Cabo 40 Express Boat Test

Cabo 40 Express Boat Test

Boat Test Cabo 40 Express: THE SLEEK TWIN
Author and photography: Warren Steptoe

This boat test ran in ISSUE 82 of BlueWater magazine – Dec 2010-Jan 2011

For the complete feature, including all photos and information captions, you can purchase back-issues here

In a recent edition of BlueWater we tested the Cabo 40 Flybridge, so if another test on a Cabo 40 seems like it’ll be more of the same, its stablemate 40 Express will come as something of a surprise. Yes, the two 40-foot Cabos share the same hull and the same innovative Zeus drive system, but when it comes primarily to fishing and secondly to the lifestyle choices involved in the purchase of virtually every boat, the two are very different propositions.

In many ways your choice will be quite personal. Do you prefer what we can call a traditional flybridge-style boat where not only the skipper, but others can sit in relative comfort on the bridge? Or do you prefer the increasingly popular express configuration, with its set up of an open bridge deck with just the skipper perched up top in a pipe tower?

If you’ve made up your mind on this, the choice is obviously a done thing, but if you don’t have a firm opinion either way, then a boat test is the ideal opportunity to discuss some pros and cons.

Flybridge boats have a cabin bulkhead with the cabin interior separated from the cockpit by a door. People inside are separated from what’s going on in the cockpit and to an extent are actually disconnected from it.

In an express boat, the cabin is downstairs, effectively below decks and is usually under or at least partly beneath the bridge deck. Cabo refer to the bridge deck as a ‘helm deck’. Without a bulkhead separating people on the bridge deck, they remain very much in touch with the cockpit and whatever is going on there. Cockpit access from the bridge deck is through a walkway down three stairs to the cockpit deck.

The Cabo 40 Express is typical of express-style boats in the way its custom fabricated tower is set up. Here, when compared to its flybridge equivalent model, the helm in the tower is located higher and slightly farther aft, giving an even steeper perspective down into the cockpit and into the water close to the transom.

These are only slight differences and if your preference leans towards the flybridge for other reasons, they probably won’t change your mind. Nonetheless, they are advantages and significant enough to sometimes mean the difference between hooking and capturing fish and missing hook-ups or missing opportunities for tag or gaff shots. To my mind, a good many readers would find a Cabo 40 Express preferable to a Cabo 40 Flybridge on this basis alone.

A choice the other way, in favour of the Flybridge model, is likely to be based on a different matter. The Cabo 40 Flybridge has two staterooms and two ensuite bathrooms, whereas the Express model has a vee-berth cabin in the bows and a single bathroom accessed through the cabin living area.

The Express does have a dinette-lounge, which converts to upper and lower sleeping berths, so sleeping four aboard is certainly possible. However, it is not as convenient nor does it offer the same degree of privacy as the separate stateroom and bathroom arrangement in the flybridge model. For many people, this aspect will be the deciding factor.

It’s fair to say that the 40 Express is more of a pure fishing boat than the 40 Flybridge, although that statement certainly deserves the qualification that the Cabo 40 Flybridge is a hell of a fishing boat!

A Fishermans Cockpit

Speaking as a fisherman, and as much as I liked the 40 Flybridge, the 40 Express is more my kind of boat. The cockpit is about as good as they get. From the transom door and central 220-litre livewell in the cockpit’s aft bulkhead, to a hefty reinforcement beneath the centre of the deck to brace the fighting chair, there is nothing to criticise. The cockpit also has an upholstered periphery and excess water drains underneath the rod and gaff racks set into the cockpit sides. The fishbox and lazarette hatches, sealed with heavy-duty gaskets, piano hinges and heavy-duty latches are all examples of the impressive attention to detail that Cabo lavish on their boats. The hatches even have drain gutters to clear water left in there as the deck itself drains.

Side-deck rodholders are where they should be. The pair of in-deck fishboxes beside the chair are realistically sized for pelagic table fish; one of them can be optioned with refrigeration.

Then there’s the forward side of the cockpit and this certainly gives those ‘deckie’ duties due consideration. On the starboard side of the bridge deck steps there’s a sink big enough to be worth the space it consumes. On the portside there’s a refrigerated locker with a rigging bench beside it.

I was initially disappointed when I didn’t find tackle stowage underneath the rigging station –but then I found the huge tackle locker up on the bridge deck. It runs the full length of the starboard side and serves as a mount for the starboard one of two observation chairs set each side of the lower helm station. These chairs are an option the Zeus owner chose, but the tackle locker isn’t –it’s a standard item. You can add an icemaker to join the amazing amount of tackle stowage so conveniently arranged inside this locker.

Seating for several people is important on a bridge deck while fishing and this is taken care of by a long L-shaped lounge across the aft end of the deck above the rigging station.

Thanks to a standard hardtop, the bridge deck seating and lower helm are pretty well shaded. The lower helm is very similar in the way it’s configured and set out to the helm on the flybridge model. Zeus’ owner had chosen Garmin 7000 series fish finding and navigation electronics with complimentary displays up in the US-built aluminium tower. It was also fitted with a pair of US-made Rupp outriggers.

Hydraulic Bridgedeck

Coming back down to earth, or rather deck level, brings us to a feature of this Express that I was particularly impressed with. In the cockpit you can’t help but notice the way the aft end of the bridge deck moulding overhangs the deck, but it wasn’t until I was shown the ‘trick’that realisation dawned.

At the touch of a button, the whole bridge deck lifts on hydraulic rams to allow free access to the engine room. There is a separate, smaller, engineroom hatch. However, anyone who has ever struggled below to check fluid levels before start up, or had to go down into a hot engineroom to check up on some kind of issue, will immediately fall in love with the ease of entry and the space.

