard. An owner can fish in the morning, tow the kids in the afternoon, take a quick swim in the early evening and prep dinner before retiring, all in the same day on the same boat.
The middle of the 37 is laid out as an expansive center console with three seats in the forward row and four behind, separated by a folding high/low table. The forward seats swivel to face aft when it’s time for cocktails or a meal, allowing seven people to enjoy dinner together. Optional second and third refrigerators nestle under the front row of seats on either side.
One version of the 37 features a complete hard enclosure of the center section with sliding doors that provide access the sidedeck. Called the Sports Cabin or just the Cabin (the latter comes with a reverse-angled windshield), these versions reconfigure the interior dinette to either an aft or starboard position in the hard-sided enclosure. Either layout will work well for cruising in inclement weather, but I prefer the open seven-seat configuration I tested, whose support struts on the sides double as ladders if anyone needs to reach something on the roof. Our model offered enough protection from the sun and wind but still enhanced the feeling of spending a lovely day outside.
All around the deck, excellent handholds are provided by a low, continuous railing that leads from the transom to the bow, where it angles up into two low sections of a pseudo-pulpit. Here, the railing is split in the middle just forward of an anchor locker that holds an electric SidePower windlass. Eight Axopar-branded cleats tuck up under the railing, so tying up is easy.
The angled windshield wraps around the sides of the center section. Managed by a single wiper, it’s a tinted expanse of glass that reaches back at a rakish angle. It’s smooth and sleek, just like the rest of the boat.
On the centerline, the helm has ample dashboard space ahead of the wheel for twin Garmin 7412 displays that are separated by a smaller Mercury VesselView engine screen. The engine throttles and VHF radio are to starboard, as are two cupholders. The Axopar 37 has no option for joystick drive but it does offer a Side- Power bow thruster. Our test boat featured one, and it came in handy as we docked.
I spoke of a “second” cabin earlier, and that’s optional. The forward cabin below is standard and includes a queen-size bed and a privacy curtain that separates the sleeping quarters from the rest of the interior. Our test boat didn’t include the additional refrigerator or microwave in the cabin, but buyers can opt for a grill up top, in case someone catches dinner.
Rounding out the cabin, to starboard is a bench seat and across is a counter with a sink. A cabinet to starboard hides the head, which I imagine will be used when only one person is below, unless that curtain is pulled in the middle of the night.
Opening ports are inset into low side windows, and a skylight overhead (situated between the helm and the sunpad above) provides ample light. I wouldn’t call it standing headroom exactly, but it’s a comfortable crouching height and perfect when one is seated.
Axopar offers an online configurator, so a buyer and a dealer can try different layouts that might work for one’s type of boating.
Even jaded Floridians, who see center console boats on every waterway, will perform a double take when they come across an Axopar. It’s just that different, that versatile and, simply, that sexy. It has a James Bond appeal that might make one wonder if it’s a tender to a superyacht, but it also functions as a standalone cruiser, sport runabout or fishing boat. That it’s quite fuel efficient and reasonably priced — $266,280 as tested — is just a bonus.
Expect more Axopars to be showing up at docks along the West Coast. The company has already built more than 1,000 hulls and it’s making inroads into the North American market. And when you spot one, I’ll bet you look again.