Speedy boats `like piloting a missile through the sea'

ON THE WATER

August 06, 2006|By ANNIE LINSKEY

While the dialogue in the Miami Vice movie can be incomprehensible at times, one term sticks out: "go-fast boats."

In the film, based on the 1980s TV series that made wearing pastel suits look cool, detectives Sonny Crockett (Colin Farrell) and Ricardo Tubbs (Jamie Foxx) try to infiltrate an international illegal drug operation.

The detectives, posing as bad guys, use ultra-slick powerboats to take "the load" ( the drugs) to Miami. There is much chatter about the need to use go-fast boats for the job.

I hadn't heard the term before and wondered what a go-fast is. And how fast one goes.

The FBI in Baltimore knows all about go-fast boats but wouldn't tell me much about them.

"`Go-fast boat' is a layman's or generic term for fast boats or cigarette boats. They do use them in law enforcement," said an FBI spokeswoman who declined to give her name.

"We have maritime assets, and that [the powerboat] is part of the maritime assets," the spokeswoman said.

Asked how they are used in Baltimore, she said, "We can't tell you that stuff."

But a representative from Donzi Marine, the company that manufactured the go-fast boats used in Miami Vice, was happy to talk.

Donzi, based in Sarasota, Fla., made seven powerboats specifically for Miami Vice. Three of them were used on screen, and others were used as camera boats.

These boats do go fast, exceeding 90 mph, said Josh Stickles, a vice president of marketing for Donzi. If the boats are configured to maximize power, top speeds can exceed 100, he said.

"You are piloting a missile through the sea," said Stickles, who worked with Miami Vice director Michael Mann and his creative team to custom-build the boats.

"They are loud. People stare. It is an amazing thing," he said.

Stickles said it was "surreal" to meet with Mann, who also created the TV series. "We went back and forth on the finest details. From the type [of] vinyl to fittings to color swatches, the look they wanted was very specific," Stickles said.

Two of the three boats seen on screen were 38 feet long; the third was 43 feet. They included an entirely black boat and a boat made in a custom color developed by Michael Mann's team and called Miami Ice Blue.

Stickles said such powerboats are often in bright colors and covered with stripes and decals.

"They wanted these to have a serious macho look," Stickles said. The big scene that features go-fast boats is toward the end of the movie when the undercover detectives transport "the load" in a large ship and then, in the Atlantic Ocean, transfer it to two Donzi boats.

The boats speed to Biscayne Bay close to each other so that they will appear as one on a radar screen.

"They looked like they were moving pretty good," at least 70 mph, Stickles said.

The boat's design is derived from offshore race boats, he said, and the craft are built to slice through waves on the open sea.

The seven boats made for the film have been sold. But those interested in a similar model can buy one for $300,000 to $500,000.

Les Davis, a sales representative for Offshore Performance, a Donzi dealer in Galesville, said the company sells five or six Donzi boats to people on the Chesapeake each year.

"They are very popular," he said. "There aren't too many people who don't know about a Donzi."

The people who can afford them shouldn't have trouble paying the hefty cost of topping off the 260-gallon fuel tank: At full throttle, the boats can burn 100 gallons of premium fuel an hour.

annie.linskey@baltsun.com

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