From the bridge deck it’s down four stairs to the cabin. Being so low in the hull, there are no side windows in the cabin, hence no view out. I thought that the big sliding door, and a pair of smoked hatches situated below the windscreen kept the cabin from being too dull inside. The hatches do open and being behind the windscreen ‘upstairs’ they’d rarely have to be closed due to inclement weather. That is if you’re not using the 10,000 BTU reverse cycle air-conditioning that Cabo supply as standard with the 40 Express.

A single, larger hatch in the foredeck lights and ventilates the bow stateroom. This was amply spacious with some access along each side of the bed. There was also a small TV and entertainment centre and quite a bit of hanging and other clothes storage. Again, perception of what constitutes enough clothes storage in a boat differs as much as people do.

Standard galley equipment in the 40 Express includes a twin burner cooktop, microwave/convection oven, a side-by-side AC/DC fridge-freezer and a Corian benchtop. Clip-on carpet protecting the floors is standard. Timberwork in the cabin is all satin-finish teak, which I doubt anyone would dislike and the same thing should be said about the bathroom, which is surprisingly roomy. Even people not accustomed to the confines of living aboard a boat should be entirely comfortable, particularly with the headroom, thanks to it being set underneath the lower helm’s dashboard area. A 10kw freshwater-cooled diesel generator is standard in the 40 Express with a higher capacity 12.5kw model on the options list.

Although it lacks the second stateroom and second bathroom of the flybridge model, actual living space in the cabin of the 40 Express is quite generous and considerably more than merely comfortable. The inconvenience of having to make up extra bunks from the convertible dinette is really the only thing that compromises life aboard. I am no doubt wearing my ‘fishing’ heart on my sleeve in preferring the 40 Express layout over the 40 Flybridge. Nonetheless, I guess this compromise in accommodation is the trade-off for what most hard-core blue water anglers would agree is a slightly better fishing boat.

Into The Rough

Out on the water, our test boat faced a day far from idyllic. A weather change had been through a few hours prior, leaving the sea confused and sloppy over a moderate swell. Once outside, we couldn’t find anywhere to hide from a day that was easily fishable, but hardly conducive to fast travel or spray-free photography.

One of the advantages of Zeus drives is how low they allow the engines to be mounted in the hull. This frees-up significant amounts of interior space for other things and can only be positive for the hull’s ride and handling characteristics.

Not having the extra weight of flybridge mouldings, you’d expect the lower centre of gravity of the Express version would make for a less lively ride. However, despite it being only a short time since I was on the same piece of water in the flybridge version, I couldn’t perceive any significant differences. Cabo boats generally have one of the best reputations in the entire marine industry for their manners at sea and our test boat certainly did absolutely nothing to argue with that.

Zeus’ proud new owner came along to run her for BlueWater’s photo shoot. He confessed to me while we fuelled up that he was a recent convert from trailerboats and it was interesting from a boat-tester’s point of view to see how confidently he handled the boat alongside the fuel dock. Similarly, offshore he commented several times about how easy the Zeus drives had made the transition from outboard power to a much larger boat with twin inboards.

With the twin Cummins QSC8.3 power option, Zeus was up and planing with all the alacrity of a trailerboat. While the camera boat’s GPS showed a speed of slightly over 30 knots, Zeus quietly pulled away …


  • Zeus drive system’s unprecedented manoeuvrability.
  • Hydraulically operated engineroom access.
  • Sea kindly hull.
  • Cabo’s renowned quality throughout.


  • Maximum Rated Power: 2 x 800hp
  • Berths: 4
  • Fuel: 2500 litres
  • Water: 345 litres
  • Holding Tank: 100 litres


  • Material: GRP composites featuring vinylester resins, bonding stitched biaxial fibreglass interior modules with the hull, to form a single unit.
  • Hull Type: Variable deadrise monohull with flared bows
  • Length: 12.2m
  • Beam: 4.8m
  • Draft: 1m
  • Deadrise: 16.5 degrees (at transom)
  • Weight: 12,725kg (hull only)


  • Make/model: Cummins QSC8.3
  • Type: Inline 6-cylinder common rail diesel, turbocharged and aftercooled.
  • Rated hp: 600hp
  • Displacement: 8.3 litres
  • No. Cylinders: 6
  • Weight: 896kg Zeus
  • Drives: 3800 Series
  • Weight: 418kg
  • Gearbox ratio: 2:1
  • Propellers: Counter rotating 22-inch stainless steel

Options fitted: Garmin 7000 electronics system, Rupp outriggers, custom fabricated tower, Release Marine chair.  STANDARD EQUIPMENT INVENTORY 220-litre livewell in transom, recessed trim tabs, reinforced deck for game chair, fresh and salt water wash down system, transom door, hydraulically operated engine room access, automatic fire-extinguishing system, four-blade Nibral propellers, power steering, 50-litre hot water system, 10kw freshwater-cooled genset, 50amp battery charger, stereo system, 10,000 BTU airconditioning (salon) 7000 BTU airconditioning (stateroom,) removable carpet, flat
screen TV (salon and stateroom,) microwave/convection oven, twin cooktop, Corian benchtop, AC/DC side-by-side fridge-freezer (galley), Vacuflush toilet.  

Cabo 40 Express Boat Test

Boat Test Cabo 40 Express: THE SLEEK TWIN
Author and photography: Warren Steptoe
Supplied by: Game & Leisure Boats

This boat test ran in ISSUE 82 of BlueWater magazine – Dec 2010-Jan 2011

For the complete feature, including all photos and information captions, you can purchase back-issues here

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